The Plateau Police Command said on Wednesday in Jos that it had been fair to all in the implementation of the state government’s ban on commercial motorcyclists.
“We are doing everything possible to maintain law and order, and shall remain undeterred in our quest for lasting peace in Plateau,” the command said in a statement signed by its Commissioner, Mr Ikechukwu Aduba.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the command was reacting to a recent complaint of extra-judicial killings levelled against the force by the muslim community in Jos.
In the complaint addressed to the police commissioner and copied to senior government officials and the inspector-general of police, the community also alleged that the Jos Central Mosque was attacked by mobile policemen.
But Aduba, in the statement, dismissed suggestions that the State Management Task Force enforcing the ban was targeting Muslim institutions and settlements.
“It is most unfortunate that any incident that crops in Plateau is given some religious coloration just to whip up sentiments,” he said.
According to him, the police are just an arm of the task force created under the recently passed prohibition law banning commercial motorcyclists within the greater Jos master plan.
Aduba recalled that the task force, which began implementing the law on June 7, concentrated on areas that were not dominated by Muslims to avoid such misinterpretations.
“We started the enforcement in areas such as Ahmadu Bello Way, Tafawa Balewa way, British-American Junction, Tudun Wada, Bukuru and Gada Biyu.
“We have yet to commence operation in areas like Angwan Rogo, Nasarawa Gwom, Bauchi Road, Kona Shagari, Congo Russia and Dutse Uku where Muslims are dominant,” he explained.
Aduba said it was “regrettable” that the enforcement of the law by the security agents met stiff resistance by the motorcycle operators, while hoodlums cashed in on that to embark on “wanton destruction” of lives and property.
“In the course of such destructive attitude, spirited attempts were made with `petrol bottled home-made bombs’ and other offensive weapons to set ablaze the palace of the Gbong-Gwom Jos, the old Jos North Local Government Secretariat and the Jos Health Centre.”
Also targeted and torched by the hoodlums, he said, were the exhibit room of the `C’ Division of the Nigeria Police Force, Jos and the Good News ECWA Church at Terminus.
“These are institutions whose structures and tenets are completely at variance and have nothing to do with the prohibition law,” he pointed out.
According to the commissioner, the police, at a point, found themselves in a desperate situation with lives and property no longer secure and had to defend themselves against the rampaging youngsters.
“In fact, in the course of these onslaughts, a police corporal was killed, while four members of the task force suffered several degrees of injuries.”
To restore normalcy, Aduba said the police force had held several meetings with the Jama’atul Nasril Islam organisation and other Muslim officials to reassure them of police neutrality in the entire episode.
“On their own part, the Muslim leaders have assured us of the willingness to caution the rampaging youth to sheath their swords and this has brought about the truce that now exists.”
The commissioner said it was “most unfair” to accuse the police of any wrongdoing as the force had remained in the vanguard of the peace process in Plateau.
“In the course of the passage of the prohibition law, for instance, the police strongly advocated for palliative measures to be put in place to cushion the effect.
“We also suggested that the disengaged riders (motorcyclists) be engaged in some meaningful employment,” he said.
Aduba promised that the police would not shirk their role of protecting lives and property, and advised the motorcyclists to come to terms with the ban and toe the path of dialogue and due process in addressing their grievances.
The commissioner also advised leaders in Plateau to teach their followers the importance of peaceful co-existence and the need to eschew all forms of deep distrust, suspicion and rumour mongering.