By S. Long Williams Esq.
The Nigeria Police Force, Rivers State Police Command is one of the Commands that exist within the strata of the Police in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Its jurisdiction is within the boundaries of Rivers State but may extend its jurisdiction outside the state with the cooperation of sister state commands when a suspect within the state flees to another state or when a crime involves cross command or cross border features.
Our focus here, however, is on Rivers State Police Command as a unit of the Nigeria Police Force in Nigeria.
The Rivers State Police Command is as old as the State itself. Created in 1967 after the creation of Rivers State. Its functions and duties are well spelt out in Section 4 of the Police Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2020 and it is provided as follows:
a. to prevent and detect crimes, and protect the rights and freedom of every person in Nigeria as provided in the Constitution and the African Charter and People’s Right or any other law.
b. maintain public safety, law and order
c, protect the lives and property of all persons in Nigeria
d. enforce all laws and regulations without any prejudice to the existing Acts of other security agencies
e. discharge such duties within and outside Nigeria as may be required of it under this Act or other enabling Law.
f. collaborate with other agencies to take any necessary action and provide the required assistance or support to persons in distress including victims of road accident, fire disasters, earthquakes and floods.
The Rivers State Police Command since its establishment in 1967 has attempted within the limits of the resources and manpower at its disposal to put life to the objectives as contained in Section 4 of the Police Act 2020 as amended, but the germane agitation on the minds of curious observers is whether the Command has impacted positively on the lives of inhabitants of Rivers State vis a vis its aims and objectives?
As presently constituted, no keen observer of the Command will proffer much to cheer about the Police Force in Rivers State. Its conduct and approach to policing leaves much to be desired. It has been a tale of one woe to another. The conduct of Police Officers at their various stations and on the streets leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Friendliness is alien to majority of Police formations, units and officers in Rivers State and it is worse if you are a Legal Practitioner. The slogan “the Police is your friend” is observed more in the opposite. Seriously, the general public now views the Police as its’ worst Public Enemy No. 1.
As a Legal Practitioner, immediately you approach a Police Station or unit and introduce yourself as a lawyer, you are greeted with disdainful looks and viewed with scorn. The Police have constituted themselves as rivals and arch enemies to Legal Practitioners. They become hostile and oftentimes uncooperative when a Legal Practitioner intervenes in a matter upon being briefed. Sometimes they surreptitiously inform and threaten suspects or their relatives as to why they should engage a Legal Practitioner in a matter pending before them. They then make the situation difficult and almost impossible for the suspect.
Getting a suspect on bail at Police Stations is now becoming like the biblical Carmel passing through the eye of a needle. All manner of bail conditions are imposed and when one is not cooperative, the Investigation Police Officer (IPO) or whosoever is in charge disappears or goes underground for hours to make life and situations unbearable all in a bid to cajole, intimidate and frustrate suspects, relatives and the Legal Practitioner involved. Besides anyone who makes a first visit to the Police Station to make a complaint becomes a prey for extortion. You are made to pay to; *Make a complaint * Arrest a suspect * Carry out investigations * Withdraw a complaint * Charge a matter to court The Police Stations and units in Rivers State are now more of business centres. Every action or activity is viewed from the prisms of money exchanging hands. Service and dedication to duty is almost dead.
The conduct, character and actions of Police Officers on the streets is more dreadful. With all manner of uncontrolled and uncoordinated checkpoints scattered here and there, one begins to wonder the essence of these numerous checkpoints that are not yielding any positive results for the security of life and properties of the residents. Oftentimes you will find about eight of such checkpoints on a road of just less than one kilometer like between Station Road and Azikiwe Road in the Old Port Harcourt Township axis. What are they looking for? The Police conduct themselves so shamelessly that one begins to wonder if one day they will not go naked and walk the streets to butress their shamelessness. What about the Traffic Police wardens, they have all abandoned their primary responsibility and are all chasing commercial motorist for peanuts. They encourage drivers to break traffic laws, create illegal motor parks all in a bid to extort money from drivers. The Women Police Officers at Rumuola Flyover have outlived their usefulness, they are now a threat to the society and they should be demobilised immediately.
The new trend now on the road is the use of un-numbered and unmarked cars by supposed Police Officers . They stop at any point and create a checkpoint or they chase a particular vehicle, stop and harass the occupants all in the name of policing. Sometimes motorists are abducted, taken away to far away places and extorted of their hard earned money all in the name of policing. The business of policing in Rivers State is now so lucrative that Police Officers now move around with Automated Teller Machines (ATM) threatening and extorting hapless, hopeless, impoverished, unemployed and subdued Rivers State residents of their hard earned, hardly enough, scarce resources. The Police has learnt nothing from the ENDSARS IMBROGLIO.
The Police act with more of bravado style operations than with the professional intelligence required for police duties. It takes intelligence to unravel and investigate a crime. But alas! what we see everyday is more of bravado than intelligence. Arrest are made before investigations instead of the reverse. Save for crimes that happen spontaneously, investigations are done on a complaint before a suspect is taken in or invited. But no, in the Nigerian Police, immediately a complaint is made whether frivolous or genuine, the Police swings into action immediately to effect the arrest of a suspect without first ascertaining/ investigating the veracity of the complaint. Oftentimes as soon as bail money is collected if the offence is a bailable one, there ends investigations. That zeal that preceded the arrest of the suspects wanes and it becomes what is said in local parlance ” come today come tomorrow” to the frustration and consternation of genuine complainants.
The most worrisome activities of Policemen in Rivers State is this penchant for setting up checkpoints in front of their stations. I have wondered at this form and pattern of policing and I am at sea. How do you set up a checkpoint in front of your Police Station that ordinarily is a security area. The presence of a Police Station in any area is a sign of Police/Security presence in that precinct. Then what is the essence of the checkpoint in front of the station when other areas within the division are devoid of any Police presence. Even a unit as sensitive as Operational Command Headquarters along Ada George are culprits in this disorder. The answer is not farfetched, intimidation/ extortion and lastly cowardice. If the Police are not acting cowardly, how do you mount a check point right in front of your station instead of going out on patrols within the princints of your division or command. The Police are shamelessly acting cowardly. The Police should leave their comfort zones and carry out patrols in and around their various divisions and not to set up road blocks that have never yielded any positive outcomes. The crime rate is Rivers State is rising in geometrical progression and the Police looks helpless. Gift David Okpara Okpolowu aka 2 Baba, the DPO Killer has been on the loose with a N100m bounty placed on his head yet the Police seems not to be doing anything, instead they are busy extorting money from residents. The shamelessness is disturbing.
The Nigerian Police Force, Rivers State Police Command can do better, they should instil or develop the spirit and desire to be named the best Police Command in Nigeria. It is not rocket science! As we commend the Police for the modest achievement recorded this far, the Nigerian Police Force Rivers State Command should accept both compliments and criticisms. It takes both sun and rain for a flower to grow and flourish
The Police ordinarily is a Civil Security Organization and not a military fighting force. They should be civil in their dealings and engagement with members of the public whom they are to serve and protect and not to go about exhibiting bravado features in a Rambo manner that yields nothing. A society where the Police moves about with AK 47 Assault Rifle is at war with itself
The Nigerian Police, Rivers State Command can do better and as a sage rightly said “advice is seldom welcome and those who want it most want it least” (Earl of Chesterfield 1694-1773)
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