• Thursday, December 07, 2023
businessday logo


Insecurity: Desperate moment in Rivers


…as cultists captured, butchered gallant police officer

…why Rivers appears vulnerable to explosive killings

…and the security architecture that was abandoned

The news of the capture and butchering of a gallant police officer who took the war to the underworld has shattered the airwaves and has kept the nation on their toes. Rivers State crime space brews top killers on one hand and top police fighters on the other hand. Anywhere the battle is hot, the police leadership sends such a gallant fighter there. Soon, peace is restored. This was the time for Nasarawa State-born SP Bako Angbashim.

State of insecurity in Ahoada zone:

Ahoada started to grow in violent crimes (cultism, kidnapping, rape, now extortion and slave taxes) when water sacked most of the areas. As people fled to other towns, the underworld sprang up and seemed to occupy. News filtered out how they found rafts to move home-to-home ransacking households to cart away items such as iron doors, windows, expensive roofing sheet, etc.

When the water went down, most people became too scared to return as the marauders were in charge. In the absence of property and cash to loot, the men of the underworld began kidnapping persons.

Soon, the matter developed into a fight for territory between two notorious cult gangs identified by the police as the Icelanders and Greenlanders. The community was squeezed in-between.

Soon, the gangs developed great audacity. In June, they allegedly captured two community youth leaders and marched them to the forest. There, according to one prominent Ekpeye son, gave them shovels to dig their graves. Information is that they were buried alive. The killing of strong voices and community leaders allegedly went on until many fled and others caved in.

Soon, it was further gathered, the gang leaders became ‘Generals’ and imposed a monthly levy of N5,000 per villager or be killed. They now set up camps in the forests from where they came to administer territories and collect ‘slave taxes’, just like terrorists in the northeast.

Enter SP Bako:

Bako Angbasim, the famed and award-winning Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) fought in the Omoku wars but lost his entire family to suspected angry criminals. He was moved to Ogoni areas where he fought the dreaded cult gangs terrorising the zone.

When the new Commissioner of Police, Abonyi Polycarp Emeka, arrived after the chaotic 2023 elections, he made it clear he came to fight crime. He seemed to prove this by deploying Bako as the new Divisional Police Officer (DPO) for Ahoada. (Ahoada or Ekpeye ethnic nationality has two local councils: Ahoada West and East).

Ahoada seemed to take over in bloodshed from neigbouring Omoku in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni (ONELGA) local council area made notorious by Don Wanni.


Bako made good his presence, taking the fight to the gangs from forest to forest. Many paused, hoping that it was what is known in city parlance as ‘initial gra-gra’ (early seriousness which was expected to fizzle out.)

Read also: Lagos police constitutes team to investigate Mohbad’s death

Every week, reports of exploits by Bako and other units around the state made the Police proud.

Soon, the gangs wanted amnesty, but CP would none of it. Rivers had given amnesty four times since 2007 but the gangs grew stronger thereafter. Many wondered where the new CP got his livers from because most previous police commissioners seemed to take it easy. As the new CP persisted and Bako fired on with frequent exploits, the first gang leader in Ahoada surrendered. There was euphoria in security circles. More surrendered. The governor and AIG were happy. Operation Zero Crime was conceived.

Now, with the killing of Bako, the ‘Operation Zero Crime’ seemed to suffer a temporary setback. The state police command has thus announced suspension of the scheme.
Thursday September 14th, has been shifted to 2nd to 8th October, 2023.”

The killing, who can tell?

The true account of how the gallant officer was captured may never emerge. Many interests seem to be at work. The first account said he was ambushed when he was returning from fighting, and that they waged war and bullets never penetrated any of the opposing fighters (both Bako and the kingpin). It was said that Bako ran out of bullets and was captured.

A twist seems to have emerged. The CP has given another account, saying Bako ran into a set-up. He said the gang leader (2Baba) made it look like he was surrendering and wanted negotiations. Bako and was captured.

Gang wars feared:

Fears became rife that gang wars may explode in Rivers State following the death of a dreaded and gallant police officer by the police command.

Video clips circulating in the social media indicated that by the capture and butchering of Bako, fleeing gang leaders may rush back to reclaim lost territory through the use of guns.

Bako is one of the most popular and effective commanders in the state used by the new Commissioner of Police to knock out stubborn cult gangs.

Many said Bako had lost much, now his life. Some said he has also not been promoted for years despite his gallantry. The latest was that reinforcement did not come quickly knowing that any time his fighting team was on the move into the forests, there would surely be need to be on standby and forward move for rescue.

Read also: Police Storm ESN Camp in Ebonyi, arrest two

Deep sources said one of the things that would likely happen is the rush of return of the ‘Generals’ that fled the scene in the heat of fighting and hot gun from the Nasarawa-born Bako.

