Attacks on police personnel hold lessons for the Force

The recent disclosure by the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu that no fewer than 27 police personnel had been attacked and assaulted by the public since the enforcement of the lockdown in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic is very instructive. Not only does it speak volume about the acrimonious relationship between the police and the citizenry, it is also a sign of lack of capacity by the force. Adamu specifically added that “apart from the attack on the person of police officers, some of these citizens have equally carried out attacks on police assets and facilities”. These include mob attack resulting in the burning down of two police stations and police quarters in Katsina and Abia States while 15 police vehicles and motorcycles were also damaged.

We call on Adamu to investigate these attacks and assaults not only with a view to bringing culprits to justice but also to ensure that appropriate lessons are learnt. From the look of things, it appears there is an absence of trust between the police and citizens whose lives and property are expected to secure. There are far too many cases where the police evidently overstepped their bounds and engaged in activities that highlight significant tension and conflicts between them and the civil populace. It is in the light of this that we recommend to Adamu that his men and officers should begin to engage the people on how they can serve them better. If anything, such interaction should assist in the management of recurring violence and spell out what is proper and appropriate, and the pattern of relations that best ensure the effectiveness of the police.

Aside the lack of trust in the police, there is also a growing weakness which makes sundry cartels of criminals to see their personnel as easy prey. This is the challenge they need to face. Besides, discipline is also an issue. A police officer who lost her life during the lockdown in Rivers State was killed by a fellow policeman. The recent withdrawal of several police personnel from a controversial businessman symptomatic of the rot within the Force. The level of degeneration is such that men and women of dubious character now go about with police personnel who carry bags and umbrella for them. The Inspector-General must put an end to this glaring abuse that continues to cause image problem for the police and undermines the capacity to perform their constitutional responsibility of maintaining law and order.

At a period of national security emergency, such as we have in Nigeria today, this misuse of men and officers of the police and other security outfits should not be allowed to continue. Statutorily, only the president, vice-president, governors, local council chairmen, legislative principal officers in the states and at federal level, magistrates and judges are entitled to police protection. But for some curious reasons, this privilege has over the years been abused by senior officers in charge of police commands and formations who assign most of their men to undeserving Nigerians and foreigners, leaving ever fewer numbers of personnel for real police work.

The public should also note the general inscription conspicuously displayed at police stations that ‘Police is your friend’. It is a two-way thing. Police can only be a friend of the public if citizens are also their friends. There is therefore the need for the public to see police personnel as partners, especially in this trying period of enforcing the lockdown order and ban on interstate movements ordered by the federal and some state governments. Attacking the police and their assets, whatever may be the provocation, is both wrong and counter-productive.