The Inspector-General of Police Olukayode Egbetokun, on Wednesday, deployed the Special Intervention Squad in the Federal Capital Territory to curb the murderous activities of kidnappers and bandits in border towns within the territory.
This came as the Federal Government warned against raising ransom for abducted victims, stressing that this might worsen the security problem in the country.
Scores of SIS operatives were dispatched to the entry and exit points of the FCT in a move to bolster security in the nation’s capital which has been under siege by bandits.
The hoodlums, who hitherto operated on highways and in rural communities, have in recent times escalated their attacks on residents of Abuja, Lagos, Enugu, Kaduna and other urban centres.
Last week, kidnappers killed four of their victims, including Folashade Ariyo, who was kidnapped alongside her mother and three siblings from their home in the Dutsen-Alhaji area of the Bwari Area Council, FCT.
They also gunned down Nabeeha Al-Kadriyar, a 400-level student of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, who was kidnapped with her five sisters. The abductors similarly murdered a barman who was taken away alongside 23 other hostages.
Unveiling the SIS at the Force Headquarters in Abuja, Egbetokun said the SIS would be backed by a formidable arsenal of operational assets, including sophisticated arms, drones, and vehicles.
He noted that the approach of the police was comprehensive, adding that beyond immediate intervention, the SIS would also engage in community-oriented policing.
Egbetokun said, “As I stand before you today, I am imbued with a profound sense of duty as we confront the crisis of kidnappings and violent crimes presently afflicting our esteemed nation, particularly in and around the Federal Capital Territory.
‘’The alarming rise in these criminal activities without equivocation demands immediate and resolute action from us all. It is thus with a determined spirit that I proudly announce the inauguration of the Special Intervention Squad.
“Conceived as an elite unit of the Nigeria Police Force, the SIS is composed of specially trained, well equipped and highly mobile police officers, and possesses the capacity for rapid intervention and effective containment of significant security breaches, such as those currently threatening the suburb of the FCT and creating panic generally.
‘’This initiative is not just borne out of necessity, but out of foresight, diligent planning and commitment to enhancing the already robust security architecture of our nation’s capital.’’
Adding that the FCT remains the bastion of safety and an example of efficient urban security management, the IG said this behoves the police to proactively address even the slightest signs of potential threats.
According to him, the police are duty-bound to confront all the security challenges head-on to protect the lives and welfare of our citizens.
Sharing the vision behind the creation of the tactical team, the IG explained, “Envisioned to include a thousand personnel in each state, the SIS is launched today with officers and men from each tactical unit of the Force, supplemented by a formidable arsenal of operational assets, including sophisticated arms, drones, and vehicles.
‘’These assets, some of which are displayed here, are ready for deployment to counteract the security threats. This deployment symbolizes our unwavering commitment to the safety and security of our people, sending a clear message that criminal elements will find no sanctuary within the FCT, and by extension, Nigeria.’’
Egbetokun clarified that the operation was not a mere knee-jerk response to the security challenge buffeting the country but a bold strategy to dismantle the criminal networks entrenched in the communities.
The police boss emphasised the new approach aimed at addressing the security conundrum saying, “Our approach is comprehensive. Beyond immediate intervention, the SIS will also engage in community-oriented policing – a testament to our philosophy that public safety is a collaborative endeavour.
‘’By working hand-in-hand with community leaders, residents, and all stakeholders, we aim to fortify the already strong bonds between the Police Force and the communities, ensuring that every corner of the FCT remains a haven for its inhabitants.
“The Special Intervention Squad stands as a testament to our rejection of criminality in all forms. It is a declaration of our commitment to reclaiming our streets, neighbourhoods, and cities from the clutches of lawlessness.
‘’We are mobilizing the entirety of our resources, both human and technological, to ensure the triumph of justice and to provide our citizens the liberty to live without fear for their safety and that of their loved ones.’’
Egbetokun further added, ‘’This operation is intended to bring a swift and decisive end to this era of terror. It should also be noted that we are collaborating with the military and other security agencies to ensure success, and we are confident that with your support, we will be successful.
