Contrary to popular belief and opinions, Bayelsa state is now secured from the grips of kidnappers and notorious cultists, courtesy of the Inspectors General of Police initiatives in states.
The history of Bayelsa state is not much palatable considering the cases of kidnapping and violent crimes in the past with no consideration for age, class and positions.
It was a sad tale of intrigue, criminality and kidnappings of individuals at homes and along the streets of the state capital. No one felt safe. High profile families became special targets including the former president Goodluck Jonathan, former Governor Seriake Dickson, the former Super Eagles Coach, Samson Siasia, a former Nigerian Ambassador to Venezuela and many more.
Even Antonio Talbot, a six years old son of a Bayelsa Commissioner for Water Resources, Hon. Nengi Talbot was not spared by the kidnappers. He was abducted in January,2020 and kept in the kidnappers den for 15 days until the SP Chris Nwaogbo team of Operation Puff Adder rescued him without payment of ransom and arrested five suspects.
Fathers, uncles and children became easy targets to the kidnappers with ransom demanded and paid amidst fear of losing loved once. The cries and anguish among the indigenes of the state over increased cases of kidnapping had, however, rubbed off on level of businesses in the state.
However, the story has drastically changed with the formation of the “Operation Puff Adder” by the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu in states on intelligence gathering and combatant movement against kidnapping, armed robbery and other violent crimes.
With the commencement of the operations of the Operation Puff Adder in Yenagoa, the residents have become gradually optimistic that the issue of widespread crimes and criminality in the state is becoming a thing of the past. The outfit is working with 26 divisional headquarters and twelve police posts in the eight local government areas of the state.
Launching the State Police Command’s “Operation Puff Adder,” an initiative of the Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu, the former Commissioner of Police, Mr. Uche Anozi, said following the successes recorded in tackling the cases of banditry, kidnapping and other violent crimes across the country, the IGP directed all commissioners of police in charge of state commands to launch the operation in their respective domains.
According to Former Commissioner of Police, Anozie, it was In compliance with IGP’s directives, that the Bayelsa State Police Command set up a special squad comprising 170 gallant officers and men to officially launch Operation Puff Adder in the state, adding that the officers were carefully selected from the detachment of the Police Mobile Force, Counter Terrorism Unit, State Intelligence Bureau, Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Anti-Cultism and Kidnapping Unit Anti Bomb Squad, and from various Police Divisions.
He said: “The operation is designed to source for actionable intelligence to confront and annihilate criminals and mop-up illegal arms from unauthorized individuals. The squad will conduct intelligence-driven raids on criminal hideouts, targeting cultists, armed robbers and kidnappers, among others.
“In addition, drug abuse is one of the major factors that fuel crime. This operation target locations where illicit drugs are sold and consumed confiscate, and arrest the outlaws with a view to bringing them to justice. The role of the community and the involvement of members of the community in active policing is a global practice, hence the need for community policing cannot be over-emphasized”.
“This operation also engages community leaders and youths in periodic meetings to find lasting solutions to the challenges of crime in the community. The police also utilize non-state security actors such as the vigilantes, Community Development Committees, CDCs, and youth bodies to partner the police in tackling crimes and criminality in the state.”
The outfit, which is headed by SP Christian Nwaogbo, is already gaining more confidence among the residents of Yenagoa, the state capital and its environ with over a thousand cases resolved and over fifty rescues of kidnap victims recorded including the rescue of the wife of a popular businessman in the state, Mrs. Vivian Obaino.
Despite carrying out its operations under the commands of over three commissioners of police in the state, the operations puff adder have displayed versed knowledge of the state terrain and in-depth intelligence gathering capacity needed for proper policing in a state.
Inspite of these achievement in gallantry, visits to the headquarters of the Operation Puff Adder adjacent the Ministry of Transport is unbefitting to a proactive team of policemen. It was gathered that they lack needed logistics such as operational vehicles, office accommodations, suspects’ detention centre and support.
