There is now palpable fear across the country as the police have kept off the roads following the havoc wreaked on the force during the #EndSARS protests.
After the protests, Nigerians had expected the police, which were a major beneficiary of the protest’s demand – better condition of service – would return to continue to protect lives and property.
But this is not the case as across the country, the police have stayed off the roads, guarding now only their stations, barracks and a few public institutions.
Investigation revealed that robbery is already on the rise as the hoodlums who now man the roads are ready collaborators to criminals.
However, the police authorities are claiming that they have massively deployed personnel to reclaim the road after the EndSARS protests.
But investigations showed that the killings and looting of their stations during the protests have continued have continued to hinder the officers from reclaiming the public space as directed by the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr Mohammed Adamu.
Adamu had ordered that the police to reclaim the public space from hoodlums, but many days after the order, the officers have refused to come out of their hiding.
Thus, there have been palpable fear and apprehension from all over the federation that life and property are still in danger. Consequently, travellers and motorists all over the federation have been exposed to danger of being robbed, kidnapped or killed on transit.
When Sunday Sun went round some parts of the country on Friday, no policeman or patrol vehicles were seen, except in some critical areas like the Central Bank of Nigeria offices.
Therefore, there is high tension and fear everywhere as hoodlums have hijacked the streets, doing the functions of the police, like traffic control, which in most cases have created confusion by causing gridlocks just as motorists and other road users are extorted by the hoodlums.
A police officer, Sam, who claimed he was not supposed to speak to the press, disclosed that it would be difficult for the police to trust the society and as such their personnel would step aside for some time to teach the civilians a lesson that the worst police is better than no police.
“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 all 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.
“We have received many distress calls for many days, 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. I must be candid with you, we have to defend our stations, ourselves and families first.
“You are talking of gridlock everywhere, yes, even other paramilitary agencies, especially those in traffic section, like Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LATSMA) and others like the fire service cannot operate without the police because they will be attacked. LATSMA officials can be killed or beaten up by commercial bus drivers and commercial motorcycle operators without the police, so you guys are going to go through hell for some time.
“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 all over the state, but we can’t respond because we don’t know what may 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. 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. Our moral is down for now.
“For instance, over 200 police stations across the nation were burnt down and looted by hoodlums. We may argue that the property may be replaced, but what about over 20 policemen that were killed?
“Many firearms, ammunition, police uniforms have been looted or carted away by hoodlums. We are still counting our losses, mourning and weeping for our dead colleagues. We lost our colleagues, so you people should allow us to be. For instance, in Lagos State alone, 58 police vehicles were burnt while 13 were vandalised by the mob. Four of our men were also killed while many were injured. There is no state where one or two policemen were not killed. Just in Ekiti State two police officers who were going to their places of primary assignment ran into protesters who mobbed them; killed them, roasted them and ate their meat. What a wickedness. At Abakpa Nike in Enugu State, a police officer was killed by his civilian friends. In Lagos, we lost four men. Who will see all these and not be demoralized. The civilians are concerned about our returning to the roads, but none is mourning with us. Some of our offices have been burnt, so what do you expect us to do, to work in burnt offices?” he queried.
Another police officer, Joseph, who disagreed with Sam’s narratives, maintained that some policemen have returned to the road.
“We are on the roads, but what we do these days is wolves-pack patrol, where we move in large numbers. I am attached to the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) of the Lagos State Police Command. We move in convoy, but why people are not feeling our impact is that we no longer operate as we used to do when we station one or two patrol vehicles on strategic positions. What we do now is to move around in group. The reason is that we are prone to attacks, but if we are in large numbers, at least we will be able to defend ourselves.
“I sincerely want to advise the government to give us equipment, such as water canon, stung gun, tear gas, smoking gun. We need all these to dispel rioters; we need more arms and ammunition. We don’t have all these, yet you people want us to go back to the roads as we used to do. The Federal Government and the police high command should look into our plight first”.
But, the 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 roads.
“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 infrastructure has 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 vulnerable areas. To protect critical infrastructure, banks, police facilities 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. We need logistics such as teargas canisters, water canons and vehicles and more arms and ammunition to enable us reclaim the public spaces,” he said.
At the weekend, IGP Adamu had ordered all Assistant Inspectors-General of Police, Commissioners of Police and commanders of formations to reclaim public spaces after the mayhem that ensued during the #EndSARS protest against police brutality.
Hoodlums seized the protests to unleash violence on public and private property, as well as individuals, with the security agencies keeping a low profile.
A security expert, Chairman Trans-world Security, Dr Onah Ekhomu, has advised that the military should quickly intervene for two weeks to enable the police come out of the trauma of the EndSARS protest where some of them were killed and their property destroyed.
Ekhomu explained that the police had lost arms and ammunition, so the military should lend them some arms and ammunition till the police are able to equip their armouries again.