Acting Inspector-General of Police Usman Alkali yesterday ordered policemen to deal ruthlessly with criminal elements and secessionists who attempt to test their will.
He spoke against the background of a breakdown of security in many parts of the country.
In the Southeast and Southsouth, policemen are being killed in attacks on their stations, which are also most of the time burnt.
Policemen on checkpoint are being wantonly killed by gunmen.
The Owerri correctional centre was attacked and inmate freed.
The violent activities of the separatist body the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) have heightened.
In the Southwest, the voice of separatists have grown louder with Prof. Banji Akintoye and Sunday Igboho, spearheading it.
Yesterday in Enugu, the acting IG launched special operation codenamed Operation Restore Peace (Operation RP) at the Michael Okpara Square in Enugu, the state capital.
Alkali said: “You are charged to be civil with the law-abiding citizens, but firm and ruthless with criminal elements and secessionists that may attempt to take the risk of testing your will or threatening the citizens within your area of jurisdiction.
“In furtherance to the goals of this special operation, I charge you to henceforth, defend yourselves courageously against any armed group that attempts to attack you, any police assets, and other critical national infrastructure.”
The IG advised the police officers and men on the special operation to see their deployment as a call to national duty.
On expectations, he said: “First, to stabilise the security order in the Southeast in the shortest possible time. Second, to be professional in your conduct as you strive to attain this objective.”
Alkali said: “The zone in recent years has been witnessing increasing cases of kidnapping, armed robbery and communal violence.
“This trend has of late been laced with inter-ethnic intolerance and separatist agitation as championed by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its armed wing, the Eastern Security Network (ESN).
“The separatist agenda of this group has assumed an armed dimension in which important political and community leaders, as well as personnel and assets of the Nigeria Police, military and other security agencies, are being constantly targeted in clearly well-coordinated, premeditated violent attacks in the region.
“Aside from this, the deepening inter-ethnic prejudice and intolerance in the region are also occasioning unjustifiable inter-ethnic violence and counter-violence.
“Apart from the massive loss of property and fatalities to lives, the violent campaigns are beginning to have a damaging effect on the socio-economic development of the region.
“This trend is being compounded by the illegal proliferation of firearms as well as the deployment of the social media by the leadership of IPOB to indoctrinate, misinform, and misdirect Southeasterners towards the path of violent separatism.
“This evolving trend constitutes a major threat to our nation’s internal security and national unity and, hence, requires urgent sets of all-inclusive actions to roll back the disastrous tide.
“We should as a people, be determined to build a consensus, partner in condemning any act of criminality and resolve to work with the police and other security agencies towards identifying, isolating and bringing the criminal elements within our communities to deserved justice.
“There must come a time in the life of a nation when we, as a people, must strengthen our will, and resolve to mobilise and deploy all our assets towards confronting these criminal elements, take the battle to their doorsteps, and make a clear statement that the few deviants within us cannot and will not re-order our cherished national values. The time is now.
“Today’s launch of ‘Operation RP’ by the Nigeria Police is aimed at this direction and it follows the directives of Mr President to the Nigeria Police to re-evaluate and emplace new operational strategies to stem the tide of violence and secessionist agenda not only in the Southeast but across the country.
“As the lead agency in the internal security framework of this country, the Nigeria Police under the current dispensation acknowledges that the duty of securing the lives and property of the citizens is its primary mandate.
“The launch of ‘Operation RP’ in Enugu today is the first in the line of our strategic Action Plan to restore peace across the country and in the coming days, the special operation will be extended to other parts of the country to address peculiar crimes including banditry, kidnapping and armed robbery in other geopolitical Zones.
“It is to be emphasised that ‘Operation RP’ will cover all the states within the Southeast geopolitical zone. I am confident that with the support of all strategic stakeholders, the operation will in due course, change the current security narratives in the Zone for good.”
The operation, the police boss said, will be carried out by operatives of the Force in collaboration with the Armed Forces, the intelligence community and other sister security agencies.
He solicited the support of the civil populace, particularly traditional rulers, religious leaders, youth associations, market bodies, cultural associations and professionals.
The IG believes that with the support of all strategic stakeholders, the operation will in due course, change the current security narratives in the region.
Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi praised Alkali for the operation.
He said it could not have come at a better time than now “given the bourgeoning insecurity in the country”.
“We have institutionalised functional collaboration between our neighbourhood watch groups, forest guards and security agencies, especially in the area of intelligence sharing.
“Enugu State Security Trust Fund Law is in place to ensure sustainable funding for security agencies in our state. The deployment of our Automated Drone Surveillance Solution to give the needed impetus to our security surveillance is underway.”
“We have not rested on our oars in providing a safe and secure environment for residents to live, work and enjoy life,” the governor said.
The governors of Ebonyi, Imo and Abia states were represented by their deputies.
The Abia State Elders Consultative Forum (AECF) warned against militarising the region.
In a statement by its National President, Archbishop Princewill Ariwodo and its National Secretary Rev. Joseph Adiele at the end of their meeting in Umuahia, the Abia State capital yesterday, AECF said doing so would be counter-productive.
It condemned the arrest of Eze Awurum who was allegedly tagged an IPOB member by the military and warned against any extra-judicial killing of Igbo youths