Calling The Nigerian Police Back To Reason

BY: AMB. Abdulrazaq O Hamzat

When I first read the news about police preventing the Rivers State Governor, Chubuike Rotimi Amaechi from entering the government house, I take it as one of those falsified news report concocted to mislead the public, but I after some while, the news was verified to be true. It was established that, the Nigerian Police truly prevented the Rivers State Governor, the chief security officer and the number one citizen of Rivers state from entering his own government house on what was described as an order from above.

When further enquiry was made into what transpired at the scene, it was revealed that, the police officer who led the team to prevent the Governor from entering the Government house reportedly told Amaechi that he does not take orders from the civilian, even when he was aware that it was the Governor. Reports have it that, Amaechi came down to speak with the police officers who insisted that they can only act with superior order from Abuja.

Also, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mrs Angela Angela Agabe was also reported to have said, the police had to block the road to ensure there was no breakdown of law and order. Law and order where? Inside the Government House?

In her words, “The governor has other routes to get to the Government House. So, I don’t see how this should be an issue,” Agabe said.

After observing the situation closely, it seems that the Nigerian constitution which established the Nigerian police has been rendered useless by this administration. As it stands, the constitution has been reduced to a mere book to be read by few and dump in a bin. If not, a police officer who was made an officer by a civilian constitution would not have the audacity to stand before the chief security officer of a state and say that he can not listen to a civilian.

It is my believe that, the police officer who arrogantly spoke to the Governor in such manner is also aware that the Inspector General of Police who represent the highest authority in the police ranking takes order from the presidency (civilians), but I presume that, the police officer’s audacity is not out of his personal arrogance or ignorance, but out of a deep rooted misinformation and spoon feed courage given to him by the Rivers state police commissioner Mr. Mba, who seems to have encouraged his officers to be rude to the state governor in an effort to provoke the governor into acting rashly, relying on the support from Abuja as the officer rightly said to nail the governor.

Looking at the role the Nigerian police are playing in this political battle, it is so disheartening that the police seem to have lost focus, abandon its constitutional role of maintaining law and order to participating in partisan politics and being used as a tool in political contest within a political party.

We` should also not forget that, when Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State decided to create a faction of the NGF with some governors, he opened his separate secretariat to carryout his faction’s activities without question. When he did, the Nigerian police were not deployed to the venue to seal up the office, but when some members of the people Democratic Party (PDP) decided to create a faction of their party led by Alhaji Kawu Baraje, the police were deployed to seal up their secretariat.

The question most well meaning Nigerians are asking is, why has the police not sealed up the Jonah Jang faction of NGF secretariat the way it sealed up the PDP factional secretariat?

The New PDP in a press statement by the national publicity secretary reacted to the sealing up of its secretariat that, ‘’ the party views the continued seal up of its offices as barbaric, undemocratic and an abuse and demonstration of naked power’’.

In a similar statement, former vice president Atiku Abubakar asked the IGP to order the policemen occupying the headquarters of the New PDP to vacate the place immediately. He noted that, the action of the police has no justification in law, but was rather borne out of political control. Atiku added that, while it is embarrassing that the police have yet to give a reason on why they are laying siege to a political party’s office, the whole world knows these are acts prompted by unscrupulous politicians who do not even have the moral conscience not to involve the police in politics’’. He further added that, a politically partisan police force sets a dangerous precedent, as they will be entrusted to supervise free and fair election in the future.

Again, on what ground was this act carried out? Do the police operate under separate laws for the supporters of the president and another law for his political opponents?

In calling the Nigerian police back to reason, let me state that, the role of the police is in ensuring public safety and gaining public trust to enhance mutual relationship between the police and the community, so as to improve the security of lives and properties as police primary functions.

Study shows that, the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria provides that the members of the Nigerian Police Force shall have such powers that may be conferred upon them by the constitution. The Police Act provides for such powers and duties. The police has the power to arrest any (offender) in bracket and the power to detain and search the offender. They also have the power to take the finger print of the offender, search his property and to conduct prosecutions in courts of law. The powers bestowed upon them are very expansive, but they must be exercised under the law. (CSS341)

We are still asking, under what law did the Nigerian police operate to seal up a political party’s office? And how does the internal political struggle to control a political party concerns the police since such struggle has nothing to do with physical confrontation that could endanger public safety? Even if there is confrontation, are the police expected to take side to intimidate and violate the law of the land which empowers them to operate with impunity?

Without fear or favour, I submit with the authority of the Nigerian constitution that, it is illegal for the Nigerian police to prevent a state Governor from entering his residence or seal up the secretariat of the New PDP under whatever guise. This is an abuse of privilege, misuse of power and a height of impunity.

On a lighter note, the police were said to be acting on the directives of the presidency, but can we entirely blame the Nigerian president (Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan) for using the police to his advantage?

In my view, as much as the president should be blamed for wrongly using his privilege as the president, the larger part of the blames should go to the Nigerian police that have allowed themselves to be used for activities other than the constitutional roles and duties of maintaining public peace `and order.

