ENUGU Police Commissioner Guarantee To End Stockpiling Of Arms In The State
Commissioner of Police, Emmanuel Ojukwu, assumed duties in the Coal City of Enugu at a time the state was on fire. The former police spokesman came when no fewer than 50 indigenes of the state were butchered by rampaging herdsmen at Ukpabi-Nimbo area.
His posting was just like the popular acronym that says; to whom much is given, much is expected. Having spent about six months in the saddle, he spoke exclusively to our Crime Editor, Emma Nnadozie, on the security situation in the state.Excerpts:
On assumption of duty
When I assumed duties, there was fear of crime. It was rampant in the state. Sequel to the attack on Nimbo where people’s lives were lost and properties damaged, there was palpable fear in the communities that such may repeat itself. There were rumours here and there of impending attacks from herdsmen and then present attacks.
So, you find that some communities that came from the North who were living around Enugu state were afraid that there may be reprisal attacks.
What we did first was to reassure members of the public that the police and other law enforcement agencies would guarantee their security and safety, that they should go about their lawful activities.
We also talked to community members, notably traditional rulers, local chieftains, to talk to their members and their people, should they have any information, they should not go spreading rumours, they should report to the law enforcement agency.
And then, we also went around and schooled our men on what to do in that regard, what to do to be active and do their job professionally.
Other instances of crime such as kidnapping, armed robbery, cultism in particular in Enugu state, but since I came four months ago, we have been able to reduce them significantly.
We made so many arrests and prosecuted a good number of them, some of who are now in prison, custody; some, their case has been concluded and they have been sentenced. So by and large, the situation is fair security wise.
Unabated killings and kidnappings
There is no place you don’t have killings or murder. In fact, what we have is nothing to compare to what you have in other communities or countries of the world. You can’t prevent somebody being murdered, someone who enters his house to kill him, you can’t prevent it.
You have seen husband and wife killing themselves, lot of family killing themselves. There is little or nothing the police can do apart from advising members of the public to be vigilant and report any situation of suspicion to the police and law enforcement agencies for us to take appropriate and prompt actions. We have patrols all over the state.
We have created new units, new police stations, police posts to spread police services to the people as a way of preventing crime, not just murder but other violent crimes and even lesser crimes.
We practice that people in Enugu state should live in peace and go about their lawful businesses without any fear. I don’t believe there is an upsurge, there is no such upsurge.
Permeating the enclave of herdsmen, checking their excesses
The police is a law enforcement agency and, we are supposed to be fair to every citizen living in Enugu state and Nigeria as a whole. We don’t demonize people. We don’t particularize.
We don’t have any prejudice against any ethnic group. Many of us are herdsmen, we rear cattle, goats and what have you, so we are herdsmen in one way or the other, but if you are talking about those pastoralists, those who move their cattle from one place to the other in search of greener pastures, our law, the constitution, allows you to move from wherever to wherever to do lawful business and to reside within communities, peacefully.
So, those who rear cattle can move from place to place. Occasionally, not even today, it’s been there for many ages, sometimes, if they stray to somebody’s farm and cause damages, what normally happens is that those whose cattle destroyed such crops would pay reparation.
Sometimes also, you may see some youths from some communities, maybe out of carelessness or whatever, they might kill such cattle and eat it. And when the cattle rearer reports, the community would gather and pay reparation. Then in recent past, we have seen some violence between cattle rearers and farmers leading to loss of lives.
What we have done to checkmate it and bring it back is that we have a robust liaison with the group they call Meaty Allah Cattle Association. We meet on regular basis for them to call their members to order and for them not to send little children to rear cattle because they may not be able to control the cattle and if anything happens, these their leaders would come immediately to network and interface, community leaders, traditional rulers would come to meet because this is one big country that belongs to all of us and we have a duty to maintain peace wherever we find ourselves.
So, such liaison goes on and we meet on regular basis. In fact, this morning, I just finished a meeting with some of these groups and then, nothing awkward is happening. And should there be any report; the police we are always on hand to respond appropriately and timely too.
Allegations of communities stock piling arms
This is strange news to me. Any community stockpiling arms is committing an offence and should I find them, I don’t know if you will give me an example, I will go there immediately and get them arrested. Nobody has power under this law to stockpile arms. You want to wage war against Nigeria or against a community, it is not allowed. There are no new licenses for stockpiling arms. I am hearing this for the first time.
Vibrancy of PCRC, Vigilante groups
The police cannot be everywhere in communities. Enugu is like 4 million in population. The police strength is at least I to 400, which means that members of the communities must police themselves and the police will augment. We cannot be everywhere. We don’t know everywhere.
That is what we are talking about, community policing, partnership with the police; the police must work in concert with members of the public. That is why the Nigerian police welcomes informal police systems, those we call non-state actors which include vigilante or as we have in Enugu state, neighborhood watch groups. There is a law on neighborhood in Enugu state, who should chairman it and all that. Their job is to assist the police.
It is mandatory for such neighbourhood watch or as the case may be to work in concert with the police, to know who they are. You cannot assist me if you are my enemy. And so, who are vigilante or neighborhood watch must be screened by the police by making sure to document them, to have their biometrics, to know who and who are these members who are meant to assist us. It is a work in progress and the result will show very soon.
Incentives to spur policemen into more action
Leadership by example. I am not an armchair commissioner of police. I go round. I take part in operations, talk to the men. A good leader has to lead men by choice and not by force. I am doing that. I want them to follow me. There is so much stress in policing.
My job is not to add to the stress but to reduce it by counselling, pat on the back for a job well done. Part of what we do is to give them the enablement, good environment that is congenial. We keep training and retraining. The men are happy and their salaries come in good time and whatever is their dues that comes from the police headquarters, are given to the men.
Checking their excesses
Our job is not to kill those who commit offences but to correct them. Even the penal system, the prison, is to correct people and not to kill them, bring them to the society better.
So in the police system, we reform people every time, people come with various backgrounds because there is no police boy, we have police men, 18 years and above. They form attitudes, prejudices as they come to the job, we keep remolding them. As they meet experiences, you keep changing them. We have the code of conduct; we have the rules guiding the job as a profession. Anyone who goes out of the way, we try and bring him back.
Checking the excesses of politicians
I am a policeman. I do police work, politicians can do their politics. Politics is about governance, about leadership. We do what our code of conduct allows us to do. We must relate with them because we have a government in power and the constitution says we should but we act as well as we should and as the constitution expects from us in line with our code of conduct and ethics. We are not in tune with any political party, our job is policing.
State government response to security
The government is the chief security officer of the state. We meet regularly to discuss security issues. We formed eminent person forum in Enugu state courtesy of the governor. They gave approval to that. A lot of equipment we are using is sourced by the public headed by the government of the day. So, they assist the police in so many ways.
Some areas where we have done extremely well, we have gotten rewards from them; they have commended our men, pat on our bed. Governor Ugwuanyi has visited our men a number of times, renovated police stations and what have you. He has been a very good friend to the Nigerian police.
Advise to the people of Enugu
Enugu is in the hands of God but God does not come down to secure people.Everyone should be vigilant, watch who is your neighbour, what does he do and should you suspect anything, report to the nearest police station. By and large, we must live as one people under God. Enugu state is visited by people from all manner of life; it is the centre of Igbo land. It is the capital of Igbo nation.
Anything happens to Enugu state affects the Eastern heartland. So, it is important for the people of Enugu state to be mature, reasonable, to accommodate all shades of opinion and to remain with the spirit of enterprise for which the Igbo nation is known for.