A joint security operation carried out by the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Police, Department of State Services, and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, on Thursday, launched a full-scale manhunt for a notorious criminal gang in Kogi State, led by one Kabir Bala.
Addressing a press conference at the headquarters of the Kogi State Police Command in Lokoja, the Commissioner of Police in the state, Akeem Yusuf, narrated how Bala, popularly known as Okwo and his gang members opened fire on a joint security team at about 4:30am on Thursday upon sighting the operatives.
Yusuf disclosed that the security team engaged the hoodlums, noting that Kabir Bala was neutralised in the process, while other members of his gang escaped with varying degrees of injuries.
According to the security agencies, the operation was carried out following the decisions reached at the State Security meeting on the upsurge of criminal activities in the state.
The police boss said the Kogi State Government had, in October, 2018, granted Bala pardon in prerogative of mercy as part of efforts to rehabilitate the notorious gang leader in Ejule, Ofu Local Government Area of the state, but added that Bala had turned an unrepentant criminal with many atrocities traced to him.
He said Kabir Bala and his gang attacked troops of the Nigerian Navy and dispossessed them of four rifles at Alloma village on March 4, 2022.
He however said the firearms were later returned to the Navy following high-powered intervention.
Yusuf further disclosed that the State Security Council meeting held on June 20, 2023, took a decision to revoke the state pardon granted to Bala based on his rising criminal activities, which he listed. Unraveling the plethora of criminal activities linked to the suspect, the police chief said, “It would be recalled that the Kogi State Government in October, 2018 granted pardon in prerogative of mercy as part of rehabilitation to one notorious gang leader named Kabir Bala alias (Okwo) in Ejule, Ofu LGA.
“However, the said Kabir Bala remained an unrepentant criminal with lots of atrocities traced to him which includes; dealing in illegal arms, kidnappings and killings in the state. Several cases had been traced to him such as burning alive of Mrs. Salome Abu, a PDP woman leader in Ofu LGA in her residence on 18th November, 2019 at Ochadamu; killing of two (2) Igala youths – Umoru Areh and Unekwu Sule on 20th April, 2022 at Ejule; killing of five (5) Fulani herders namely – Ibrahim, Haruna and Shuaibu along Alloma Road, Ofu LGA in April, 2022 and Muhammed and Dauda at Imoko in Ofu LGA on 3rd March, 2023.
“Other crimes committed by Kabir Bala and his gang are attack on troops of the Nigerian Navy and dispossessing them of four (4) rifles at Alloma village on 4th March, 2022. Though, the firearms were later returned to the Navy following high-powered intervention; attack on Elisha Aya, Pastor and founder of Kingdom Faith Assembly Ejule on 18th March, 2022, who later paid One Million to Bala as levy for establishing a Church; Invasion of Egane Fulani settlement, burning 213 huts, rustled 122 cows on 25th December, 2022; Assault on the Lord’s Chosen Church, Ejule on 29 January 2023 for disturbing his hotel with their service, during which Joy Abuh, a worshipper sustained gunshot injury on her left hand.
“He was also responsible for seven (7) kidnappings along Itobe-Anyigba highway from 5th to 28th May 2023,” he added.
While giving further details of the decision reached at the Security Council meeting, Yusuf noted that the Security Council reached a decision that known agents of Bala in criminal activities must be apprehended to face the law; all illegal arms in the possession of criminals in that area should be recovered for peace of the state; and that Joint Operations should be set up, comprising the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Police, DSS, Civil Defence, to arrest the established criminals and recover the arms in their possession.
“Today, 22nd June 2023, at about 0430hrs in pursuit of the above, the Kabir Bala and his gang members on sighting the Joint Security team opened fire on them and started shooting sporadically. The team engaged the hoodlums; the said Kabir Bala was neutralized in the process while other members of his gang escaped with varying degrees of injuries.
Items recovered from his premises included one (1) AK 47 rifle with three (3) fully loaded magazines; six (6) locally fabricated weapons; two (2) phones and charms,” the police boss submitted.
He, however, promised that the force would sustain ongoing onslaught against criminal activities to ensure the safety of lives and properties in the state.