The appointment of Mr. Onovo Ogbonnaya as the Inspector – General of Police by Nigeria’s erstwhile President, Alhaji Musa Umaru Yar’Adua about a year ago, evoked emotional feelings especially in the South East geo-political zone as he was the first man from the zone to assume the mantle of leadership of Africa’s largest police formation.

For other reasons, Mr. Onovo was seen by some Nigerians as the right man at the right time for the right job.  This is not unconnected with his track-record in the Nigeria Police Force where he had built up a strong reputation for discipline, integrity, professionalism and efficiency.

It was, therefore, with ease and a sense of relief that Mr. Onovo’s promotion to the esteemed status and rank of Nigeria’s number one cop was received across the country.

Prior to his assumption of duties as Nigeria’s Inspector- General of Police, Mr. Onovo had, as the cliché goes, passed through the ranks.  He was a Divisional Police Officer, a Commissioner of Police, an AIG and a DIG.

In the course of his distinguished career in the Force, Mr. Onovo attended many courses within and outside Nigeria where he carved a niche for himself as a remarkable and brilliant officer.  He held several command positions and again performed his tasks and duties exceptionally well.

Mr. Onovo’s appointment as the Director-General of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) was one of the hall marks of his illustrious career.  He brought his good nature, intelligence, brilliance, exposure and acumen to bear on the Agency.

The duty of an Inspector-General of Police under a democracy differs considerably from such duty under a military autarchy.  Whereas his predecessors under the military dictatorship helped in promoting the cause of the junta and trampling upon fundamental rights, we have witnessed a radical departure from this practice under Onovo.  Onovo has shown how and what policing should look like under a democracy.

Gone are the days when citizens, journalists, critics of the Government and other activists are hounded and clamped into jail.  Onovo has shown that the Police Force is for all – the Government, the governed, the citizens, the opposition and all law-abiding citizens and non-citizens resident in Nigeria. Police raid of media houses, harassment of journalists and arrest and detention of demonstrators for no just cause are thankfully not in the character of the Onovo Administration.

The Police under Onovo have taken court orders seriously.  Before, orders of court were treated with disdain, disrespect and discourtesy by the police.  The impression was crated erroneously that the police was above the law.  There is no gainsaying the fact that this practice gave the police avoidable bad press and publicity and it distanced the police from the populace they were supposed to guard and protect.

Upon assumption of office, Mr. Onovo warned policemen to beware of excessive use of force and breach of the law in the discharge of their duties so as not to attract monetary sanctions and damages in court against the Police.  Clearly, this directive sank in for we have witnessed few police battering and assault on innocent and defenseless civilians.

The NPF has established Human Rights section and Legal Departments in her formations and this has tremendously brought the national creed of rule of law and due process to bear on how the police conduct their business.  It goes without saying that the police under Onovo have imbibed the culture of respect for rule of law and due process than under any other IG.

These days the police public Relations Department, drum up support for the police, polish their image and counsel citizens on how to handle cases of police infraction of their rights, among other things.  Under Onovo, the police have tried, more than ever before, to live the sermon that the police is your friend.

Onovo started by instilling confidence in the average policeman.  The policeman was seen as a sadist and a corrupt man before.  But Onovo preached and practicalized the idea of job satisfaction, career worthy and self-confidence in the rank and file.

He re-branded the police without the usual fan-fare and propagandist sweet-nothings.  He worked on the psyche of the policeman, talked to him, paid him well and regularly and then brought out the best in him.

Onovo has beefed up security through the length and breadth of the country.  More police stations are being established all over the nation.  Organized crimes are being combated.  The police have continued to train and retrain their men in the light of sophistication of organized crimes and weapons used in committing the crimes.

Government has assisted the police greatly in acquiring modern and cognate weapons for combat on the land, in the sea and on air.  The police are now better equipped to fight crimes and criminals.  The people can feel the pulse of the police, they can boost of their police force and the police have proved that they can live up to the expectation of the people.

The police are statutorily empowered to keep and maintain peace in the country.  In keeping with this mandate, the police under Onovo successfully quelled riots and insurrection in the country.  There was the Boko Haran crisis in Bauchi State.  This was a purely religious uprising.  The police moved in and brought the situation under control.

The key actors and their collaborators were arrested and detained and some of them have been arraigned in court.  The recent crisis in Kaduna State over the choice of a Governor was also controlled by the police. The police maintained tight security in the State and was ready mentally, physically and otherwise to handle any outbreak of violence.

The police under Onovo have been up and doing in tackling other violent demonstrations and crimes in other states of the federation such as Lagos, Ekiti, Oyo and Delta.  The frequency of violent uprising and riots has predisposed the police to be alert and ready to crack down on such illegal and criminal actions.

The police have also been forthcoming in handling cases of hired assassination across the country.  The police have been hard put to resolving the riddle surrounding the killings following the paucity of information from the public.  Yet, this has not stopped the police from making arrests and interrogating suspects.

Under Onovo, the police have embarked upon aggressive man-hunt for hired killers.  This crime has reduced considerably and it is hoped that with the measures put in place by the police, hired assassination anywhere in the country will soon be a thing of the past.  With the acquisition of sophisticated communication gadgets and other facilities by the police, it will be easier to track down all sorts of criminals with ease and check organized crimes in the country.

The Onovo administration has also tackled armed robbery headlong.  He has also intensified the operations of men of the Special Anti Robbery Squads all over the formations of the police in the country.  These special squads have performed admirably well all over the country.  They have been able to fight the armed robbers up to their den.

These armed robbers are paraded regularly at the various police formations and they are also regularly arraigned in courts of law for trial.  The tempo and determination with which the police fight armed robbery throughout the country should not be allowed to wane.

The police have also set up special task forces all over the country to fight the crime of kidnaping.  The Legislatures in the country have greatly given the fight against kidnaping a boost and a needed fillip by increasing the punishment for the offence.

In most states of the federation, the punishment for the offence of kidnaping is now death sentence.  This is a welcome departure from the previous punishment which was, to all intents and purposes, a mere slap on the wrist. The police have arrested many kidnappers across the country.  This offence was once the mainstay, so to say, in the Niger Delta.

The offence appears to be firmly rooted these days in the South East.  However, Onovo and his men have not spared any effort to stamp out this crime.  Almost on a daily basis, kidnaping gangs are being smashed by the police.  The recent case of a kidnap gang with a traditional ruler as the arrow-head is a case in point.  All the suspects, including the traditional ruler, his wife and son are cooling their heels in police net.

The likelihood of the crime of kidnaping, scaring away investors from Nigeria could be the reason why the police have fought this crime with all the grit and determination it could muster.

The police under Onovo have also conducted to free and fair polls.  The elections in Ekiti and Anambra State have been adjudged most credible, thanks to the security, alertness and combat-readiness exhibited by the police.  The practice of ballot-snatching, staffing of ballot boxes with cards and sometimes outright disappearance with the ballot box were absent during the said elections.

Mr. Onovo has improved the welfare of the policemen.  They are now better paid.  The practice of ceaseless demand for gratification by the police has considerably decreased.  On the whole, Mr. Onovo has done well in the past one year.  He has given the Force a salutary and wholesome image and a human face.

Although there are some grey areas which the police boss must address urgently such as payment of money before bail, undue detention of the citizenry and police brutalization of defenseless citizens.  Mr. Onovo has acquitted himself creditably as a foremost administrator.

It is hoped that the coming years will be used by Onovo to consolidate on the gains already adumbrated.  The expectation of the generality of Nigerians is that Onovo should give the nation a Police Force that is relevant to this age and time.
Prince Okpala is a commentator on national issues.


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