The police as the foremost law enforcement agency oftentimes come under fierce attack and destructive criticisms as a result of unprofessional conduct of few persons who have continued to portray the force in a bad light. Most often also, when they deliver incredible milestone in an effort to make the rest of us and our entire family sleep with our eyes close, it faintly make headlines in the newspapers. Irrespective of the angle from where we may view them, the police are the number one law enforcement body and the first point of protection for the civil populace.
Have you thought of a situation where you are being randomly harassed, molested and trampled upon, yet no organ or instrumentality of the state to lay your complains to?
Have you imagined how often we will be at the mercy of those wielding iron fist and physical power in the absence of the police?
Interestingly, the force is made up of our brothers, sisters, friends, fathers and uncles. They are no strangers but part and parcel of the society. They are humans and as such feel the same way we feel.
They receive and feel all social problems bedeviling us in one way or the other. They go to the same market with us, send their children to the same school with our children, use the same road with us and live in the same neighbourhood with us. In all these, they put their lives at risk to ensure the corporate security and protection of the weak and strong, the rich and poor and indeed all manner of people.
There is hardly a day a policeman does not get killed in the course of performing his tasking duty of protecting us. In Abia my state, for instance, the recent vicious series of attacks launched against officers and men of the force really got the governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu worried when he declared and demonstrated total support to ensure that the criminal elements behind the unjustified killing of policemen and stealing of their rifles are apprehended and brought to book. He did not stop there. He went ahead to place a bounty on the killers to aid their easy arrest. From Aba to Omobo, Isuikwuato to Ohafia, Ukwa and indeed virtually all parts of the state, the stories leave a sour taste in the mouth.
Even with the constant felling of their colleagues, these gallant officers and men ensure they do not rest on their oars in protecting our lives and investments. While this intervention is not aimed at deodorizing the police of their shortcomings, it is important to state that appreciation for excellent work is a virtue and indeed a morale booster. The peace we enjoy in the state today is largely on the account of the vigilance, commitment and sacrifices of men of the Nigerian police and other security agencies who stake their lives for the country.
Kidnapping and arm robbery that was in the past a recurrent decimal across the state has largely reduced. The Isuikwuato Akara road that was a den of criminality has now become a safe haven, creating the leeway for our people to move about their legitimate businesses without fear of harassment and intimidation. The constant attacks on POS operators around Aba and Umuahia is rapidly on the decline. We cannot forget in a hurry how Miss Ezinne Iroh, a 23-year-old POS operator in Aba was callously killed in cold blood by a deadly gang after robbing her. She was just one of the many who were dispatched to early grave by these blood-thirsty men of the underworld. Cheeringly, the police have launched an aggressive manhunt against them and indeed dealing them series of bloody nose. This is commendable and worthy of our support. A number of them have been arrested and cooling off at the moment, waiting for their day in court.
Undoubtedly, the 2020 #EndSARS protest was an eloquent testimony that the police need to do more in the area of checkmating extra-judicial killing, flagrant human right abuse, extraction of ‘confessional statement’ through force and torture as well as bribery. This was not only necessary but its speaks volumes to the enormous power citizens wield in making their voices count in matters that challenge them and wave unanswered questions in their face on daily basis. Of course, this was followed by prompt action from the police top hierarchy that announced the immediate dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) accused of largely perpetrating most of the human rights abuse against citizens.
An effective policing system requires the active support of all citizens through prompt provision of intelligence report. Without the support and collaboration of the community, the police cannot perform magic to serve the populace better. The fear over time has always hinged on the protection of the identity of those who volunteer information to the police. The new, reformed police under the leadership of IGP Usman Alkali Baba have never hidden their willingness to give all citizens who assist with information with maximum identity protection. This they have demonstrated and continue to uphold.
While we were all at home at the peak of COVID-19, these security agencies were out there protecting us. A little act of kindness, like the provision of non-pharmaceutical interventions such as face mask, hand sanitisers and whatever we have to encourage them is all they need to let them know how much we cherish and appreciate their good work. As stated earlier, it is true that few bad eggs may have soiled the image of the force with adversarial behaviour. However, it will be an unfair judgment to slam all policemen with the paintbrush of bad eggs.
Our state Abia is really becoming extremely unconducive for criminal elements to perform their evil enterprise. The tempo can be sustained if all citizens offer maximum support by knowing who their neighbours are and what they do. Well-to-do individuals as well as corporate bodies can assist by donating patrol vehicles so that security can be enhanced in our society. Alhaji Aliko Dangote and others have set the pace in this regard.
Office equipment such as tables, computers, pens and rulers can be a very significant support in helping the police serve us better.
Lastly, security is the duty of everyone and we must not lose our guard by leaving it at the doorstep of the Police, Army, Civil Defence, Immigration, Customs etc alone. A peaceful, secured and safe society can only be made possible when the people own their security.
•Ifeanyi Okali writes from Ohafia, Abia state.