Police Arrest 130 Over Benue Mayhem

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No fewer than 130 suspects are now in Police custody in connection with the recent threat to peace in Benue State.

The detainees include those being held for killings in parts of the state   and attacks on residents of Makurdi,the state capital.

“The number of those arrested is high. The number is not necessarily restricted to a certain category,” Police Deputy Inspector General (Operations) Habila Joshak said yesterday by phone.

Joshak is assisting Inspector General Ibrahim Idris to co-ordinate police operations to contain the recent mayhem in the state.

He had been contacted to assess the security situation in the state, two weeks after  the  burial of 73 victims of Fulani herdsmen attacks.

President Muhammadu Buhari subsequently directed Idris to move to the state to stop the security challenge.

Joshak said: “there were attempts to cause security challenges in the city of Makurdi, around the Wadata area.

“Some houses were attacked and cars vandalized so, those involved were also rounded up. About 130 have been arrested altogether over the disturbances in the city.

“In the areas earlier affected by the violent crisis, some arrests have been made.”

He said relative peace has now returned to the state and more police personnel deployed to keep trouble makers away.

Continuing, the DIG said: “Assessing the performance of security officers or the situation on ground is based largely on the perception of the citizens themselves.

“You may be thinking that you are succeeding or doing something significant in the security template and people may be thinking otherwise.

“On the other hand, you may assume that you have not done so much because of limited time and number of activities while what you have done may be of extremely significant impact to the people.

“However, we have been able to stop some of the nefarious activities that were going on in some local governments, particularly in Guma and Logo as well as Agatu area of Benue state.

“Beyond that, our coming has assisted in coordinating activities by analyzing and assessing threats from one location to another. The IGP is coordinating and making a lot of inputs. He has convened several stakeholders meetings in both Benue and Nassarawa states.”

Joshak said the massive deployment of more personnel has also assisted the police in bringing the situation under control.

His words: “We have done massive deployment of personnel. Outside the normal presence on ground, the reinforcement at the Nassarawa state end is eight units; each unit comprises 63 policemen.

“In Benue state, there are 10 additional units. Outside the ten units, we have a highly specialized unit that was trained in Belarus, with the military who formed the initial action plan and those who actually started the conduct of the action against Boko Haram in the Northeast.

“They can be said to be a counter-terrorism unit but they are more than that, having done some highly specialized training with the military in Belarus. They can be airlifted and dropped to repel anywhere. Their duty is to go in, fight and come back.”

He acknowledged  the contribution of the people of the state in making the job of the police easier.

“We are succeeding in what we call confidence-building in all the local government areas that had (security) challenges,” he said.

“Members of the public in these areas are cooperating effectively with us. We are also engaging the youths who also assist us in understanding the terrain towards identifying where to patrol and where to do deployments.

“They are also participating effectively in monitoring and gathering of intelligence as to possibility or sighting of insurgents or armed people who may be trying to advance into any community.

“Since we came, things have largely been quiet but we have come in contact with armed militia men. They tried to make an incursion in one position that is motorized by our sister outfit.

“They were warded off but not without exchange (of fire). Some of our people have been redeployed to that place. You can call those people militia. They entered a community (in Guma local government area) and set the community ablaze.

“Our operation is ongoing and it is fully on course.

“The good news is that a lot of communities have keyed in into our efforts for security and confidence-building and we are seeing results. Our area of concentration is the safety of lives and property, including dealing with the marauding gangs. We are putting an effective check on such illegality.”

The DIG was optimistic that people who were displaced by the mayhem would soon return home.

“People want to really feel safe before returning home but I can assure you that some of the internally-displaced persons are finding adequate confidence for going back to their villages.

“We still have some work to do by ensuring that anybody found to be illegally armed is not spared. This is because it is illegitimate for anybody, except those licensed or authorized, to carry arms.

“The Commissioner of Police here has drawn up standard operating procedures and points where people are searched for illegal arms before passing through. We are also checking to endure that nobody carries arms in the name of self-help because such will not help the community or the society at large. We engage the people and the state government and we discuss meaningfully on a steady, regular basis.

“The state government has been cooperative and local governments have keyed in completely into our efforts.”

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