It is becoming increasingly embarrassing. JIDE AJIBADE writes on the recent clash between personnel of the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in Imo state.
It is news and a call for concern when two agencies of government saddled with responsibility of maintaining peace and order turn out to become the sources of crisis in the same society.
The various reported clashes between the Nigeria police and other sister agencies, especially the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) need the attention of the highest authority in the land in which the police had always been blamed for instigating some of the conflicts.
Reports, for instance, revealed that between 2005 and 2019, there were police and military conflicts which were traffic related.
In October 2005 at Ojuelegba bus stop, Lagos, the resistance of two passenger soldiers in a commercial bus against policemen’s attempt to extort money from the driver stirred up conflict between the police and the army officers. As a result, soldiers of Abalti Barracks, Ojuelegba and policemen of Area ‘C’ Command engaged each other in deadly arms confrontation. Three policemen died with 50 vehicles were completely burnt during the fracas.
Another conflict between policemen of Badagry Police Station and soldiers of 242 Recce Battalion, Ibereko Barracks Badagry, May 2011, consumed the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), the Divisional Crime Officer (DCO) and eight others. Police had shot an army officer at a checkpoint for which the soldiers retaliated, killing the policemen who were going to the army base for reconcilliation.
In April 2017, a soldier and three policemen paid the supreme price in Yobe state, following a bitter conflict between the two agencies. Report said an army officer had run into the convoy of the head of Mopol Unit, Damaturu, and was subsequently battered. Soldiers avenged the assault by capturing the Mopol Commander.
Again, in Calabar, the Cross state capital, it was centre for another conflict; this time, between the police and the Navy. A night attack by Naval officers on May 29 2017 left several policemen dead and a police station razed down. The attack was due to a minor fight between a traffic policeman and a Naval officer near Calabar stadium.
The Imo experience For example, the recent invasion of Imo State Command of the NSCDC), has reportedly left one of the NSCDC officers dead while the state Commandant was manhandled and dragged out in his boxers.
It was reported that heavily armed men of Squadron-18 Mobile Police Owerri, who attacked the NSCDC personnel alongside the Commandant and his officers in what observers described as a commando attack, shot sporadically, forcing residents of the area to scamper for their safety.Before the attack, it was learnt that a heated argument ensued between the driver of the NSCDC boss and a police officer in mufti, who blocked the exit way of the Commandant’s entourage who were returning from Abacheke, the bunkering site where scores were burnt to death in Egbema.
Eye witness account
An NSCDC personnel who gave his name as Ikechukwu explained that, “When asked by the Commandants’s security escorts to move aside, the police officer who was not in uniform vehemently refused without even disclosing his identity. He was however ignored on the Commandant’s directive.
“However, rather than go his way, the police officer unknown to the the men of the corps put a call through to his colleagues who mobised to the command’s headquarter while he followed the entourage to Owerri.
“On reaching the corps’s office, while the Commandant made to enter the command, the man blocked the NSCDC boss, brought out a pistol and announced that he was a police officer. On sighting that, he was immediately rounded up and arrested by NSCDC officers who also seized the pistol to avert danger.
Another officer told newsmen that after he was released, he returned with heavily armed enraged Mopol men who went into chaos beating, shooting and attacking both officers and their facilities at the premises.
In the process, when the commandant, Mr Ogar, who was already in his office rushed out to address the situation on hearing the gunshots, the enraged officers attacked, beat him up in his uniform after which he was stripped down to his boxers before being whisked away.
This happened at the Imo State Command headquarters of NSCDC located on Okigwe road, along Works Layout.
The enraged Mopol officers who threatened to shoot the Commandant reportedly boasted that nothing would happen since they (NSCDC) failed to learn from their lesson in previous attacks where nothing came out of it.
In a telephone conversation with a resident who pleaded anonymity, he said, “The invading police officers ought to have chosen a more civilised approach in resolving whatever was the issue instead of taking laws into their hands. I expect the state Commissioner of Police to fish out the fellows that attacked the NSCDC headquarters and punish them appropriately.”
Police and NSCDC mandates
For years, the Nigerian Police Force has been in existence with the core vision statement of making Nigeria safer and more secure for economic development and growth, create a safe and secure environment for everyone living in Nigeria.
It is also to be in partnership with other security agencies and the public in gathering, collating and sharing information and intelligence with the intention of ensuring the safety and security of the country.
It is also to participate in efforts aimed at addressing the root causes of crime while ensuring that any criminal act is investigated so as to bring the criminals to justice in a fair and professional manner.
“To engender an efficient, effective, well-trained and highly motivated workforce, with deliberate efforts aimed at improving the capacity and welfare of all officers and men of the Force, among others.
Like other military and paramilitary organisations such as Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) Federal Fire Service, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Correctional Service, the NSCDC Act enacted by the National Assembly has as its core mandates to assist in the maintenance of peace and order and in the protection and rescuing of the civil population during emergency.
“Maintain 24 hour surveillance over infrastructures, sites and projects of the federal, states amd local government.
“Enter and search premises of any suspected illegal dealer in petroleum products or material used by Power Holding Company of Nigeria, Postal Services, Nigeria Telecommunication or for any other public utility or infrastructure.
“Have power to arrest with or without a warrant, detain, investigate and institute legal proceedings by or in the name of the Attorney-General of the Federation in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria against any person who is reasonably suspected to have committed an offence under this act among others.”
While several commentators are of the opinion that various incidences of clashes between the police and other agencies were as a result of supremacy claims, a security expert and a retired military personnel, Ahmed Suraj, urged the government, especially the Ministry of Police Affairs and Police Service Commission to call the men to order and impress it on the need to respect other military and paramilitary agencies of government.
The ex-servicemen said government should not fold its arms against disrespect for the personnel of other sister agencies, saying civilians would be at the receiving ends if the supremacy battle continues between the supposed peace keepers in the society.