When the Nigerian Police Force saw fit to build police transit camps in Benue, Plateau, Kano and other states in 2018, the rationale was to complement the efforts of other security agents fighting insecurity in the troubled terrains.
But, unfortunately, Joseph Egbunike, then Commissioner of Police in charge of budget and finance at the force headquarters, joined other police chiefs to execute a sham police transit camp project.
Egbunike, now a Deputy Inspector-General of Police, and his cohorts who spent over N1 billion building false camps are not the ones suffering the consequences, but the helpless locals in those places. FIJ examines the aftermath of the project.
FALGORE TRANSIT CAMP SITE NOW BANDITS’ HIDEOUT
The site of the police transit camp proposed for Falgore Forest, Kano, has been taken over by marauding bandits and terrorists. On June 4, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, raised the alarm that bandits had taken over the forest and converted it to their hideout. At a meeting with the service chiefs at the Defence Headquarters in Abuja, Ganduje said the terrorists hiding in Falgore were planning to launch a series of attacks on his people
“I am also here to seek the help of the Nigerian Army to sustain the peace in Kano State,” the governor said. “Bandits have converted some forests in the state into hideouts. The bandits are regrouping in Falgore Forest and may be planning to attack our people.”
In Falgore town in December 2020, bandits wielding deadly weapons abducted a nursing mother and her baby, after killing a local vigilante in the area. The gunmen had stormed the home of Yusuf Falgore, a prominent habitant of the town, to cause mayhem.
Following the incident, Abdullahi Kiyawa, the spokesman of the Kano Police Command, said the Commissioner of Police “mobilised the team of Operation Puff Adder to rescue the abducted woman and arrest the kidnappers” and pledged that the police would foil future attacks.
But, some hours later, about 13 gun-wielding men invaded the Minjibir, a community few kilometres away from Falgore, setting a police van ablaze and abducting a businessman. The attackers had come in a white Hilux van, two sedans and four motorbikes, and forcefully whisked the businessman away.
The habitants have since been living in constant fear of possible attacks by the armed men hiding in Falgore Forest.
RIOTS IN RIYOM, PLATEAU
As a way of finding a lasting solution to the seemingly endless carnage perpetrated by criminal gangs in Plauteau State, the Nigeria Police made Riyom, the capital of Riyom Local Government Area in the state, the site of one of its police transit camps.
But, as FIJ would find, only uncompleted camp structures exist in the troubled axis. Therefore, with each passing month, the attackers become more brazen, targeting innocent habitants and travellers due to a lack of adequate security personnel.
In July, a riot broke out in Riyom after two persons were murdered by marauders in the state. Angry youths marched to the headquarters of the local government to register their displeasure, asking security agents to vacate the axis.
The incident that left hundreds displaced was one among the series of attacks, killings, and destructions of crops ongoing on cultivated farmlands in Riyom.
A few weeks later, 17 lives were wasted in a raid by a group of murderers in the town, and there were no security agents to foil the attack. Confirming the incident to newsmen, Edward Egbuka, the Commissioner of Police in Plateau, said 85 buildings were also burnt during the attack.
“There were attacks specifically at Jebbu Miango on Saturday night, July 31, in which five people were killed and about 85 buildings burnt,” Egbuka said. “The next morning, the attacks continued at Tambora in Riyom LGA, where 12 people were killed and some houses destroyed.”
Now, the people of Riyom and its environs sleep with their eyes wide open over the fear of looming attacks in a state that has government and security agents.
THE BLOODBATH IN BENUE
In Guma, Benue State, deadly attacks have become a continual occurrence since a police transit camp project that was supposed to provide security to the people of the area failed. This has compounded the existing farmer-herder crisis in the state, especially in the Guma area and its nearby towns.
Sadly, half of the Guma Local Government Area of Benue is left to insecurity. Farmers and innocent citizens are displaced and left to suffer in IDP camps. Dozens of people genuinely working to survive on their farms have been killed and villagers have no rest of mind over the fear of the unknown.
In August, for example, a contingent of Fulani herdsmen invaded the Guma market, killing eight persons and injuring many others. FIJ obtained the picture of the grave dug for a woman and her four children who were lost to the attack. The residents of the community were still mourning the deaths of their loved ones when nine other persons were killed in a coordinated series of attacks in September.
Four months earlier, no fewer than 17 persons had been killed by suspected armed herdsmen in a coordinated attack on Tse Ukor, Tse Gborigyo and Tse Uhembe communities in the Mbayer-Yandev Council Ward of Guma. In July, two aid workers and eight others were also murdered in cold blood after the killer herdsmen invaded the Ovie council ward in the town. With constant attacks endangering the lives of the people, Guma is one of the dangerous places to be in the north central state. A police transit camp could have made all the difference, but no one knows how police chiefs spent the money allocated for it.
In Katsina and Bauchi, where sham police transit camp projects were executed, banditry and terrorism have taken over; so much that Bauchi governor recently urged residents to take up arms.
THE PRICE OF TRUTH
For reporting the police high-level corruption that prevented the successful execution the transit camp projects, the Nigeria Police Force is after the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ).
On Monday, ‘Fisayo Soyombo, the newspaper’s publisher and editor-in-chief, was detained for several hours at the force headquarters in Abuja. He would later be released after public outrage, especially on social media.
As it stands, Connected Development (CODE), BudgIT, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE), four leading non-governmental organisations whose missions revolve around accountability and anti-corruption, have written Usman Alkali, the Inspector-General of Police, for answers on the spending of funds for police transit camps, a project initially begun by the interior ministry in 2016.
The ministry had contracted Kakaras Nigeria Ltd. to build transit camps in Katsina, Bauchi and Plateau State for about N245 million each. Each camp was to have a Rapid Response Squad (RRS) unit and a police station. The buildings were also to be furnished and electrified.
The force headquarters took charge of the N736 million project following agitations that a police project should remain with the police. And although the Nigeria Police did not complete the project despite the release of funds, it earmarked about N175 million each for similar ones in Benue and Kano in its 2018 and 2019 budgets.
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