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Who is in charge of Nigeria Police

The immediate past Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mbu Joseph Mbu was reported to have imported his virulent style of policing into Abuja. According to media reports, he attempted unsuccessfully, on Monday, to ban public demonstrations in the Federal Capital Territory. Though the Police High Command reversed the order, it sounded like a clear afterthought when the police authorities sensed the possible repercussions of Mbu’s action on the polity. That cop is a sad story. From the image of notoriety and arbitrariness that he built for himself while he reigned in Rivers State, one would have imagined that he should have been retired compulsorily. His catalogue of lawlessness will haunt the police for some time to come. At a point, Prof. Wole Soyinka had suggested that Mbu should be sent to a punishment posting to a place like Maiduguri to confront the Boko Haram insurgents. However, instead of punishing him for all the havoc he wreaked and the bad press he gave the police institution, he was rewarded rather than punished.

When I heard the news, I doubted it. I did not believe that sane Nigeria will be prepared to tolerate the excesses of Mbu. I felt that Mbu might have acted out his personal discretion and his understanding of his police duties as he pretentiously tried to explain to the media. However, when he was rewarded with a promotion to such a sensitive position, it became clear who his sponsors are. They posted him to Abuja to demonstrate with audacity that they were in charge of the Nigeria Police. As I write this article, his personal belongings are still in his former official quarters in Port Harcourt. The new Commissioner of Police has yet to move in formally because those who direct things in the Police are hoping to bring Mbu back to complete what he started.

For an institution that is supposed to take charge of internal security in the country, “Mbusim” (as many people now call it) will lead to many things that could erode the image of the government and the Nigerian Police. He hobnobbed openly with politicians and made any observer to know where his loyalty lies. Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma of the Civil Society Network for Police Reforms once described him as a man who has carved a niche for himself as an available tool in the hands of inept politicians. From Rivers State and now to the FCT, he has continued to offer himself as an instrument for the subversion of democracy, repressing freedoms and undermining the rule of law.

It is very wrong that Mbu is heading the police in Abuja. His record of human rights abuses will only tarnish the image of the government further. Those who find him as a willing tool may still continue to use him but his continuous stay in Abuja will not help this government. His forceful disruption of the peaceful solidarity rallies for the abducted girls currently in captivity in Chibok only demonstrates how insensitive those on whose behalf Mbu is acting, have become. For the avoidance of doubt, the Public Order Act, upon which Mbu and cops like him draw the impetus for the action, is no longer known to law. An Appeal Court in Abuja in 2007 reaffirmed it is no longer necessary for any individual or group to apply for and obtain police permit or any approval for that matter to hold public rallies or peaceful assemblies. As part of that judgment, a perpetual injunction was issued restraining the Inspector-General of Police from preventing citizens from convening rallies and peaceful assemblies. By that pronouncement, it became illegal for anyone to ban peaceful public assembly in Nigeria. Mbu’s actions in Rivers State were therefore unconstitutional just as what he attempted to do a few days ago.

As the 2015 elections approach, there is a need to rid the police force of bad eggs who do not respect the rights of the citizens. There is no way the Nigerian public will have confidence in the outcome of an election where partisan policemen are in charge. The public perception of the Nigerian Police has become so bad that politicians are now calling for state police while citizens may resort to self-help. The former Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ogbonaya Onovo, sought to reform the police towards democratic policing. Such practice emphasises that the police must support democratic values including but not limited to, inalienable human rights such as life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Such an approach will make the police to regain the trust of the citizenry as they strive to become accountable, legitimate and subordinate to civil authority and the rule of law, thereby reducing inducements for misconducts and corruption. Citizens desire a police institution that values freedom and creates systems and procedures to protect that. The goal of such policing will shift from oppression and repression to maximising freedom by minimising physical and psychological threats to safety and controlling crime. The outgoing Inspector-General of Police, Muhammed Abubakar, might as well enforce initiate such reforms with the police as his parting gift to Nigerians. He should seize that institution from disgruntled politicians. The IGP should take charge.

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