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The raid on Edwin Clark’s residence - Tribune Editorial

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In yet another development that caused consternation in the polity, men of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), on September 4, invaded the Asokoro, Abuja residence of the 91-year-old elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark. The search of the house, allegedly in pursuit of illegally stockpiled arms and ammunition, was carried out by four policemen from the Special Tactical Force (STF) in the office of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ibrahim Idris, and lasted for two hours.  A distraught Clark said: “My secretary, Miss Dorothy Koko, was in the bank; they said they must see her room, her bedroom and the office. She had to come back from the bank to open those rooms for them to search. Thereafter, they came up, searched my wife’s room, my children’s room, my other sitting room upstairs and everywhere. This is what happened. I believe it is because of the various meetings we’ve been holding about the state of the nation. No sensible man will think that a 91-year-old man in Abuja will keep ammunition in his house to fight the government.” 

However, in an apology which came as swiftly as the widespread condemnations that trailed the exercise, the IGP said that the invasion did not have his imprimatur, and that he had ordered the detention of the policemen and their informant. A  delegation led by a Deputy Inspector General of Police personally delivered the regrets to Chief Clark. Understandably, against the backdrop of similar invasions by security agencies including the police in recent times, the apology did not mitigate the outrage in the polity. For instance, in its reaction to the incident, a prominent group, the Nigerian Leaders and Elders Forum, said: “We view the provocative search as not arising from any intelligence report but a sheer act of intimidation on a home that has served as a meeting point for patriots across Nigeria who are engaged in peaceful consultations to save Nigeria from the edge of the precipice. The raid is a sad reminder of the era of full-blown dictatorship in 1984 when the home of Chief Obafemi Awolowo was ransacked by solders and officials of the dreaded NSO whose conduct has only been rivaled by the DSS under Lawal Daura before he was removed when the President was on vacation abroad. The traumatisation of Pa Clark at 91 is yet another proof that mad power has taken over our polity…  with all boundaries of decency collapsed for raw display of beastly tendencies.”

If anything, the raid on Chief Clark’s house points to a disruption in the police chain of command. It is inconceivable that a raid of the magnitude carried out on Chief Clark’s house would be undertaken by junior officers without authorisation by their superiors. The raid portrayed the NPF as a lawless organisation where anything goes. It was thoughtless, provocative and unprofessional. Besides, even if the IGP was not apprised of this particular raid, the fact that he made the same claim during the recent siege on the residences of Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, suggests that he is either being economical with the truth or has lost the confidence of his officers and men, neither of which bodes well for national security.  In any case, it is confounding that in the force that he heads, policemen are hardly sensitive to the implications of their actions.  Given the status, age and antecedents of Chief Clark, the police should have been more circumspect in their approach to the allegations against him. Pray, what would have happened if the  nonagenarian had died in the process? Would an apology have sufficed?

Commendably, though, the three inspectors who participated in the raid have been dismissed, while the arrowhead of the raid, ASP David Dominic, has been placed on interdiction. But we are not impressed by the parading of the informant, Mr. Ismail Yakubu. Going by the police’s own account, Mr. Yakubu said he heard the information that arms were being stockpiled in the residence in question during a taxi cab ride and that as a responsible citizen, he could not but inform the police about it. Surely, the charge of providing false information to the police cannot withstand intelligent scrutiny, unless there are facts that the police are keeping away from the public. Mr. Yakubu only told the police what he had heard, not what he had seen or was dead certain about. What a responsible police force would have done was to thank the informant, take down his contact and other details, and then investigate the allegation. That the policemen in question did not take this course of action but instead immediately jumped into a bus, headed to Chief Clark’s residence and subjected the household to psychological horror shows the poor quality of their training and the skewed level of discipline in the force. We assert that it was the police that erred, not Yakubu, and that parading him before television cameras amounted to a disincentive to other citizens who might have useful information for the police now or in the foreseeable future.

It is high time the police and other security agencies realised that their primary duty is to uphold the laws of the land and conducted their affairs honourably. A situation where they are used to settle political scores under any guise should not be tolerated, not least because it would make them vulnerable to charges of political partisanship even when that is clearly not the case. Although the apology to Chief Clark was in order, the best way to demonstrate contrition is to ensure that such raids as he was subjected to cease forthwith.

Tribune

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