The Nigeria Police sometimes finds itself at the receiving end of verbal attacks and scathing criticism as a result of the unprofessional conduct of a few officers whose actions have continued to portray it in a bad light.
When the law enforcement agency delivers incredible milestones in an effort to make the rest of us and our families sleep with our eyes closed, it hardly attracts catchy headlines in newspapers.
Irrespective of the position from which we may view its day-to-day performance, the police are the number one law enforcement agency and the first point of protection for the civil populace.
How many Nigerians have thought of a situation where they are being randomly harassed, molested and trampled upon without an organ or instrument of the state to complain to?
Have they imagined how often they would be at the mercy of knife-wielding miscreants 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 markets with us, send their children to the same schools, use the same road 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 law-abiding citizens. In Abia State, for instance, the recent a series of vicious attacks leading to the deaths of several police officers really got Governor Okezie Ikpeazu concerned when he declared and demonstrated total support to efforts aimed at apprehending the criminal elements behind the unjustified killings and bringing them to book.
Okezie did not stop there. He went ahead to place a bounty on the killers to aid their easy arrest. From Aba to Omobo, Isuikwuato, Ohafia, Ukwa and indeed, virtually all parts of the state, the stories left a sour taste in the mouths of law-abiding Nigerians.
Even with the constant felling of their colleagues, the gallant officers and men of the Nigeria Police ensured that they do not rest on their oars in protecting our lives and investments. While this intervention is not aimed at deodorising the failings of the police, it is important to state that appreciation for excellent service is a virtue and indeed, a morale booster. The peace we enjoy in Abia today is largely on account of the vigilance, commitment and sacrifices of men of the Nigeria police and other security personnel who daily risk their lives for the good of their country.
There is a remarkable reduction in the crime rate, particularly kidnapping and armed robbery, which was largely considered to be a recurrent decimal in the past. The Isuikwuato Akara Road, which used be a preferred hangout for criminals operating in the state, is now a safe haven. Residents of communities adjoining the road can now move about their legitimate business without fear of harassment and intimidation.
Constant attacks on POS operators around Aba and Umuahia are 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 many victims dispatched to early graves by blood-thirsty men of the underworld. Cheeringly, the police have launched an aggressive and comprehensive manhunt for Iroh’s killers. Indeed, they appear determined to severely deal with the cold-blooded murderers. This is commendable and worthy of support every law-abiding resident of Abia. Fortunately a number of the criminals have been arrested and they are cooling off at the moment, awaiting 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 killings, flagrant abuse of human rights, extraction of ‘confessional statement’ through duress and torture as well as bribery. This was not only necessary, but also speaks volume to the humongous power, which citizens wield in making their voices count in matters that challenge them and wave unanswered questions in their face on daily basis.
Of course, the protest 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 abuse of human rights 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 overtime 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 Adamu Mohammed have never hidden their willingness to give all citizens who assist with information with the 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 enterprises. 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, even rulers, can be very significant to efforts aimed at supporting the police to serve the citizenry better.
Finally, 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.
Okali wrote in from Ohafia, Abia State