The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has set up the Special Weapons and Tactics Team that will replace the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad. The prospective members of the new team, who will undergo tactical training next week, will undergo a psychological and medical examination to ascertain their fitness and eligibility for the new assignment. A statement by police spokesman, DCP Frank Mba, in Abuja on Tuesday, said the personnel from police commands in the South-East and the South-South will be trained at the Counter-Terrorism College, Nonwa-Tai, Rivers State. The statement was entitled, ‘IGP orders all defunct SARS personnel to report at the force headquarters for psychological and medical examination’. “The medical examination will be carried out by the newly set-up Police Counselling and Support Unit, a unit, which henceforth, shall engage in psychological management, re-orientation and training of officers of the Force deployed for tactical operations and other duties,” the statement read in part. On social media, Nigerians rejected the creation of the new unit, saying that it does not sufficiently address concerns around police brutality.

At least 12 people were killed in weekend attacks on two communities in Kaduna, survivors said on 11 October. According to survivors, some gunmen invaded Kidandan and Kadal in the Giwa Local Government Area on Friday and Saturday, firing sporadically. “There were about a dozen bandits. They attacked Kidandan on Friday afternoon and left three people dead. Four people were also wounded,” Auwal Ibrahim, a survivor, told the Anadolu Agency over the phone. Another survivor Usman Bala said the gunmen also attacked his community Kadai on Saturday. The agency said information on the attacks was not known until Sunday noon due to the remoteness of the area. In Niger, at least six vigilantes were reportedly killed in a bandit attack in Kagara community of Rafi Local Government Area. The bandits struck around 7 a.m yesterday, blocking the Pandogari road according to a ThisDay report. The paper cites unconfirmed reports that some drivers and passengers were killed and injured during the attack. In another security-related development, North-East elders have renewed the call for the removal of Service Chiefs to strengthen the war against terrorism and banditry. The elders, under the aegis of Coalition of North East Elders for Peace and Development (CNEEPD), said nationwide protests continued despite the scrapping of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) because of many people’s frustration with worsening insecurity in the country. The group said the disbandment of the unit did not spell the end to insecurity, insisting that “general restructuring of the sector starting with the removal of the Service Chiefs was the best way moving forward”. The group had previously opposed a move by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai to launch a new operation Codenamed “Operation Fireball” to tackle insecurity in the North East.

Sabo Nanono, minister of agriculture and rural development, says the federal government will ban milk importation by 2022. Nanono made the disclosure while speaking to journalists in Abuja, at an event to commemorate 2020 World Food Day. He explained that the ministry is making deliberate plans to ensure the availability of resources for milk production. “We are planning in this ministry and watch my words, in the next two years we will ban the importation of milk into this country. And ask me why: we have 25 million cows in this country to produce five million litres per day, ” he said. “The issue is now logistics, which we have started by setting up milk processing plants across the country. I see no reason why we should import milk in the next two years. We should stop the importation of milk.” Nanono added that the FG through the Agro Processing Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support Project (APPEALS) had earmarked N600 billion as loan support to farmers across the country. 

The Federal Government has released fresh guidelines for the reopening of schools in the country. The National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Sani Aliyu, made this known during a briefing in Abuja. Giving an update on 8 October, Aliyu said that the Federal Ministry of Education, the PTF and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control had developed guidelines to ensure schools can reopen, minimise the risk of transmission and continue to operate safely. Some states are already reopening schools. The Lagos education ministry has already said all classes in public and private schools will resume from 19 October. In a statement by its spokesperson, Kayode Abayomi, pre-school pupils, as well as crèches and daycare centres, can also reopen. Under the federal guidelines, schools and educational bodies that plan to reopen must have detailed communication protocols that include parents, school health teams, school authorities and local (and) state officials. They must also have a system for providing regular updates for parents, staff and relevant authorities as well as communicate changes to procedures effectively and clearly as well as taking effective measures to understand how COVID-19 can spread and how to mitigate the spread in line with official guidelines. Schools in the country had been shut for more than four months as part of measures to curb the spread of the novel disease.