The president is not a police officer and he may be ignorant about the ethics of the police, but the Inspector General of Police, who stand as the custodian of the police principle and ethics should be able to draw a line between loyalty to one individual’s desire and loyalty to one’s nation and one’s professional ethics.

The police institution is a separate entity to the political parties, but when the police officers headed by the IGP that should act according to the law and ethics of their profession couldn’t differentiate between party politics and state affairs, the police institution become a machinery of intimidation and abuse which both the police and the president should be held accountable.

In addition, the IGP who should ordinarily be the custodian of police principle and ethics even have greater blame in this regard, considering the facts that he his the number one police officer with adequate knowledge and understanding of the police acts and should be the number one protector of such acts to ensure the police is up and doing to the best of its ability.

According to Pugh (1986), a good police officer must have the qualities of common sense and mature judgment and must react quickly and effectively to problem situations”. Pugh also added that, A good police officer must be able to adopt the appropriate role of policing to the situation he or she encounters. Common roles include law enforcement, maintenance of social order and public servant. Finally a good police officer must have the appropriate concepts governing police work which are (1) an effort to improve the welfare of the community and (2) a respect for the individual’s rights, worth and dignity.

If the Inspector General of police who ordered his men to prevent a sitting governor from entering his government house and to seal up the New PDD secretariat has respect for individual’s rights as provided by the constitutions, he would have defied such a barbaric order of abuse and constitutional violation by the president.

This again puts a question mark to the sincerity of the Inspector General to reform the Nigerian police as we were made to believe said the former vice president, Atiku Abubakar.

According to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, ‘’ by the latest behaviour of the police force, the IGP has put a big question mark over the sincerity of his touted reform of the police’’. Atiku further declared that, IG Abubakar has started on the wrong foot by being openly and overzealously partisan over the internal crisis of the PDP.

It is expected that, the Inspector General Police would uphold the primary ethics of his duties as a police officer, by ensuring his men conform to the duties of a sensible police officers, but it is a shame that the police had been reduced to nothing, but a mere tool not for community policing as provided by the constitutions, but to be used for selfish political battles while abandoning the major responsibilities.

Again, the expected qualities of common sense and mature judgment that should be demonstrated by the police was nowhere to be found, as the police were reduce to a mere tool to unlawfully coerce and abuse the liberty of the citizens as guaranteed by the constitution.

It is worth to note that, this loss of reason, violation of rights, neglect of duties, dumping of responsibilities and the usage of the police for such negative purposes span from the deep rooted police corruption, but “Nothing undermines public confidence in the police and in the process of Criminal Justice more than the Illegal acts of police officers” said the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice.

According to David Burnham, the social cost of police corruption undermines the enforcement of the law, allowing widespread illegal activities to represent a secret tax on business to flourish. It destroys the department itself, robs the police officer of self respect and respect for superior officers and the department as a whole. Effective discipline becomes impossible when corruption is systematic and Knowledge of the existence of corruption undermines the public’s faith in the police and entire criminal justice system.

It was stated that, at the philosophic level, any police organization that seeks to serve democratic and humanitarian ideals must be (and be seen to be) transparent, fair, apolitical, accountable and responsive to public perceptions and expectations. Such policing is said to be characterized by the notion of “police service” rather than “police force”, where the most significant benchmarks of performance are public satisfaction, trust and confidence. (CSS341)

Small (1984) noted that, the police force have dual role to play in a given society.

Firstly, they are expected to protect the constitution of the society of which they are employed and perform other relevant duties in this regard and secondly, While on duty, they should endeavour to avoid pressure from special interest groups, since that will reduce public confidence, without which their job could become not only difficult but also make conviction almost impossible.

In addition, Kennedy (1994) opines that, policing a multicultural world is a key challenge to the police, and this challenge is compounded by contradictions inherent in maintaining public order on the one hand, and sustaining the freedom and wish of other members of the society. Hampton (1960) added that, the influence of globalization, coupled with the new culture of economic and political alliance etc have continually put to critical test the role of the institutional systems for law and order. He mentioned that, the growing crises of law and order, the rising spate of crimes in the society, and crisis of unity among different cultural and religious groups noticed in various parts of the globe are pointers to the objective shortfall in the performance of the police force vis-à-vis the order maintenance responsibility.

Let me conclusion that, Hampton was able to establish a linkage between police, crime and order. According to him, the failure of police reflects on the state of the crime statistics and public order as well as generates fear and insecurity, thereby creating a crime-prone. It is also my believe that, the failure of the Nigerian police to enjoy public trust is as a result of police corruption, which first have Its effect in the politicizing of the police, undue influence by politicians and failure of the police to act according to the standard of a respectable police institution.

I therefore call on the Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Muhammed Abubakar to undo the damages he has done to the Nigerian police to avoid sending wrong signal to the teeming young officers who rely on precedent of their seniors to be guided. He should also apologize to the Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi for trampling on his right of office as well as order his men to vacate office of the New PDP, leaving politicians to settle their scores.

AMB. Abdulrazaq O Hamzat writes from Abuja and can be reached on discus4now@gmail.com

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