The Rivers State Police Command must be congratulated on the seizure and display of ammunition and assorted weapons from suspected cultists, kidnappers and robbers operating in the state. Back-Page Reflection in The Tide newspaper of Thursday, March 12, 2020, tells the story in picture, where a proud Commissioner of Police was briefing the public to showcase the gallantry, zeal and patriotism of his men in the state.
Anybody looking at the picture-display in the newspaper would appreciate the extent of elaborate arrangement involved in the show of gallantry. Yes, the task of recovery of illegal fire-arms and the dislodgement of the operational and hiding places of criminals are risky but commendable acts of patriotism. It takes ideal professionalism to be able to accomplish such feats.
What those people who are not well-acquainted with the unwritten law of police operations may not know, includes the fact that all details displayed in public may not tell all the stories. There may be more weapons or money displayed for public consumption than what were actually recovered by the police from criminal groups.
Surely, there had been cases where the amount of loots recovered from armed and pen robbers were more than what was displayed to the public. The culture of re-looting of recovered loots is not new, neither is it confined to Nigeria alone. There had also been cases where criminals caught in the net of law-enforcement agencies were made to admit ownership of additional load than what they actually carried. Who would not want to help himself when such opportunity beckons? You don’t ignore windfalls, do you?
The dismissal of a senior police officer many years ago arose from his habit of exchanging counterfeit currency notes with genuine ones recovered from bank robbers. There are many of similar cases which one would not want to exhume because of their sensitive and security nature. Oftentimes some naïve and unfortunate junior officers can be sacrificed to save the face and reputation of some clever officers. Would it not be appropriate to place some searchlight on our security and law enforcement agencies? It is long overdue!
From promotions, postings and deployments, there are lots of internal but often suppressed grumblings within the police circle. Is there no sense in a suggestion made long ago that State Commissioners of Police should be officers from or well acquainted with the states they are deployed?
Similarly, is there no truth in some insinuations that promotions, postings and deployment in the police perhaps other federal establishments, have become seriously politicized? Few years ago there was an alarm raised that one state alone had more candidates shortlisted for recruitment into the security services than some 10 states put together. Is the Federal Character policy not being applied in some discriminatory manner?
The issue of criminality in Nigeria is taking some challenging dimensions, whereby the adoption of a know-all-attitude cannot be helpful for the nation. Having professional training in surveillance, combating and detection of crimes is a vital starting point, but that must also go along with other factors. Apart from what is known as local knowledge of the zone of operation, there must also be a good rapport with the residents of the neighbourhood. Without public co-operation, there can hardly be an effective policing.
What we find common among our law-enforcement personnel is the creation of some hostility with members of the public who can be of immense help to them. Apart from the need for retraining programmes to keep abreast with current trends, older hands who are no longer in the job can be of great help to the police. The police needs the help of older hands.
It would not be enough to organize some public exhibition of recovered weapons and arrested cultists, kidnappers and robbers; other things can be added. These would include making effective use of current crime-statistics, especially police-supervisees in the states. It is common for old crime-barons and kingpins to be placed under police supervision for some years, and their activities monitored. New hands in the under-world are mere apprentices who must have god-fathers and protectors.
Often times, the big sharks in the sea are so powerful and well-connected that they become men that no one can arrest or even point fingers at. For example, were the weapons displayed by the police procured by the suspected criminal paraded in public?
Some years ago the police withdrew fire-arms licences as well as the guns from individuals who had legal possessions of firearms. But some private investigations showed that the withdrawal of firearms licences applied only to particular sections of the country. Why make some people vulnerable while others had free use of weapons? Those whose licenced guns were withdrawn have not got them back yet, but illegal arms are plenty.
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
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