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Falana, others meet for better policing

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Disturbed by pervasive insecurity in the country, prominent Nigerians, including human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), former Director, Department of State Services (DSS), Mike Ejiofor and Maj.-Gen Benjamin Badewole, have advanced how the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) could perform better to secure life and property in these trying times.

Speaking on the central theme, “21st Century Policing, Intelligence and Crisis Management” at a conference organised at the weekend by the Police Eminent Persons Forum (PEPF) in Lagos, Falana submitted that Nigeria was “moving inexorably to the precipice.”

He warned that if care is not taken, a “full-blown war” could break out, citing the crises in parts of the country, especially the declared “war” against members of the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) in the South-East.

Referencing the altercation between the government and the agitators, the vocal legal practitioner argued that by virtue of Section 305 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the President could only declare a state of emergency after getting approval of both chambers of the National Assembly on the transmission to them.

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He cautioned against dismissing those calling for secession, advising instead that they must be fully engaged, as “the duty of government is to talk to them and not to look down on them.”

Falana held that history was deliberately obliterated from the curriculum to weaken the knowledge base of coming generations on the chequered journey of the most populous nation.

On policing, the activist, who deplored the absence of the Force’s hierarchy at the event, maintained that intelligence gathering was key, but pointed out that the inappropriate posting of officers was defeating the effort.

According to him, if personnel do not understand the languages and histories of their host communities, they would only work round the clock endlessly with no concrete results.

For effectiveness, he suggested that indigenous officers should be deployed in their places of origin to relate well with the people and gather important information that aid security.

He, however, did not fail to remind the police force that it engaged most times in hasty pronouncements and investigations that foreclosed unravelling of facts, referencing the recent murder in Imo of erstwhile aide to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Ahmed Gulak.

The seeming failure of the police, the senior lawyer noted was on account of welfare, as the operatives perform excellently when on peacekeeping abroad where they get the best of motivation.

Amid fears that state police could be abused by the governors, Falana said it remained the way to go provided the initiative gets better finding.

He canvassed a force that is disposed to protection of human rights guaranteed by extent legislations like the Anti-torture Act 2017 and the Police Establishment Act 2020.

The attorney warned against wrongful arrests, saying it was unlawful to apprehend a member of a family in lieu of another, adding that torturing of a suspect breaches the law too.

In his presentation on “ Enhancing Police Community Relations,” Ejiofor noted: “Our persistent security challenges have seemingly defied all therapies as it were. I chose to use the word ‘seemingly’ because our nation’s security challenges are not insurmountable as it is often presented, but is rather not handled with the seriousness and sincerity that it demands.”

He continued: “Unfolding events have brought to the fore that ridding the society of criminals should not be an isolated effort of the police or security agencies. This and other reasons were fundamental factors that birthed the PEPF initiative in 2016 to complement the foremost Police Community Relations Council (PCRC) at various commands by the force under the leadership of Ibrahim Idris, the then Inspector General of Police (IGP.

“Policing is a strategic and tactical venture and therefore demands thoroughness. We often err in Nigeria when we introduce policies that have succeeded in other countries without thinking them through, localisng them to meet indigenous needs and implementing them comprehensively without any form of biases as is done in those countries. It is the lack of thoroughness and manipulative tendencies that cause such failures and not defectiveness of the policy.

“Nigerian elite must stop playing the ostrich. Police community relations under whatever guise – state policing, community policing, etc – is the way to go. We must stop taking long strides backward. Rather, we must begin to take forward looking giant strides like other countries that are growing.”

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In his remarks, Badewole, who recalled that the strength of the police was 152,000 as at 1983, advocated that the 21st force must be just, disciplined and professional in conduct.

Regretting that the institution has performed poorly over the years, the retired soldier stressed that local policing must be able to build confidence in the citizenry in addition to optimal deployment of social media platforms and tools.

He added that the youths must be engaged as eyes and ears of the force in the overall security of the communities.

Earlier, PEPF Chairman, Alhaji Koleosho Shamusideen Olalekan, harped on urgent taming of the insecurity in the country, adding: “We, the most passionate Nigerians, who believe in the Nigeria Project decided to contribute our quota through this conference, an intellectual discourse that might aid the high level security management in Lagos command to think outside the box in their efforts to give to Lagosians a crime-free society.”

Also speaking, the Executive Secretary, Dr. Candyfidel Onwuraokoye, noted: “This stands out because this is the first security conference we are organising as a body, and it is coming at a time when the security situation in the country seems to be a challenge to everyone. So, we are trying to see how we can use this platform to contribute our quota to the situation by bring experts and intellectuals that can add value to the workings of the police through their various expertise.”

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