The Nigeria Police Force yesterday denied reports that more than a hundred anti-riot policemen absconded from an ongoing training at the Special Forces School, Buni-Yadi, Yobe State.
Online news had stated that the officers, fearing they could become canon fodders, had fled their camp. It also claimed that the police had authorised the arrest of the deserters.
But in a statement, Force Public Relations Officer Jimoh Moshood said all the 2000 policemen deployed were on ground and were fighting alongside the military against Boko Haram.
He said: “The Force wishes to categorically state that the story is untrue. It is absolute falsehood and a deliberate attempt to cast aspersions on the efforts of the Nigeria Police Force in the ongoing fight against the Boko Haram insurgency.
“The insinuation in some quarters and as reported in the story that 167 out the 2000 additional police officers recently deployed by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) absconded is not correct and should be disregarded by members of the public. These 2000 police personnel are to complement the efforts of the military, to add new impetus to the fight against the decimated Boko Haram insurgency.”
The spokesman said further: “This story was investigated and it was found not to be correct. There is no reason whatsoever that police personnel deployed for the operations in the northeast would abscond. The Police Mobile Force (PMF) personnel have been engaged actively in the frontline along with the military in the fight against Boko Haram since the inception of the insurgency.
“These 2000 police officers recently deployed are in addition to several thousands of police personnel already engaged in the fight against insurgency with the military in the northeast. The list of 167 names attached to the story is fake, as the officers mentioned are on ground in the northeast.
“The 2000 police personnel deployed are in high morale and high spirit in the operation. The Force sees the story as a deliberate attempt to promote insurgency and dampen the morale of officers and men of the police and other services who on a daily basis lay down their lives to protect our dear nation and ensure security of all citizenry.”
He added: “It is evidently clear that the writer of the story has never visited the venue of training or witness the deployment of the police personnel in the operation but relied ignorantly on hearsay from misguided individuals who are being used to work against national interest and security.
“The Nigeria Police Force will continue to hold the media in a very high regard as a veritable partner in ensuring adequate security and success of the fight against insurgency. However, the media are implored not allow their esteemed publication to be used to publish falsehood capable of misinforming and misleading the public.”
The pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, meanwhile criticised the Federal Government for claiming it has decimated Boko Haram.
Reacting to news of the desertion, the group’s spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, told The Guardian via telephone: “Those who are claiming that they have degraded Boko Haram should now hide their heads in shame. This is getting to a point where people and the military are running from the insurgency. There was a report that even soldiers are dodging being posted to the northeast because when the insurgents killed over 200 soldiers in one day, it took the government six days to respond. When the state is ineffective, what else do you expect? The soldiers and police are human beings too before they joined the forces.”
He added: “The first instinct of every man is to stay alive. If they take up such assignment, it is like automatic death. What do you expect them to do? They have to protect their own lives first. Their duty is to protect the lives of others but they must love their own life too. Lai Muhammad should stop telling lies that the Boko Haram have been defeated when it is the insurgents who have defeated the Federal Government.”
Similarly, Guy Ikokwu, a Second Republic politician and chieftain of Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said: “The government said it has wiped out Boko Haram. But what we have seen in recent months has refuted this. The impression that the government has given us in the last few months about Boko Haram belies what is going on at the moment. Soldiers right in their camps are being taken by surprise and killed. We have generals running into the bush with their soldiers. It is so sad.”