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IGP Arase, students and their enemies

(Columinst)

Solomon Arase’s smiles writ large on the television screen as he spoke on the New Protocols that would guide officers of the Nigeria Police Force on general policing practices in a constitutional democracy.

The Protocols, which cover the deployment of force, use of fire arms, management of civil disorder and abuse of power policing, among others, impose mandatory legal obligations on officers to respect citizens’ rights and compels them to locate the Force’s policing practices within the framework of global best practices. It’s all good.

The New Protocols highlight the poor policing practices of the past and signal the end to the era of extrajudicial killing of citizens.

The Protocols is about making the New Nigeria Police Man out of the rot of the old that citizens can be proud of. But there’s a snag. A big one at that, capable of putting the wheels of the Force out of its rounds, even before the Protocols take effect.

Here is the snag: what the-oga-at-the-top proposes, the rank and file will dispose.

Let me explain this more clearly.

The Code of Conduct and Professional Standards for Officers of the Nigeria Police Force, launched with fanfare in 2013 by IGP MD Abubakar didn’t prevent rank and file officers, who shaped their lives with those ends to which bribe was a means, and to which the Code was a mere preachment, a chimera of sort, from abusing police powers, or, behaving badly during peaceful protests, from managing civil disorders in a poor way, for instance.

In fact IGP Abubakar knew that fidelity to his Code was impossible in a Force that lacked modern policing nuances just as officers of the Force were also aware of the impossibility of showing fidelity to a Code that was promoted by a legacy hunter.

Truth is: the idea of good conduct isn’t ingrained in the DNA of the Force, so every IGP prefaces his Code and Protocols with the eternal lie- the police is your friend- to elicit public buy-in- to save face, of course.

The Police is your friend.

Tell the barefaced lie to the dead, poor victims of the extrajudicial killings of the police. Tell the lie to folks who are kept in hellholes across the length and breadth of our country, and who cannot meet the monetary demands of the detaining police authority. Tell the lie to Okada riders, taxi drivers, commuters and pedestrians, customers of the mobile banks police officers erect on the major intersections of our streets, roads and highways.

Tell the lie to the inimitable Afro-beat musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti and listen to his eternal truth: “Na so Africa man life dey be. Suffer don dabaru him sense. Abi I lie? When you wear police uniform na to collect money for road. I no dey lie. Police station don turn to bank. DPO na bank manager. IG na managing director. Na big e wahala for man to waka for road at anytime”.

Does Arase not know that the phrase, the police is your friend, is a lie?

Perhaps, he knows and he is deeply bothered by the negative way officers under his command are perceived. Perhaps, he doesn’t know; but he fears that history won’t be kind to him, or tomorrow will frown at his time at Louis Edet House, if he doesn’t leave a noticeable legacy behind. Or, perhaps, he is eager to prove Fela wrong, damn eager to point critics to the Good Old Bills who, like Christ, have come out of his Nazareth.

So he chases time, and runs after history. Will history be kind to him?

History is the ultimate judge of every action and inaction of man, of the damned and the odious, is the recorder of time, of the contest between good and evil, is the moral man who draws attention to the sins of the past and invites us to enter yesterday to learn our lessons today.

George Santayana famously enjoined us to always remember the past, so we are not condemned to repeating yesterday’s shame.

How would Arase remember that harmattan morning of the December day in 1990 when he barged into the LightHouse of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos, and ordered this writer, then President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), and other student leaders, out of the World Press Conference he had called to draw national and global attention to General Babaginda’s assaults on the rights and freedoms of Nigerian students?

Arase and his men were all gun-blazing that day.

They basked in the euphoria of power. They were damn right uncivil. Their body language was simply: the police is not your friend. They show boated. They cocked and pointed guns at the NANS leaders. They meant business.

There was no justification for yesterday’s naked display of power. Like his men and women, today, Arase will explain yesteryear as an era of madness- that era when officers obeyed superior orders without question.

This explanation will no longer do.

The NANS leaders were lucky.

Kunle Adepoju, Akintunde Ojo, Farida Mustapha, Edirin Ukutsemeyan and Olumide Steven weren’t lucky. They were felled by trigger-happy police officers.

The last time students on peaceful protests were killed by soldiers or the police officers was February, 2013. On that black day in Keffi, four students of the Nasarawa State University were murdered in cold blood by soldiers.

Students have suddenly become expendable objects under Arase’s watch.