But a senior member of the team revealed that despite the challenges, the squad is happy that the use of unmarked exhibit vehicles by the Operation Puff Adder personnel have given them an edge over criminals in the state, ”they don’t even know we are coming and we hit them below the belt.”
In his welcome address during the visit of the pioneer,AIG Zone 16,Augustin Agbonlahor, the State Commissioner of Police, Mike Okoli listed issues of shortage of operational vehicles, motorcycle and gun boats among the challenge facing the police operation in the state, ”the peculiar terrain of the state, the riverine nature afford criminals the opportunity to strike and disappear into the sea and creeks”
Some of the personnel called on the state government headed by Governor Douye Diri to support the operations of the Nigerian police including the Operation Puff Adder in order to sustain the ongoing efforts and assist the police with needed logistics and funding.
However, the special police team has also quashed a three man gang which specializes in the robbery of bank customers in the state capital. Many have fallen victim to the operations of the four-man gang that are reportedly made up of a serving soldier who claimed to be serving at the Nigerian Army Military School and an ex-militant youth and amnesty beneficiary from Ekeremor local government area of the state.
Among the victims purportedly counted by police sources were a lawyer shot dead in Opolo last year and some Policemen whose guns were taken away by their killers. Our correspondent gathered that the arrest of the notorious gang of armed robbers is leading to numerous arrests including that of the arrest of one of the kidnappers of a former oil worker in the state.
But on the 21st of June,2019, the operatives of the Inspector-General of Police new security outfit known as ‘Operation Puff Adder’ exposed the gang and arrested three suspected armed robbers that specialize in the robbery and killing of bank customers in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital. The three armed robbery suspects were arrested along the Ookordia-Zarama road on the early hours of Wednesday at about 3am.
Senior police sources, who confirmed the arrest, said the operation was carried out by the personnel of the Operation Puff Adder led by SP Christian Nwaogbo and was recorded within a week of the commencement of operations against violent crimes, cultism , killings and kidnapping in the state.
It was gathered that the arrest was made possible based on intelligence gathering by the men of the Operation Puff Adder with an ambush laid at Okordia Zarama and they accosted a Toyota Corolla car and a Highlander jeep used by the suspects on their way to Yenagoa for their nefarious activities.
It was also gathered that the three-man gang has been identified to have killed many bank customers in some parts of Yenagoa and dispossessed many others of huge amounts after bank transactions,. The police are investigating the possibility of connivance between some bank officials and the suspects.
One of the two rifles recovered from the suspects was also reportedly identified to be a service riffle stolen from a police officer attached to the Udeme Hotels along Opolo area and owned by a former Senator, Senator Emmanuel Paulker. The police officer has since been dismissed.
Our reporter also gathered that the “homeboy” factor of the personnel of the Operation Puff Adder was thrown up by a group known as ‘ Bayelsa Youth Movement for Peace and Security, who revealed that 75 per cent of the personnel were officers that had served one time as members of the Anti-Kidnapping squad of the State Police Command.
It was gathered that the anti-kidnapping squad, in which they served, under the then commissioner of Police Hillary Okpara, who is now a retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police, their achievements brought them accolades and recommendation for automatic promotions, which was never fulfilled by the Nigerian Police.
According to the Bayelsa Youth Movement for Peace and Security, record the rescue of high profile kidnap victims including the rescue of Chief Nitabo Inegite, the foster father of the former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan while in office as President in 2014.
Other high profile operations recorded by the then anti-kidnapping squad include the arrest of the killers of 11 policemen on January 2013 at Lobia community in Southern Ijaw Local Government area of the state. Three of the killers were arrested and one condemned to death.
In his recommendation, the then Police Commissioner, Hillary Okpara, while commending the gallantry, dedication to duty and loyalty to the Police Force by the men, recommended an automatic promotion to next rank of the men of the Former Anti-kidnapping squad and now, the personnel of the Operation Puff Adder led by DSP Christian Nwaogbo
The group called on the Inspector- General of Police, Muhammad Adamu, to approve the recommendation of the former Bayelsa Commissioner of Police and Retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, Hillary Okpara on automatic promotion to next rank of the men of the former Anti-kidnapping squad and now, the personnel of the Operation Puff Adder.