“To all citizens of Nigeria, we assure you that this operation is not a mere symbolic act; it is a tangible demonstration of our dedication to your security. We recognize the suffering endured by victims of violent crimes and the anxiety pervading our communities.
“As we inaugurate the Special Intervention Squad today in the FCT, let us unite against the forces threatening the very fabric of our society. May this operation serve as a beacon of hope as we collectively strive to make the FCT, its environs, and ultimately the entire nation, safer for all. May justice be swift, and may peace permeate the entire landscape of Nigeria.
“I wish to emphasize that with the launch of SIS today, similar initiatives will soon be replicated in states neighbouring the FCT to effectively combat criminal incursions, ultimately extending to all 36 states of the Federation.’’
After the team was inaugurated, the SIS operatives visited several villages and communities in the Bwari area of Abuja where there had been several attacks by insurgents over the past weeks.
Our correspondent who monitored the ‘show of force’ carried out by the team observed that the operatives were fortified with several Armoured Personnel Carriers, patrol vehicles and buses, and a helicopter.
The Nigeria Police Force had in late 2023, revealed that deployment of 40,000 SIS operatives who were undergoing training would begin with Katsina and nine other states, including the FCT.
On assumption of office in June, Egbetokun had announced that the SIS would be a standby team of specially trained officers to quickly intervene in large insecurity occurrences.
During a recent event in Owerri, the Imo State capital, the IG stated that the other 27 states would immediately follow the 10 pilot states that were selected based on the recent violent crime assessment conducted in the 36 states and the FCT.
Meanwhile, the Force Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, told The PUNCH in an interview that the SIS would not operate like the defunct Special Anti-Kidnapping Squad notorious for human rights abuses.
The Force spokesperson also revealed that the SIS operatives, who were drawn from the Police Mobile Force, would not be involved in escort duties, noting that the squads’ commanders would operate under the command of Commissioners of Police in their respective states.
Adejobi said, “The training of the Special Intervention Squad is still on, and the Inspector General of Police has organised training for the SIS commanders, in a train-the-trainer course. One is ongoing, and another one will come up in Mexico, and the IG has approved that.
“We actually want to have enough training before deployment commences, but we are starting very soon with 10 states, while we then move state by state. We have picked some commanders and instructors to train them, and those are the people who’ll be going to Mexico for training. And the IG has been able to get some equipment for the SIS to start operations.
“But we need to clarify that the SIS is not SARS. People have been asking questions about whether or not it’ll operate like SARS. No. The SIS are operational men, it is majorly Police Mobile Force operatives, CTU operatives, and our tactical squad operatives that’ll come together under the command of a very senior police officer, either an ACP or a CSP that’ll be the commander in each state, and they’re not going to be doing stop and search work or pursuing ‘Yahoo Boys,” they’re specifically for intervention purposes.
“It is only CPs that will call on the commanders to move their men to certain places for intervention. It’s not that a commander would say, oh, these people can pay me well, you guys should move there. That’s not what it’s all about.
“The SIS is a very different squad, and the Standard Operating Procedures and Rules of Engagement are also different, and we are starting very soon. I can confirm that the IG added Katsina State amongst the 10 states, as the Katsina State Governor met with the IG, and also donated some vehicles for the SIS.”
He revealed that the deployment of the officers would be all over the FCT, with more attention to crisis-prone areas and the entry and exit points of the FCT.
“The deployment would be all over, with more attention to crisis-affected areas and exits in and out of the city. It’s a general operation aimed at addressing the security concerns of the FCT,” Adejobi said.
The Commander of the SIS in FCT, Commissioner of Police Bennett Igwe, who led the operatives across the borders of the FCT in Bwari, Kawu, Kubwa, Gwagwalada and into Niger, Nasarawa, Kaduna, and Kogi States, told our correspondent that the SIS operatives would be stationed across the FCT borders and would be moving in and out of the FCT to apprehend bandits and other insurgents.
He added that the SIS is under the command of the IG, explaining that its operation would not be limited by jurisdictions.
Igwe said, “We are here tonight in Kawu, where about 23 people were kidnapped. As you’ve seen, we’ve toured the whole of Bwari, and we have shown the criminals that we are ready and we want our people to be at peace.
