Saturday, 27 April 2019 07:10

Anything can happen when policemen are stressed – Sheu, AIG Zone 2

Cult clashes in Lagos have become disturbing recently resulting in loss of lives, why has this gone unabated?

Sincerely speaking, when it comes to security and safety of people in Lagos and Ogun states, we can say that crime has reduced drastically. Crime is reducing on a daily basis as a result of the strategies that we put on ground to ensure that the people of these states go about their lawful activities without fear of intimidation and harassment.

 

We have made a lot of arrests especially in relation to cultism, armed robbery and ritual killings. We ensure that our men are committed; they go on patrols day and night. There is no society without crime, but it is the duty of the police to ensure that crimes are minimised to the barest minimum.

We have been doing this by creating an enabling environment where there will be good synergy among security agencies and creating partnership with members of the community. They help greatly in ensuring that police perform their duties effectively. That is why we encourage community policing so that everybody will participate fully in crime fighting.

We also use Police Complaints Response Committee for gathering information and tracking criminals’ hideouts. Our system is always prevention. When you cannot prevent, you go for detection – find out who commits a crime, arrest and prosecute them. We emphasise prevention so that the crime rate will be very low and that is what we are doing in Lagos and Ogun states.

That is why we had relative peace in the states especially during the 2019 general elections.

What has the zone done to nip the cult clashes in the bud?

When it comes to cultism and other violent crimes, we ensure that our men are well lectured and well prepared. We also sensitise members of the public and encourage them to give us information.

In most cases, cultists come out; they don’t hide. People will see them and the environment will be charged to the extent that everybody will be in panic. If information reaches us [on time], we have quick response units across the state that can quickly mobilise to the scene and ensure they make arrests. And those arrested are being prosecuted.

In recent times, more people are falling victims to robbery on the road and in their homes, what is the police doing to address this?    

 

Incidents of robbery on the road mostly affect women whose bags are being snatched especially when they are going to markets. In this case, we ensure that we collaborate with the market authorities. We also put men on plain clothes around markets.

In recent times, all these complaints are no longer there. Anybody who snatches a bag or mobile phone can easily be trailed, apprehended and taken to the nearest police station. They will then be prosecuted. Women no longer complain of hoodlums snatching their handsets or bags and generally the issue of robbery has reduced in the states.

Within a month, two cases of extrajudicial killing were recorded in Lagos, don’t you see this as the failure of the leadership of the police in the state?

The policemen involved in the killings were arrested, investigated and are now facing prosecution in the court of law. This is to tell everybody that the police are not above the law. The police should operate within the ambit of the law. They have no immunity when it comes to commission of crime.

So, any policeman who goes out and commits a crime no matter how small or big it is, we assure members of the public that such policeman will be arrested, investigated and charged to court. We have been sensitising our men and recently the (acting) Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, was in Lagos. He addressed officers and men on the use of firearms. The law is very clear on how and when to use firearms. Our men know this. If they go extra miles and do anything outside the law, they will not be spared.

The police will not condone any act of indiscipline and overzealousness. The present IGP believes in discipline, accountability and transparency and safeguarding the fundamental human rights of all citizens irrespective of whether they are rich or poor and irrespective of where they come from.

Overzealousness displayed mostly by the rank and file is attributed to the lack of stringent supervision by their superiors, do you agree with this? 

They are being strictly monitored. They are well lectured on a daily basis. Before they go out on any assignment or patrol, they must be briefed by the most senior officer on the ground. They are expected to behave in a most professional manner. Any policeman who is unprofessional or indisciplined will bear the consequence of their action.

Do you subscribe to the idea that senior officers should also be held responsible for the misconduct of their subordinates?

I do not subscribe to that in the sense that they have been trained and they know the law. They know that they are answerable for their actions. No senior officer will tell a junior officer to go and commit crime. No senior officer will condone indiscipline; no senior officer will close his eyes while junior officers go out of their way to commit crime.

