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By: Kingsley Omonobi – Abuja

The Chairman, Police Service Commission, Retired IGP Musiliu Smith has said that Police performance in tackling protests and demonstrations which has received widespread negative commentaries as witnessed during the ENDSARS protests recently, is determined by the type of dangerous weapons including axe’s, knives, broken bottles, and petrol bombs among others carried by the protesters.

Mr Smith made the disclosure when a High powered German delegation consisting of experts in German Police development tasked with working out modalities for the reformation of the Nigerian Police Force visited him in Abuja on Tuesday.

Leader of the German delegation and Deputy Director, West and Central Africa, German Federal Foreign Office, Mr Alexandre Callegano had disclosed that the Germans team were willing to train about 30,000 Nigerian Police Officers, particularly the newly recruited officers on how to contain crowd trouble and protests without the use of lethal weapons and achieve the aim of ensuring orderliness.

Smith said, “How we deal with demonstrations in this country is peculiar because of what we face. I don’t think it will be right to say policemen have not been handling demonstrators very well.

“When we have such demonstrations in this country, some of the protesters carry axes, broken bottles, petrol bombs and other dangerous weapons. I am not sure this is the same way people protests in other parts of the world like Europe for instance. So it will not be fair to compare demonstrations in Nigeria with what happens abroad”.

Continuing he told the Germans, “It is not as if our men are not trained on handling protests and demonstrations. We do periodic training on how to prevent or handle mob action. For instance, training with minimum use of weapons is very significant to us.

“But on few occasions, the Police are forced to use weapons not only to save their own lives but the lives of innocent people around them.

On the use of weapons, the former IGP said, “Shooting ranges for Police training is a problem because we are not exposing our men to standard ways of handling weapons. Indoor shooting ranges should be built in every police college to promote better weapon handling by policemen.

“Aside from this, efficient mobility and communication equipment is missing due to funding issues. In state’s Police Command, for instance, I know we have just about 30 to 40% of our communication infrastructure working which should not be for the police”.

Emphasizing what needs to be done for a successful reformation of the Nigerian Police Force to be achieved, he said there should be in place, an attractive and motivative condition of service including respectable pensions and a commensurate salary scheme for officers.

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The PSC Chairman said “If you pay salaries to people and they feel it is not conducive, it will be difficult to get the best out of them.

“As of today, the strength of personnel of the Nigerian Police Force is about 300,000 but a third of this number don’t live in decent accommodation. The barracks are in dilapidated conditions. To be able to meet up, they go to remote areas to get affordable accommodation for themselves. The men don’t have transportation of their own for mobility. By the time they find their way to work, they are fagged out.

While noting that, “There are no modern training facilities for investigation and intelligence gathering” he said the Police Detective College in Enugu has been neglected and is not living up to expectations due to no funding and lack of equipment.

“For two or three years now, funds have not been made available to this very important training facility. Training is not conducive for detectives and intelligence officers. But it is well known that if you want to get the best of your men you have to give them the best training.

In his remarks, Mr Callegano said “It is important to us that the Police reforms we are working towards is based on what Nigerians want and this is buoyed by the interest shown by your president, President Muhammadu Buhari.

“I have heard that Nigeria has the political will and that the Police Officers are open to the modernization of the Nigerian Police force.

“Our focus will be on three important aspects namely Best Practice Unit. This unit will be set up to train and prepare several units of German standards to train policemen in operations, counter-terrorism and how to handle demonstrators and protesters without the use of lethal weapons.

“Another aspect will be to choose the best qualified out of the young and newly recruited police personnel to train them on modern methods.

“The third is leadership. How should leaders react when they h responsibility for people and also of their officers. Leadership and their decisions are very key in making policemen perform their functions in the right way”.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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