“As we’re stationed here and patrolling Bwari, other officers are also patrolling other border towns in the FCT. Our operatives are stationed at and are patrolling Gwagwalada, Kubwa, Maraba, and other border towns, villages and hamlets.
‘’ And we’re moving in and out of the bordering states of Kaduna, Nasarawa, Niger, and Kogi states. We will flush the bandits out and return peace and harmony to the FCT.”
After taking a critical look at the attempts by the desperate families of kidnapped victims to raise ransom on social media, the Federal Government on Wednesday warned that crowd-funding to pay ransoms will only embolden the kidnappers, worsening the security situation across the country.
The Minister of Defence, Mohammed Abubakar, who briefed State House correspondents after the first Federal Executive Council meeting for 2024, cautioned against the trend.
“We all know there’s an existing law against payment of ransom. So, it is very sad for people to go over the internet and radio asking for donations to pay ransom. This will only worsen the situation; it will not help,” he declared.
Reacting to reports that some members of the public were crowd-funding for ransom to redeem their loved ones held hostage in kidnappers’ dens, Abubakar added, “If we stop, over time the kidnapping will not be profitable and they will stop. It is not easy though, but that is the law.”
Between Thursday and Sunday, January 7, 2024, no fewer than 85 persons, comprising both travellers and residents, were reportedly abducted by terrorists at Katari along the Kaduna – Abuja highways near Katari, in the Kachia Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
Last week, six sisters, alongside their father, Mr Mansoor Al-Kadriya, were kidnapped from their home in the Bwari Area council of Abuja.
The distraught family had sought public support online to raise the N60m ransom demanded by the kidnappers for the release of the six siblings.
Nigerians were urged on X (formerly Twitter) to donate any amount into a designated bank account, but not enough money was gathered as of Friday.
Consequently, the hoodlums reportedly killed the oldest of the six girls, Najeebah, and dumped her body along the Abuja–Kaduna road.
In a bid to assist the beleaguered family in raising the ransom, a former Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami, disclosed on his X handle that his friend had offered to support the family with N50 million.
An Abuja-based lawyer, Oladosu Ariyo, whose daughter was also killed by the bandits, had issued a desperate appeal to the Nigerian Bar Association for support to raise the ransom imposed by the kidnappers who are still holding on to his wife and three children.
However, the defence minister said while the government is deeply concerned about the kidnappings, paying ransoms through public donations will exacerbate the problem.
Therefore, he urged Nigerians to refrain from responding to ransom demands publicly, noting that the federal government is determined to starve kidnappers of the profits which drive their enterprise.
According to the former Jigawa State governor, the recent kidnappings in the Abuja suburbs were being committed by bandits fleeing military operations in the North-West and North-Central zones.
He assured citizens that security agencies are working around the clock to track down the bandits and prevent further abductions.
“As you are aware, people are saying FCT, FCT! These kidnappings happen around the suburbs, around locations that are bordering Kaduna and Niger and this is a result of the current operations going on in the North-West and some parts of North-Central.
“The bandits are fleeing and getting shelters around these areas and the security agencies are working very hard to push them out, block the movement and finish this thing once and for all.
“The President has given us the marching order and all the support that we need and what the security agencies need to end this thing,” Abubakar affirmed.
Jolted by the wave of abductions and the public outcry over the complacency of his administration, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, on Wednesday, held a town hall meeting with residents in the Bwari Area Council of the FCT, where 23 persons were abducted last week.
The parley was attended by the former Senator representing the FCT, Philip Aduda, the Etsu-Bwari and Sarkin-Bwari, and the Chairman of the Bwari Area Council, John Gabaya.
Speaking at the town hall, Wike said President Bola Tinubu had instructed him to provide all the logistics support the security agencies would need, adding that it would no longer be business as usual.
The minister, however, failed to meet with the families of the victims in the area, notably Mr Ariyo and Mr Al-Kadriyar, whose daughters were killed by their captors.
Nine members of their families are still being held by the kidnappers who are demanding N700mn ransom.