Wanted : People’s Police By Lawal Ogienagbon

The job of the police is well cut out. It is to maintain law and order. In so doing, the police are expected to be up and doing, proactive and be ahead of criminals. The police, though not spirits, are expected to be everywhere in order to nip crimes in the bud. In societies where the police know their duty, they discharge their functions with the best of intentions. They leave no room for the people to doubt their integrity. How I wish our police could be like that.

Don’t get me wrong, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is trying within its limited resources. We know its constraints but those are not enough for it not to rise to the occasion when the need arises. Our police do certain things which the larger public finds worrisome. They tend to pander to the whims and caprices of the powerful. The downtrodden have no chance with the police even where they are the aggrieved. It is very easy for the police to turn them to suspects suddenly and before they know it they are behind the counter.

Getting out of the counter entails the greasing the palms of the policemen at that station. If they don’t pay in time, they may end up in court as accused in matters they know nothing about. Where they are lucky not to be taken to court, they pay through their nose because the longer they are at the station, the more they pay. The sins of our police are many. They arrest people at will and engage in extra – judicial killings. They also know how to perform what the late Afrobeat sensation, Fela Anikulapo – Kuti, called ”government magic”. They can turn blue to white and green to red in a twinkling of an eye. When they do such things, I wonder if our policemen have conscience.

What do you make of the killing of a man, as it happened some years ago, who sought refuge in a police station at Mafoluku in Lagos. The deceased had been driven to the station by a taxi driver, who returned the following day only to be told that his customer was nowhere to be found. The driver, who suspected foul play, raised an alarm. It was later found that the deceased, who returned late from abroad the previous day had been killed because of the foreign money he was carrying by those who should naturally have protected him. Can those involved in such bestial act be called policemen? Many years after that unthinkable act, we don’t know what has become of the case. Were those involved dismissed and tried? In what court were they tried? Is the case still on or has it been concluded? Are the policemen still in service?

We need to know all these in order to know how to reform our police, which do well when on peace missions outside the country. How can that be, you may wish to ask, when they treat us their compatriots like nonentities back home. Is it a function of those ”I know I can treat anyhow and those I don’t know I must respect”. We, the people, deserve all the respect we can get from our policemen to enable them discharge their job well. The police also deserve our respect. But with the hostile attitude of some of them, they have alienated themselves from the people. Many Nigerians will think twice before they help any policeman because they believe he does not mean well for them. But it should not be so.

The police and the people should work in sync for their mutual benefit. The police leave room for suspicion when they engage in acts in which ordinarily they should not be found. Like Caesar’s wife, the police should be above board in whatever they do. When the story of the N255 million bulletproof cars broke, the police were not involved. Up till now, I cannot say if they are investigating the matter which involves the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah. Now madam is not a small fry. Remember, she was the brain behind Neighbour2Neighbour, one of the groups that worked towards the election of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011. The group, it was learnt, is waiting in the wings to reenact in 2015 what it did in 2011. The bulletproof cars will become handy then, sources said.

Although the princess has since denied that the cars were bought for her use by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the police and her henchmen appear to be manufacturing a reason why she should have such cars, if not now, but certainly in 2015 when she will again be in the forefront of the president’s campaign. How do I mean? The THISDAY, in its lead story on Tuesday, reported the police as confirming that there was an attempt on Oduah’s life in Abuja on Saturday night. She was said to have escaped the attempted assassination because she was not in the Escalade Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV), with registration number FST 914 BL. The paper forgot to tell readers if the SUV was bulletproof. According to the paper, a report of the incident was lodged at the Mabushi Police Station at 5.35 p.m., on Monday, that is about 48 hours after the attack.

Now I can smell a rat. Those behind the story know what they are doing. With the House of Representatives indicting Oduah over the bulletproof cars, they believe that now is the time for them to act to save the minister’s neck before the president looks that way. The administrative panel set up by the president has also submitted its report. We know the content of the lawmakers’ report, but we don’t know that of the administrative panel. The House, which indicted Oduah, asked the president to take a decision on the issue because the penalty for the offence is three – year jail with N100,000 fine option. The president may not act on the House report, but since we don’t know what his panel recommended, we wait to see how he will handle the matter.

But Oduah and her people are not waiting. They are moving fast to whip up public sympathy for her. This is why we are now suddenly getting to know that an attempt was made on her life last Saturday. Let us take the THISDAY report verbatim from here : ”The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Commissioner of Police (CP), Mr Femi Ogunbayode, through his Public Relations Officer, Mr Athine Daniel, a Deputy Superintendent (DSP), said what was found inside the car after the shooting was a mettalic object, which the police are investigating. The driver of the vehicle, whose name he withheld, was not injured, he added.

”Also speaking to THISDAY on the phone, Mr Joe Obi, the Special Adviser, Media to the minister, said the incident occurred on Saturday along the Nnamdi Azikiwe Road by Banex Bridge, Ministers’ Quarters, Maitama. He added that unknown to the gunmen, Oduah was not in the car at the time of the attack. He said the driver was lucky to have escaped the assassin’s bullets. Also, photographs of the Escalade provided by the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) spokesman, Yakubu Dati, showed that it appeared to be riddled with some bullet holes, but the reference to the bullet holes was inexplicably missing in the statement provided by the police on the attempt on Oduah’s life”. ‘’Inexplicably missing’’ link? No. Their lie caught up with them.

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