Police killing, police killed

 RECENTLY, two policemen were killed by gunmen on the Magongo-Okene road in Kogi State. The hoodlums made away with their AK-47 rifles. In another incident, two policemen lost their lives during an attack launched by Boko Haram terrorists in Magumeri village, Borno State. Indeed,  in April  this year, the Inspector-General of Police ( IGP), Mr. Ibrahim Idris, told the nation that 128 policemen had  lost their lives to the activities of criminals in various parts of the country in the previous three months. A statement from the  Force Spokesman, DCP Don Awunah in Abuja, quoted the IGP as saying that “These line-of-duty deaths occasioned by unwarranted attacks by religious bigots, bandits, hoodlums and militants must be reversed and the trend halted.”

The IGP also decried the wanton destruction of police infrastructure and public assets, while urging his officers “not to relent or be distracted in our collective will to serve this country, the costly challenges notwithstanding.” He cited the cases in Dankamoji village in Maradun Local Government Area of Zamfara State; Abagana in Anambra State and  Okrika waterways in Rivers State where police personnel were killed, their arms carted away and structures and equipment destroyed. In any case, the loss of high numbers of policemen in active duty is not new in the country. For instance, in April 2016, the then Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, indicated that no fewer than 359 policemen were killed on duty between January 2014 and April 2016. In the same period, 272 policemen sustained various degrees of injuries while intervening in civil conflicts. To Arase, the slain personnel  paid the supreme price “to enhance community peace and security in the country.”

It is indeed saddening that policemen have repeatedly come under severe, often fatal, attacks in a chronically under-policed state like Nigeria. If the police who have the advantage of the coercive instruments of the state are unsafe, it cannot be said that the ordinary citizens are safe. If anything, the citizenry are in a helpless situation in such circumstances. Therefore, every effort must be made to stem the tide of police officers and men losing their lives while striving to maintain law and order. Failure to do so has the potentiality to reduce Nigeria to a banana republic where order and logic are suspended in favour of the rule of thumb.

However, there is another angle to the violent interactions between the police and the citizenry, namely the frequent killings of citizens by policemen. Stories of policemen maiming and killing defenceless citizens are routine, making it difficult to determine who is the major threat to the citizenry between the police and criminals. For instance, during an  altercation  between some policemen and a group of youths in Okohia community in Isiala Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State, a police sergeant allegedly shot into a crowd of unharmed youths, killing a boy and injuring three others. Also, one Ese Akpan, 60, was reportedly killed by stray bullets in Rumuomasi, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. As noted by Amnesty International (AI) in a report,  scores of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) members were cut down extrajudicially by the police.

In our view, curbing the killing of policemen by criminals requires heightened intelligence gathering, halting the proliferation of arms and conducting police operations within the ambit of the law. However, there is an urgent need to change the perception of the populace regarding the police and policing. To the average citizen, the policeman is no more than a uniformed oppressor, one who will always find a way to assert his or her supposed superiority using arms purchased from taxpayers’ money. The police, the citizens believe, often charge people for crimes they did not commit. And when there is the willingness to convict, evidence will always be found, no matter how preposterous. This partly explains why the populace will hardly support the police in any conflict, and why, during the investigation of crimes, not many a citizen is willing to give useful information to the police even when they have it. The belief is that the police might implicate them in the crime if they  so wish.

Against this backdrop, we urge the police authorities to ensure discipline in the rank and file of the force and to build a more robust and prosperous relationship with the civil populace by being civil and respectful yet firm in conduct, and by regularly interacting with members of the communities in which they are domiciled. The citizenry, on their part, must also  take advantage of the institutions for redress within the police whenever they have grievances. This way, a better relationship, one that is conducive to democracy and national development, will emerge.

Needless to say,  both the criminals taking police lives and the errant policemen committing extra

judicial killings must always be brought to book. In this connection, we salute the police authorities for prosecuting and securing the conviction of some killer policemen and criminals who shed police blood. But they can and should do more.


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