A total of 101 police officers and men were killed by gunmen in the line of duty in Nigeria in 2019, a Daily Trust yearlong tally has revealed.
A list compiled by our correspondents from January to December showed that besides those that died of natural causes, 101 police personnel were killed by armed robbers, kidnappers, bandits and other criminals.
Daily Trust reports that the fatalities in the police are traceable to poor or substandard training and lack of equipment for the personnel to confront adversaries while discharging their responsibility of protecting Nigeria’s over 200 million people.
Experts and concerned citizens spoken to decried the needless killing of police personnel and other security operatives, describing them as people who sacrifice their lives to keep the rest of society safe.
States where more policemen were killed
The highest of the fatalities in Nigeria occurred in Rivers State in the South South where 12 police personnel died between February and September 2019 from incidents involving gunmen, kidnappers and robbers.
The neighbouring state of Bayelsa also in the South South came second with 10 policemen killed by gunmen in January, March, July and November.
Edo which is also in the South South also has same rating with 10 policemen losing their lives within four months, between January and October. The attacks were by gunmen and kidnappers.
In Kaduna State in the North West, gunmen and kidnappers killed eight policemen in February, April, August and November.
Then seven others died in Taraba State in the North East from attacks by militia, soldiers. The incidents occurred in May, August and September of last year.
Five policemen were killed in Lagos in the South West from attacks by cultists, mob, armed robbers, accident and a fire incident. Another five died in Akwa Ibom in the South South in May and July following an attack by gunmen.
Four policemen were killed in each of the states of Abia (South East), Cross River (South South) and Kogi (North Central). The death toll resulted from a combination of attacks by gunmen, kidnappers, soldiers, herdsmen and robbers between February and November 2019.
In Anambra State in the South East, three policemen died in July and December in an attack by kidnappers and a clash with IPOB. Another three officers in the convoy of the Deputy Governor of Nasarawa State in North Central were killed by robbers in Akwanga area of the state in August.
Twelve policemen were also killed in the four states of Katsina (North West), Plateau (North Central), Sokoto (North West) and Zamfara (North West). Reports said three of them died in each of these states killed mostly by gunmen, bandits and through an accident between January and August 2019.
Eight policemen died in separate attacks that happened between January and November 2019 in four states. The attackers were identified as gunmen, robbers, kidnappers, and a madman. Two of these security personnel died in Ekiti, Kwara, Ondo and Osun, respectively.
There were other separate incidents that resulted in the killing of six police personnel in six states. Analysis of this trend shows that a policeman was killed in a Boko Haram attack in May in Borno State (North East) and another was killed by kidnapers in September in Delta (South South).
A clash with the Islamic Movement of Nigeria in July 2019 left a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) dead in Abuja (FCT); another inspector was killed after he was stabbed by unknown persons in Kano (North West) in August 2019.
Rustlers killed a policeman in September in Niger State (North Central), while gunmen killed a policeman in Ogun (South West) in February 2019.
‘Nigerian policemen are vulnerable’
On December 2, 2019, an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Oliver Abbey and Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Joseph Akubo were killed in a clash between the police and some people suspected to be members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) in Oraifite, Ekwusigo LGA of Anambra State.
Witnesses said the police personnel stormed the family house of one Barr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, a legal counsel to (IPOB) and Nnamdi Kanu, in Umunakwa Ifite village. The suspected IPOB members engaged the police in a gun duel in which the two officers were killed. When Daily Trust visited the scene, our correspondent observed that a police patrol vehicle, some residential buildings, shops and motorcycles had been torched. While ACP Abbey was the Area Commander of Oraifite Division, ASP Akubo who led the operation was the Commander of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Families of the deceased officers are already seeking for justice, saying the perpetrators should be brought to book. Wife of the slain ACP Abbey, Rita Abbey, who is also a police officer, said she had handed everything to God.
A retired security personnel, Ali Musa said: “All these things are happening because the policemen are vulnerable and they are overburdened. You will be appalled when you look at the ratio of policemen in Nigerian and the people they are policing.
“Government must adopt new technology in training; it should also pay the police well and give them assurance that even if they die in service, their families would be taken of,” he said. A retired Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), Austin Iwar, told Daily Trust that the vulnerability of police men on duty has to do with capacity.
He queried the individual capacity of policemen in terms of proficiency, skill and competence, noting that the men need to be proficient in the use of equipment if it is available.
He said: “Training is dead in the police,” explaining that, this has to do with government’s poor funding of the police.
He noted that in the 2018 budget, police got only 20 per cent of their budget requirements, arguing that, “There is no way 20 per cent can solve both the internal and external challenges that the police are supposed to deal with.”
“There are about 32 police colleges but none of them is properly equipped. So if somebody that is not trained is asked to do the work, naturally you expect there will be fatalities…You post police officers on operational duty and many are not trained in tactical operations so they cannot protect themselves,” he added.
Also speaking to Daily Trust, retired Commissioner of Police Lawrence Alobi said the Nigeria Police Force is the least paid on the African continent.
He said it is sad that Nigeria is a society that is not interested in protecting its police force, adding that they don’t have the equipment, they don’t have the protective gears and some don’t have bulletproof vests.
He said the police have been neglected and their loyalty has been taken for granted.
Life not easy for us – Families of slain cops
Some family members of the slain policemen interviewed have lamented the problems they are passing through, describing their conditions as critical.
Speaking to our correspondent in December, Mrs Olubunmi Ediale, who is wife of one of the policemen that died in the line of duty, demanded the payment of compensation to cushion the effect of the loss of their breadwinner.
Her husband, Inspector Mark Ediale, was among the policemen gunned down by soldiers in Ibbi, Taraba State on August 6, 2019.
Daily Trust reports that Inspector Ediale, Sergeants Usman Danazumi and Dahiru Musa, and two civilians were killed during a confrontation with soldiers along Ibi-Jalingo Road in Taraba State.
The policemen had an encounter with the soldiers while conveying a kidnap kingpin, Hamisu Bala (Wadume) from where he was arrested.
“I am a fulltime housewife. If not for his boss, Abba Kyari, my children would have been out of school by now. He was the one that paid for their school fees last term,” she said.
Also speaking, Mr. Ahmed Audu whose brother, Sgt Dahiru Musa, was also killed in the Wadume encounter, said the entitlements of his brother were still being processed.
Why policemen are being killed
The Convener of Good Governance Team (GGT), Mr. Tunde Salman, decried the killing of policemen saying, “A general value reorientation is needed. The state, society and individual family have important roles to play. There is need to also intensify efforts to curb drug abuse.”
The Executive Director YIAGA Africa, Mr. Samson Itodo called on Nigerians to uphold the dignity of the human person and right to life.
He also asked the police operatives to do soul-searching so as to endear themselves in the hearts of the public.
“When some police officers are notorious for extrajudicial killings, unlawful detention and human right abuses, they lose the public sympathy because it is considered tit-for-tat. Notwithstanding, it is unlawful for anyone to kill a policeman,” he said. Hajiya Salmat Abdulwaheed of the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) said, “The Nigeria police system does not treat ordinary citizens the way their counterparts in other countries treat ordinary citizens.“I believe that these and more are the reasons why some Nigerians tend not to be sympathetic when it is announced that policemen were attacked.”