The aftermath of police killings and looting of their stations during the #EndSARS protest has continued to trail the populace as the police have refused to reclaim the public space, as directed by the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed Adamu.
Adamu had ordered that the police should reclaim public spaces from hoodlums but, two days after the order, it seems the police have refused to come out of hiding. There have been palpable fear and apprehension from all over the federation that life and property are still in danger. Travellers and motorists all over the federation have been exposed to danger of being robbed, kidnapped or killed in transit.
In the states like Lagos, Abuja, Cross River, Delta and Enugu, among others, there have been complaints of lack of police presence.
A police officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity as he was not supposed to speak with the press said it would be difficult for the police to trust the society and as such the personnel would step outside for some time to teach the civilians a lesson: “For instance, there was complaints about SARS and the government disbanded SARS. So, what else were the people protesting? Are all the policemen bad or members of SARS or evil? We are human beings. We have parents and families. The public did not care to know whether the police officers they were killing were innocent of not.
“The protesters may have genuine reasons to protest but no genuine reason to kill our colleagues and loot our stations. The lesson for the members of the public is that the worst police are better than no police.
“We have received many distress calls since yesterday, but our safety comes first. For instance, what happens if hoodlums overrun us? Nobody will care, as we are now endangered species. For now, we have to concentrate on our stations, our families and ourselves. We have seen that we are hated, so we have to be selfish for once.
“Since you people prefer thugs, hoodlums and other criminals to the police, you can have them and let us be. For days, there were distress calls from the Fagba area of Lagos that Hausa and Yoruba were killing themselves, but we couldn’t respond because we did not know what might happen. We may be overrun by hoodlums and killed. If we succeed and kill someone, even though the person is a criminal, the public will support him and begin to castigate us. We learnt that over 20 people lost their lives. Still in the same Lagos, precisely in Alagbado, we also received distress calls that some cultists were killing themselves; we could not respond. In Benin, Edo State, people were bold enough to release condemned criminals and they are giving us more work, but the criminals will regroup and come back to them. For now, we should concentrate on our barracks.
However, a security expert, Ona Ekhomu, said the colossal damage caused by hoodlums to the police would devastate and demoralize the entire police system.
Ekhomu said: “For instance, over 20 police stations were burnt down and looted by hoodlums. We may argue that the property may be replaced, but what about the policemen that were killed? Calm is gradually returning, but because of the assault on our policemen, they are demoralized. They are using massing method in policing where they are always in large numbers and not the usual way of lone patrols. They are now using wolf pack patrol because this will bring success instead of lone patrol where you see one or two patrol vehicles. I must sincerely say that it was out of abundance of caution that you don’t see the police all over the streets. You can see them maintaining order, like controlling of traffic.
“The way forward is that government and the populace should support the police. Their moral is down. The military should, as a matter of urgency, intervene to give the police support for about two weeks, to enable the police high command strategize. It was quite a shame that a police formation like that of Ajah was under attack for over six hours and there was no backup and assistance.
“The military, though not trained for internal security, because they are trained for external aggression and to kill, they should assist the police for just two weeks. The military should be magnanimous enough to even lend some arms and ammunition to the police for some time.
“For the police, they should know that without the police, there is no government. The police force is the most important and beautiful organ of the government. They are more important than the governor. There are no alternatives to their services. They are to maintain internal security and they should forget that their fingers were burnt and go out to do their duties, while the government and private individuals should appreciate them. They should push out and understand that they are doing the work of God.”
For managing director/CEO of Strict Guards Security, Mr. Bone Efoziem, the police are right to be demoralized; he said some of them lost their lives, others were wounded and their armories were looted.
“Members of the public and the government should encourage them. The police should also utilize the social media to advertise themselves and project the good jobs they are doing. The banned SARS was not totally evil; they should be able to use the cyberspace to tell the good works of their personnel. The National Orientation Agency, religious and community leaders should assist the police force.
“Many firearms, ammunition, police uniforms have been looted or carted away by hoodlums. That is why we need community policing now, because it is through the way the community will be able to identify who is who in uniform. This is the reason why the public should reconcile with the police and assist them in their job. I want to appeal to the police to move forward and begin to have trust with the populace.”
However, Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO) DCP Frank Mba assured members of the public to go about their normal duties as the police have deployed Personnel to reclaim the road:” As I am talking to you ,there is massive police operations going on all over the country in line with the IGP’s directives for commanders to deploy all resources to reclaim the public spaces.I can tell you authoritatively that the police have covered significant grounds and we are making progress.
“ You can see that with the rate at which the activities of hoodlums and looting have reduced. You can see the frequency of attacks on critical infrastructures have reduced. People must understand that in a situation like this, deployment should be on targeted areas purposeful and intelligence driven. We are prioritising our assets to take care of critical and volunarable areas. To protect critical infrastructures, banks ,police facelities and other sensitive facilities.
“ What we need now is not criticism,but cooperation and partnership with the public. We need serious community policing and we welcome legitimate vigilance groups . I assure you that there is no lacuna. We are on the ground and have dominated the areas”.