Ife crisis: Investigation was thorough, no ethnic bias — Police spokesman

Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood

The Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, tells ADELANI ADEPEGBA that the police carried out its investigation of the Ife crisis professionally

Various Yoruba groups have accused the police of arresting only the Yoruba after the communal crisis in Ife and that they also allegedly favoured the northerners while investigating the incident. What is your reaction?

It would be wrong for any group under any guise to accuse the police of bias because it’s a disservice to the force. The Police Special Intervention Force deployed by the Inspector General of Police to restore peace in Ife town and its environs was not constituted based on either ethnic or religious consideration. It was done in national interest to save the situation and ensure that there was no further loss of lives.

If you recall, the mayhem in Ife occurred on March 8 and resulted in the loss of innocent lives and destruction of property worth millions of naira. It was because of the need to put an end to this that the Police Mobile Force, Counter-Terrorism Unit, Intelligence Respond Squad and others were promptly deployed to Ile Ife under the command of the Commissioner of Police in charge of the Police Mobile Force at the force headquarters. Within two days of their deployment, they were able to arrest the spearheads and other suspects. The arrest is still progressing.

Thirty-eight suspects were arrested and brought to Abuja for further investigation because, in an environment where you have chaos, investigation may not be smooth there. I want to make it clear that investigations into crimes and criminality usually start from the scene of the crime. So, we avoided any ethnic leaning to this conflict because these are people (perpetrators of the act) that have been living together for so many years. When there are crises of this nature, the police must move in to ensure peace and order and to prevent further loss of lives.

Many are wondering why only the Yoruba were arrested in view of the fact that the violence was between them and the Hausa?

It would be wrong for anybody to accuse the police of ethnic bias. Our investigation was thorough. The IG, Ibrahim Idris, had said the police would no longer tolerate impunity. If people committed crimes in the past and went scot-free, it would no longer happen now. Thirty-eight suspects were arrested and after thorough investigation, 18 were found not to be culpable and they were released. The 18 people that were set free included the Hausa and the Yoruba. So, it was not done based on ethnic sentiment or bias, but in line with investigation procedures and to ensure that those found culpable were prosecuted. Having said this, it is good for everybody, including those making allegations of bias against the police, to know that when we charge matters to court, the suspects have the right to defend themselves. The different groups — I am not mentioning any names — have the right to seek legal remedy for whoever they want to defend in court. The IG and the police are not biased in any way.

Why did the police bring the suspects to Abuja when the incident happened in Osun State or is there more to it?

No, there is nothing to it other than to ensure that Nigerians know what happened and we should be mindful of national security because, outside Ile Ife, people of different ethnic groups live together, in the South, East, North and West. Regardless of your ethnic group, you should be free to live anywhere and when an offence is committed, whether by the landlord or the tenant, the law does not have respect for anybody. This was not the first time that we would parade suspects in Abuja. If you look at the Rivers rerun, suspects involved in the violence were brought to Abuja and paraded and there was no ethnic inclination to it. If you remember, those that were arrested in connection with the crisis in Southern Kaduna were also brought to Abuja and paraded.

Have the suspects been taken back to Osun for prosecution?

The completion of investigation would determine when they would be arraigned in court and prosecuted, but I will find out from the legal department when they would be arraigned and whether charges have been filed against them. My plea to the various groups is to allow justice and truth to prevail and peace to reign. The police will definitely get to the root of the matter.

When will the suspects be arraigned in court or have they been granted bail?

The offences of this nature are not bailable at the level of the police, but I will find out when they would be arraigned, I don’t have the information now.

Do you think such arrest will douse or further deepen tension in Ife?

It has already doused the tension because even the stakeholders have equally supported the action of the police in ensuring peace in the area. Peace has been restored and people are going about their lawful businesses. Some of the shop owners have started opening for business and this is a welcome development. We didn’t have it this good in the past in Ile Ife when protracted crisis occurred. We want to implore and advise the various associations that have been talking in Lagos and other places to know that the people of Ife are living together in peace without any problem.

Would you say the Ife crisis is an isolated matter or an indication of distrust and divisiveness that exist between Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities?

I don’t think I am the appropriate person to answer that question but from the security point of view, it is an isolated incident because those who participated in the crisis are people that have been living together for years. Some of them were born there and they knew themselves too well. It is not only in Ife you have indigenes and non-indigenes living together and doing their business. Across the country, people of different ethnic groups are living together without problems. People have been appreciating the IG for the prompt deployment of the police; otherwise, it might have led to reprisal attacks in other parts of the country.

Some people believe that when this type of crises occur, the government usually fails to address the root cause. What is your response to this?

I speak for the Nigeria Police, not for the government. So, I think it is more appropriate to ask those who speak for the government. At our own level, we conduct investigation and arrest perpetrators. People should know that if they commit impunity or take the laws into their hands, we would make them face the wrath of the law.

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