The attack on banks in Offa – Thisday

The authorities must ensure that the criminals are brought to book

The recent co-ordinated robbery attacks on five banks in Offa, Kwara State, is another sad reminder of the state of security in Nigeria. Although official figures put the number of the dead at 17, including nine policemen, there are unofficial reports suggesting that well over 50 persons might have been killed.

While we commiserate with the families of the deceased persons, if the Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) footage of the robbery that is already circulating online is genuine, and there is nothing to suggest it is not, one can easily conclude that those who carried out the robbery were well trained in the use of weapons. That should compel the authorities to conduct a more thorough investigation beyond the usual arrest and parade before cameramen that never leads to any diligent prosecution.

In condemning the attack last Thursday, members of the House of Representatives called for a total overhaul of the national security architecture. “If armed robbers can enter a town, drive in a convoy of about 10 vehicles, sack a police station and raid banks, it calls for an urgent enquiry,” said Hon Oluyonu Tokpe. “As we speak, all the banks in Kwara-South are shut down. You can imagine the implication on the economy and business of the state.

Aside highlighting rising insecurity in the country in different manifestations, the Offa tragedy also brings to fore the fact that men of the Nigeria Police Force have become easy prey for criminals. In other climes, criminals would only attack or kill a policeman as a last resort because of the realisation that the governments of those countries would unleash all security apparatus to apprehend the culprits. Even Mafia members avoid killing policemen. In Nigeria, this is not the case. That is perhaps because the unprofessional conduct of most of our officers and men exposes them to such attacks.

For starters, most policemen, while on duty, never seem to be battle ready. They carry bags and briefcases or run errands for people they are supposed to guard while those in banks occupy themselves attending to wealthy patrons, saluting and opening doors for them. Visiting a Nigeria police station, one is likely to encounter officers sleeping behind the counter while some treat themselves to alcoholic drinks even at work aside walking around in slippers while in uniform with their guns dangling from the sides.

To compound the problem, police authorities most often handle the murder of their own men and officers with the same levity with which they handle those of ordinary civilians, and even high profile political killings. It remains unclear what sort of security intelligence training our policemen receive but the desperation for gratification most often clouds their judgment. There are reports that during a recent kidnap, a stranger approached the four policemen on duty, engaged them in a friendly conversation and then bought drinks for them. After the first round of beer, according to the report, the man bought the policemen another round and as they got tipsy and dropped their guns, bandits came in and shot all of them.

The situation has become so dire that Nigerians prefer soldiers to be deployed for security, as policemen are considered weak and ineffective. Meanwhile, most of the ills in the police are deeply rooted in the recruitment process and politically motivated manner of promotion where merit is often by-passed. We therefore align with the position of the House of Representatives on the need for a total overhaul of the police as an institution. But first the authorities must ensure that those who executed the brazen attack on innocent citizens in Offa are made to face the full wrath of the law.

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