Every community has good and bad people. The police are part of the community and cannot run away from having bad ones. Once these bad ones are identified, they will be dealt with and be shown the way out of the Force. The present police force will not condone unruly behaviour of policemen who have no human feelings. The fundamental human rights are enshrined in the constitution and must be safeguarded.

The police had promised that psychiatric test would be carried out on its men, why has it not been done?

Policemen are always undergoing tests of different kinds. We are being encouraged not only to carry out psychiatric test but also take care of our health.

A normal policeman should be healthy before he can discharge his duty. Any policeman who is not healthy and refuses to do check-ups is not helping  himself. Health is wealth. In the Nigeria Police Force, we have hospitals and clinics all over the country and we don’t have to spend a dime for treatment. Policemen and officers are encouraged to look after their health. It is when they are healthy that they can discharge their services to the nation and the people.

Does the mental state of policemen have any connection with the brutality they perpetrate?

People are naturally bad right from their homes. Identical twins look the same but when it comes to behaviour, they are different. Behaviour is something that has to do with the nature of a man and that is why the police tirelessly lecture the men. There is no way you can have two people with the same kind of behaviour.

On the question of whether some policemen are mentally derailed; well, it is possible but I don’t think so. Some policemen when they go on duty, become overzealous. And don’t forget; even the job itself is too stressful. We are always in the sun and working round the clock. You cannot expect that such people will not be overstressed. So, when they are stressed, anything can happen. But the good ones among us, even when we are stressed, we do the right thing.

Do you think the unfriendly attitude of some policemen towards civilians is borne out of their poor welfare as some people claim?

I am not aware of that. Whatever complaint a policeman has, if at all there is any, it does not give them the audacity and courage to act in an overzealous manner to the extent of taking their guns and shooting people. That is not an excuse.

Behaviour is different from any complaint a policeman can have. They should know that they are going out to protect lives and property. They should know they are going out to maintain law and order. So, they should be the least persons to abuse the law.

Some people now dread men in black uniforms as a result of the increasing rate of police brutality, do you think their fears are justified?

Don’t forget that our own behaviour as Nigerians is quite different too. Some Nigerians are very unruly and by the time they see policemen, they can be unruly. And by the time a policeman wants to take an action against them, they will make an allegation against him.

We can’t just conclude that policemen are harassing people. Investigation has to be conducted to establish that somebody is truly being harassed or intimidated. On this note, I am calling on people of Lagos and Ogun states to please cooperate with the police while we discharge our duties.

The police cannot do it alone. We are also human beings. The police have blood and flesh like any other human being. So, when they are seen discharging their duties, they should be assisted. Sometimes a policeman on traffic duty will stop a vehicle but instead of the driver to stop, he will try to knock down the policeman. This kind of unruly behaviour is bad.

For us to have a peaceful and secure environment, it is for everybody to be law-abiding. Everybody must behave within the ambits of the law. The police are only there to enforce laws; they don’t make laws. They are doing this for the benefit of everybody and to ensure that the society is peaceful. Without peace and security, business will not thrive.

Lagos State in particular is the centre of business. If there is no security, I tell you the business will vanish. People cannot live in any society without security. It is because of the security that is in place that makes people throng Lagos. We cannot overrule that there are some complaints here and there. The officers are being checkmated. We lecture them and correct them when there is the need for corrections. And if it means they should be arrested, we arrest them. Nobody is being spared.

The United States recently warned its citizens to reconsider travelling to Nigeria because of high incidents of kidnapping, robbery and other violent crimes, does this not negate your claim that security has improved?

We are talking of Lagos and Ogun states. We are not talking of Nigeria as a whole. I will restrict myself to the two states and as far as I am concerned, no other state enjoys the level of safety and security in Lagos and Ogun states. That is why you see people coming to Lagos on a daily basis for business. The volume of trade going on in Lagos will not be possible without assurances of security. The police are doing their best.

