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Goodbye to Police Sensationalism & Partisanship?

By Tonnie Iredia

The assumption of duty of Mohammed Adamu as the new Inspector General of Police (IGP) has opened a new era in the history of the Nigeria Police Force. Many seem to believe it would be a comparatively better era considering their perception of the tenure of the immediate past IGP, Ibrahim Idris which was replete with avoidable controversies. Before Adamu came on board, the image of the police was exceedingly low; Adamu himself was quite conscious of this, prompting him to make restoring the image of the organization as quickly as possible, his point of departure.

While no one expects instant magic particularly in crime-fighting, it should not be too difficult for the new police boss to do something about police partisanship and unnecessary sensationalism. If he succeeds in keeping his promise to allow a level playing field for all politicians in the current electioneering period, Adamu is likely to have a good tenure. Many of his predecessors who were unable to so act, did not go down well in history; not even the agile Sunday Adewusi, the IGP under whom we had the ‘NPN Police’ of the 2nd Republic.

Adewusi may have been a brilliant officer but the ruling party of his time, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) virtually pushed him off track. Another sharply criticised IGP was Suleiman Abba, who at a time looked like an operative of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).  There was the story of the internal crises of that party which made the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, the current Sokoto state governor to decamp from the party. As if eager to please the government of the day, Abba unilaterally moved against the Speaker.

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He could neither wait for legislators who appointed the Speaker to remove him nor would he allow the judiciary to make any pronouncement before enforcing his police-made law of derecognizing the Speaker. Again, as if Abba wanted to take the nation back to the days of the ‘NPN Police’ he attempted, contrary to INEC guidelines, to drive away voters from the voting centres after voting by holding that such persons could be guilty of loitering! No agency head engaged in such adulation can earn public respect.

It therefore behooves on IGP Adamu to take cognizance of the verdict of history by departing substantially from the environment of sycophancy and partisanship which he inherited. There is indeed so much to say about the distractions of the police in the days of Ibrahim Idris. First, the crackdown on the main opposition party was unnecessary. Many years back, the Judiciary had clearly established that the obnoxious Public Order Act of 1979 had become obsolete and illegal in view of the freedom of movement and association granted by the nation’s constitution.

Thus, obtaining a police permit to organize a political rally was no longer necessary. Former IGP, M. D. Abubakar, obeyed this law during his time and caused his men to vigorously publicise it. Yet, there are new stories of police refusal to allow some political parties organize their campaign rallies. Recently, in Gumel, Jigawa state, the PDP was reportedly stopped by the police from holding a rally around the market square where they always did since 1999 without problems. For the July 2018 Governorship election in Ekiti state, police dispersed rallies of the opposition party ostensibly for having no permit. Indeed, until the President intervened, security operatives attached to the Anambra state governor were inexplicably withdrawn few days to election.

Neither IGP Adamu nor any of his operatives should confront political offices and their holders as Idris and his men did to the National Assembly and specifically to a state governor they described as a drowning man. The police did not only take on political leaders, they acted like them thereby turning their organization into a sensational entity. When for instance the National Assembly passed a vote of no confidence on the former IGP Idris, the police did what politicians normally do, which is to organize (or is it rent) different crowds for or against a subject. In fact some groups of youths in their hundreds in far away Awka, the Anambra state Capital; staged a protest against the Senate in favour of Idris.

The protesters, under the aegis of Anambra Youths Forum, marched round the capital city carrying placards with various inscriptions like: “Is Senate for crime”, “Senate: the public is watching you”, “Vote of confidence on IGP,” among others.  There was also the sensational approach of the police to their unending case with Senator Dino Melaye. How can a whole police force lay siege to the home of a supposed criminal for more than a week, rendering commentaries to the nation on how the crisis was progressing? The result was that although the police claimed to be dealing with a serious criminal offence, their approach depicted an ego fight.

Over the years, Nigerians had become familiar with ‘Police is on top of the matter’ as a slogan which they normally used to dismiss issues or calm frayed nerves. In the immediate past, the slogan was elevated to bare faced denials about events of public knowledge and interest. There was the interesting case of some police operatives who publicly demonstrated in Maiduguri over unpaid salaries and allowances. What the former police spokesman did which hopefully the returning Frank Mba must never do was to tell the nation that there was no such demonstration. What happened according to the police was that the operatives were merely in their office to inquire if their outstanding entitlements caused by delayed budget were ready. Yet, the early morning demonstration which was covered by the media was watched by Nigerians on television.

Politics in Nigeria has proven to be the undoing of many institutions. The failure of some media houses to observe the principle of balance and objectivity in the coverage of politics and elections is traceable to efforts by the political class to corrupt them. Many judges with corruption cases get into trouble through election petitions in which they are tempted by politicians with huge bribes. It was in earnest an election petition that pitched Chief Justice Katsina-alu and Appeal Court President, Ayo Salami which brought the Judiciary to its knees.

It is therefore ill-advisable for an otherwise non-partisan institution of society to get enmeshed in partisan politics because any institution which does that, toys with its image and public confidence. Accordingly, there is no better time than now, to urge the newly appointed IGP Adamu to keep to the ethical values of his profession. Before now, he was part of our politicised law enforcement architecture but only as a passenger in the police vehicle; now that he is the driver, vicarious liability for the behaviour of his operatives beckons on him. Here is wishing him God’s guidance.

 


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