#ENDSARS: We Can’t Wear Our Uniform In Public, Our Morale Very Low — Policemen Cries Out
Barely a month after the #EndSARS protest against police brutality which turned bloody with loss of lives and massive destruction of property, the police, which was the main target of the mayhem is yet to recover. Policemen virtually disappeared from the public space. The Inspector General of Police had to issue a directive asking his men to return to the streets but investigations across the country revealed that things have not returned to normal. Policemen who are supposed to protect the residents are themselves afraid to walk freely on the streets in their uniform. Their morale is low and they are yet to regain their confidence. In some places, criminals have taken advantage of the absence of the police which has resulted in upsurge of crimes.
Findings by Saturday Vanguard showed that police personnel are not fully back on the streets in Ondo state for fear of possible attack. Some of the policemen who spoke on condition of anonymity said that they still lived in fear and could not walk freely on the streets.
According to them, “after the protest many of us can’t put on our uniform and walk freely on the streets because of the fear that we may be attacked. Two of our men were killed during the protest. One was roasted alive just because the protesters saw his police uniform inside his car. What we do now is that when we leave the police station we would remove our police uniform and put on mufti to disguise”.
Speaking with vanguard, the police spokesperson in the state Tee Leo Ikoro said policemen in the state returned to their duty posts after the protests. “We returned to our duty posts immediately after the #EndSARS carnage where we lost our men to the hoodlums. This is because we know our duty is sacrosanct and if we are off duty many people and things will be affected. We looked at the #EndSARS saga as a bye gone but as human as we are, we also felt bad about what happened and we are aggrieved over the killing of some of our officers. People expected us not to return to our duty post but we remain at out duty posts. The #EndSARS protest only energised us to do more.”
In Oyo State, only a handful of policemen were at work as most of the police stations were locked up. Some of the policemen resumed duty this week even as residents, government, Yoruba leaders have made passionate pleas to the policemen to resume duties.
At most junctions where they used to control traffic, men of the Oyo State Transport management were there to fill the space. At the UI-Sango-Bodija junction, Mokola, Eleyele, Ologuneru, some soldiers and members of the state road transportation management were controlling the traffic. Traffic wardens were at the Bodija-Cementry junction, Iyaganku, Bodija market, Oke Ado market.
But, in the area of maintaining security, it appeared the policemen were not responding to distress calls.
Hoodlums have capitalized on the absence of policemen as they robbed residents in different parts of the city. At Idi-Ishin-NIHORT area, a man was shot dead by robbers on a motorcycle who attempted to snatch the bike.
It has been a horrible situation in Benin City, Edo state capital and some other parts of the state since #EndSARS protest turned violent with the destruction of police facilities and carting away of arms and ammunition. Rival cult groups renewed their clashes that have claimed not less than 37 lives, while criminals and hoodlums have taken over the streets of Benin City. Robberies and other violent crimes have become a daily occurrence in all parts of Benin City, as people now live in fear while night life is completely dead as everybody runs home at dusk. Even residents in Government Reservation Areas which are so called protected areas are not spared of these attacks as a guest house less than 500 metres from the gate of government house was recently ransacked and all the 13 occupants were robbed that night.
The attack on police stations has dampened the morale of policemen as they disappeared from the streets while those who still ventured around, moved in mufti. Some of them in mufti were also victims of robberies as one of them who was going home after work, had his bag where he kept his service pistol snatched by suspected robbers in a white Toyota Sienna bus.
A policeman in Benin confided in Saturday Vanguard that “our morale is very low after that incident. Imagine DPOs now reporting from the state command everyday and no vehicles for them and their personnel to work, that is disheartening. Look at the Area Commander and two of his men who went on patrol last week and were shot by those hoodlums in Upper Sokponba. Till now many of us still don’t wear our uniforms on the streets for fear of being attacked. Though the Inspector General of Police has come to address us, the governor himself has visited and tried to motivate us but it is gradual, we will definitely come back to the streets but you don’t expect it to be immediate”
The absence of the police on the streets have also resulted in cases of self help by residents who have turned themselves into vigilance groups. There was a reported case of two suspected thieves who were arrested in Upper Sokponba road, beaten to pulp and set ablaze while in some other areas like Amagba, Ekheuan Road, residents formed vigilance groups and take turns to watch all entry and exit points into their areas.
The commissioner of police in the state, Johnson Kokumo said the return of the police to their normal duties would be a gradual process after suffering the damages to their facilities which he said killed their morale. He said some of the escapee prisoners were sending threat messages to policemen who arrested and investigated them before their eventual prosecution and conviction. Kokumo said his men were working within existing limitations to restore normalcy to the state.
He said: “You can imagine what it means that three police stations along Sokponba road were destroyed and burnt; patrol vehicles destroyed in several other parts of the state capital, all the officers in these stations now operate from the headquarters. How do you expect things to be normal in a place where 2000 inmates escaped? Is there any magic we can do without vehicles, without arms and ammunition? We were doing our best to arrest the criminals in Edo before the jail break and we are equally trying our best to see that the escapees are re-arrested and brought to book.
Despite the fact that there was no attack on the Police in Plateau State, the presence of the personnel of the Force is not very visible on the highways and streets in the Jos and Bukuru metropolis.
Saturday Vanguard observed that spots where the personnel were always seen mounting road blocks have been free since the state government lifted the curfew which was imposed in the Jos North and Jos South local government areas but traffic police were on their duty posts at major junctions in the city directing traffic.
Personnel who spoke on condition of anonymity claimed they followed instructions of their superiors. A police Corporal serving in the C Division of the Force in Jos said, “What happened when the hoodlums hijacked the #EndSARS protest was a terrible thing, although we did not experience any attack here in Jos but we worked based on instruction. We are not off the roads but sometime when there were no operational vehicles, we allowed the team on critical assignment to use the available vehicle to carry out their duties. You don’t expect us to trek from the station to the road, the demand for work tools for the Police is a very valid one because we really lack things that can enhance our job.”
Another personnel, a Sergeant at the Anglo Jos station added, “We did not experience any attack here but we have to stay alive first before we combat crime”.