Malachy Agbo who witnessed the formal assumption of office of the new Commissioner of Police, Rivers State Command, Tunde Ogunshakin, writes that the new CP looks set to restore law and order in the state
â€œWe want peace. We want police to reduce the growing crime rate in Port Harcourt. We donâ€™t want to return to the days of day time gun battle between the military and hoodlums,â€ were the words of Mrs. Bridget Ebiri, a rural dweller who sells roasted plantain in Okporo Road, off Aba Road, Port Harcourt.
With the wishes of Bridget and so many other people who live in Port Harcourt and other parts of Rivers State, the job of the new Commissioner of Police, Rivers State, Mr. Johnson Babatunde Ogunshakin is cut out. Before his redeployment to the Garden City, the state has been enmeshed in heated political tensions. Not with most of the news emanating from the state lased with acrimony. And political observers were quick to adduce that the state was drifting from the ethos of democracy.
Unfortunately, police was cut in the web of controversies ensuing between the two opposing political parties in the state – All Progressive Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as it was often accused of taking side. Policeâ€™s meager and battered reputation was further depleted. So, the redeployment of Ogunshaki to the state was seen as a redemption mission, to either mitigate the battered image of the Police or further diminish it.
Thursday, February 13, 2014 turned out to be the busiest day in the early days of the new CP. First in that morning was preparation to pay a courtesy call (which turned out to be a grand reception) on the governor of the state, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi at the government House, Port Harcourt. While embarking on that visit, one question was surely regurgitating the minds of both the CPâ€™s entourage and that of his host. Will this man change the atmosphere in the state? Will he be impartial? Can he rerun peace to the state?
Though, he had earlier given clue to some of the questions agitating the minds of most Rivers people, still, they want to hear it from his mouth, fresh and direct. Apparently not to be taken unawares, he had prepared his speech before hand, emphasising on peace, crime reduction and protection of life and property in the state and above all, being professional. These were his cardinal points, which no one can fault.
Ogunsakin told the listening audience that it was proper and of necessity that the Governor of a state and the Commissioner of Police should synergize to pursue and enhance the security of lives and properties in the state. â€œThis is the crux of my visit to your office today.â€
According to him, â€œThe President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces is the Chief Security Officer of the Federation, while the Inspector General of Police is the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the Federation. Also, in a state, the Executive Governor is the Chief Security Officer, and the Commissioner of Police is the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the State. This relationship is definitely best appreciated when it is harnessed to ensure peace and tranquility in the state.â€
On his own part, Amaechi, used the occasion to urge the new Police Commissioner to work towards restoring effective policing in the state.
He also said that his administration was willing to cooperate with the Police in the state to restore law and order as long as the Police was ready to be non-partisan and neutral.
According to him, â€œWe are willing to co-operate with the Police to restore law and order. The only thing we need is for the Police to have the courage to restore law and order. The Police must do whatever it takes to restore law and order, the Rivers State Government will assist the Nigerian Police in any form that they require.
â€œDonâ€™t support PDP, and donâ€™t also support APC. Just, support Rivers people. Any order that is illegal from the Rivers State Government, please, donâ€™t obey. What we want is a neutral Police Commissioner that is firm and understands that the state needs to accommodate everybody and not one that loves to be in any of the political parties. I must congratulate you, the plans you have are also well-thought out, and needs the support of the Rivers State Government.â€
After this important curtsey call, the stateâ€™s Police boss returned to his office to attend to guests from all works of life coming to welcome him to the state. As he was listening, he would intermittently script something on the files he inherited from the outgoing CP, Mr. Joseph Mbu. Also, at some intervals he would bend one side to hear whisperings from some of his aides and top police officers intercepting.
Back to his jam-packed office which he has ordered to be made roomy and airy, some obsolete gadgets and furniture that made the office clumsy were taken out to create space. OC Works, as he was called and his men were busy trying to manipulate the placement of items if the office is to achieve certain look and feel as desired by the new CP. His office re-configuration vision is the design with theme: â€œnew wine in a new bottleâ€. So by the time he finishes with his crispy touches, the office will certainly be a departure from the past.
Next in the agenda for the day was press conference. At the last count, there were about 67 journalists waiting at one crunchy room turned conference hall. Some of them were seated, while many were standing. By 2pm on the dot, the new CP showed up with his team of other senior officers and went straight to the business of the day. Though the microphone was often losing frequency, he didnâ€™t hesitate to reel out his vision for the state.
Ogunshaki at the conference expressed his readiness to partner with various communities, stakeholders and institutions in the state, with a view to ensuring true professional policing in the state.
â€œI am convinced that this will go a long way in assisting us in arriving at a common ground towards a harmonious and peaceful co-existence,â€ he said.
While advising hoodlums to desist from every criminal activity in the state, the new CP, vowed to clamp down on any form of criminality in the area, just as he promised to make professionalism his watch word, while discharging his duties.
On the vexed issue of rallies, he said that the ban on political rallies put in place in the state by his predecessor was still in place. However, he pointed out that any association or pressure group intending to hold a rally must give the police at least five days notice to enable them provide security
Ogunsakin explained that no political party would be allowed to hold any rally until the time stipulated by the countryâ€™s Electoral Act which says that political parties should not commence rallies until 90 days before the date of elections.
â€œMy role as a law enforcement officer in a situation like this is to insist that political activities in the state should be carried out within the ambit of the law in a way that the security of the state will not be threatened in any manner,â€ he said.
He stressed that the police will go after any person, pressure groups and associations that may constitute security threat to the state, adding that such a group will be dealt with according to the law.
â€œI am convinced that this will go a long way in assisting us in arriving at a common ground towards a harmonious and peaceful co-
existence,â€ he said.
Shortly after the press conference, he headed to have a meeting with the heads of units, area commanders and divisional police officers. The crux of his meeting with this set of police manpower was to tell them that this is the time to work, while he will provide purposeful leadership.
He appealed to them to continue to maintain utmost discipline, decorum and firmness while discharging their duties. â€œI will support you in your job. But I cannot tolerate indiscipline. You must do your job with integrity. Anyone caught indulging in corruption will be dealt with accordingly. You must respect human rights; do your work diligently as a professional and earn respect of the public. You must dress well,â€ he said.
The Commissioner encouraged them to be committed to their duties and responsibilities, adding that ensure that Police welfare takes priority, promising to work round the clock to reduce to the barest minimum, the level of crimes in the state.
The new CP promised that those who distinguish themselves would be commended, while those who are not the ready to work would be redeployed. He reminded them that they are not politicians and hence should leave politics for politicians.
Some of the challenges they were facing such as working tools, shortage of manpower were raised which the CP promised to address.
This session having been successfully anchored, the next is night patrol- which will be his first in the state to assess and support his men on duty posts. Though, back to his office, renovation was on-going, while consultations, courtesy calls by spirited people of the state were still on. The CP closed from work late in the evening and at this juncture, this reporter retired as the night patrol team was restricted.
This reporter observed keenly in the last 24 hours some comprehensible attributes of the new CP as relates to his job. He is thorough breed operational corps with an articulate, focused and dynamic attributes. His has listening skills, exudes confidence and passionate about being an agent of change.
However, political analysts are of the view that the coming of Ogunshakin provides opportunity for peace to return to Rivers, opining that all stakeholders should avoid politics of bitterness. â€œPeople should be allowed to enjoy their constitutional right of association, within the law and overriding security interests of the populace. Security issues are too vital and governor and new CP should work together for peace in Rivers State, as further tension in the State, could return it to dreaded armed militancy, which could threaten the economic and security interests of the nation,â€ remarked a stakeholder last week.