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Civil Society Network : Police in governance

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If you look at this issue we have been talking about for a long time now that borders on Government and the people, we said that it is a social contract. It is a contract because two or three people came together and agreed on certain issues and put it down in writing. So, for that of Nigeria, some ethnic nationalities came to­gether and were able to put down something in writing which is called a contract document or the constitu­tion.

You discover that there are three arms of government and three tiers of govern­ment. If you look at the three arms of government, you will find the federal, state and the local government. If you look at the arms of gov­ernment, you find the execu­tive, the legislature and the judiciary.

Looking at some parts of the executives and how they operate, you find that this is the particular angle that reach to the people so quick­ly. Their actions are felt by the masses instantly. They are the ones that executive whatever policies or pro­grammes. And sometimes when government is men­tioned, the minds of the peo­ple only go to the executive.

The legislature and the judiciary are not obvious to them as part of governance. So, they look at the gover­nor, local government chair­man and the rest of them. Why it is like that is because they wield the instrument of force; to execute implies to apply to apply force. Hu­mans are subject to coer­cion. Until you coerce them, they might not want to do what they are supposed to do. The coercive force of the executive is in the hands of such agencies as the police.

Now, if you look at Ni­geria, or Anambra State in particular, majority of the people will be telling you that the police are bad and not friendly. And if you ask them why; they would say that the police extorts mon­ey from them, that police collects money for bail, in­timidates them and all man­ner of things. But, we have to look at it critically. If you do not give to someone, the person will not take. And I strongly believe that the police officers we have are trained before they are given the uniforms.

But, on the other hand, if things are going the way they are going and we keep talking about the masses without looking from the other side, we may not be striking the balance. For instance, somebody was telling me the other that he went to make a report at the police station and he was told to bring money before arrest will be conducted. When I decided to meddle into that, I discovered that the police had a vehicle but there was no fuel in it. If the police community relations do not assist, how do you ex­pect a police officer to move out and effect an arrest. On the other hand, there are some documents that they would need. So, from all in­dications, we will blame them if the government has fulfilled their responsibili­ties where they are.

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But that notwithstanding, there are still some police that, no matter what you do, they would still go out of their ways to misbehave. I was reading about what happened to some police of­ficers because somebody re­ported a case to public com­plaints rapid response unit, and they took up the matter.

At the end, those police officers were dismissed and the money collected from the guy was returned. But what we are saying here as Civil Society is that if the people know their right and oper­ate within the ambits of the law, nobody is permitted to intimidate or harrass them.

The average Anambrari­ans puts his business first and anything that would de­lay him from doing his busi­ness is like the devil to him. So, he is ready to pay any­thing in order to get what­ever obstacle that would delay him from going about his business as he plys the road. But, is that the best approach? If the officers dis­cover that you I know your right and are ready to fight for it, they would give you your way. Look, nobody in­timidates somebody who knows his right.

So it is high time the peo­ple knew their rights and are ready to stand for their right. And that is why we give out our phone numbers to the members of the public telling them to call anytime they are oppressed. The im­mediate past commission­er of police gave us all as­surances that he would not tolerate any form of human right abuse.

We are about to meet the present commissioner of po­lice so that we can also dis­cuss these issues as they affect human rights. That notwithstanding, there are still some bad eggs among the police. If Jesus Christ can have among his twelve, a Judas, how much more the police. We cannot blame the police completely given that they cannot be everywhere. We need to start reporting these bad eggs to the offi­cers. If nobody does it, then things will continue going wrong.

The police is there for a par­ticular role; to keep law and order. If the people do what they are supposed to do, then the police would have no reason to be after them. When someone is suspect­ed of breaking the law and is caught, then let the rule of law be followed. You find some cases where someone was suspected of breaking the law and brought under custody, he will be put in the cell for one week, two weeks and even longer. Which law authorises the police to keep people against their will for so long a time. But the prob­lem is, if you do not know your right , you suffer for it. And that is why we are of­ferign this opportunity to be educating the masses. If you are caught for a crime, you have not been convicted, so you have not been adjudi­cated until you are taken to a court of competent juris­dictiona and tried. The only thing they would have to do is to investigate the matter for which you are being ac­cused. And within 24 or 48 hours, charge you to court. And in court, things are done the legal way. So, the best thing we have to do is to do the right thing, obey the law and we would have no reason to fear.

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If a police misbehaves, he can be fired. if the president or the governor can be fired through impeachment if he goes out of what he has sworn to do in office, how much more the police. There is nobody that is above the law. everybody will be brought to face the law if he goes ultra vires to the rule of the law. But the people should also understand that the police is there to reg­ulate the activities of the people so as to make the so­ciety better organised and habitable.

Checkpoint abuse and ex­tortion of drivers on Anam­bra roads

It is of great concern to us as we move on the road and we see the way these police officers have been mount­ing checkpoints wanton­ly. In fact, Anambra State is becoming a police state, so to speak. We are yet to meet with the new com­missioner of police and dis­cuss with him during which we intend to present such matters to him and hear his own view about it. But that notwithstanding, we will not shield any person who commits a crime. Take for instance, a driver who kinows he is supposed to have his drivers license and the his vehicle lcense up to date, and he refuses to do it and at the same time he says he is beign disturbed, I do not think that you are right. On the other hand, if you have these things intact and the police stop you, you stop and make your partic­ulars available for them to inspect on request. But if af­ter complying and they de­cide to keep delaying you, you check how long they delayed youa nd file a prop­er complaint to appropriate authorities. These days, the smart phones have made the securing evidence easy. The people need to collab­orate with the police and the police with the people so that we will have a civil society.

(To be continued)

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