“Those who expect to reap the blessing of freedom must like men undergo the fatigue of supporting it”
– Thomas Paine
By Daniel Kanu
Messrs Victor Ebhomenyen and Etinosa Obaywana may not know how God loves them. The duo would have been in the orthopaedic department of a hospital licking their wounds if they are lucky to be alive.
The two were traffic defaulters who were recalcitrant to the point of assaulting a gentleman police officer who stopped them from driving against the traffic, one-way.
A video clip had gone viral on the social media on Saturday, April 17, showing ASP Sunday Erhabor trying to arrest Ebhomenyen and his accomplice, Obaywana, who is at large, for driving against the traffic at Four Point by Sheraton Hotel, Oniru, Victoria Island, Lagos as the duo violently assaulted and inflicted him with severe bodily injuries.
But Erhabor despite being armed with his official AK-47 rifle, still displayed a high level of professionalism and calmness in spite of the provocations by the defaulters, resisting the temptation of using his rifle on them, at least to defend himself.
His action is adjudged rare and exceptional of today’s Nigeria police officers’ behaviour. Therefore, ASP Erhabor will remain a testimonial for other officers to show that they can be civil in the face of provocation or assault from some disobedient individuals.
This behaviour of Erhabor who is attached to the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) of the Lagos State Command has rekindled hope that afterall there are among the police those that will not veer off their professional conduct despite the circumstance.
As encomiums from Nigerians at home and abroad have continued to pour on him, Lagos State, the Centre of Excellence, could not resist such display of brilliant conduct, as the government commended him through an award.
Thus on Monday, April 19, the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu rolled out the red carpet in honour of the gentleman officer.
He was presented a state plaque as a mark of honour and prestige to appreciate his commitment to professionalism, promoting core values of modern policing and protection of fundamental human rights.
Governor Sanwo-Olu captured the entire essence of ASP Erhabor’s commendable conduct in his speech during the award ceremony, when he said: “We are all very quick to condemn men of the Nigeria Police, especially when they are found wanting. We are always very quick to also admonish them. But the event that we all saw over the weekend showed that indeed there are some very commendable police officers.
“In the real heat of provocation, ASP Erhabor displayed high quality of restraint. He displayed calmness and restrained himself from taking laws into his hands. And I think for that little gesture, it is important for us to bring him out so that we also can use him as a testimonial and encouragement for other police officers to show that indeed they can be civil and that police are meant to protect our citizens”.
Before now, the civic space in Nigeria has been under serious attack by the police with their brutality, extortionist tendencies, and other extra-judicial actions that fell short of the recommendations of the UN human rights mechanisms of policing.
The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) as currently constituted was established in 1930, but despite all the claimed reforms conducted at the institution; nothing seems to have changed, particularly in the conduct of the officers towards the people, who it is their responsibility to protect. Most often, they have instead molested and brutalised them.
Things came to a head last year, when the citizens engaged in #EndSARS protests against police brutality on innocent citizens, perpetrated particularly by its unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Perhaps the #EndSARS protest marked a watershed that puts on global focus the atrocious activities of the killer SARS squad which incidentally became the face of the Nigeria Police.
Going by the UN recommendations which Nigeria is a signatory to every death or serious injury in police custody and every alleged extrajudicial execution ought to be adequately and impartially investigated by an independent body and the officers found culpable made to face the wrath of the law, but such does not apply with the Nigeria Police.
Public affairs analysts are of the view that if any institution needs massive moral enhancement, attitudinal change, and genuine reform at this time, it is the Nigeria Police, which is smarting from devastation following the #EndSARS protest countrywide.
To make this happen, the new acting Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba must acknowledge that the current force is depleted, ill-structured, ill-equipped, ill-motivated, and requires recruitment of qualified individuals as well as standard training not only to counter criminal activities, but to also maintain good relationship with the civil society.
It is believed in many quarters that the rising incidents of banditry and kidnapping among other crimes will inevitably be linked with the present lull in police activities; and will call to question the relevance of the institution as presently constituted.
In all, what is expected is for other police officers to emulate the Erhabor example and exhibit a high level of professionalism, maturity and perseverance even at the height of fierce provocation whether on duty or off duty.
ASP Erhabor who was born on November 28, 1969, joined the Nigeria Police in 1992. He has served at various formations before he was posted to the RRS squad, Lagos. He has never received any award since he joined the police until the present award by the Lagos State government.