Thursday, October 09, 2008

Police Try To Impress

VARIOUS police formations around the country are trying too hard to get the attention of the authorities. They want to show that they are working hard, or are they hardly working? The Inspector General’s announcement of promotions for police personnel who exhibit bravery and commitment to their duties could be behind the laughable efforts that the police make, sometimes actually giving criminals the advantage.

Last week, the police in Lagos paraded some suspects – a practice that abridges the rights of those arrested, as they have not been charged to court – for stealing mobile phones, loitering at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport and siphoning 25 litres of aviation fuel.

The police boasted about how these arrests would serve as deterrent to others. Hashimu Argungun, Commissioner of Police, Airport Command said at the event, “We have realised that Nigeria will be better if the data of criminals are released to the public. The public will be able to know who the criminals are. It will be easier for the public to know who are fit to hold public offices. I believe if Nigeria had been doing this, many evil perpetrators would have changed”.

We expect that Mr. Mike Okiro, the Inspector General of Police, who is a lawyer, should call his people to order. Suspects are not criminals, only a competent court can determine the status of a suspect, the police are not a court.

It is also surprising that Mr. Argungun has such a simple view of what should change Nigeria. Those suspects are unlikely to have electoral ambitions, even if they do, there are opportunities for the police to investigate their past, a task that the police routinely neglect.

How are unauthorised people able to gain access to critical areas of the airport? Is it not too effortless for the police to reason that someone who steals aviation fuel wants to use it as substitute for kerosene? Would the police even be interested in locating his collaborators? Did the possibility of a syndicate, operating in other airports strike the police? Was any thought given to the dangers of aviation fuel being in places people gain unlawful access to it?

Are there no chances that the aviation fuel could be contaminated through this practice? Does fuel contamination not pose dangers to the aviation? The police have succeeded in scaring away those who should be answering these questions.

Obviously, the issues are larger than a man fetching 25 litres of aviation fuel, off an aircraft or from a storage tank. If he had no collaborators, he will not succeed. He must have buyers, to venture into this high-risk enterprise. These matters should bother the police.

It is becoming the norm to parade suspects before the media and release them a little after. The police can and should do more. Nine years after they made all the right noises about Clifford Orji – the police called him a cannibal – the case was quickly charged to court and the matter has been on hold.