By Christopher Oji
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria have disagreed on the recent public statement issued by three organisations purportedly representing the position of other groups with respect to the directive by Inspector -General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu disbanding the satellite offices and bases of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) and Special Tactical Squad (STS).
In s statement issued by the former National Coordinator of the Network of Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma now the Executive Director, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Center (RULAAC), Mr. Segun Awosanya, Founder/President, Social Intervention Advocacy Foundation (SIAF) and Justus Ijeoma Esq, Executive Director, International Human Rights and Equity Defense Foundation (I-REF), the CSOs supported the disbanding of the satellite offices and bases of the IRT and STS.
Reacting to the statement, many civil society organizations dismissed the three signatories as speaking for themselves and not the majority of CSOs in Nigeria which are in hundreds.
While they did not fault the right of Nwanguma and his two co-signatories, to issue a statement on the issue in support of the IGP, they expressed serious discontentment with the impression created in the public space that they have spoken on behalf of many others.
Though the current National Coordinator of NOPRIN, Mr. Emmanuel Ikule while commenting on the issue, did not outrightly condemn RULAAC and its co-signatories, yet he disassociated his group from the already issued statement with the contention that NOPRIN was yet to take position which he promised would hopefully be made public on Monday July 20, 2020.
In his words, “NOPRIN is yet to release a press statement. We have sent out documents to members and 29 persons have already signed. We do not rush, so it is only after all members have signed that we make our position known. On this particular issue, our press statement is actually coming out on Monday. ”
The Network of Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) is a coalition of over 40 non-governmental organizations with interest in police related matters but from investigation, many of the coalition members are not in sync with the position of their leadership.
A good number of them who spoke on the basis of anonymity contended that activities of NOPRIN (both past and present) are always centered around the leadership of a few who often times leverage on the large population of NOPRIN to speak on national issues without due consultation with the coalition members.
On this particular issue of disbanding the IRT and STS satellite offices, they argued that at no time had they been approached for their contributions and even though the National Coordinator disclosed that 29 persons had signed, they have challenged him to make the identities of signatories and their organizations public along with the statement on Monday.
One of the NOPRIN members while faulting the position of RULAAC and its co-signatories for outrightly supporting the disbanding of the satellite offices of IRT and STS said “it is true that policemen like other sectors of the economy have their excesses and that they are prone to abuse of powers because of police powers in the constitution but regardless, the good works and huge successes achieved by IRT in particular cannot be swept under the carpet like that.”
The group coordinator said “even though the IGP is not outrightly scrapping IRT and STS, but disbanding the satellite offices, such would take us back to the original problem that informed their establishment in the first place. The position of my organization is that erring officers within IRT and STS should always be fished out and disciplined.”
“The IRT Commander DCP Abba Kyari himself is disciplined hence he is succeeding and winning awards. Other officers under him should be made to emulate him or be thrown out of the system once there is an indicating report rather than disband the entire satellite offices. ”
Some others who anonymously spoke in the same vein, argued further that the civil society organization as a system in Nigeria has greatly been infiltrated and hijacked by criminally minded elements who use their money to set such organizations with their proxies acting as front.
Such anonymous speakers have therefore challenged the security agencies particularly the police and Department of State Service to thoroughly investigate the background of all existing civil society groups in Nigeria with a view to determining their statutory mandate and activities so far.
According to them, some CSOs are being sponsored by rich elements who would always want such CSOs to fight for them whenever they fall fowl of the law or have issues with the law enforcement agents.