By Emma Nnadozie, Albert Akpor & Evelyn Usman
CALL it high drama: A Police Sergeant fall face down. Another Police Inspector in mufti jumps out through the window. And an Area Commander makes a telephone call announcing that he, the DPO, officers and men of Panti Police Station are already behind bars awaiting further punishment.
All these and many more were the incidents which happened on a fateful Saturday morning in Lagos. MD Abubakar, now A,IG, was on his usual patrol of police checkpoints to ensure that his men were not molesting innocent civilians. Then, he was the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Command.
He was stopped at a checkpoint mounted by officers and men of the Panti Police Station in a stop and search operation. He was in mufti. The men did not know it was their Oga who was driving the four wheel vehicle. He was stopped and later arrested. But when they discovered that it was their Oga, pandemonium took over the Panti Police Station.
This is the account of Abubakar. During his tenor as Commissioner of Police he put some measures in place aimed at enforcing discipline in the force as well as creating a desirable working relationship, between civilians and the police. He was on a courtesy visit to Vanguard last Thursday. His encounter:
“AS Commissioner of Police Lagos State command then, every Saturday I usually get to the office by l0: am. And on that particular day, I had an official appointment with somebody for l0:am. But I woke up by 6am and decided to get to the office earlier and as I drove in my jeep, I decided to come in through Herbert Macaulay, to check the policemen on duty, to find out whether they were doing their job properly or not.
”That has always been my style, as I personally visited every division as well as Police posts under my jurisdiction, in other to have a first hand assessment of their job. But as I got to the check point, the policemen on duty stopped me and asked me to park, which I obediently did. “The Constable who stopped me came closer and I said Constable how now?
“He replied by saying “good morning young man where are you going in your father’s Jeep. He asked for the car particulars and later asked for my name? “I told him my name is Mohammed . He said I should identify myself; that should justify that I am indeed Mohammed by giving him my identity card.
“At that point, I played along and asked him to show me his own identity card first before I would show him mine because I knew he might not have. After some exchanges, he later crossed to the other side and called their team leader who was a Sergeant “When the Sergeant came, he insisted that I should show him my identity card. But I insisted that he should show me his as a sergeant. As the argument lasted, he called.
Some of his men to take me to the station since I wasn’t forth coming “In fact they said I was speaking grammar. I asked them where the station was and they said it was at Yaba (Panti) and I obediently followed them. Arriving at the station, there was no parking space except for that of the Divisional Police Officer. I parked my car in the DPO’s space and when the constable saw me he screamed and said I should not park there.
“As we were going inside the station, he themselves stopped on realizing that he was in front while I was behind. “He said he arrested me and as such I should be in front of him. At the veranda, we passed by an old man who told the constable that he hoped he had not gone to bring wahala for them. When we got inside, I met an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) and another man in mufti. The constable told the ASP that I was speaking grammar’
“The man in short said authoritatively that I should come in and I told him I won’t because he was not putting on his uniform to identify whether he was a policeman or not. At that point, the ASP pushed me inside and as he made to go, I drew him back and said he should give me my uniform. At that point, he took a closer look at me.
“Meanwhile, the old man tip-toed back and forth, went to the DPO’s office to check the photograph on the wall if indeed it was MD Abubakar they had just arrested. On realizing who I was, he tiptoed back and forth before jumping through the window. I was still standing there with the Sergeant who ordered that they should bring me to the station with his team.
” He wondered what I was still doing standing there. One of his colleagues , moved towards him and I overheard him whispering to the Sergeant that I was the CP. On hearing this he just went face down. The other officer who was in shorts jumped out through the window; he, too, disappeared. I believe the Area Commander heard about
the news as he later called me. When I asked where he was, he said himself, the Divisional Police Officer in- charge of the station and other people involved were already in the cell awaiting their my punishment over the policemen’s misdemeanor.
“My anger was that just a week before that incident, I went to that same station and cautioned the men about their conduct. But at the end. I said they should be released. On Monday, over I 00 families came to my office crying and begging. One of them, an elderly man, said one of the policemen involved is the only policeman from his village and that if l dismissed him that means there would not be any policeman from his village.
“I did not dismiss any of them in the end but I only used them to serve as deterrent to others. I felt if I should dismiss one policeman I would be dismissing thirty families, thirty families would be affected one way or the other. Because he has a father, a mother, siblings and other extended relatives depending on him.