Uyo 2022 presents a fertile ground for the growth of community policing in Nigeria, reckons Olumuyiwa Adejobi

The capital city of Uyo will be abuzz with sporting activities as Nigerian Police officers will once again gather for the Nigeria Police Games. The last National Police Games was held at six venues in Anambra State under former Governor Willie Obiano with tremendous fanfare. People from all works of life graced the colorful event which featured more than two thousand police athletes drawn from each of the country’s 12 zonal commands. It is interesting to note that the current Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, CFR, was the Chairman, Organising Committee.

The Nigeria Police Force was and is still a force to be reckoned with in the history of sports in Nigeria and Africa. The Force has done fantastically well, representing the country in local and international sport competitions like football, boxing, athletics, basketball, swimming, etc. The Force has produced great footballers like Julius Aghahowa who began his football career with the famous Police Machines and went on to have a sprawling career playing for football clubs in Europe and America. He was Nigeria’s top goal scorer at the 2002 African Nations Cup, and also represented Nigeria at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. 

The Force has also produced great athletes like Chioma Ajunwa. The former DPO of Meiran Police Station in Lagos is now an Assistant Commissioner of Police. She was the first Nigerian to win an Olympic gold in 1996, and the first black African woman to win an Olympic gold medal in a field event, while she was also working as a Nigeria Police Officer. Ajunwa also remains the only woman to compete at both the FIFA Women’s World Cup as a footballer and in the Olympics as a track/field athlete. Away from Julius Aghahowa and Chioma Ajunwa—how many of us still remember Samuel Peter?

Before the emergence of the British-Nigerian boxer, Anthony Joshua, there was Peter, who held the world spellbound with his dexterity and punching power. Nicknamed ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’, he held the WBC Heavyweight title in 2008, when he defeated Oleg Maskaev in sixth rounds. Many will also remember his fierce rivalry with the Klitschko brothers. He was ranked by ‘The Ring’ among ten best heavyweights from 2005 to 2008, reaching his highest ranking of world No.2 in 2007; and by BoxRec as the world’s No. 6 heavyweight at the end of 2004 and 2005; and also as No.5 heavyweight in 2006. 

Peter achieved these great boxing feats as a crime buster with the Nigerian Police Force. Just recently, Tunji Disu won silver at the US Judo Championships. Disu is a Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of the IGP Intelligence Response Team. In February this year, Police Constable Mary Yetunde Aina (aka Iron Abbey) won the World Boxing Foundation (WBF) International Super Bantamweight title at City Coast Centre in Portslade, East Sussex, London. She defeated Laura Pain of United Kingdom to win the prestigious title. 

The list of past and serving Police Officers who have made and are still making the country proud in the world of sports is inexhaustible. In fact, the history of the Nigerian Women’s Football team would be incomplete without mentioning the crucial roles great police athletes and footballers like Chioma Ajunwa played in establishing the Super Falcons.

Now, back to the 13th edition of the Biennial Nigeria Police Games, tagged ‘Uyo 2022’.  The momentous event which has its theme ‘Promoting Sporting Excellence Towards Ensuring Fitness for Operational Exigencies and Combat Readiness’ will commence with the opening ceremony on 23rd November at the Nest of Champions International Stadium, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. It will be declared open by President Muhammadu Buhari. It will also have in attendance top government officials, traditional rulers, drivers of industries, heads of security agencies, key actors from the sports and youth development sectors, civil society organizations, top media personalities, amongst others. 

Since the event will be taking place in Akwa Ibom, the chief host will be no other person than Governor Gabriel Udom Emmanuel.

Over 4000 male and female Police athletes drawn from the 36 State Police Commands and the FCT are billed to participate in 31 indoor and outdoor sporting games which will include football, table tennis, athletics, basketball, lawn tennis, judo, taekwondo, weightlifting, cricket, squash, shooting, karate, chess and sundry others.

This year’s National Police Games is unique with the introduction of triathlon sports. Triathlon is an endurance multisport race consisting of swimming, cycling, and running over various distances. This means that, for the first time, Triathlon will be a scoring sport in a competition in Nigeria, thanks to the insight and foresight of the 21st Inspector-General and his management team. The IGP is poised to make changes in Police Sports in Nigeria in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as Good Health and Wellbeing, Gender Equality, Sustainable Cities and Communities and in building strong institutions that can stand the test of time. According to him, the objective of this year’s Police Games is “to aid in the development of sporting talents that could represent Nigeria on the global stage and to also ensure the physical and mental fitness of officers in furtherance to the performance of their internal security functions.”

The 13th Biennial Police is very important to officers of the Force whose lives revolve around fighting crimes and criminality. The Police Games will offer ample opportunities for the Nigeria Police to open it arms to the public to build trust and enhance confidence. Apart from fostering the spirit of brotherhood among Police Officers, the games will strengthen the physical and mental capacity of the participants and bridge the trust gap between the police and the policed. Uyo 2022 presents a fertile ground for the growth of community policing in Nigeria. It will also shatter gender norm barriers, as female officers will be given equal opportunities like their male counterparts to prove their mettle.

The Police will deploy its medical personnel in the course of the games for health facility outreach to people in rural and urban areas in partnership with Akwa Ibom State. We have no iota of doubt that Akwa Ibom State will take advantage of the enormous opportunities the Games provide to project its tourism capabilities and commercial proficiency, in addition to revealing its rich cultural values and hospitality to the nation and the world. It is hoped also that the event will help to productively engage the minds of the youth in the area of sports and also stimulate their interest in policing.

The Chairman, Uyo 2022 Police Games Central Organising Committee, AIG Hafiz Inuwa has called on members of the public and the good people of Akwa Ibom to come out en masse to the venues where the Police Games will take place and cheer the participants. He affirmed that this year’s games will provide a serene ambience for friendship, excitement and record-breaking performances, the likes of which has never been seen before.

 Adejobi, a Chief Superintendent of Police, is the Spokesman of the Nigeria Police Force.

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