IT would be quite natural, given the endless list of illegalities perpetrated by errant officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), for Nigerians to wonder if anything good could ever come out of the force. But if experience over the years is any indication, the question must be answered in the affirmative. While, time and again, errant members of the force, who unfortunately seem to be in the majority, have engaged in activities that sullied its image, it is also the case that some members of the force have not only performed creditably over the years but also exhibited discipline, morality and ethical conduct, giving Nigerians cause for cheer. Such is the case of an officer, ASP Sunday Erhabor, an officer attached to the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) unit of the Lagos State police command, who recently earned public applause for his exemplary conduct in the face of provocation. Erhabor was assaulted penultimate weekend by one Victor Ebhomenyen in the Oniru area of the state.
In the incident captured in a viral video, Ebhomenyen, who had been caught driving against the traffic, tried to evade arrest and violently engaged Erhabor, inflicting on him bodily injuries while reminding him of last year’s #EndSARS protests during which many policemen lost their lives. However, the police officer, who was armed with his official AK-47 rifle, maintained a calm demeanor throughout the ordeal. And then something quite extraordinary happened: impressed by his conduct, citizens on social media raised the sum of N1 million to appreciate Erhabor for his professionalism in the face of provocation. The fundraising coordinated by two Facebook users, Ugo Egburo and Shola Aje, started on April 18 and ended on April 21. It asked willing Nigerians to “support ethical policing”.
And, what is more, an elated Governor Sanwo-Olu commended the police officer for his restraint and civility while enforcing the law. Receiving Erhabor at the Lagos House, Ikeja, the governor said: “This is our own little response to the very condemnable events that happened over the weekend. We are all very quick to condemn men of the Nigeria Police, especially when they are found wanting. We are always very quick to also admonish them. But the event that we all saw over the weekend showed that indeed there are some very commendable police officers. In the real heat of provocation, ASP Erhabor displayed a high quality of restraint. He displayed calmness and restrained himself from taking laws into his hands. And I think for that little gesture, it is important for us to bring him out so that we also can use him as a testimonial and encouragement for other Police officers to show that indeed they can be civil and that Police are meant to protect our citizens.”
Governor Sanwo-Olu is right on the money. Even if the conduct displayed by ASP Erhabor is something the public should ideally expect, it is still true that it is worthy of applause, especially given the violent conduct of the offender in question. It is quite remarkable for the social media community to donate money in appreciation of a police officer’s conduct. In any case, this incident reaffirms the fact that the original import of last year’s #EndSARS protests was to effect positive change in policing and not to attack police officers or effect a change of government. It shows that what the citizenry want in general is for the force to abide by the law and, in the words of a former Inspector General of Police (IGP), “to serve and protect with integrity,” not to eliminate policemen from the streets. It also shows the danger in conflating genuine protesters with hoodlums.
Truth be told, the Lagos RRS unit has consistently shown that it is quite a departure from the regular police force. The Lagos RRS officers and men have been known to take pregnant women to hospital, help people whose vehicles break down on the highways, supply inhaler to citizens under asthma attack, and so on. They respond swiftly to citizens in distress and have been a terror to highway robbers in the state. Against this backdrop, we think that whatever training the RRS personnel are availed of needs to be extended to police formations nationwide. That way, the change that Nigerians clamour for can begin to happen gradually. We salute ASP Erhabor and his team and we wish them the very best in their future endeavours.
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