Irate policemen on July 17 this year caused disquiet in Kaduna when they shot in the air to protest the ambush and killing of four of their colleagues by bandits while on patrol duty. The attack occurred at Tabani village in the volatile Birnin-Gwari local government area of Kaduna State. Unfortunately one of their bullets took the life of a widow.
The action of the policemen, no doubt, stemmed from frustration over the alarming rate of deadly attacks on their colleagues by armed bandits. On Monday July 4, seven policemen were shot dead at Galadimawa Roundabout in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The assailants were said to have made away with the policemen’s arms. The previous day, in another part of the capital territory, two other cops were killed at a checkpoint at the Abaji area. Just like in Galadimawa, the assailants took their victims’ arms away.
On July 15 in Edo State, four policemen from the Sabon-Ora division were killed at a junction between Oke-Ora and Avbiosi in Oran LGA. According to reports, they were about alighting from their patrol vehicle when the bandits opened fire on them. Not done, they took their guns and set their bodies ablaze in what points to a grudge killing.
About a month earlier, three policemen guarding a Syrian were killed by criminals in Sokoto, according to Governor Aminu Tambuwal, while four others were slain in Benue State a few days earlier. Back in May, gunmen struck in Obio/Akpor LGA, Rivers State, where they followed two policemen to a spot in an SUV before shooting them dead.
The most grievous in terms of casualty level in recent times seems to be the bloody bank robberies in Offa, Kwara State, when on April 5, gunmen killed 30 persons, including nine policemen on duty at their station before raiding six banks.
Needles to say, the attacks on policemen at their duty posts have taken an alarming dimension. Time was when criminals steered clear of their targeted victims once an armed policeman was in the vicinity. These days the policemen themselves are the victims.
As a newspaper, we strongly condemn this brazen and deliberate targeting of agents of state security for assassination. Apart from constituting a huge waste of trained, policing manpower, especially in a country where the paucity of police personnel is well known, it erodes the confidence of the people in the state’s ability to fulfil its primary mandate of protecting life and property. If policemen that the people hope in for their physical security are themselves successfully pounced upon with such reckless abandon, what hope do the unarmed and defenceless citizens have against the outlaws?
It is not unexpected that policemen sometimes pay the supreme price in the line of duty while trying to thwart criminal elements from hatching and perfecting their evil plots. However, this wanton killing of policemen cannot go on.
In our view, policemen ought to increase their level of vigilance while on duty. They should realise that bandits always target their arms and would readily kill for it, so they must be alert at all times for they cannot tell when the hoodlums will strike. Regrettably, most of the time, policemen at checkpoints are too consumed by what they can collect, or extort, from the public to prioritise their personal safety, making them easy prey. In the September 24, 2017 abduction of Dr Andy Ehanire, the executive director of Ogba Zoo and Nature Part, Benin, and younger brother of the minister of state for Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, the bandits tricked the three policemen on duty by buying them beer before disarming and killing them. Such level of carelessness has no place in police work.
There is also the absolute necessity to upgrade the operational gadgets used by the police. The Nigerian policing system is still stuck with outdated and ineffective methods of crime fighting. The use of modern equipment in crime prevention and detection will cut down the plentiful manpower losses.
Finally, the police need to smoothen their relationship with the ordinary people in order to attract public sympathy, support and respect for the difficult challenges they face in their line of work.