The hint coming from the forests is that majority of the ‘Generals’ in Ahoada who surrendered are of the Greenland cult groups and would feel threatened by the ‘victory’ of their fiercest rival, Icelanders.

The reliable source said: “They may most probably resort to taking up arms again in ‘defence’ of their territory from any possible attack from those who claim responsibility for killing of Bako.
“Secondly, the morale of the personnel who received the news of the death of Bako will be down. Some natives and residents will flee which will affect business activities.”
They advised the Rivers State Police Command in collaboration with other security agencies to show capacity and deal decisively with the dangerous development.
The source said the Police Command already has serious clues in their possession, and must leverage on those clues and do the needful.
The CP seemed to have moved for war, though crime experts say the killers must have since relocated, knowing the Police would come fighting.
The CP has played true to type, moving his team to Ahoada town and to the forests to demonstrate capacity to fight back. His words: “We will not rest until justice is served.”
How really did Bako die?
In the statement issued by the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Grace Iringe-Koko, the CP said Bako, displayed exemplary courage during a mission to combat criminal activities in the Oduimude forests.
He said Bako and his boys went to the blackspots in the region. The operation led to a pursuit of criminals from their concealed hideouts. Tragically, he said, as they were returning from this operation, they were ambushed by a significant number of criminals who opened fire on the brave officers.”
In the face of this adversity, the CP said, Bako valiantly held his ground, while his men, depleted of ammunition, made a tactical retreat. “Regrettably, during this engagement, SP Bako Angbashim sustained fatal injuries, and one of his informants was also injured, currently receiving medical care for a gunshot wound.”

Read also: Police rescue 4 kidnapped victims in Delta

The police said the criminals seized the body of Bako, forcing the remaining officers to return to their base for reinforcement. He said efforts were made to rescue and recover the DPO’s body, with assistance sought from the Army teams stationed at FOB Base Etraco. However, the operation proved challenging due to the extremely dark conditions within the dense bush.

An extensive investigation is currently underway to uncover the circumstances surrounding this tragic event.

Sources talked about the ambush and suspicion of a sellout by those close to him. Many said it was obvious that the unrelenting onslaught of the new CP and Bako would meet top-level resistance because of many interests that were being threatened by the killing and chasing away of top cult leaders in the state.

There is suspicion that there is strong connection from foot-soldiers, commanders, to political leaders. Generals are connected.

Gov Sim Fubara joins the war:
The state governor, Sim Fubara, wasted no time in joining efforts to fish out the killers. In a state broadcast, he repeated the account the CP gave about how Bako died.

“As a responsible Government, we cannot fold our arms and allow criminals and crimes to rear their ugly heads and thrive in any part of our State. He declared Okpolowu and his gang members wanted and offered a N100m bounty on their heads. He also announced the suspension of a monarch.

The governor reiterated the commitment of his administration to guaranteeing the security of all residents. He gave assurances he would do everything in their power to hunt down the killers.

He said the Government of Rivers State would not allow his family to suffer the pains of his sudden and irreplaceable loss alone.

Efforts to confirm that Bako remarried and got children proved abortive.

It is also not clear how the governor is reacting to the fact that he said credible information said Bako ran into an ambush on his way from battle. This was what the CP told the press. It is obvious this was same briefing the Governor got.

Now that the CP has changed the story, it is not clear if he has briefed the governor on the change. What is important however is that most members of the public believe neither of the two versions from same CP.

Doubts abound; fingers point in many directions:

The notion in the state is that the truth is not yet out. Fingers are pointing in many directions. Many want to know the story being told by Bako’s aides. They are asking how the commander was overpowered but none of the aides was touched, except one they said is injured. Many have float a conspiracy theory.

Fingers are also pointing in the direction of the royal fathers some of who have been accused and sanctioned by the governor. Many however argue that the problem is that the royal fathers are usually attached to the governors and this may create complications. A source said Bako was dangerously getting too far. “He crossed the line.”

The source said as soon as the state governor who may be a novice in such matters gets close to a point, his fire may dull. They argue that the fact that the principal suspect has not been traced seven days after is sign that highly placed persons may be involved because capturing him may expose many things because top crime gangsters do not go down alone.

The state governor seems not to be deterred. He has charged security agencies in the state to smoke out the killers.

Read also: Gang wars in rivers wars may explode in Rivers as gallant police officer captured, butchered in Ahoada

He specifically tasked the security agencies to get the prime suspect (Gift Okpara Okpolowu) at all cost as a clear statement that the state is not a safe haven for criminals.

The Rivers State Police Command said its operatives arrested six suspects in connection with the gruesome murder of Bako, whose death occurred in Odumude Forest.

