Dr. Ona Ekhomu
It gives me great pleasure to present this paper on
policing in Nigeria especially after the difficult events of October 21st and
22nd 2020 when a mass action embarked upon by #ENDSARS group almost brought the
Southern part of Nigeria to its metaphorical knees. Southern Nigeria was hard
hit by the acts of wanton violence unleashed by hoodlums after the Lekki
shootings of October 20, 2020. The rioters looted, burned, pillaged,
vandalised, compromised, damaged and destroyed assets throughout Lagos and
Aside from attacks on property and trophy buildings
such as the Igbosere Courts complex, the Nigerian Port Authority headquarters
building and banks in Lagos State, the rioters targeted police facilities and
personnel. The pattern of attacks, ferocity of attacks and frequency of attacks
on police personnel, police stations and police cars would lead me to conclude
that the mass action in Southern Nigeria was indeed an attack on the police
agency. Although correctional facilities, COVID-19 palliative stores and some
homes of politicians were attacked, the principal target of the rioters was
police personnel, police facilities and police mission.
The rioters also stole a large number of AK47 rifles
and other weapons in police stations – arming themselves and presenting a grave
threat to society. It is a known fact that insecurity in Nigeria is aggravated
by the proliferation of illicit arms and small arms and light weapons in the
West African sub-region. The loss of hundreds of police riffles to rioters is
clearly a worsening or exacerbation of the arms proliferation in the country.
Moment of Silence
At this time, I would crave your indulgence to rise
and join me in observing a moment of silence in honor of gallant policemen who
were lost in the #ENDSARS riots.
May their sacrifice not be in vain.
May their memory be a blessing.
May light perpetual shine on their souls.
May Allah forgive their sins and grant them
The key concepts in the paper are: #ENDSARS,
Protests, Riots and Hoodlums.
#ENDSARS: is a decentralised social movement which
two years later translated into physical street protests by Nigerian youths.
The movement started from Lagos and spread rapidly to all southern states. The
movement gained currency in the south as youths could relate to the goal of
ending police brutality as practiced by SARS and later F-SARS.
I was informed by a senior intelligence official
that it was the good work and hard work of SARS officials in Anambra State that
brought an end to kidnapping in that state. He said that however, harsh
interrogation techniques (extreme renditions) were used and that most suspects
did not make it out alive from Awkuzu SARS office. They were presumed to have
been extra-judicially killed.
The intelligence official added that the extra-legal
murders were also predicated on the fact that kidnap and armed robbery cases
charged to court were often handled with levity by apparently compromised
judicial officers. The bottom-line was that the harsh tactics worked and
violent crime was reduced to the barest minimum in Anambra State.
Lagos State SARS also recorded many successes
against armed robbers and kidnappers. The
“billionaire kidnapper” Evans was investigated and arrested by SARSS and
prosecuted for his high profile crimes. It was however asserted by southern
youths that with the reduction of violent robberies, the SARS personnel have
decided to target them for extortion. It was said that youths driving flashy
cars were pulled over and their phones profiled.
These youths sometimes received rough chastisement
in the hands of the elite crime fighters. The SARS personnel turned their
investigative magnifying glasses on Yahoo boys, Yahoo plus, debtors, land
speculators, etc. They were alleged to demand huge sums in extortion rackets
and mete out beatings and threats of “wasting” i.e. killing to uncooperative
subjects. The crisis reached a critical mass and youths organised against SARS
adopting the hashtag #ENDSARS.
Protester: Is a person who publicly demonstrates his
or her opposition to a social condition, policy or action. Peaceful protest is
a form of protected speech. In a democracy, peaceful protests are allowed. The
police have a duty to protect duly authorized peaceful protesters. When
peaceful protest turns ugly, it loses the statutory protection.
Riot: A riot is an unlawful assembly or crowd whose
intent is to cause harm to people and property. Riots are identified by stone
throwing, firing of projectiles, burning, looting, beating, and killing. A
riotous mob goes through several levels of escalation of their violence. If the
reaction to the riot is slow or ineffectual, then it develops a life of its own
and could spiral out of control. Lives are often lost in riots – as was seen in
the recent #ENDSARS event.
Hoodlum: This word refers to a person who engages in
crime and violence. The terminology was freely used by the mass media to
describe the persons who caused the mayhem in Lagos on October 21st to 22nd. At
the peak of the crisis on October 21, the hoodlums controlled the streets after
over-powering the police agency. There was palpable fear in Lagos. A retired
Naval Admiral asked me not to denigrate the violent protesters as hoodlums. He
suggested the following terminologies: a) Angry youths, b) Palliatives hunters,
c) Victims of circumstances, d) Disgruntled youths, e) Hungry youths, f)
Brutalised youths, g) Marginalised youths.
Attacks on the Police
The October 21st – 22nd attacks on police throughout
Southern Nigeria were unprecedented and historical. We ought to study what
happened, why it happened, how it happened and how it can be prevented. This
post-mortem of the attacks will enable us identify the threat against police
facilities and personnel to enable us better defend the police even as you
provide internal security services to the Nigerian nation.
The Police agency lost 22 personnel throughout
Nigeria during the unfortunate violence in October. Compol Yaro Abutu who is
the Chairman of the IGP’s EndSARS Damage Assessment Committee said that many
police personnel are still not accounted for as the mobs chased some into the
bush and their fate remains unknown. He said that many police personnel do not
have uniforms as their uniforms were incinerated in the police stations. It is
heart-breaking that some police personnel are now hanging around their stations
like IDPs. Some have rented tents and plastic chairs and to enable them sit
down. It is quite disturbing.
