DEATH IN THE LINE OF DUTY

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The police should be well provided for

At a recent presentation on “Police-Public Partnership in Prevention and Control of Violent Crimes and Conflicts in Nigeria” organised by the Advancement Office of the University of Jos, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, made startling revelations about the casualty rate of the police in the last two years. He said 350 policemen were killed while 272 sustained various degrees of injuries in the line of duty.

The loss of the officers was to violent crimes, including armed robberies, communal clashes and insurgency. Averaging more than 100 casualties per annum, this is without a doubt unacceptable. If law enforcement officers who are charged with the duty of protecting lives and property of citizens fall easy prey to the antics of the perpetrators of violence, public confidence in the capacity of our security agencies to deliver on their mandate becomes hugely undermined. But it is not sufficient to merely lament the unacceptable casualty rate. Rather, the authorities should locate the cause of the frequent felling of security officers by violent criminals and find a lasting solution to the problem.

It is noteworthy that Arase highlighted inadequate training, deficient arms and ammunition, obsolete communications and logistics, and lack of transportation as the bane of the force. As basic as all these are to the onerous task of securing the Nigerian space, the police and other internal security agencies have perennially complained about the failure of government to provide them. Yet everyone and the government expect the security operatives to deliver on their mandate when it is obvious that the criminals they are up against are motivated by the sophistication of their fire power which is clearly superior to that of the police. No wonder we have this high number of deaths in the line of duty.

Over the years, government funding to the security sector has dwindled owing to shortfalls in its revenue. Subsequently, it had set up several committees to suggest the way forward. Regrettably, however, none of the reports and recommendations of the committees has ever been comprehensively implemented. The result is what we are now dealing with a police force that cannot defend its own against violent hoodlums.

Beyond the issue of inadequate training and equipment leading to avoidable deaths and injuries to officers and other ranks, is the shabby handling of the dependants of the deceased. In many cases, entitlements and benefits of officers killed in the line of duty are hardly paid, leaving their families and dependants to the vagaries of the harsh social and economic situation in the country. Obviously, this cannot be encouraging to other officers in service whom the nation expects to lay down their lives for the security of lives and property of their fellow citizens.

To the extent that these problems are not new, President Muhammadu Buhari only needs to terminate the circle of avoidable deaths and injuries to our law enforcers by responding positively to the challenges facing the security agencies, particularly the Police Force.
Given the dire security situation in the country, government can no longer give excuses about its abysmal failure to secure Nigerians. Except security operatives are themselves secured, it will be impossible for them to secure other citizens. This is why the federal government must find a creative way to effectively fund the internal security agencies so that the appropriate training and equipment required to upgrade their skills can be provided for them.

In the meantime, the hierarchy of internal security agencies, particularly the police, must review their operational strategies to ensure that notwithstanding the prevailing institutional challenges, the exposure of officers and other ranks to fatal assaults by violent criminals is minimised.