Nigeria Police: are they truly the friend of the public?
By Ozo Ray
It was a show of shame at Aroma Junction, Awka when a police traffic warden (name withheld) manhandled a correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (name withheld) in Awka.
The NAN correspondent who was taking a shot of another police female traffic warden fighting with a shuttle driver in his vehicle, was spotted by the police traffic warden who pounced on him, tore his T-shirt and unleashed punches on his face, prompting onlookers to express shock at the level of rascality displayed by the police officers.
The incident which occurred last weekend, left the NAN correspondent and the driver of the UNIZIK shuttle bus with bruises allegedly inflicted on them by the police officers.
Narrating his ordeal in the hands of the police officer, the NAN correspondent said he was filing a report at a near-by cyber cafe when he spotted a police officer in a duel with a shuttle driver in the driver's vehicle.
The journalist proceeded to take photographs of the incident, only for the said police officer to abandon his duty-post and engage him in a physical combat, while demanding that the journalist should handover his camera.
The journalist said that the officer had threatened to kill him if he refused to release his camera because he took photographs of his colleague while fighting with the shuttle driver.
The UNIZIK shuttle driver, whose father is also a senior police officer at Ajali Division, Orumba-North, said the female police officer, invaded his vehicle in a bid to remove his ignition key because he had refused to part with money.
He alleged that it was not the first time she insisted that he should 'settle' her, saying that it had become her stock-in-trade, as well as that of her colleagues who terrorised and intimidated bus drivers, tricycle operators and a host of others operating within Aroma axis, into giving them money without any tangible reason.
It took the timely intervention of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Anambra State Council, to protect the NAN correspondent and the shuttle driver from further assault, even though another police officer named, Mbele Nichodemus, bearing an AK4 7 rifle, threatened to shoot another journalist in the midst of the pandemonium .
When journalists tried to reach the Police Public Relations Officer of the Anambra State Police, Command, Nkiru Nwode, to report the situation to the command, her mobile phone was switched off.
While further attempts were made to report the matter to the Divisional Police Officer of the B Division Awka where the errant traffic warden was attached, the efforts of the NUJ delegation to the station were also frustrated.
Meanwhile the State Commissioner of Police Garba Baba Musa, has referred the matter to the Area Command of the Nigeria Police in Awka to broker peace between journalists and the police in Anambra State, even as he assured that the concerned police officer would be dealt with.
The latest attack on the journalist and shuttle driver adds to the growing number of police harassment and intimidation of civilians whom they are supposed to protect. Often times, this has resulted in the shooting and killing of such civilians. This is contrary to the police motto of being the friend of the public.