The killings spread across the country but were mostly carried out in the Northwest, Northcentral and the Southeast.
Non-state actors killed at least 65 police officers in the first half of this year (January-June), as the security situation in Nigeria continues to get worse.
Aside from the slain law enforcement officers, at least 92 other security operatives were killed in the same period. These include 81 soldiers, two correctional service officials, two NDLEA officers, five officers of the NSCDC and two FRSC officials.
PREMIUM TIMES compiled the data from media reports. Thus, unreported cases were not included. The police also refused to provide its official figure for the number of slain officers within the period.
The 157 slain security personnel are among the thousands of people killed in the first half of 2022 with about 3,000 people killed in the first three months.
The killings spread across the country but were mostly carried out in the South-east, North-west and North-central regions. The three regions witnessed many attacks by various armed groups during the period.
A total of 22 deaths were recorded in the South-east with Enugu accounting for 11, Imo – six, Anambra – two and Ebonyi – three.
The South-east was followed by the North-west where 19 police officers were killed with Kebbi State accounting for 16 deaths, followed by Jigawa with two and Katsina with one. No death was recorded in Zamfara, Kano, Sokoto and Kaduna.
Data from the other regions showed that 16 deaths were recorded in the North-central, three in the South-west, three in the South-south and two in the Boko Haram troubled North-east region.
While communities in the North-west and parts of the North-central have been repeatedly attacked by terrorists, locally called bandits, the South-east has seen frequent attacks by the ESN, the militant wing of its separatist group, IPOB, as well as other armed groups.
PREMIUM TIMES has since 2021 been collating, weekly, the data of civilians and security officials killed by non-state actors. Since the beginning of the collation of data, there has been no week that there was no killing by non-state actors.
The spokesperson of the police, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, could not provide the actual number of officers killed but confirmed that the police lost many officers during the period.”I don’t have any figure here off the hat and I don’t believe in counting losses like that because even a soul of a policeman is so crucial to Nigeria, so, I may not be able to give you an accurate figure here,” Mr Adejobi said. “But we know we have lost our men to battles, our men have been killed by these insurgents and juvenile elements most especially in the South-south, South-east, and some parts of the North and all over the country.”
A senior official at the police headquarters in Abuja, however, told PREMIUM TIMES that over 100 police officers were killed within the period, across the country.
The source added that the police will come up with an official figure in the coming weeks.
On payment of compensation to families, Mr Adejobi said the police have been up to date, adding that more will be paid in the coming days.
“There are provisions in the public service rules and police system in Nigeria that when you lose officers in active service like that, there are certain amounts of money they will get and it is statutory, it is non-negotiable. The figures are there up to the IGP’s rank.
“And aside from that, we have our insurance unit in the force that compiles the list of slain officers and they pay them accordingly on regular basis.
“Recently in Zamfara, they gave out cheques to families of slain officers,” he said.
He said the police also support families internally through the office of the president of the Police Officers Wives Association who, he said, had been going around to give support to widows and children of slain officers.
“We have not left them abandoned, we always carry them along, they are part of us and will continue to be a part of the police family forever and we’ll never leave them abandoned,” he said.
But some affected families have said their lives have not been the same since the death of their breadwinners.
One of the widows, Susan Danladi, who delivered a child after the death of her husband, an Inspector who was killed in one of the attacks in Enugu State, said taking care of the family has not been easy.
“My husband didn’t have a house of his own, we were paying rent before he died and I have to continue all alone.
“I have nobody to help me out and the little money the state where my husband was serving gave to us is almost finished,” she said.
She said she has yet to receive any of her husband’s entitlement from the police.
Abel Sambo, 19, who lost his father, a superintendent, during an attack in the North-west, said the burden of his entire family now rests on his shoulders as the eldest child.
“I cannot go to the university now because my younger ones need to enrol in school.
“We don’t have the money to sponsor ourselves and we have not received any payment from the police, although they have contacted us in that regard,” he said.
Worried, concerned colleagues
Some serving police officers, particularly in the troubled regions, also expressed their worry over what they described as their vulnerability.
An inspector serving in Anambra State said officers do not wear uniforms to work anymore as they have become soft targets.
“We don’t wear uniforms and if you see us at the station, we are always on alert,” he said.
Another police officer, an assistant superintendent of police, said his worry is his family.
“I hope that the system will not allow my family to turn into beggars if I am killed in the line of duty. If someone should lay his life down in defence of his country, those he left behind should not be allowed to suffer,” he said.
Terrorists, locally called bandits, have been attacking and killing thousands of persons, including security agents, in the country’s North-west since 2017.
They have attacked rural communities, destroyed farmlands and in many cases demanded protection fees to allow farmers to go to their farms.
They have also targeted travellers in what some analysts say is one of the most lucrative kidnap-for-ransom syndicates on the continent.
In the North-east, the Islamist group, Boko Haram, has waged a bloody insurgency against the country. An estimated 35,000 people have been killed and over 3 million people displaced by the conflict since 2009.
In the South-east, armed persons, believed to be members of ESN, have killed several people.
They especially target government buildings and security personnel. They also run a kidnap-for-ransom operation in the region.
In the South-south region, there has been a lull in attacks by the Niger Delta militant groups. However, cult clashes are still rampant in River State.
In Cross River and Akwa Ibom, many villages have been sacked and hundreds of people killed in communal clashes. Cult clashes and armed robbery are also rife in the South-west.
Security experts who commented on the killings of security operatives said the government should do better for security operatives and the families of slain officers.
One of the security experts, Timothy Avele, the Managing Director of Agent-X security company, urged the government to provide adequate protective kits for frontline security agents.
He also said terrorists should face the full wrath of the law rather than get amnesty from the government.
“Killing of security personnel by non-state actors demoralises officers in discharging their work fully. But it’s even worse if the authorities do not speedily compensate and care for loved ones left behind.
“Secondly, officers are deeply affected too when political authorities pat the criminals’ shoulders not to sin again and let them go without proper punishment enforced.
“It will be good if the government and by extension, security agencies’ management should adequately equip frontline officers with modern personal protective gears such as bulletproof vests, helmets, improvised bulletproof of operation vehicles (e.g with removable bulletproof curtains) and above all retraining of these officers in irregular warfare (in both remote & urban areas) that we now face. Of course, not to be overlooked is force protection Intelligence in all operations,” he said.
A researcher at the Lake Chad Basin Programme, Institute for Security Studies, Teniola Tayo, said the attacks can easily demoralise security agents.
“The immediate impact of this can be a further decline in the morale of the security forces. They are already working under tough conditions and facing several challenges.
“Increased casualties within their ranks can affect their commitment and even drive them to get involved in the economies of violence. This can include selling intelligence to VEGs or supporting them in their logistics. The implication of all this is a prolongation of the insurgency.
On how the government can avert killings, Ms Tayo suggested improved intelligence gathering in their operations.
“Key here is increased and improved intelligence on the operations of the violent groups. The protection of security agents should be a priority. It also has to be said that curbing the excesses of the security forces can help improve their relations with communities, which can aid intelligence gathering for early warning.”