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The Nigeria police and many Edwin Clarks

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The Nigeria police and many Edwin Clarks

Sometime in 2002, a group of Ijaw elders in Delta State came together to form Ijaw Council of Elders. The group comprised technocrats, successful business people, lawyers, retired military and police officers who are of Ijaw ethnic group. I cannot remember if the membership of that group was extended to Ijaws in other states but I recall that most members of the group are Deltans. One of the reasons the group was formed was to checkmate what they considered as the overbearing influence of undoubtedly the foremost Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, a former federal commissioner for information.

The group tried hard to upstage Chief Clark. But it was a lost battle. He proved to be a colossus and was unshakeable by what appeared to be an unnecessary conspiratorial gang-up against the man. Chief Clark wondered where members of the group were when he as a young lawyer in his early 20s was chosen to represent the Ijaw nation at a conference in London in the 60s. For a man who knows how to fight his battles, the Ijaw Council of Elders was the least of chief’s problems at that time. He had answers for all the issues raised by the council. I also remember vividly, chief’s many petitions against the James Ibori administration bordering on alleged corruption.

His refusal to be cowed or intimidated marked Chief Clark out as a dogged fighter that cannot be toyed with. For these reasons and many more, it beggars belief that this is the same man that the police chose to embarrass. It is not in doubt that the police all over the world have a duty to obtain and use a wide variety of information in order to discharge their responsibilities and duties effectively.

They also need the support of the public to do so. But it is expected that there must be balancing between information gathered and investigation carried out by the police to avoid a situation that played out on Tuesday. When the Nigeria Police Force said it got information that Chief Clark was stockpiling arms and ammunition at his Abuja residence, perhaps, the thinking must have been that it was about to catch a big fish. The eagerness and precipitate haste to embarrass Chief Clark overshadowed the thinking of the police and made them not to be prudent enough to avoid what has now become an embarrassment to the Force. One can imagine how vociferous the noise would have been if truly that information happened to be true.

I agree with the chief that it was unthinkable that a 91-year-old man, who has a name to protect, will stockpile arms and will do so in a place like Abuja, the seat of power. The house in question is not even a fortress as it is common knowledge that political meetings are held there from time to time.

Preliminary investigation must have shown that the house actually belongs to Chief Clark to warrant a deployment of the ‘Special Tactical Force,’ a squad that reports directly to the Inspector General of Police,Force Headquarters, Abuja. How true is it then that the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, was unaware of the raid on the elder statesman’s residence? If a taxi man told one Ismail Yakubu that a vehicle seen entering the premises of Chief Clark were carrying arms and ammunition, how discreet was the police in their investigation before searching the house? Or does it mean that the police jump at every information provided by every Tom, Dick and Harry without separating the wheat from the chaff at a time when fake news, fake information and unfounded rumours are competing for space? I have listened to the informer, Yakubu. I pitied him. He appeared to be innocent but naive. He said he acted on the mantra by security agents that: ‘if you see something, you must say something.’

Punishing him will discourage others from saying something, if they see something. It is more about the police and the way they handle information provided by the public. I am aware that the police have apologised to Chief Clark. It is also public knowledge that Inspectors Godwin Musa, Sada Abubakar and Yabo Paul who carried out the raid had been dismissed for “the unauthorised, illegal and unprofessional conduct in the search of the residence of Chief Edwin Clark in Asokoro,Abuja.” ASP David Dominic who led the operation had been queried and is being investigated for discreditable conduct, negligence of duty and act unbecoming of an officer. Dominic is likely to be on his way out of the police.

I believe nothing of what I heard that the policemen acted alone. They couldn’t have acted alone considering the status of the man whose house they went to search and if they did, it shows the level of rottenness and indiscipline in the Force. We may have to wait till eternity if we think the police will speak on the purported telephone conversation between the leader of the team that raided the residence and a senior police officer. To think that the police authorities will add to the list of the dismissed officers is like expecting manna to fall from heaven. The policemen have been made scapegoats, sacrificial lambs and they have to carry the sins of what might have been committed by many.

The enforced camaraderie among high ranking officers will always protect them whenever they err. The rank and file are good as scapegoats. We won’t hear their own stories and how what was supposed to be a big catch went awry. The dismissed policemen will suffer in silence and will perhaps only confide in their families and close friends on who asked them to do what. They are not to be heard. They can only grumble. The bubble had burst and they have to bear the brunt of the consequences of what would have been considered a big operation but that turned out to be a hoax. I am not so worried about Chief Clark. He is fearless and can fight his battles. For him, he has done that for years and it’s a familiar terrain for the old and intelligent man.

My fear is for the ordinary Nigerians who had been treated in a similar manner and never had the luxury of getting police’s apology even when it was obvious that the men in black were wrong. My concern is about those who had been hounded, extorted and clamped in detention or even convicted on account of trump up charges by the police. So many had suffered in silence and their voices had been silenced by police harassment and intimidation. There are so many Edwin Clarks in our society. They are in detention across the country. Some had even died while waiting for justice.

That the police did not find anything incriminating on Chief Clark’s premises is truly because there’s nothing against the law at the house but also because of the former federal commissioner’s status in the society. There have been cases where if police seek something, they must see something if that’s what it requires for them to save their face.

Many had even confessed to committing crimes they knew nothing about because the police had made up their mind to nail them at all cost. A crime reporter once told me a story of how he bailed out his neighbour who was paraded as a robbery suspect alongside others at one of the state’s commands some years back. The police had invited reporters to see the robbery suspects they had arrested after exchange of gunfire for hours.

The supposed arms and ammunition that were recovered from the so-called robbery suspects were also displayed. The reporter who narrated the story was shocked to see his neighbour among the suspects. He summoned the courage to find out from him how he found himself in such a messy situation. Amid tears, the man said he was actually arrested on his way from work and didn’t know any of the suspects from Adam.

The reporter’s intervention and of his colleagues was the saving grace for the man who had been labelled and paraded as a robbery suspect. One can imagine what would have happened to the innocent man but for the reporters’ intervention and insistence that the man was innocent.

One of the biggest fraud and deceit in various police stations is those intimidating posters on their walls telling us that ‘bail is free!’ There is even another nauseating one that adds: ‘both the giver and taker of bail money are guilty of a crime and liable to prosecution!’ If Chief Clark were to be an ordinary Nigerian and nothing incriminating was found on him, is there any guarantee that he won’t part with some money for trouble the police encountered in locating his house? May God save us from fiendish policemen!

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