The recent armed robbery operation that threw the ancient town of Offa, Kwara State, into pandemonium for hours was executed in a most daring commando fashion. According to reports, dare devil armed robbers who stormed the town in audacious fashion divided themselves into two teams upon arrival, with the first team demobilizing the Police Station while the rest unleashed unhindered horror on bank premises and residents. In the process, five bank branches were allegedly raided while about 32 people, including Police officers, reportedly lost their lives in the dastardly operation that lasted two hours.
The robbers purportedly made away with large amount of cash from the branches of Zenith Bank, Guarantee Trust Bank, Union Bank, First Bank and Eco Bank in the town. The blatant nature of the occurrence has fueled new concerns about the state of security in the country. As it is always the cases with such high scale robbery schemes, banks raided as well as residents are still counting their losses. Similarly, some of the customers that were trapped in the banks as well as other residents, while the operation lasted, are yet to get over the traumatic experience. Indeed, some of them might live with the shock of the horrible experience for a long time to come.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Police have reportedly arrested some suspects in connection with the armed robbery incidence. According to reports, after the attack, the Police team engaged in raids of identified criminal spots, stop and search operations, visibility and confidence building patrols, intelligence gathering which led to the arrest of the suspects. In the process, some of the suspects reportedly engaged the Police in fierce gun duels from their various hideouts.
Now that the dust gathered by the sad event is gradually settling down, it is imperative to properly scrutinize some of its far-reaching fallouts. First, it is instructive to stress that the Police offered little or no resistance to the robbers throughout the operation. The robbers held sway for as long as they wanted with such irritating audacity. This only goes to actually confirm what have been the fears of many Nigerians concerning the preparedness level of men and officers and men of the Nigerian Police to deal with such brazen attacks.
It smacks of unbelievable effrontery for robbers to daringly hold the second largest town in Kwara State hostage for as long as they did. The puzzle herein is that if banks, public institutions and residents are not really assured of their safety in a place as big as Offa, what then is the lot of those who are located in places where there are little or no police presence of any sort? Your guess is as good as mine. This is a rather disturbing trend that the Police authorities and the leadership of the various security agencies have to properly look into. In as much as one understands the various challenges of the Police in particular, it doesn’t speak well of us as a nation that a gang of robbers could hold a whole town hostage for hours without any resistance whatsoever from security operatives. If this odd pattern is not frontally addressed, it portends a great danger for us as a people.
The Offa robbery episode also calls attention to the deplorable situation of youth in the country. It is pathetic that the youth who should normally be in the vanguard of nation building are taking to destructive social vices. This, if not quickly checked, signifies a bleak future for our dear nation. Usually, if the prevailing condition in a given society does not offer the youth the needed platform to channel their bursting energy into positive use, they readily embrace rebellious predisposition. It is a well known fact that nature abhors vacuum.
Sadly, the high unemployment situation in the country coupled with other socio-political factors naturally make the youth vulnerable to several anti-social temptations. Recent statistics show that 60 per cent of the country’s population is youth while youth unemployment rate is estimated to be over 50 percent. Similarly, figures from the National Bureau of Statistics indicate that an average of 1.8 million youths find themselves in the labour market annually, out of which 250, 000 to 300, 000 are graduates. Additionally, the unemployment rate in the country is given to be about 23.9 per cent. Hence, faith based organisations, key social-cultural bodies, related government agencies and other youth based stakeholders should continue invest in the development and empowerment of the youth. This is, perhaps, the best way to preserve public security in the country.
Equally, all stakeholders in security must not relent in their efforts in the onerous task of checkmating robbers and criminals in the country. It is only a common frontal response that could effectively forestall future occurrence of such dastardly robbery act as the one recently experienced in Offa. Public security cannot be obtained without the active involvement, participation and support of everyone in the society. With the issue of insufficient manpower in the Nigeria Police Force in particular, it is quite obvious that the Police alone cannot sufficiently protect the people. Latest data shows that the entire Nigerian Police Force does not have up to 450,000 personnel in its fold and out of this a significant proportion is assigned to secure a few highly placed individuals. It is yet to be seen how a Police Force with such inadequate personnel could effectively secure a nation of over 140 million people. This, indeed, is an indication that security apparatus in the country needs to be considerably overhauled.
To properly address current security question in the country, we need to urgently revisit the contentious issue of State Police. In-spite of all the arguments against State Police, the reality is that Nigeria is too large and complex to be policed centrally. If we are really serious about overcoming current security challenges in the polity, the time to embrace the option of state police is now. A viable and dynamic security system is required to sustain significant development and ensure adequate security of life and property. The Police as we currently have in the country might not be able to ensure effective security across the nation.
We need to come to term with the fact that, State Police is a necessity in a federal system like Nigeria if we are to effectively combat crime as it is being practiced by other federating units the world over. Given the required political will, we can successfully and efficiently operate State Police in the country. The time has come for us to give the subject the desired attention. God bless Nigeria.
Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos