The Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, on Friday justified the arrest of only suspects of Yoruba extraction over the recent clash between Yoruba and Hausa communities in Ile-Ife, Osun State, which resulted in the death of about 46 persons.
He said crime neither had tribe nor identity.
Idris spoke with State House correspondents shortly after briefing President Muhammadu Buhari on the security situation in parts of the country.
The police have been the subject of criticism for arresting and parading 20 Yoruba persons, including a monarch, over the clash while not a single Hausa/Fulani person was detained, even though both groups involved in the clash were said to have had casualties.
The pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere; and the Oodua People’s Congress are among groups and individuals that have been criticising the police over the development.
The OPC had on Thursday, in a statement by its founder, Dr. Frederick Fasehun, given the Federal Government and the police 48 hours to arrest the Hausa/Fulani persons involved in the crisis.
Idris, however, defended the action of the police, saying crime had no tribes.
He said the police would not hesitate to apply the law once criminal cases were established against individuals, irrespective of their tribes.
He said, “You know we are police officers. Crime has no tribe. If you are a criminal, you are a criminal.
“Crime has no face. We don’t look at crime in the identity of where you are coming from.
“As far as you are a criminal and the police find you wanting, we apply the law.”
He said investigation had revealed that the crisis started with a disagreement between two people selling food along the road.
On the massacre in Zaki Biam, Benue State, Idris said he had deployed police special units to arrest one of the men declared wanted in connection with the case.
“We have deployed Mobile Police Unit on 16th of this month and of recent that incident that happened at Zaki Biam, there are allegations on that Gana, one of the wanted men.
“This man has been on the police wanted list and I have decided to deploy some special unit to go after him and get him by all means.
“Like I said earlier, definitely, we are going to get that man,” he said.
Idris also said the latest attack was not carried out by Fulani herdsmen.
“No, I don’t think it was Fulani herdsmen. It was an activity of a criminal using some of his criminal gangs in the state to harass people,” he added.
The police boss also said the crisis in Kogi State was not about kidnapping.
He said it was a case of militants who were bent on disrupting the peace of the state.
He promised that the police would handle the situation.
Idris said he used the opportunity of his meeting with Buhari to update him on police’s efforts to ensure security across the country.
He said, “The meeting was to share with the President our deployment strategies on the ground; our deployment in some of these flashpoints all over the country, especially Benue, which is the current one.
“We also talked about deployment in Kaduna State, which started some few weeks back and deployment in Ile-Ife, where we have a lot of police officers. Special squads and investigation team are on the ground to conduct investigation on the matter.”
The police boss said the President directed him to ensure that all facilities at police’s disposal were used to make sure that the security challenges were brought under control as soon as possible.
He said he assured the President that he would ensure that was done.
Meanwhile, some Yoruba elders; the OPC; and an Igbo think tank, Aka Ikenga, have criticised Idris’ justification of the arrest, describing it as capable of destabilising the country.
A Yoruba elder statesman, Ayo Adebanjo, expressed disappointment with the IGP’s defence, saying the arrests were biased towards Hausa/Fulani.
He said, “It is unfortunate that the person who calls himself the IGP has no apology for doing injustice. If he agrees that two sections were fighting and two sections suffered casualties, is he saying the indigenes of Ile-Ife killed themselves and destroyed their own properties?
“Yes, a criminal is a criminal but I am asking him, are the criminals only from one side when there are victims from both sides?”
Adebanjo, therefore, urged northerners to prevail on the President and the IGP “to stop playing with fire.”
“This is not the time for ethnic crisis in this country because we have a lot on our hands. Those of us who are sincere about having peace in the country are worried about this, but it appears that the oppressors are not bothered.
“It is a shame and I am calling on northerners, particularly the good elements among them, to warn these people not to provoke the Yoruba people,” he said.
A former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, said he had not read Idris’ defence, but noted that the “IGP’s job is to protect everybody irrespective of where they come from.”
“And in the execution of his duties, one would expect him to be very impartial. He was not appointed as the IG of a section of the country, but IG for the Nigerian nation,” he added.
Founder of Aka Ikenga, Oscar Onwudiwe, described the situation as not only worrisome but detrimental to the unity and stability of Nigeria as a whole.
Onwudiwe, a lawyer, said with the one-sided arrests made by the police and the comments of the Inspector General, it was evident that there were instructions from above not to touch persons of Hausa/Fulani ethnicity involved in the Ile-Ife clash.
Onwudiwe said, “The latest incident is a confirmation of what many of us already know. Since this administration came on board, there has been a clear difference in how a certain people are treated. The conduct and statement of the IGP go to show that indeed, there is an order from above not to touch the Hausa/Fulani involved in the Ile-Ife crisis. Otherwise I don’t know why only the Yoruba should be arrested after the clash.
“Before Buhari came on board, herdsmen had been moving their cattle around different parts of the country without causing problem, but going by the level of destruction they have caused over the last two years, it is as if there is a new agenda to silence anyone who raises a voice against their nefarious activities. Under Buhari, it is a clear case of some animals being more equal than others.”
The National Coordinator, OPC, Gani Adams, who also faulted the IGP over his justification of the arrest of only the Yoruba people in the crisis, said the police boss should know it was “impossible to defend such an arrest” when two ethnic groups were involved in the clash.
While calling on President Buhari to caution the IG, Adams pointed out that if such could happen in Ile-Ife, the cradle of the Yoruba race, then worse things could happen in other towns.
He said, “If we don’t raise our voice now, worse things might happen. That is why we are calling for restructuring because we cannot continue like this. The Hausa people operate with psychological confidence because when they kill people, nothing happens.
“Look at the case of Mile 12 in Lagos last year, where many Yoruba people were killed; why didn’t the IGP parade Hausa people like he’s doing to Yoruba people now? What of Agatu in Benue where hundreds have been killed so far?
“We are not against the police arresting Yoruba people who were found culpable, but we are saying there should be no bias. If there is no evidence of the Yoruba person that was killed, is the police saying Ile-Ife people also burnt their own houses?”
Following the clash in Ile-Ife, the Assistant Inspector- General of Police, Zone 2, Kayode Aderanti, on Thursday held a security meeting with ethnic group leaders in Sagamu, Ogun State.
The theme of the meeting was: “The need to live together in peace.”
This move, he said, was part of a proactive measure to promote peaceful co-existence among the different ethnic groups in the state.
While addressing the large gathering of different ethnic groups living in Sagamu, Aderanti, who lamented the Ile-Ife crisis, said, “Sagamu has the largest concentration of ethnic groups in the country. We want everyone to live in peace; we want you to live as brothers and sisters.”