The State Commissioner of Police, Mike Okoli, in a commendation letter dated 11th August,2020, has further affirmed the fact that the Operation Puff Adder, headed by SP Christian Nwaogbo with AP/No.117998,described the recent arrest of a gang of notorious kidnappers headed by one Sinime Dankaba at Azikoro town forest in Yenagoa as an act of gallantry.
The incident, which provoked public outrage in Yenagoa in August led to the gunmen in a retaliatory attack along the bakery Road area of Azikoro Town in Yenagoa local government council area of Bayelsa State killing a pregnant woman and three others.
The gunmen, according to security sources, launched the bloody attack in retaliation against the allege partnership between men of the Police security outfit, Operation Puff Adder and residents which led to the destruction of their camp inside the forest close to the area.
It was gathered that the men of the security outfit had on night of the fateful day invaded the militant camp reportedly fingered by some residents as a base for illegal bunkering, kidnapping and other criminal activities. Also listed as one of grouses against the residents was the recent mob arrest and lynching of four of their colleagues in the area.
A new generation church known as the Lion of Judah Fire Deliverance Ministry, off Bakery Road was also attacked by the gunmen with the security guard shot dead. The pregnant wife and her husband were shot dead in front of their house during the shoot-out.
It was gathered that the men of the Operation puff adder were later deployed to the area to counter and engage the gunmen in a shooting spree. The killer gunmen were later chased away from the area.
The Commissioner of Police, Mike Okoli, also visited the scene, reassured members of the community of adequate police protection and ordered for full Investigation to unravel the motive for this dastardly attack.
The Bayelsa State Police Command in a statement issued by its Spokesman, Asinim Butswat, announced that the police have launched manhunt for the suspected cultists who murdered four victims and set a house ablaze.
According to him, “On 5th August, 2020, at about 2300hours, armed suspected cultists stormed the ‘Lion of Judah Church’ Azikoro village, Yenagoa Local Government Area, Bayelsa State”
“They shot dead four church members namely; Alfred Marcus, 30 years, Imomotimi surname unknown 25 years Gabriel Ejimofor ‘m’ 45 years and Uchechukwu Ejimofor ‘f’ 38 years and set ablaze a nearby building, damaged a vehicle and the church properties” .
“Operatives of operation Puff Adder had earlier traced the hideouts of the cultists in the bush, dislodged them and burnt their camp. It is believed that this is a reprisal attack by the suspected cultists. Meanwhile two suspects have been arrested and are cooperating with the Police in their investigation” .
The Operation Puff Adder team, however, swung into further action and arrested the gang leader, Sinibe Dankaba and it led to the recovery of arms and ammunition.
In his letter of commendation, CP Mike Okoli, through DCP, Admin, Selem Vicent Amachree, said “The commissioner further expresses his deep appreciation for your tireless efforts in fighting crime and criminality within the command which has brought relative peace to the state and has also made the public to have total confidence in the Nigerian Police.”
Not left out in the accolades showered on the Operation Puff Adder team in Bayelsa, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammad Adamu in his commendation letter to the commander of the security outfit, SP Chris Nwaogbo, stated that “for your efforts at fighting crime and criminality in Bayelsa Command. And for your outstanding performance and various acts of bravery, especially in the rescue of Chief Nitabai Inengite (cousin to Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who was abducted on 23rd of February,2014 by armed men and arrest of suspects who kidnapped Mrs. Ebitun Salvation on the 6th of March,2014.
“Also for your gallantry at recovering seven AK47 and AK49 rifles and arrest of the suspects who killed eleven policemen at Lobia community in Southern Ijaw Local Government council area of the state in January, 2013.”
Many of the residents, who spoke with our reporter, expressed joy that though the new outfit may be in need of logistics to carry out their assignment, ”the people of the state can now sleep with their two eyes closed and call on the state government to show concern and provide the needed vehicles for easy operations and protect the lives and property of the people.”