New Telegraph

‘Why IGP places emphasis on community policing

A few months ago, when the #EndSARS protests swept across the nation, angry mobs, protesting against police brutality, went on a rampage, torching police stations, carting away arms and killing security operatives. Curiously, the Nigeria Police Station, Fegge, Onitsha, Anambra State was spared as residents protected it and its personnel from the rage. In this interview, the Divisional Police Officer, Fegge Police Station, CSP Rabiu Garba, tells OKEY MADUFORO how his relationship with the community saved the day

The #EndSARS protests across the country brought you fame as one man whose station survived the anger of the mob. How did it happen?

To be very honest with you, we never expected it to take place this way. The protest indeed brought to the fore the social responsibility of the police. The police should understand the social contract between them and the people. The police is doing the job of delegated responsibility from the executive and that is exactly what it is. If you look at the constitution of the country, we have checks and balances. Sections 4, 5 and 6 of our constitution provide for the duties of the executive, legislature and judiciary arms of government and each of them act as a check on another. The checks are against executive rascality. The executive and the legislature were elected by the people, which means power belongs to the people, and it is from the elected arms of government that the executive employ people to maintain law and order and that is where the police come into the picture of doing the job of executive delegation. It is from this premise that I draw my position that a policeman is to complement the functions of the executive arm of government and that is why the police are established. Section 3 of the Police Act and Regulation and Section 4 provide functions of protecting lives and property, control and regulation of traffic as well as maintenance of law and order.

What are the specifics when it comes to the role of a police officer?

So, the duty of a police officer is to serve the public and that means he is a public officer. A policeman is not there to become a monster to the community he is serving. The community people pay their taxes and obey the laws of the land and they have the right to enjoy the right and privileges to carry out their lawful economic activities. It is based on this premise that as a police officer, I am a servant of my own community, where I find myself. I am not here to be a monster to my own community. Also, the community has the right to ask questions about the workings of the police in their area.
They have the right to come to the police station to ask questions and under the Freedom of Information Act, within seven days, they will get answers to their questions. Even if it has to do with certain documents, you have to explain to them why it is classified and may lead to unrest in the community. Therefore, it is my duty to pally with the community, but I am not saying that I am going to compromise crime. You have to work with the community to understand their problems and that is why the Inspector General Police has been emphasising on community policing. The people are those you are providing security for and you cannot go and dance along with criminals but to interface with the community. They know the area more than you and that social contract between the police and the people comes handy in maintaining law and order at every given time. For example, the youth in every community are the most vulnerable and they account for over sixty per cent of the population. That explains why we have to be close to them, organize sports activities and all that to really appreciate their problems and fashion out a way of getting them out of the woods. At some point, we get involved with politicians and public spirited leaders of the community to get the youth involved in skill training. Youth activities have become sacrosanct and that makes it imperative to relate with the youths to understand their problems.

Onitsha is the business hub of the South-East and with so much rich men and women but your relationship with them does not reflect in the infra-structure in your division…

This is my own approach and you may not agree with me. The idea has its implications. If a Nigerian comes and puts up a structure here, the police would become a puppet and the police cannot deliver. Tomorrow, if he or any of his relatives has a problem, he would expect you to help him and at the end you would have interfered in the criminal justice system which is repugnant to the tenets of the law. So, that is why I don’t want a situation whereby the police go cap in hand in the name of parleying with the community. We still have publicspirited people who come to assist us. We have new buildings here and there from people who came to show appreciation for what the police are doing. They come intermittently to provide resources and we put it into good use. But by the time you become a town crier, moving from one house to another, demanding money in order to do police work; you will end up perverting justice. The police is a federal establishment, which the citizens have paid their dues for the provision of security so you don’t expect them to be building police stations. However, we are calling for cooperation from the community in case government is not forthcoming at the moment and we use our local content and get solutions to our problems. I chose my own methodology not to disturb the business men who have the opportunity of running their own businesses. I don’t know if government is helping them or if they obtained loans from banks to do business. Even the Bible says that blessed is the hand that giveth and the Koran also says the hand that gives is bigger than the one that receives. As a police man, if you’re at the receiving end, you will have that dependant tendency.

Since after the #EndSARS protest we have been hearing of burning of police stations, are you not worried about such development?

You should understand that the police is a tool of the Federal Government. To be realistic, a lot of people have problems with government and they tend to vent their anger on Federal Government tools which the police is a part of. But if the police as an institution understands that they have to do their job in line with the law, it has to build the confidence of the people first and the people would protect the police stations. A classic example is what happened in my police station during the #EndSARS protest. People were calling me and they came here and told me, ‘Garuba don’t worry we will protect you and your station.’ Poor women selling little things were coming here with goats, rams, yam and all manner of foodstuff and they were feeding us like little children and we were safe, enjoying ourselves. That is why I am against using guns the people paid for through their taxes to intimidate and kill innocent people in the community. When you do that, they will come back to seek vengeance on you, the police man. You will be at the express road extending hands to collect money from motorists and you have not apprehended any criminal suspect. A case comes to your table and because the man has a big shop, you change the charges to criminal charges with all kinds of allegations so that you can extort money from the man. These are wrong deeds that are not expected from the policeman. But again, the public should know that a policeman is somebody’s husband, somebody’s wife, somebody’s son and somebody’s daughter. When you kill the policeman, his children become fatherless and you think that your own children will not become fatherless? This is natural justice. If you have problems with government, you don’t have to travel from Agulu to Onitsha to burn down a police station. There are legal and legitimate ways of addressing issues without burning down government property.

A day will come when you will no longer be the DPO of Fegge Police Station. How will you feel that day?

This is my community and I have no other community. I have traveled to many places in the course of my job as a police officer but it is in Onitsha that I got my fame and it is in Igboland that I made my name. I must tell you that the Igbo man is the most unique person in the entire world and I have never seen such love shown by the Igbo man. The people are hardworking and they show you love. I am not saying this because of any interest but I am telling you that the Igbo show love and brotherhood and I have really enjoyed that love. It is not about money, it is about human sympathy. I love my community and I am feeling for them. I no longer buy fuel in Fegge petrol stations because someone is ready to pay, so I go outside Fegge to buy fuel. I don’t go to restaurants to eat because everyone wants to pay for my food. They even bring food to my office and my colleagues would warn me saying that I will be poisoned. But I tell them, if they put urine inside the bottle and call it a drink, I will take it and nothing will happen to me. I am in love with this community and I cannot hide this love for the Igbo people because there is no part of Nigeria that you will see such love. Money or no money, promotion or no promotion, the love that I have enjoyed in Igboland is the greatest gift to me and my career as a police officer.

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