Commentary

  • The creation of the Special Weapons and Tactics team is curious as there have been previous references to the existence of the unit within the police force. Nonetheless, the crux of the problem is not just the creation of a new unit but ensuring that the unit is properly trained, continuously retrained, operates by properly developed Standard Operating Procedures, and has accountability levels built into its operations in order to prevent a repeat of the excesses of the SARS unit that precedes it. It is also important that these measures be implemented across the whole police force in order to achieve a wholesale reform. This is necessary because Nigerian policing is at an inflection point where cool heads and a sensible strategy is imperative. The Police Act 2020 – a legislative move to wrest the power to recruit constables from the Police Service Commission to the Office of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) – has been deemed unconstitutional by the country’s second-highest court. The current IGP, deeply welded to the political priorities of the President, is increasingly taking on the unhelpful appearance of a cornered personality. Despite all this, there are low-hanging fruits which form the specific demands of the protesters that can be implemented by the police, such as setting up of an independent panel to investigate and prosecute erring policemen (an indication of the loss of trust in the police force being able to investigate itself) and the release of all detainees from the protests. These actions will begin to satisfy the demands of these protesters in the immediate term.
  • The attacks on the communities in Kaduna fit the pattern of so-called bandit attacks in Katsina and Zamfara states which have become common in the last few years and point to the continued and escalating insecurity in that part of the country. Together with the attacks in Niger State, they show how the government is still yet to bring under control the activities of armed gangs who seem emboldened by the large swathes of ungoverned spaces where the security authorities are barely present. The huge disparity in the presence of security assets between urban and rural areas, a situation that is worse in the North due to its vast geographical mass, has created room for these gangs to run rampant, attacking villages and travelers on federal and state highways. Coupled with the fact that there is an epidemic of illegal arms and weapons in Nigeria due to the country’s porous borders, the government is struggling to bring insecurity in these regions under control. It will continue to do so without a change in its overall strategy that looks at building the capacity of all security agencies (military, police, the SSS and paramilitary agencies), increasing numbers and providing better equipment to combat crime. It is also important to keep noting that leadership change at the highest levels of the armed services is overdue as they have not only overstayed their years of service (which is causing some dissension in the officer ranks) but they have failed to achieve set goals of restoring security to the North East and increasingly, the North West.
  • A ban on milk importation, while consistent with the statist approach of the Buhari administration and desire for autarky, will be very ill-advised and disastrous for Nigeria’s food security goals. Going by Mr Nanono’s calculations, the average cow in Nigeria produces around 73 litres of milk per year, a meagre 3.45% of the global average. At the moment, Nigerians consume about 10-20 litres of milk annually, about 10% of the recommended 267 litres. This means that even with importation, Nigerians still do not consume enough milk – a situation that has an impact on the physical growth of its citizens, particularly children at the early stages of cognitive development. With one of the highest protein deficiency rates in the world and food inflation reaching 16.6% according to the latest NBS inflation report, there is only one outcome of a policy of this nature – food insecurity. To bridge this shortfall, Nigeria will have to take several leaps forward, first in increasing the number of resident cows and breeding methods, then in the amount of milk produced, and finally in storage and distribution. Although the details of how the ₦600 billion to be spent on the APPEALS project is not known yet, it is beyond optimistic to expect that Nigeria can be self-sufficient in milk production from its current level in just two years.
  • The willingness of Nigerians to resume life as normal is crystal clear. In a recently concluded study by SBM, 55% of respondents – parents, students and education managers across the country believed that schools should reopen. Only in a third of Nigerian states do a majority hold the view that schools should remain closed until the virus declines. At the start of the school closures in early March, 72% of respondents agreed that the closures helped to reduce the spread of the virus; only 41% held the same view in September. 62% of Nigerians also think that reopening schools will not increase the spread of the virus. Nonetheless, the safe reopening of schools across the country will task the focus and resources of the FG. Even if fatalities among school children do not increase, asymptomatic transmission could put the general population at risk, leading to a spike in cases and fatalities. This scenario is compounded by the lack of testing. So far, only 564,936 samples have been tested in Nigeria. Despite the numbers being skewed by Nigeria’s population size, this breaks down to 15 tests per million, well below Zimbabwe (42 per million), Ghana (46 per million), Uganda (50 per million), Kenya (81 per million) and Rwanda (160 per million). This lack of testing means that prevention must be all important, especially regarding sanitation, social distancing and masks. Strong coordination between federal, state and local authorities is required to ensure our schools do not become breeding grounds for COVID-19.