In the aftermath of the EndSARS protest nationwide, which turned violent and led to loss of lives, including that of a number of police personnel, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, yesterday, directed men of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) to, henceforth, protect themselves against any attack by hoodlums.
Speaking while on an on-the-spot assessment of the security situation in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Adamu said: “If anybody touches or assault you, you can also protect yourself.”
He noted that the Police, just like any citizen, have rights, and such rights must be protected. “When we talk of human right, the police are human, so the rights of police officers should also be protected. We are sending the message that legally, we have the right to protect ourselves. But while we are doing that, we should make sure until we are in danger,” he said.
IGP Adamu accused protesters of deliberately provoking police personnel to use maximum force against them in order to achieve their aim of justifying police brutality.
Also, in reaction to a report by Amnesty International, dated October 21, 2020, that Police personnel shot at peaceful protesters, Adamu maintained that his officers acted professionally and exercised commendable restraints while some paid the supreme price for peace during the recent #EndSARS protests across the country. He described the Amnesty International report as untrue, misleading and contrary to all available empirical evidences.
Meanwhile, following Federal Government’s avowal that the Police Force needed deep-rooted reforms in all segments, security experts who spoke with The Guardian have stressed the need to restructure Nigeria’s entire security architecture and fund agencies generously.
The stakeholders noted that the Police, especially, was chronically underfunded and under-trained, and are too unequipped and ill motivated to deal with local security issues.
In his praise of police personnel’s handling of the crises that followed the protests, Adamu said: “Because of your resilience and professionalism, you were able to show maximum restrain, you were able to meet up with the standard required in curbing protest by not using force. That has led to exposure of the way Nigeria Police officers, especially those in FCT, are professionally trained to deal unrest in the country.
“I want to thank you for that resilience; I wish to thank you for showing that restraint. Everybody, including the international community, has seen that you acted professionally. The aim was to demoralise you, it was to dehumanise you so that you will not be able to perform your duty but you were not provoked to that extent despite the attacks and molestation on some of you in person. We thank you most sincerely. Those officers that lost their lives all over the country during the protest will not die in vain because adequate compensation has been planned for them in an extensive manner.”
In an earlier statement yesterday by Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, through which he cast aspersions on the Amnesty International report, the IGP noted that during the protests, officers of the Force used legitimate means to ensure that the protests were carried out in a peaceful manner and in most cases, physically protected and walked side-by-side the protesters.
He reiterated that even when the protests turned violent in some parts of the country, the officers still maintained utmost restraint and did not use excessive force in managing the situations.
The statement read: “Available reports show that 22 police personnel were extra-judicially killed by some rampaging protesters and scores injured during the protests. Many of the injured personnel are in life threatening conditions at the hospitals. 205 Police stations and formations, including other critical private and public infrastructure, were also damaged by a section of the protesters.
“Despite these unprovoked attacks, our police officers never resorted to use of unlawful force or shooting at the protesters as alleged in the report. It also beggars imagination that Amnesty International failed to mention or pay tribute to Police officers who were gruesomely murdered during the protests while serving their fatherland.”
Adamu decried the discriminatory tendencies exhibited by Amnesty International as seen in the report and wondered if in the estimation of Amnesty International, police officers are not also human beings equally entitled to the protection of their fundamental rights to life and dignity of human person.
While noting that the Force is committed to the Federal Government’s ongoing holistic reforms of the NPF targeted at improving service delivery, positive police-citizen relationship and respect for human rights, the IGP enjoined Amnesty International to ensure they subject their reports to adequate scrutiny and proper verification of facts before making the reports public.
Also yesterday, at a virtual conference with senior police officers, the IGP disclosed that about 1,596 suspects have so far been arrested in connection with the violence and widespread looting by the protesters across the country.
