On the 14th of January I attended a parley between 36 young people and the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), organized by the Abuja Hub of the Global Shapers Community. The event, which doubled up as the launch of the AMANA Initiative and the Abuja Dialogue Series, was hosted by the U.S. Embassy Abuja. The Commissioner of Police (CP) for the FCT, Wilson Inalegwu, came through with the force PRO, and some other members of his team.

The Cultural Affairs Officer at the Embassy, Bob Kerr, received us, and soon after the introductions were done, the question and answer session began. I made note of things that really stood out for me, and I’ve reproduced that below.

Q: What’s the relationship between the NPF and young people in Abuja?

A: Quite cordial except when they get involved in unwholesome behavior. Apprehension and arrests are never pleasurable events.

On the elections, the CP said the NPF was more than ready to ensure people across the country could go out and cast their votes without fear or concern for their safety. He said we would have noticed, “Already, motorized, static and mobile policing has been increased around the country”.

He also talked about the collaborative nature of the work between all the security agencies, giving an example with the relocation of Internally Displaced Persons  (IDPs) affected by the insurgency in the North East to camps in Abuja. He said the Department of State Security (DSS), military, police, civil defence, etc. worked together to register people so that fleeing combatants and terrorists wouldn’t be able to infiltrate the camps.

The Commissioner admonished young people to eschew (and I hate to sound like I’m writing for a Nigerian newspaper) political thuggery, drugs, and bad behavior.

In response to a question about the time it takes the police to show up when they are called, the police boss said community policing meant it was everyone’s responsibility to secure their areas, and be vigilant. Why? Simple reason is because the police cannot be everywhere at the same time. There are less than 16, 000 officers covering Abuja (morning/working population of about 4.5 million people, reducing in the night-time when people have returned to their homes within and outside the territory). For the entire country, there’s about 387, 000.

What else? Yes, on killings of civilians vs. killings of police officers, the CP said, “the NPF does not condone extra-judicial killings. It is their duty to apprehend, link the accused with the crime, and charge them to court, or let them go. They are only allowed and empowered by law to defend themselves to the full extent.” He also talked about various checks and balances in place to curb excesses and urged us to use the available helplines, Human Rights Desks within the police stations, and the Public Relations Officers to air our grievances.

One of the questions thrown at the Police Commissioner was about the welfare packages of force men who died while carrying out their duties. He said their families would receive N100, 000 towards burial costs, a minimum of five hundred thousand naira minimum insurance, and death gratuity. He also mentioned schemes like Police Officers Wives Association (POWA), and the Police Reward scheme that cater to the family of deceased officers. He acknowledged it wasn’t enough but said like other things that needed fixing, this was being reviewed.

Out of the tons of questions he had to cater to, the commissioner mentioned that they were in talks with Microsoft to develop an app that using geo-tagging, would enable residents reach the police in an emergency, pinpointing their exact location and therefore reducing reaction time. Nice! Amen to development, even though I remember saying he didn’t need to go all the way to Microsoft. Nigeria has more than enough developers to deliver on that!

Finally, the CP shared the helpline numbers for the police (08061581938, 08028940883, 08032003913) pending when they sort out their short code numbers. Store them, and even though the general hope/idea is you don’t have an emergency, there’s nothing as comforting as knowing you have the police close by if you do!

PS: Originally written for and posted on the Global Shapers Website.

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