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CP Edgal has broken new grounds in crime control — NOPPRIN

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Okechukwu Nwanguma is the National Coordinator of Network on Police Reform in Nigeria, NOPRIN, comprising 46 civil society organisations committed to promoting accountability and respect for human rights.

He focuses on monitoring, documenting and denouncing abuse of human rights by the police and other law enforcement agencies.

For nearly two decades, Nwanguma has been involved in efforts to reform and strengthen state institutions in Nigeria, particularly the criminal justice system. In 2012, Nwanguma was the civil society liaison for a panel on police reform established by NOPRIN in response to another ineffective police reform committee set up by the government.

Nwanguma and Cp Edgal

Between 2008 and 2011, Nwanguma organised public tribunals on police abuse in Nigeria to testify  before a panel of eminent Nigerians. For 18 years, he worked for Civil Liberties Organisation in Nigeria monitoring, documenting and denouncing human rights abuses in  law enforcement. He spoke with Vanguard Crime Reporter, Esther Onyegbula on crimewave in Lagos State, efforts made to reduce it and other related issues. Excerpts:

There are reports that crime wave has abated in Lagos State. What’s your honest assessment?

I have not seen the report but from anecdotal evidence including opinions expressed by most Lagosians and citizens across the country and from reports I read in the media, it’s evident that  the  Lagos State  Commissioner of  Police, Imohimi Edgal has broken new grounds in  crime control in Lagos State.Particularly striking for me is the fact that he’s doing so much and achieving so much without much collateral damage.

He’s mindful of the need to  respect and protect human rights. He’s scrupulous in dealing with erring police officers whose conduct may smear the image of the force. Edgal is an exceptional police officer who understands requirements in a modern democracy. He recognises the imperative of  public trust, partnership and accountability in accomplishing the task. The police cannot succeed without public trust and cooperation.

That’s why he engages communities through town hall meetings where complaints against police officers bordering on   corruption and abuse are punished. In short, Imohimi Edgal is promoting transparent, accountable and responsible policing in Lagos State. He’s my ideal police officer and I wish other senior police officers in the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, would emulate him.

If  an officer like Imohimi Edgal is at the top leadership of the NPF, a lot would  be easier for our policemen, our country and our democracy. Particularly commendable is the positioning of police teams at strategic locations where citizens can reach them for prompt action. Dedicated phone numbers are also available for citizens to make reports to the police with ease and without fear of intimidation.

In what ways can the CP  improve the command  to make Lagos State safer?

He needs to relentlessly liaise with human rights groups to enlighten police officers in Lagos in the  community policing process.

Is it remotely possible that  the executive arm of the government uses the police to undermine other arms of government?

When the executive arm of government overreaches itself by exerting  undue control over security agencies and uses them to harass, intimidate and undermine other arms of  government, then it’s a serious cause for concern in a  democracy. When security forces are manipulated to frame allegations against heads of other arms of government in a bid to harass, blackmail  and attempt to ‘whip them into line’ in the political interest of the president and his political party, then there is serious cause for concern in a  democracy.  For instance, the  siege on the residences of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu on Tuesday, July 24, 2018 are clear acts of  abuse of power and sheer brigandage.

Are you concerned by the conduct of security agencies?

We are concerned about  actions of  security agencies including the Police seeking to confine the Senate leadership to their homes to prevent them from satiating the requirements of their offices  which  amounts to interference with the functioning  of  this important arm of government and threatens our democracy.

You can then imagine what ordinary Nigerians go through on a daily basis if highly placed and privileged government officials could suffer this level of harassment and intimidation.It’s notable that the Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood,  denied  allegations that the IGP ordered the police invasion and siege on the Senate President’s residence.

We also note his claim that  the IGP has ordered investigation into the incident. It will be interesting to know the outcome of the investigation into this  unprovoked aggression and clearly unprofessional conduct. It’s safe to conclude that these unconstitutional and anti-democratic tendencies  of security agencies  were  endorsed by  President Muhammadu Buhari in whose interest the masterminds purport to act, hence it’s needless to ask him to rein in the various security agencies in  their use of state aparatus  for partisan purposes.

Don’t you think the police and other security agencies should  investigate financial crimes like bribery and money laundering?

While we encourage  security agencies to investigate alleged bribery, money laundering or any other crime in the legislature and the judiciary, President Buhari should not give the impression that these ills are peculiar to the other arms of government.

Hounding  political opponents with security agencies in the guise of fighting corruption is immoral and cowardly. The president cannot  be fighting corruption in the judiciary and legislature while condoning it in the executive and especially, within the Presidency.  Nigerians and the international community must take President Buhari up on these issues and also prevail on the NPF to stay out of politics and support democracy.

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