Of course, security is not only for the police, we work in synergy with other security agencies. But because the police are the leading security agency, everybody talks about the police. We are doing our best and people can attest to it.

The police are now reportedly involved in the negotiation of ransoms with kidnappers. For instance a kidnapped Canadian recently said a Special Anti-Robbery Squad operative in the Ogun State Police Command was involved in the payment of N2.5m ransom for his release, what can you say on this?

Don’t believe in the social media.

But some newspapers also reported it?

A policeman cannot negotiate with kidnappers or terrorists. That is not his job. A policeman’s job is to save the victim alive and unhurt. A policeman cannot do that (ransom negotiation). Don’t believe in hearsay stories. Let the person come out and show us the SARS man that facilitated the negotiation.

Why is it that on many occasions, people have to pay ransoms before kidnapped victims are released?

I have never heard of people paying ransoms. But I have seen policemen rescue kidnap victims unhurt and arrest the suspects. There was never a time a kidnapper comes out to say a policeman assisted in negotiation of ransoms.

What of instances where the police use ransoms as baits for kidnappers?

I am not aware of that. What I know is that the police use electronic means. We don’t even have to have personal contact before arresting them. We have so many ways of tracking them. Through the tracking system, we can trace and arrest these criminals. That is why I am surprised you said policemen are involved in negotiation. There is no need for that. By the time we improve on our gadgets, I believe kidnapping will be history.

People allege that the police have turned arrests to a money-making venture, especially by apprehending youths indiscriminately based on their appearance, what is your position on this?

Well, the Nigeria Police Force is against unlawful arrests, detention and collection of money for bail. It is an offence. The present IGP frowns on this act. He will not tolerate any policeman that goes out and arrests people illegally with the aim of collecting money. If any policeman engages in this act, they better stop it because the day the law catches up with them, they will face the consequence.

Some people also said they paid heavily to secure bail in Zone 2 Command, what have you done to address this ugly trend?

Since I came here in November 2018, I have never heard of that. We warn our men every day to ensure that nobody is arrested and their statement taken without the presence of their lawyers.

When it comes to the issue of bail, the lawyer must be around. This is the mechanism we have put on ground to ensure that bail conditions are not abused. Policemen must not collect money for bail and that is our policy here. We don’t even go out for arrest. We send invitation letters and the letters will advise you to come with your lawyer if you have any. You have the right not to make a statement without the presence of your lawyer and no policeman must harass you to make statement or tell you they cannot wait for your lawyer. Even if you say you don’t have a lawyer, we will ask you to call your relative so that you don’t say the police have done bad to you at the end of the day.

Since I came here, I have addressed everything. We don’t encourage intimidation of suspects or collection of money from them for bail in our commands. We believe the mechanism will go a long way in ensuring that if we have any corrupt police officer, it will not give him the chance of indulging in corruption or collection of bail money.

In the light of the prevailing insecurity in the country, is there an increase in application for gun licence?

Who applies for gun licence now when we are trying to mop up guns in the hands of people? The police and government are making efforts to ensure that proliferation of small arms is being checked. So the question of application of gun licence does not arise.

How many guns have been recovered by the Zone since the mop-up operation started?

I cannot give you the number now for security reasons, but we have recovered so many arms both sophisticated and small arms. Through this, the criminals are now running away.

A senior police officer recently said Nigerians should not relate with policemen in Queen’s English, does that mean the officials are not literate enough?

I am not aware of that. In the police now, we have a lot of graduates. We have so many lawyers, engineers, technocrats and everything that you can think of. In fact, the police can compete with any organisation when it comes to educational qualifications. I see no reason anybody will say members of the public should not speak standard English to policemen when the official language of the country is English.

You cannot be enlisted into the Nigeria Police Force if you cannot put up a good write-up in English. If you cannot speak good English, then what are you doing in the police? It is better you go home and become a labourer or a carpenter.

