BY PROTUS NATHAN UZORMA#
In his serialized philosophical assertions, Mahatma Gandhi enthuses, “All crime is a kind of disease and should be treated as such.” For Ramsey Clark, “There are few better measures of the concern a society has for its individual members and its own well being than the way it handles criminals.” Recently in Owerri, dare devil armed robbers shot dead a police inspector who attempted to rescue a Chinese contractor he escorted to a bank along Item Street.
According to eye witnesses, the robbers double-crossed the black-coloured jeep carrying the Chinese after he had withdrawn an undisclosed amount of money from the bank. It was said that in a jiffy, the armed robbers opened fire on the vehicle but were resisted by the policeman who was subsequently killed, while the Chinese sustained severe injuries.
In the ensuing confusion, the robber, according to witnesses escaped with the money put at over N10 million.
The above is one of the many occurrences which have become regular scenes in Owerri the Imo State capital. According to the Police Act (1943), the duties if the police shall be the ‘the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within or outside Nigeria as may be required of them by, or under the authority of this or any other Act.
In carrying out its duties, the men of the NPF usually encounter some challenges ranging from injuries to death. As enshrined in Part II of the Police Act, protection of lives and property is a core responsibility of the NPF but with the frequency of armed robbery incidents and cases bothering on the security of the state, one cannot help but ask if truly the police is indeed living up to its responsibility!
Recently, the Imo state police command successfully killed an armed robbery and kidnap kingpin, Henry CHimezie, aka Vampire following which there was a wave of promotions especially for the officers of the special task force who carried out the operation and the then Commissioner of Police, Taiwo Lakanu, who was promoted to the rank of Assistant Inspector General of Police. With the promotion came posting which saw to the arrival of a new CP, Chris Ezike to the state.
Before his posting, Ezike has served in various capacities and different commands including Deputy Commissioner of Police, Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Abuja and Lagos Annex, respectively, Commissioner of Police, Rivers and Edo State Commands.
The University of Nigeria, Nsukka graduate of Psychology and Public Administration, was also the Commissioner of Police/Commandant, Police College, Ikeja.
The Nigeria Police as presently composed is already overstretched due to the monumental security challenges confronting the security agencies occasioned by the rampaging Boko Haram Islamic insurgency as well as other serious internal security challenges in the country.
In view of the above, President Buhari early this year directed that all police personnel attached to certain dignitaries who are not entitled under the law to police protection be withdrawn forthwith and re-deployed to normal police duties.
In keeping with President Buhari’s aforementioned directive, Ezike while still serving in Edo, ordered the immediate recall of policemen posted to unauthorized individuals as well as other officers who were illegally posted while reducing the office personnel by 50 per cent. This he said is because adequate policing is done in the field. Besides, it lies within the powers of the State Commissioner of Police to authorize the posting of police personnel to private individuals and also withdraw the officers from such individuals whenever it becomes necessary.
Also during his tenure, Edo state recorded a reduction in cult activities as he fought cultism to a standstill. With the record of achievements under his cap, the CP proceeded with vigour to his new posting in Imo State.
Having headed the IG Anti-Crime Task Force in Edo and Kogi states, it explains why Ezike pledged to personally lead raids on criminal hideouts and to embark on street patrols throughout his stay; promises which he kept to the best of his ability.
Upon his assumption of office as the Imo State CP, Ezike hit the ground running as barely two weeks after assumption of office, the men of the Imo State police command, recorded arrest cum death of some notorious criminals namely Chimaobi Okorie aka Shapiro and Justice Ogbonna, a suspected member of the late Vampire’s gang who robbed a bank situated along Wetheral road, Owerri, leading to the death of a police officer during a gun duel that ensued while some officers sustained serious injuries.
Meanwhile, in consonance with the federal government’s whistle blowing policy on recovery of looted funds, the CP has officially declared that whistle blowing on criminals is allowed to help the command to fish out criminals in the state while charging community leaders to set up vigilante groups to help boost security.
The whistleblowing policy apparently is beginning to yield results as the state police command following a tip off, burst a kidnap syndicate whose hideout is in a forest in Avu, arresting about seven members of the gang, rescued three kidnapped victims.
The job of policing a state does not lie solely on his shoulders no doubt, as he is expected to work in tandem with his subordinates and of course the state governor to ensure the security of lives and property. While the federal government is making efforts to improve the welfare of the rank and file, efforts ought to be made towards providing adequate arsenal to aid them in the discharge of their duties viz employment and training of more personnel into the force, provision of more patrol vans, reorientation of those in the service to understand the core policing chores, improved response to distress call to mention but a few.
Having started on a good footing, it is expected that before the expiration of Ezike’s tenure, the crime rate in the state would have been reduced to the barest minimum. He started on a good note and I pray he sustains the tempo so that the peace and tranquillity we had some years back could be restored. Mr. Ezike, I am too sure shall make Imolites proud of his profession. Philosophers and social critics like us are watching.
Imo needs someone like Mr. Chris Ezike to properly fight crime and criminality in Imo State. I pray he will resist any form of undue influence from any person or group of persons. He appears serious and God will see him through.