By Dennis Agbo
Mr. Uche Achi-Okpaga is the Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. He speaks on community policing as the police say they have started implementing the scheme aimed at stemming insecurity across the country.
What do you really understand by community policing?
Community policing has to do with security and security is not a one-man job. It is the totality of the collaborative efforts among security agencies, including the police, DSS, Civil Defence and the local vigilance because it’s the local vigilance that knows the terrain very well; they get information and feed security agencies.
As an individual in the police, when the awareness is created in you, you join to safeguard the vicinity. So you shop for news, you shop for any crime that is in the offing; you feed the vigilance which transit to security agencies. So everybody is involved and that is the essence of community policing. Community policing does not mean that in every household, you come and put a policeman, no, it’s to arouse the consciousness in everybody. It has to do with everybody getting involved to combat crime.
What is Ohanaeze Ndigbo’s position on the commencement of community policing by the Inspector General of Police?
You know that in the South-East, all kinds of crime thrived before now, but the governors came together and harmonised their positions and began to work seriously with the vigilance in all the south eastern states, which is why crime and violence in the region have been reduced to the barest minimum. So in the South-East, it has been in long existence.
People are very much aware of the community policing project and everybody is fully involved, more especially in the wake of the herdsmen/farmers crisis. It aroused the consciousness in people and people began to put security arrangements in proper shape. So it didn’t start today and it’s not the IGP that is telling us it has started, maybe he was just reminding other geopolitical zones it has started.
Has Ohanaeze or Ndigbo been officially informed about it?
We don’t even need to be informed to secure our place.
How do you think it will practically work in the South-East?
It’s already working. You can see that every part of South-East is peaceful and well secure; it’s because of this internal arrangement with security agencies and vigilance groups here and there. It’s because of the internal arrangement.
Do you think the community policing project is a good response to the insecurity issues we have in Nigeria?
It is the most proactive response; it’s just that sometimes they try to put politics into it. You know that before now, the immediate past Inspector General of Police wanted to mop up all guns from licensed security agents and how could you do that? When you come to mop up licensed guns from vigilante groups, you allow criminals with sophisticated weapons to wreak havoc on the people. It would have created the worst violence in Nigeria.
Do Ndigbo have a traditional defense system that could make this community policing a success?
Why not? Like I said earlier, everybody is getting involved. All the Town Unions in the South-East have been strengthened, they work hand-in-hand in tandem with their traditional rulers and their cabinet, they work with the vigilante and they feed the security agencies. That is a very proactive way of arresting crime.
Do you subscribe to the central policing system that is presently in operation in Nigeria?
If you go to civilized clines, what we have as local governments here, they have their own police. Even district areas have their own police before you have the FBI such as in United States of America which is their own federal agency.
There you have multifaceted security sources in all the states, regions and localities. If you come to Nigeria and you have only one police force, it is difficult for them to secure Nigeria and that is the more reason we are now introducing this community policing and that the vigilance and other people could come in and that is the reason a lot of people are advocating for state police, it’s very, very necessary.
Do state police and community policing have correlation?
Yes. When you are a Chief Executive of a state and you are not in control of the security apparatus, how would orders be carried out; when a commissioner of police in a state is waiting for order from above, for Abuja to give a signal before he carried out an assignment here?
That is the problem we are having and so the synergy is still missing but when you have a state police, that state police will be working in tandem with the Executive Governor, who becomes the Chief Security Officer and issues orders.
Now when there is a problem the police wait for signal or approval from Abuja before they take action to solve a problem at hand.