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Abuja massacre of police officers: Matters arising

The cold blooded massacre last Tuesday of seven police officers who were on duty at their routine stop and search check point at the Galadimawa Roundabout area of Abuja, by yet to be apprehended gunmen, rightfully sent shock waves across the country over the circumstances of the incident. As reported, the officers who qualify to be remembered as the ‘Galadimawa Seven’ were at their duty posts when they were apparently ambushed and killed by gunmen in one of the vehicles they were attending to. A further twist to the sad tale was that some civilians were also killed while others sustained serious injuries in the melee. Meanwhile, the gunmen also left with the guns of the dead police officers. 

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Painfully, so ended the lives of seven young, patriotic Nigerians who apparently left their homes on that fateful day, and looked forward to returning to their loving families at the end of their duty beat. So also commenced the grief and sorrow of their bereaved families over the vacuum left by the deceased, and the privations they will endure in the course of a future without the late breadwinners. Unfortunately, the starting point of the families’ woes may be the Nigeria Police Force itself from whom they would be expecting (often in futility), maximum support over their plight of losing their bread winners. While the immediate burial support from the Force to them may come early for the interment of their fallen husbands, fathers, brothers and sons, they may not be lucky with the more profound balance of the latter’s death benefits. Expectedly the families will join a queue of other bereaved families that may have been waiting for similar relief, over some past years. A case in point is that of the family of late Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Abiodun Diagi whose last posting was the Kubwa Police Station, Abuja. His widow and children have lost hope of collecting the death benefits of their husband and father, after over two years of tackling the issue in vain, at the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters Abuja. 

 As for whichever civilian that was affected in the attack, the misfortunes of such may remain a story for another day, given the traditional inchoate response of the government to such contingencies. Already an unidentified corpse of a man has been found behind one of the housing estates in Wumba district, a suburb that is within ten minutes’ drive, from the scene of the crime. Who knows if he was a victim of the Galadimawa massacre?    

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Hopefully however, the circumstances of the ‘Galadimawa Seven’ may change with the intervention of the National Assembly in the painful circumstances of the killing of these policemen at their duty post. During plenary last Thursday the President of the Senate Bukola Saraki drew the attention of the Red Chamber to the development. In his comment on the matter, Saraki expressed the empathy of the National Assembly and called for an investigation into the circumstances of the development as well as   what the National Assembly can do for the families of the deceased. 

Perhaps, beyond the intervention of the National Assembly it may also not likely be that these gallant, fallen heroes will enjoy more than a casual mention beyond reference to them as mere statistics of police operational casualties. Even as this article is read, other police officers in any of the numerous crisis hot-spots across the country may be dying from bullets, illnesses and other causes of death; and all in the service of the country. This is even as the silence over their humanity and identities will still roll over like a cancelled word. 

And that is where the agitation that spawned this piece derives from. The police along with the other security agents protect the citizenry of this country. But who protects the police and the other security agents who stand out in the face of untold hardship and risk all they have including their lives to protect   the rest of us in the course of doing their job. This question may sound rhetorical, for some people just as the riddle of which is older between the hen and the egg. The import of that question is accentuated by what happened to the affected ‘Galadimawa Seven’ on that fateful day and the response of the country to their sacrifice and that of others so disposed.

While the country awaits the outcome of several investigations into the development, suffice it to say that the sequence of events at the scene of crime calls for additional caution from all and sundry as well as prompt action from all concerned with upgrading the country’s security architecture, of which the police remains the foundation. 

By virtue of their position in the security architecture, the police remain the frontline of the guiding angels of the citizenry including their haters and traducers, such as the ruthless gunmen that snuffed life out of the ‘Galadimawa Seven’. The implication then is that the assault on them constitutes an assault on the collective welfare of the entire citizenry. That is where the intervention of the National Assembly not only falls into context but also provides the impetus for the country to adopt a fresh look at the operational circumstances of the police pursuant to adopting a fast track to a complete make-over of the force, on the basis of the Constitutional provisions. 

 Section 214 of the country’s 1999 Constitution places the entire burden of availing Nigerians of a virile police establishment on the door steps of the National Assembly, as it states in subsection 2(a) that “the Nigeria Police Force shall be organized and administered in accordance with such provisions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly”. This Constitutional provision goes beyond granting the National Assembly the duty of providing only statutory appropriation of funds to the police. Its deeper implications extend to vesting on the legislature, the onus of actually defining what should hold or otherwise in the force. That means that Nigerians get the police force that the National Assembly allows.

 It is against the backdrop of this contention that many Nigerians of goodwill feel disappointed over efforts of the National Assembly to delve into the murky waters of creating state police for the country even as the central police force remains needy of proper attention from the legislature. As far as such Nigerians are concerned the efforts by the National Assembly with respect to state police is tantamount to abdicating its Constitutional duty of reforming the central police establishment, in favour of pandering to the political pressures from state governors, who are only interested in consolidating their power bases, as ephemeral as such are in reality.

 Addressing the country’s policing challenges from the principle of progressing from the known to the unknown dictates that state police can only work in Nigeria when the central Nigerian Police force has been fixed, and not before.

 


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