By Victor Oji
Outrage has greeted the decision of the Police authorities to demote three officers in the Nsukka Division, Enugu state, after they narrowly survived an attack by unknown gunmen a few months ago.
The officers – Inspectors Ernest Ogbonna, Aboh Justin and Kingsley Ugwuja – were reportedly on duty at a hot spot along Nsukka-Ibagwa Ani Road in June when they were attacked by over 10 heavily armed hoodlums in a white Hilux and Siena bus.
The daredevil criminals opened fire on them and the gallant officers returned fire in a fight that lasted for about one hour.
It was gathered that after the intense fire exchange, the police officers succeeded in chasing away the criminals some of whom sustained injuries.
Unfortunately, during the exchange of fire the criminals succeeded in setting fire to the police van but there was no loss of lives, police arms were intact and no member of the police team sustained any injury
Police sources said that afterwarfs, the officers were queried and an orderly room trial carried out.
It was gathered that when the result of the trial came out, the gallant officers demoted, a decision that was also affirmed by the AIG at Zone 13, Ukpo, Anambra state, who oversees the activities of police officers in Enugu and Anambra.
The punishment, according to sources, sent shock waves amongst the rank and file of both commands as they have been victims of ceaseless attacks by criminals masquerading as unknown gunmen for long.
Police officers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told reporters that they had been in low spirits after the unfair punishment was meted out on the gallant officers.
According to the officers, “Does it mean that the authorities expected them to die and be decorated in death after they performed so gallantly?
“There were only three ill-equipped officers but they were able to confront a heavily armed gang of criminals numbering over 10. They came out without injuries and loss of arms yet the accolade police gave them was to demote them. This is outrageous and we cry to high heavens for justice.”
Reports said that the concerned officers had since appealed the injustice meted on them and are eagerly awaiting redress by the Inspector General of Police.
A human rights group in Enugu, Alliance for Justice argued that the morale of officers, especially in Enugu state, is very low after the unfair orderly room trial of the officers.
The group’s spokesman, Dr. Okwui Eze lamented: “This is the greatest height of injustice I have seen in this century. Just a few days ago, gallant police officers and soldiers were gruesomely killed by these criminals in Imo state.
“See the incessant kidnappings now going on in Enugu state and at the end of the day, the police will wickedly treat their gallant officers that survived such attack in this heart-rending manner. Where then lies justice? How do you expect our long-suffering and ill-equipped officers and men to continue to fight criminals?
“We are appealing to the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, who has so far taken very pragmatic and commendable steps to fight crime and criminalities in the country to urgently address this callous and inhuman treatment meted on these three officers.
“There should be no recourse to insubordination as his timely action in this regard will highly restore the morale of his men in Enugu and Anambra states. The concerned officers must be duly rewarded by police authorities.”
Efforts to reach both the Police Public Relations Officer in Enugu, Daniel Ndukwe and Force Public Relations Officer, CP Muyiwa Adejobi in Abuja failed as messages and telephone calls sent to them were not replied to.
In his reaction, the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Enugu State Command, Dan Ndukwe, said while he would make an effort to verify and ascertain the actual status of the said trial, it is important to inform everyone that “orderly trial is purely an internal administrative or disciplinary matter of the NPF.
“Hence, if any police personnel is aggrieved with the outcome of such trials, he/she certainly knows the best channel through which judgments are appealed.”