The society is changing and we are receiving visitors – tourists and businessmen – from outside the country. So, if a policeman cannot speak good English, where are we heading to? Wherever you got your information from, I think no police officer would say that. Policemen are more educated now than before. Any level of qualification you can think of, we have it in the police. We even have PhD holders among the junior ranks; many of them. So, I believe you got that information through the social media and it is a rumour.

There is a renewed call from members of the public that SARS should be scrapped, do you think their agitation is justified going by the spate of police brutality?

I didn’t hear anybody say that SARS should be scrapped. Since I came to Lagos, I have not heard that SARS are harassing people anyhow. The SARS are very few compared to the number of policemen we have. Anywhere you go in the country, you will see policemen and you cannot say every policeman is harassing people. Even if somebody says SARS are harassing people, is it all the police?

Are you saying there is nothing wrong with the SARS operations?

I am not a SARS officer. What I am telling you is that what is sauce for the geese is also sauce for the gander. Whether SARS or mobile police, all policemen should act within the ambit of the law. If they go out and act contrary to that, they will be subjected to the rules and regulations of the country. Anybody who commits an offence, whether SARS or not, once you’re a policeman, you will face the law. If you go out and dehumanise somebody, the law will catch up on you. The fundamental human rights of the citizens are sacred and must be protected by the police.

Do you think state police is one of the solutions to the security issues in the country as suggested by some Nigerians?

I am not in a position to say whether there is the need for it or not. All I know is that no society can exist without police.

Even if you don’t have federal police, in villages people have vigilantes. So everybody is a policeman. At night, you lock your house for security reasons and safety. The only difference is that some are employed by the government. After all, the law gives the citizens the power to arrest. But the law says immediately you arrest, hand over to the police.

The law states that a suspect must not be detained for more than 24 hours but in many cases this is violated even when the offence is bailable, why has this become a tradition in the Force?

The law is very clear. We have capital offences, bailable and non-bailable offences. It depends on the nature of offence.

If a suspect is arrested for a non-bailable offence, the police hands are tight. The suspect cannot be bailed out. But where the law says the offence is bailable, the suspect can be released on bail. That is why we advise people to come with their lawyers.

But cases that are very serious in nature; cases that are capital offences, they are not bailbable and non-compoundable. If a policeman gives bail in such cases, he too is committing an offence. We are bound to obey the law. When we transgress and break law, it will bounce back on us.

‘Investigation is ongoing’ has become a cliché in the police and on many occasions, nothing comes out of it, why is this so?

Some cases can take years before we finish investigation. Even in court, at times, a case may linger on for years. So, it depends on the nature of the case and availability of evidence on the case. It depends on how you can lay your hands on those who participated in the commission of a crime.

When Mr ‘A’ brings a complaint against Mr ‘B’ and Mr ‘B’ is already in Dubai, how do you expect that such case will finish in one day? Every case comes with its own peculiarities. There are cases that within two minutes, you can settle them and make peace. But where you have a very serious issue before you and you need to have so many witnesses and lay hands on suspects, it will take time.

Earlier, you said that the police performed creditably well in the last elections, how do you respond to allegations that some policemen were involved in electoral malpractices?

Not in Lagos and Ogun states. As far as I know, the police performed wonderfully well in the two states during the presidential and governorship elections. I went round and the elections were conducted peacefully. There was no intimidation or harassment by the police. Nobody came out to complain against the police.

What of the allegation that policemen allowed hoodlums to have a field day in the Okota area of Lagos during the presidential and National Assembly elections?

We learnt that a box was snatched and burnt down and the person who did it was also attacked, but he was not killed.

Few arrests were made and they have been charged to court. Elections were peaceful as far as Lagos and Ogun states are concerned.

People thought Lagos would be on fire, but with the performance of the police, there was nothing like that.

Punch

 

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