When the Sir Mike Okiro- led Police introduced the policy of compulsory display of vehicle plate-number on the vehicles plying Nigerian roads and those belonging to government officials; long before terrorism started in Nigeria, little did security conscious Nigerians know that this wonderful pro-active measure could be jettisoned by subsequent Inspectors Generals of Police [IGP] after Sir Okiro. It however, did not take long before the terrorists dared the police in their backyard, as a golf car without plate-number was said to have been used to bomb the force headquarters.
Report has it that on June 16, 2011; Louis Edet house would have been brought down, were it not for the security measure that was put in place there. On the faithful day of the bombing, the un-plate-numbered golf car laden with bomb, was said to have followed the then Inspector General Police [IGP] Hafiz Ringim from his official residence in Maitama to the force headquarters. On arrival, he attempted to park at the official car park of the IG, when the eagle eyed traffic warden on duty, whom Sir Okiro in his then effort at sanitizing and repositioning the force headquarters stationed to control traffic, ordered him out of the IG’s car park which is under the headquarters building. As soon as he left the park, the bomb in the car exploded. The belief in Louis Edet house was that had the then IGP Sir Mike Okiro not taken his time to check and sanitize the building of indiscriminate parking, the bomb would done more damage than was seen.
With the information that the men that carried out the November 20, 2015, attack on Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali, were driving a vehicle with diplomatic license plates; and the United States of America Embassy in Nigeria warning to its citizens on Friday, Nov. 23, 2015, to watch their movements as it had received information that groups “associated with terrorism” may be planning attacks on hotels in the country that are frequented by foreign workers, the time for Police to take pro-active policing seriously is now! The report that the terrorists in Mali, rode on diplomatic Special Utility Vehicles [SUV] cars to gain easy access to the hotel where they killed about twenty people, could be averted here through this approach.
Security experts in Nigeria believe that police nonchalant attitude towards strict enforcement of order on vehicle plate-number, and the reckless manner Nigerians and government officials go about in vehicles without plate-numbers in appropriate places, could be exploited by the terrorists to inflect deadly damage on government institutions. They, the experts, are of the view that these dare devil terrorists could invade any of the three arms of government building if they like. All they need to do is to deploy about four  Hilux Pick-up Vans packed with improvised explosive devises and guns to any of the three arms of government structure. Since all they need to do to gain easy access to any of these places is to simply write PILOT on the body of the Hilux Vans and use pouch to cover those places where plate-number are supposed to be affixed, nobody will stop them at these security points because of the belief that the vans are government own.
It is also the belief of security experts that Police should start a thorough background check and inventory of the whole diplomatic vehicles in Nigeria to avoid a situation where any or some of the vehicles could be deployed for terrorist attack. Sometime in Lagos State, a diplomatic vehicle parked in a mechanic workshop was discovered to be a stolen one. This discovery was made by Mike Okiro, who was then a Divisional Police Officer [DPO]. It was said that when he was on patrol in the area, his team found out that the said diplomatic vehicle had different registration numbers, as there was difference between the number on the vehicle glasses and the plate-number on the body. The vehicle was then impounded and after investigation, it was discovered to be a stolen vehicle. The investigative report Okiro forwarded to the Commissioner of Police, which was in turn sent to the IGP then, led to background and integrity check on all diplomatic vehicles in Nigeria. This measure may have been abandoned now.
With the USA warning of high profile terrorist attacks, coupled with the recent Nigerian military warnings of attacks in FCT, the Nigeria Police may need to embark on strict pro-active policing to complement the army. To this end, the police should muster the will to start impounding all vehicles without plate number, inclusive of those belonging to government. If possible, the police should approach the two arms of the National Assembly for resolution in this regard. Diplomatic vehicles should not left out here. The Police should also start integrity test on all vehicles belonging to embassies of various Nations in Nigeria. A stitch in time could save nine.
In this era of insecurity, the issue of policy somersault on the part of police with respect to vehicle plate-number enforcement and related matters may not augur well for the security and well-being of Nigerians. There is the need for the police to re-activate this policy as complement to the fight against insurgency.
Information Management Expert & Researcher
Wrote in from Garki-Abuja.