He said the breakdown shows that 520 suspects were arrested in Lagos, 367 in Plateau State, 210 in the FCT and 142 in Kwara State. Similarly, 82 suspects were apprehended in Osun State; 60 in Adamawa State and 36 in Kano and Ogun States respectively. Also, 33 suspects were arrested in Edo State; 20 each in Kaduna and Akwa Ibom States; 15 in Abia and Delta States and 13 in Oyo and Ekiti States respectively.
“Furthermore, 10 suspects were arrested in Rivers State and four in Ondo State. Out of these figures, 1,117 have been charged to court across the country,” he added.
He explained that a total of 51 civilian fatalities and 37 civilian injuries have been recorded, while a total 22 policemen were gruesomely murdered with 26 others injured by the protesters.
“So far, a total of 10 firearms, including eight AK 47 rifles carted away during the attack on Police stations, and a locally made pistol have been recovered from elements operating under the guise of the ENDSARS protesters,” Adamu stated.
Meanwhile, security experts have called for a holistic overhaul of the entire system of policing, saying it was long overdue. According to them, the overhaul should include restructuring in the recruitment process, (which should be handled by independent, non governmental bodies devoid of all ethnic inclination), training and re-training patterns.
They also canvassed meritocracy in the choice of officers and men for promotion and deployment rather than political/ethnic consideration. The experts noted that police ineptitude in handling rioters showed glaringly in the last few days with at least 20 police stations in Lagos State and many others across the country burnt by hoodlums in the melee.
According to one of the security experts, the Managing Director, Strict Guard Security, Dr. Bone Efoziem Chinye, the current policing is rested on inherited colonial policing architecture, which has only a centralised command structure advantage.
But for him, the structure runs counter productive in a Federal state as Nigeria’s since it basically answers to the central control by the central authority, not minding the police needs of the federating units.
“State police should be an ideal way to go but the attitude of our political leaders can truncate the functionality, efficiency and neutrality of such state police arrangements. I therefore think community policing should come first while a strong state police framework can be worked out with strong and institutionalised legal framework.
“Poor and or complete lack of proper training is another issue, that is, lack of professionalism in career course. There is also need to create career path through training of individual personnel based on proper analysis of their individual SWOT. Continuous training and retraining for personnel, improved welfare, particularly after service benefits tied to your service and exit records is also very apt,” Chinye said.
For security analyst, Christopher Oji, the current policing system in Nigeria would have been the best if its federal character outlook were well managed.
“In federal character, the leadership of the Police shouldn’t have been based on ethic bias. Federal character system should have been the best because the Commissioners of Police, Area Commanders, Divisional Police Officers and their subordinates posted to various states might not necessarily come from that state. So, they would be diligent in the course of their duties without fear or favour. They can do their jobs without fear of influence from political leaders. The police officer that knows his onions would perform his or her duties diligently without fear, as he or she knows that he or she may be posted out at anytime.
“However, unfortunately, the opposite is the case, the Presidents who appoint the IGPs are always bias during appointment. They consider ethnicity. There ought not to be federal character consideration while appointing the IGP,” Oji said.
He further stressed: “If you check the posting of Assistant Inspectors-General of Police and the Commissioners of Police as it stands today, Federal character does not reflect. For instance, in all the 36 States of the federation, we have 98 per cent of Zonal AIGs from the northern part of the country. This is not good for the policing of the country. The government has drifted from the initial federal character policy.
“Secondly, the recruitment into the police is no longer done on merit but by quota system. Though, this looks like balancing the federal character policy but it is wrong, as qualified applicants are denied the opportunity of serving their nation while mediocre and unqualified people are recruited into the Force to meet up with the quota system. This is bad, as it encourages uneducated and unscrupulous people being recruited into the Force.”
Retired Commissioner of Police and security consultant, Frank Odita also told The Guardian that, “unless urgent action is taken to reverse to immediately equip and reposition the Nigeria Police to be in a position to carry out their constitutional responsibilities, we may be slipping into unpleasant situations. Till that is done, it is everyone to himself and God for all of us.”