While Cross River State is still trying to come to terms with the Calabar football viewing centre tragedy that claimed some lives, the capital city was recently caught in the negative spotlight again. A traffic light tiff between some naval officers and Police traffic controllers degenerated into loss of lives and mindless destruction of public property.
The Naval officers wantonly flouted the red light on a road in the Akim area of Calabar and assaulted the policemen who attempted to stop them. The incident, which occurred about 5pm on Tuesday, May 30, 2017, snowballed into a bloody encounter three hours later. A divisional police headquarters was razed, two policemen, a Sergeant and a Corporal, as well as a naval rating lost their lives while two others sustained gunshot wounds when the naval men struck. Two vehicles were also torched. Dangerous weapons, including a General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG), were freely used.
Both the Navy and the Police are Federal Government’s security agencies which are expected to cooperate in maintaining peace and order. Their conduct ought to reflect the time-honoured culture of discipline which the military in particular is known for. Besides, officers and men of the two institutions are guided by codes of conduct. There are official channels of communication for resolving misunderstandings where they occur. They are not expected to be associated with lawlessness of any kind, including the disobedience of traffic rules.
Security agencies in uniform or plain clothes are not above the law and are bound to comply with traffic controllers on legitimate duty enforcing the law. Challenging their authority is a grave affront and we strongly condemn this. The unruly public misconduct of the two uniformed services is as disgraceful as it is unworthy of emulation by others. Military personnel should stop regarding one another as “inferior” as they are all deployed to serve specific purposes, maintain order and safeguard the populace.
The Naval and Police authorities must investigate the circumstances that led to the bloody clash as the Director of Information, Nigerian Navy, Navy Captain Suleiman Jahun has promised. The alleged use of high calibre weapons against policemen and the prevention of fire-fighters from putting out the police station inferno must be thoroughly investigated. Such an unfortunate incident that claimed lives and property built with taxpayers’ money must be handled with seriousness to prevent future re-occurrence.
We condemn the sporadic eruptions of lawlessness among the security and uniformed agencies, which appear to have become a daily occurrence. More must be done to instil discipline and professionalism among the armed and uniformed forces, and those found unfit to serve in these agencies should be shown the way out.