NIGERIA POLICE, ENDANGERED SPECIES? – Security File with Ben Okezie

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History, like a turntable, repeats itself.

When a former President unilaterally deleted History subject from our school curriculum, many did not realize its implication. Today, before our very eyes, we watched history almost repeating itself.

In the First Republic, it started as public agitation over political misunderstanding and impunity. So, the people went haywire. Political thugs ventured into the streets, venting their anger on political opponents and the police. Perceived opponents and the police were drenched in petrol and set ablaze.

That heinous action was known as “Operation Wetie” and the Western Region was nicknamed the “Wild Wild West.” It was coloured with widespread looting, riots and murder. Many political opponents and policemen were also burnt alive. The West, which had been the pride of the nation in development, turned out to be a political war zone where thugs and urchins engaged in wanton killings and destruction of properties.

The events heralded the first military coup in the country. The mayhem turned both platform and excuse for radical coup plotters like Majors Emmanuel Ifeajuna and Kaduna Nzeogwu, with their cohorts, when they struck on the morning of January 15, 1966, to end the First Republic.

Incidentally, 55 years after, another similar drama unfolded in the month of October 2020. This makes it pertinent to clinically X-ray the events, so that Nigeria is not caught pants down.

It is said, once bitten, twice shy. My late father, Chief John Okezie, used to advise me that “A traveller does not excrete on the same road twice, but changes his location and position.”

Nigeria Cannot Progress in Error.

Eyebrows were raised among police officers when the news filtered out of Lagos, Anambra, Ebonyi, Edo and Kogi states that conventional policemen (not SARS) were murdered. Policing is practical intelligence security protection. Though diversified into private and public security, it is as old as creation.

One of Jesus’ disciples had a sword (Matthew 26:51), “And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear.”

Even though the Nigerian constitution mandates the police to provide security and protection for life and property in Nigeria, the fact remains that Nigeria Police, to all intents and purposes, is a true reflection of the country. The country is enmeshed in corruption, impunity, and poverty. Government has not done enough to improve the welfare of the police to a level where # they cannot be tempted while on duty on the road, in stations or during investigation.

Recently, the media aide to Nigeria’s President and Commander-in-Chief, Mr. Femi Adesina, in one of his published articles on October 23, 2020, titled “If Nigeria dies, hatred killed her,” gave an insight into the thinking of President Muhammadu Buhari when he reiterated thus, “Talking of reform of the police, I know the mind of the President on that issue. Sometime in the early days of the first term of the administration, I had dropped into the house one night, as I do once in a while. And it was a few days to the exit of the then Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, who was going into retirement.

“The President told me how much he had been impressed with Arase, and how he regretted that the man spent just about a year with him. He then told me of the police of his dreams, and how he wished he got someone who would translate the dream into reality. So, when the President said in a speech to the protesters last week that comprehensive police reform was coming, I knew what he had in mind. If only we would be patient and let him implement the five-point demand of the protesters, which he had accepted. But alas, the protest took another hue and nature, different from the original concept and focus. Hatred crept in, nurtured by all sorts of tendencies.”

The President must be told in clear terms so that it would resonate loud and clear, that this violent scenario would have been nipped in the bud had the present police leadership not delayed when it ought to have been proactive in 2019 when the #EndSARS agitation started.

Today is the second week I am wearing black and mourning my police friends who had no business with SARS but were killed like chicken while in line of duty. These are fathers, husbands, brothers and sons, and they were disgracefully murdered in cold blood. So, why kill police officers?

In his report, the Anambra State Commissioner of Police, Mr. John B. Abang, said, “In their state of callousness, the hoodlums also murdered and beheaded Inspector John Oche attached to the Anti-Cult Unit and burnt his body to ashes. Also, four police officers and the Divisional Police Officer, Osumenyi Division, CSP Akpan Joseph, the station officer, ASP Agu Michael, Osumenyi Division, and a young PC Udegbunam Sunday Celestine leaving two others injured.”

He lamented, “Even as I speak, policemen are endangered species. As I talk to you now, they are following us to our houses to eliminate us. As I talk to you now, many policemen are not going to their homes. We want you to remember us in your prayers.”

He noted that 11 police stations were set ablaze, as well as 20 vehicles, patrol exhibit vehicles and an armoured personnel carrier. The heinous criminality of the hoodlums speaks volumes.

The same narrative was evident in Lagos, where six policemen were mercilessly macheted to death and 16 police formations burnt, while 13 other police stations were vandalised and numerous exhibits looted. Ebonyi State recorded the painful death of Police Inspector Egu Omini, whose manhood was cut off and AK-47 rifle stolen. He was heard praying for his killers.

In his response to Amnesty International’s report on the SARS brutalization and use of impunity while discharging their job, which the body berated, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, noted that, “Available reports show that 22 police personnel were extrajudicially killed by some rampaging protesters and scores injured during the protests. Many of the injured personnel are in life-threatening conditions at the hospitals. Two hundred and five (205) police stations and formations, including other critical private and public infrastructure, were also damaged by a section of the protesters.”

If one may ask, is the IGP responsible to Amnesty International or to Nigerians? This foreign bully should be made to understand that Nigeria is a sovereign country and there are enough laws to checkmate any excesses of security agencies.
The IGP should have been more concerned with internal issues before any international body.
After all, he was not appointed by them, so why the haste in providing answers to their report?
Now that he has responded to Amnesty International, may one remind him that he completely forgot to bring to fore the dastardly murder of the policemen as enumerated in the body of this write-up? Amnesty International should be informed that none of the 22 policemen murdered was a member of the evil SARS, so why applaud the dastardly killing of conventional policemen because people are rioting? Have we not witnessed such in the USA, where policemen were murdered in such numbers? And even when their police contravene the human rights of the people, how many times had Amnesty International written reports on such criminality?

No one is against the body, yes, their presence helps to checkmate certain excesses. Nonetheless, it is becoming rather obvious that the body is flexing muscles that have no veins. How come, the heinous killing of 22 police officers did not move Amnesty International to question the violent rascality of hoodlums that perpetrated these heinous crimes against mankind? Are these not the same policemen that United Nations demands for their services during peacekeeping exercises? How come a foreign body is showing such bias in its report? By generalizing an incident without facts but based on unsubstantiated information they have damaged the dignity the body glows about.

There has been no report of policemen shooting any protester nor hoodlums who brazenly looted warehouses and destroyed government properties. Instead, policemen were seen removing their uniforms and abandoning their duty posts. Maybe this ugly scenario is what Amnesty International wishes Nigeria.

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