Sand Extractors' Face-off: Police IG, AIG, Commissioner In Shady Deals
Nigeria's Inspector General of Police (IGP), Hafiz Ringim, Assistant Inspector General (AIG), Zone 5, Benin and Delta state Commissioner of Police (CP), Mohammed Tsafe have been fingered in the escalating sand excavation rackets in parts of the lower Niger, resulting in breakdown of law and order by factional excavators, leaving scores of persons dead or injured.
Huhuonline .com findings revealed that the controversy trailing the sand dredging and excavation at River Niger and other inland waterways in Asaba has been recurring following alleged financial settlements that had accrued to several millions of naira overtime and used to settle the trio of IGP, AIG zone 5 and Delta CP respectively through their subordinates.
A new twist in the unwholesome deals became rife when Ibrahim Baba Ahmed, the Assistant Inspector General, AIG, Zone 5, Benin allegedly stepped on the toes of his boss by issuing an unwritten counter directive for the immediate withdrawal of a police crack team stationed by the Delta state police commissioner, Tsafe on the directive of the IG and owing to an order of the Federal High Court, Benin in 2006.
Justice I. N. Auta had in his judgement in a Suit No. FRC/R/157/2000 delivered on April 28, 2006 ordered that the concerned Applicants in the matter be allowed to carry out their lawful economic activities having been duly licensed by the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA).
The crisis said to be between one David Opene, a sand dredger representing Sand Dealers Multi-Purpose Co-operative Society, Asaba and members of the Association of Tipper and Quarry Owners of Nigeria (ATQON), Asaba has made the core dredging area become a flashpoint for notoriety and other sundry negative vices as some youths in the employ of the major sand dealers have resorted to banditry, resulting in avoidable mayhems.
A letter titled Re: Flagrant Disobedience of Court Order by the Nigeria Police with Reference No. CB: 3960/X/LEG/FHQ/ABJ/VOL 106/10, dated 22nd March, 2011 , signed by CP Jubril O. Adeniji in the Legal/Prosecution Section 'D' Department (FCID), Abuja and addressed to Delta state commissioner of police reads, 'I forward herewith copy of Internal Memo No. CB: 3960/X/LEG/FHQ/ABJ/VOL 104/55 dated 9th March 2011 on the above underlined subject matter.
'Inspector-General of Police directs you comply with the court order, please.'
Also in an Internal Memo to the Inspector General of Police, dated 9th March, 2011 , from the Legal Department of the Force Headquarters in their opinion on the matter stated that, 'A careful perusal of the facts of thee case, the judgement/order of the Court thereon and the advice of the Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice show that the order of the Court in this matter is in line with Police duties as stipulated in Section 4 of the Police Act, Cap. P19 LFN, 2004.
'It is therefore recommended that the Commissioner of Police, Delta state Command should be directed to comply with the order of the Court so as to monitor and enforce peace, law and order along Asaba beach fronts of the bank of River Niger.'
But according to Chukwuma Ebu, Head of Chambers, C F Ebu and Co, Solicitors for River Niger Sand Dealers Multi Purpose Coop Ltd, the act of lawlessness was aided by the Delta State Police Command allegedly acting on the directive from Abuja .
He argued that the judgement
The AIG was however said to have deployed policemen loyal to him to the beach to replace the ones earlier drafted by the Delta state CP, just as a source at the beach disclosed that the different team of policemen were working for either side of the major sand dredgers.
The source also said the AIG's men came in several trucks on Thursday, June 16, 2011 to possibly dislodge one of the contending groups in the matter.
When Huhuonline.com visited the AIG's office, in Benin to ascertain the reason behind the withdrawal of the crack team of mobile policemen deployed by the Delta CP on the orders of the IGP to monitor and enforce peace, law and order along all the beaches and beach front in Asaba, he was said to have traveled out of Edo state.
An impeccable source at the AIG's office, in Benin confirmed that the crisis is generating controversy between the Inspector General of Police, IG, Afeez Ringim and Ahmed and may be one of the reasons for the AIG's sudden summon to Abuja on Monday, June 20, 2011 while another said that the AIG may not have been aware of the Court order.
When contacted on phone to speak on the situation, the Zonal Police Public Relations Officer, Titilayo Odukoya said she could make a statement on any issue as she was on her sick bed over an undisclosed ailment.
Huhuonline.com source close to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions of the Federation in Abuja revealed that a letter titled 'Re: Flagrant Disobedience of Court Order by the Nigerian Police' and signed by Akin Akintewe of the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation, addressed to the IG, was also allegedly forwarded to the AIG and Commissioner of Police, Delta State, intimating them of the said court order of the Federal High Court, Benin, and stating that it must be obeyed until it is stayed, vacated or set aside.
The outright break down of law and order and tension in Asaba, the state capital may have informed the meeting of officers from the National Inland Waterway Authority, NIWA, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, MMSD, ATQON, and other stakeholders conveyed by AIG Ahmed and scheduled for Tuesday, June 21, 2011.
According to an eye witness account in Asaba, 'trouble started on Monday morning when workers loyal to both Opene and ATQON clashed which resulted to sporadic shooting and destruction of properties resulting to the death of two yet to be identified persons'.
When contacted to confirm the incident, Charles Muka, Delta state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) said, 'I would not want to comment on any matter concerning sand business because I have not been properly briefed'.
A sand dredger and dealer, who prefers anonymity has mentioned that interest groups like the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (MMSD) which by the Mining Act of 2007 had superior powers in the licensing of all operators mining sand or other minerals around the country and the National Inland Waterway Authority (NIWA) which by a 1997 federal government decree was empowered by law to regulate inland waterways development, use and management all over the federation have also contributed to the troubles.
'The confusion has brought about a free environment for dubious federal officials and security agents to make hay through bribery and underhand deals which translates to more financial burden on the operators who now have to pay two masters.
'Corruption is being practiced and covered up in the general confusion of the inter-agency rivalry. Law suits have been made by many parties and operators in the sector depending on whose interest is at stake.'