Here is the evidence: December, 2015, a police van, driven by Inspector John Kanu on a contra-flow traffic killed Edah Oghenekevwe, a final year student of Engineering of the University of Port-Harcourt.

This week Peter Ofurum, a student of the University of Port-Harcourt, was killed by the police during a peaceful protest over tuition fee at that University.

The distance which divides Solomon Arase from MD Yusuf’s time is forty years. Beginning from 1999, the year power was relinquished to the civilian class, more students have been killed by the police in our campuses than the long years of military dictatorship or of the post-independence years preceding it.

The sad irony is that it is those that tax-payers keep in their jobs that turn the campuses into shooting ranges, defenseless students into soft targets.

Nowhere are students damned and wounded by power than in our campuses.

It is in our campuses that they suffer untold hardships, ignominies, and unprecedented assaults the most. It is in our campuses that they are crammed into filthy halls like sardines, fleeced by hall wardens and corrupt administrators who impose all manner of fees and surcharges to cover the shortfalls of stolen public monies.

Dilettante lecturers aren’t left out. They harass female students, shove power in their faces to compel submission.

Harassment, intimidation, suffering are the inescapable lot of our students; they must shrug their shoulders when they are assailed by them. They must learn to stare into the quarters of tyranny and be silent, or, back the wall, hit their heads against it, when they are pushed by tyrants.

No one expects them to keep silence for too long. No one expects them to simply shrug their shoulders when shove turns to push. They will fight back. When they do, the police invariably rush in as a friend of power.

The truth that is engraved on the headstones of martyrs of students’ struggles implicates trigger-happy police officers.

Students, your enemies are legion- yes, they are many. Yes, be afraid, be very afraid.

Arase says, “Police is your friend”. Please, ask him, “Who police don epp?”

 

Double excitement at Investment Summit as FG moves to reactivates Skills Centre, approves Airpeace as International Carrier airline

By Moses Oyediran, Enugu

There was jubilation yesterday at the round-off ceremony of Enugu state International Investment Summit as the minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, announced urgent plans by the federal government to reactivate the moribund Skills Acquisition Centre in Enugu just as the management of the Airpeace Airline also announced that the apex government has granted it approval to operate international flights to five countries.

The approval said to have been given by President Muhammad Buhari was announced by the chairman of the airline, Mr. Allen Onyema, who said the development coupled with the plans of the carrier would make Enugu and the South East Zone a business hub for airline operations in the country since it would be plying China direct from Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.

The two announcements were part of the major highlights during the grand closing session of the three-day investment summit hosted by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who told the gathering yesterday that there was no going back in the resolve of his administration to create a business and investment haven in Enugu state more than ever before.

Both Ngige and Onyema as well as the transport mogul and chairman of Peace Mass Transit Ltd, Dr. Sam Onyishi, addressed the closing session of the summit with the airline operator explaining that Mr. President gave the approval for the international status two weeks ago.

The approval, he explained further permits Airpeace to operate international flights to Atlanta in the United States, China, India, Dubai and to Johannesburg in South Africa, adding that with this leverage, his airline intends to operate direct flights from Enugu to China and then to other West Coast of Africa countries also included in the presidential approval.

The Labour minister who commended Governor Ugwuanyi for the initiative of putting the summit together stated that he would leave the summit ground yesterday to visit the said moribund federal Skills Acquisition Centre in Enugu with the aim of revamping it to make it handy for mopping up a good size of the army of unemployed youth in the South East zone.

Apparently overjoyed in view of the large turnout at the summit, Governor Ugwuanyi who performed the closing ceremony said “it has indeed been an amazing, exciting and I must say, highly successful

three days in this historic City where in concert with some of the most illustrious business concerns and experts, we all sat in council to chart the socio-economic and industrial future of Enugu State and by extension, that of the entire South East region.

“I must say that Enugu State will never be same again for we have not only successfully showcased the vast potentials of the state to the global business world but, from the reactions of participants at the summit, it does appear that we have been able to provoke an unprecedented and unequivocal interest from investors across the world in the idea of bringing their businesses to Enugu.

“The journey to prosperity and economic transformation of the State has therefore undoubtedly commenced and I wish to thank all the Captains of Industry, the financial institutions, the embassies, our erudite guest speakers, experts and specialists in diverse fields and the very eminent and revered personalities who travelled from all over the world to be part of the summit”, said the governor who was in high spirit.

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