The just-concluded 2019 general elections have left sour tastes in the mouths of many Nigerian voters, security agents and the managers of the country’s electoral system. The pockets of violence and intimidation that characterised the elections in several states and the victims of such unwarranted attacks are still licking their wounds while the authorities that engaged their services are carrying on as if nothing to the contrary happened.
During the elections, rampaging thugs doing the biddings of their masters attacked and molested voters, destroyed public property, especially the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) offices in various parts of the country.
In some cases, these political hoodlums even invaded election collation centres, disrupted the processes and attempted to rewrite the results.
Security agents who tried to keep law and order were not spared. Some were shot, others were kidnapped and humiliated. In this category falls the deputy commissioner of police in charge of Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) in Bayelsa State, DCP Kola Okunola.
During the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections, Okunola was kidnapped and stripped naked by political thugs when he prevented them from returning snatched election materials from some wards at a collation centre in Bayelsa State.
Okunola was said to have incurred the wrath of the assailants for standing up when occasion demanded. The thugs had reportedly taken away election materials meant for seven wards and prevented the electorate in the affected areas from voting. They allegedly returned later to the collation centre to smuggle in the election materials, but the DCP courageously resisted the attempt. The frustrated hoodlums then pounced on him and abducted him until the state government alerted the public about the development.
The secretary to the state government (SSG), Mr. Kemela Okara, who disclosed Okunola’s ordeal, alleged that some military personnel had tried to pressure the DCP into accepting the fake results from Brass, and that Okunola’s stance caused a rift between him and a major of the Nigerian Army and his men.
The state government fingered a former governor of the state and a member of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly in the kidnap of the DCP. Sadly enough, the former governor later appeared on a television programme to defend the action of the thugs. He argued that DCP Okunola had no business being at the collation centre at the time because he was not an INEC official.
Sadly enough, Bayelsa and Rivers states have developed a notoriety for killing security personnel, especially policemen. During the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, 12 policemen, including an assistant commissioner of police, were killed in Odi in Bayelsa State. That led to the Odi killings by soldiers in 2002 ordered by President Olusegun Obasanjo.
A deputy superintendent of police (DSP), Mr. Alkali Mohammed, was also killed while his orderly was beheaded by thugs in Omoku area of Rivers State during a rerun election in 2016.
The most bizarre incident occurred in Alakyo, Nasarawa State in 2013 when members of the Ombatse cult killed 95 policemen in one day. Ten DSS operatives also died in that attack.
Apart from the above-mentioned cases, there have been other killings of policemen who were carrying out their lawful duties across the country.
The Police Act mandates policemen to prevent crime, apprehend offenders, preserve law and order and protect life and property and enforce all laws and regulations all over the country, among other duties.
The position of the former Bayelsa State governor that DCP Okunola was at the right place at the wrong time is, therefore, untenable. Even if Okunola was on illegal duty on election day, a former chief security officer in a state cannot be seen to be promoting mob action against an officer of the law. He should report the officer to his superiors for legitimate disciplinary action.
As a newspaper, we totally condemn this assault on DCP Okunola. Security agents are the commonest symbols of the state authority, so an assault of any of them is an assault on the state, especially when they are answering the call of duty.
It is good that the acting inspector-general of police (IGP), Mr. Adamu Mohammed, has ordered the arrest and diligent prosecution of the assailants. We, however, urge him to go the whole hog and apprehend the godfathers of these thugs who may have sent them on that unholy errand. The police institution needs to take a tough action on them for its own good.
From the pictures of the incident published in the traditional and social media, the perpetrators of the act can easily be identified. From them, their sponsors can be caught and made to face the law,
Finally, if Okunola is found to have suffered this humbling attack for refusing to compromise his duty post, it behoves on his employers to accord him an official commendation. That will serve as a big motivation to other policemen and officers to stay on the side of the law at all times.
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