Insecurity in Southeast is surmountable given the right tools –AIG Okon

Assistant Inspector General of Police, Etim Ene Okon is presently the AIG in-charge of Zone 9 Police Command, comprising Abia, Imo and Ebonyi states command. Before his recent promotion and posting, he had served in the three state commands at various levels, including Commissioner of Police, Abia State.

In this interview, AIG Okon talked about the present security challenge in the country and how to tackle it.

He lambasted those tinkering with the idea of military takeover as a result of the insecurity in the country, describing them as enemies of democracy.

He also spoke on other issues.

Some months back, you were in Umuahia as the Commissioner of Police, Abia State Command, now you are back to Umuahia as AIG Zone 9, how do you feel?  

It feels great to be here as the AIG. The acting Inspector General of Police, being a very professional police officer, believes that senior officers should go to where they know the terrain very well. I feel great I have been in Abia Command for three times, I was here as a CPS, I came back as a DCP, I came back as CP and I’m in Zone 9 as the zonal AIG. I have worked in Imo, three times too; I have also worked in Ebonyi. In fact, I’m very conversant with the zone and that will make the work a little bit easier for me.

The zone like others in the country are facing serious security challenges, is the police equal to the task?

Yes, giving the right tool, the police is equal to the challenges, they are surmountable. But where you don’t have the tools, the challenges will appear as if they are such the police cannot contain. Like in the Northeast where Boko Haram is ravaging, it really needs sophisticated equipment in terms of weapons because it has gone out of what AK-47 could be used because mines are involved, bombs are involved.

The morale of the personnel of the Force has drastically gone down particularly after last year’s #EndSARS protests, don’t you think this is an issue too?    

It is an issue really, but the acting IGP is tackling that, he is doing everything to see that he brings back the morale of our men, the courage. I agree with you that #EndSARS episode did a lot of damage to the psyche of a typical policeman; when they witnessed their colleagues slaughtered as if they were chickens, even chickens, their owners do have pity on them at times. But over 22 policemen were killed and police stations burnt and that dampened the morale of not just the rank and file, but also the officers. The present IGP as I said earlier is doing everything to bring the morale of officers and men of the Force back, including promotions and that is yielding positive result. I believe with the doggedness of the acting IGP, more largesse are coming and that will surely boost the morale of the personnel.

Times were when the Nigeria police got lots of accolades from the world body, but the reverse appears to be the case now. How do we get back to the good old days? 

It’s not most of the things that are happening now are being known. Internationally, the Nigeria police is still having that accolade. In the peace keeping area that the Nigeria police is participating, they are still the Nigeria police, they are still performing, both in the AU Mission and that of UN/AU, they are still performing.

Some people are of the opinion that the number of policemen policing the entire Nigerian populace is small. Do you agree with that?

Absolutely, it is small if we are to go by the ratio of United Nations of one policeman to 400 persons. We are meant to police more than 200 million Nigerians and others with a strength not more than 370,000 policemen, so, that overstretches the police. Nigeria needs a police strength of not less than one million policemen to police the population of not less than 200 million and I think the acting IGP is seriously doing something in this direction and the outcome of what he is doing will be for the good of the Force and country.

As a result of the insecurity in the country, some people are of the view that President Muhammadu Buhari should handover the reign of power to the military. Do you see that call as genuine?

We are operating under a constitution, we have a constitutional government. There is nowhere in the constitution that says the president should hand over to the military. No civilian government has even handed over to the military. So, anybody advocating for the president to hand over to the military is not only going against the constitution, but he is enemy of democracy. The president was elected by Nigerians and it will be very undemocratic to ask him to hand over to the military. People should know that the most benevolent military regime cannot be compared with any form of democratic government. Nigerians will not like to hear martial music anywhere outside the barracks; those advocating for this should look for another country, not Nigeria.

There is this belief in some quarters that you were instrumental to the death of the parents of Nnamdi Kanu when you were Commissioner of Police in Abia. Could this be true?

Well, to me, that is a distraction. I did not come to be distracted from what the Inspector General of Police asked me to come and do here to ensure there is peace in the area. In the first place, we have to ask ourselves, when did the parents of Nnamdi Kanu die? At what year was Python Dance launched? That should be around September/October 2017. I was not in Abia at that time; by September 2017 up to August 2018, I was busy at Defence College reading. So, I cannot react to propaganda and distraction. I am focused on my job, such rumour is not important to me because I only came to Abia as command CP on February 11, 2019, when everything had been done and whether through or false, Nnamdi Kanu’s parents had died by that time. I came in and concentrated on planning about election security management until we finished the election successfully. Then Afara Ukwu people came with the burial of Nnmadi Kanu’s parents which I handled with every amount of professionalism and nothing happened during the event. In a nutshell, I don’t listen to rumours or tactical distractive mechanism. I’m only focused on my job which at the end people of the zone will be happy I did well.

When you were Commissioner of Police in Abia and was transferred out of the state, some people believed it was punitive going by the way it came. How did you see it? 

I look at every transfer as routine. I wouldn’t know what anybody should take as punitive. I was commissioner of police in Abia for a year and three months, I think I spent pretty good time and I had my day in Abia and that’s that. If you don’t move about, you will not have the experience and that is why I’m much grounded because I have gone round all the departments of the Force.

  • The Sun

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