This was contained in a statement signed by the Command’s spokesperson, Grace Iringe-Koko.

She, however, said a new DPO, Zuokumor Richard, has been assigned to the division, adding that the DPO is accompanied by half a unit of men from Mopol 48, one-third unit from Mopol 19 and 56, plus tactical teams.

Dangerous signals:

The hard look at some royal fathers indicate that top political leaders may not be far from the death of Bako. The careful planning that got Bako easily show that top brains and insiders were at work.

The disappearance of the principal suspect and the team members shows that escape plans were perfectly set and they anticipated every move the police command is making at the moment. This too smirks of high planning.

Top minds know that three things are very important in every murder trial: body of victim must be found before case is filed. So, where is Bako’s body? Why was it very important for the killers to ensure its not ever found? Next, weapon of death. This may never be traced. Finally, the killer(s). With several rivers in the area, certain things disappear forever. If top persons are involved, the suspects may be far outside Nigeria. If this theory be right, it means Bako’s killers may never be found, and that is a dangerous proposition that shows that anybody can be killed in Rivers State and nothing would happen.

Read also: Egbetokun reshuffles police after promotion of senior officers

Why bigtime killers often emerge in Rivers:

Many have wondered why bigtime killers often emerge in Rivers State. Yes, there seem to be many fulltime killers and those who have thousands and moved on to more noble lifestyles.

From time to time, a top killer emerges who would be feared even by other killers. Each time there is a job to knock off a very important personality such as Marshall Harry, A.K Dikibo, Ignatius Ajuru, or SP Bako, a very trusted killer would be invited.

Some are warlords who sound very loud. They are hardly hired. But there are some who are very silent and professional. There is always a reason for passing death sentence on a principal target.

Bako was known as uncompromising and unrelenting. The underworld punished him for this, twice. Why would he be the only that would not relent?

Now, it does not take time for a bigtime killer to emerge, reign, and perish in Rivers State and the Niger Delta. Don Wanni had been a terror of national notoriety. He perished in Enugu fighting. Some other killers have transformed to power brokers and militias. Some are even courted by the powers that be up to the national level.

Many felt that the killers of Bako were local goons, that real mafia dons don’t easily want to kill cops, let alone top ones that are marked ‘X’. Killing such class brings down the roof that way the roof has come down on Ahoada, on monarchs, and on everybody. People are now forced to vomit every information they have, and bigshots are being picked up. The fingers usually point upwards.

Many have asked to know why top killers and cult gangs grow in Rivers State and some other Niger Delta states.

It has some history. PH was a drug hub after the war and continued to grow. Later, oil theft came and they created cartels and gangs that controlled petrodollar territories with huge weapons coming from abroad aboard crude vessels.

They are now in charge of those areas called ‘ungoverned territories’ in the Gulf of Guinea, according to Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface, the Executive Director of the Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC). They run things and control a parallel black market crude oil ring. They have money, weapons and courage.

The problem may be that when most leaders get into office, they begin to see advantages or gains of allowing the status quo.

The master killers and other rank and file killers seem to find relevance at the top. This is because any political leader who has their support is sure to win. Nobody dares them. In return, the political class gives them cover. This is where the matter is.

When they go off the cuff and kill a very big person, their political covers sell them off. They get killed in return. They never live to stand trial. Or, if the killing is ordered from above as the Bako killing begins to look like, the killers would go into thin air. From the Orashi waters, they could sail into the Bakassi waters and get into a neighbouring country and from there get into a little-known island to cool off for about 10 years.

Investigation theories:

Many want the police to interrogate Bako’s aides. The problem is, if what they know is too hot to handle, who would release it to the public.

Another angle is the absence of re-enforcement and intelligence to locate the camps in the forest. Many are worried that Bako did not have back-up for rescue operation. Is this not against police standard operation procedure (SOP)? With all the billions voted for security around Nigeria, no state boasts of a rescue system.

Rivers’ security architecture: The discarded blueprint

This has raised questions about the existence or otherwise of a visible security architecture operating in Rivers State. What is seen is donation of vehicles and weapons plus financial support and compensation in times of death. The Rivers Neighbourhood System which the Wike administration suffered to set up has since been abandoned, the personnel disregarded like sheep without shepherd. It seemed easy because previous system was abandoned too.

Over a decade ago, there was an effort to establish a security system.

Due to Rivers being seat of the hydrocarbon industry, the state played a pivotal role in the fight against bigtime crime. One former administration created a security architecture that offered a method; vehicles, weapons, lifejackets, armoured helicopters at $29m, and an intelligence system. These were to send life signals to a control centre from where attacks would be sent to knock out the threat. This system would have helped Bako, but it was destroyed by political rivalry years back