Let me begin by saying that I believe Nigerians love
the NPF. Most law-abiding citizens consider the police their friends. What happened
in Lagos on Wednesday and Thursday (October 21st and 22nd) were
well-coordinated and premeditated attacks against law enforcement using the
excuse or pretext of shootings at Lekki toll gate to visit violence on the
It is not normal for members of the public to mount
large scale attacks on public law enforcement officers. The attacks of October
are unprecedented in the history of Nigeria where police personnel were
systematically hunted and then killed or harmed by the members of the public
that they serve. I therefore with to present a research hypothesis as follows:
The attack on the police formations and personnel in
Lagos was intended to dislodge the police and pave way for the looting that
followed. This research hypothesis can be subjected to empirical validation
when more data on the October attacks have been collected.
The Fall of Ajah
The Ajah Police Station fell at about 1300 hours on
October 21st. The station had been under siege by about 3000 rioters from 7AM
of the fateful day. The gallant police personnel – about 12 in number fought
back the youthful rioters who were intent on razing the police station. The law
enforcement agents were boxed in the middle fending off rioters from the
Western flank (Liberty Bridge side) and turning quickly to attack the rioters
from the Eastern Flank (Abraham Adesanya Estate side). The police personnel
would fire shots and push back the rioters alternately on each side.
Eventually, it was said that criminal gangs from Victoria Island introduced
guns into the theatre of battle and that changed the conflict.
The Ajah police apparently caused casualty among the
rioters, some of whom were treated in nearby clinics and hospitals. No fatality
was recorded. However, the crowd was overwhelming. The rioters were said to
have stated clearly that they were intent on burning down the police station.
Eventually, the firepower from VI helped to subdue the police personnel. They
all successfully escaped from the rear of their compound and then the station
Losses at Ajah Police Station- the police facility
was burnt down, the roof was vandalised – came off after the timber got burnt,
the apartments behind the station were burnt down, arms and ammo were looted,
police uniforms and accoutrements were looted, police vehicles and private
vehicles in the compound were torched, exhibits were destroyed, suspects in
police cells were let go, items of property were looted and the hoodlums
recruited themselves into the police force and promoted themselves. One said he
is now the DPO of Ajah.
The fall of Ajah Police Station was facilitated by
the lack of backup on the fateful day. Given that Police Stations in Orile
(where a police personnel was killed), Ikorodu, Surulere, etc. there was ample
evidence that police facilities were targeted.
However, given the wide-spread nature of attacks
against a wide variety of targets in Lagos on 21st October it became a
herculean task to defend the Ajah Police Station. Aside from police stations,
media houses, LG Secretariats, the family home of Lagos Governor were all
attacked. There is an urgent need to calculate the design basis threat for
police stations. Clearly, the threat of mass action is a grave one that can
overwhelm the police facility and then cause irreparable harm. The relevant
1. How many police personnel can defend a police
station from the kind of attack at Ajah on October 21st?
2. How many canisters of tear gas do they need?
NOTE: No tear gas was fired before Ajah Division fell.
3. How can the armory be strengthen against looting
4. What should be the protocol for calling for OP
MESA or OP AWATSE to give aid to a police division in distress? NOTE: RSS was
off the roads on October 21st.
5. Can the police division have a mutual aid
agreement with private organizations or host communities that will guarantee
help in an emergency?
6. Can the police agency put helicopters to work in
support of police divisions that are seriously threatened by hoodlums?
7. Can police stations have a better structural
barrier to prevent easy breach by rioters and criminal elements?
8. Can police managers and executives conduct annual
vulnerability assessments of police facilities to determine loopholes and
quickly plug them? The Ajah division attack showed that there were several
loopholes which the rioters exploited in breaching the station.
9. The police division should collaborate closely
with the community it serves as their security is intertwined. After the Ajah
Division fell, nearby banks, businesses and stores were looted by the
criminals. Vehicles were wantonly destroyed. Several estates raised youth
vigilance groups for security after the fall of Ajah Division.
The breakdown of law and order in Lagos on October
21st represented life in the state of nature. It was “nasty, brutish and short”
according to English Philosopher Thomas Hobbes. Many police personnel lost
their lives while trying to do their sworn constitutional duty of serving and
Since October 21st the police in Lagos have
withdrawn from the streets. This is further fueling the Hobbesian reality. In a
place like Ikorodu, Ketu, Orile hoodlums still hold sway extorting cash from
motorists, setting bonfires and shooting at their enemies. The situation is
still tense in the metropolis. Yes, we lost men, but we cannot be scared off.
The policeman – according to the Peelian Construct is the member of the public
paid to protect others. It is a life safety job. It is doing God’s work. The
policeman has authority and he is the most visible agent of governance. The
police must occupy again for normalcy to return.
The Hobbesian reality which states must be averted.
We must have a Leviathan who must return law and order. That Leviathan (or King)
is you – Police personnel. The law-abiding citizens of this country appreciate
you and we love you. We also support you and will give you information that
will be important in keeping our communities safe. Please overcome your fears
and return to work. Life is good, but a life of service is meaningful and
purpose-driven. One should not go through life without serving, without
contributing. It is the service that defines our value as individuals – to
ourselves, to our families, to our communities and ultimately to our nation.
You, Policemen are a royal priesthood. You are a chosen race. The kind of
psychic rewards you receive after saving a life cannot be replicated anywhere.
You may not be a remunerated as well as you should, but your sacrifice and your
service cannot be rivaled by any occupational group in Nigeria.
Mr. AIG Sir, distinguished Ladies and gentlemen. I
want to point out the obvious fact that the attack were not aimed specifically
at the police agency. The #ENDSARS rioters know that the Admiralty circle
Tollgate Plaza shootings were not carried out by Police personnel. However, the
Police as an observable and exploitable arm of government was attacked. In
order words the attacks were meant for the Federal Government of Nigeria. Why
is that so?
The governance issues, the poor remuneration of
police, the unemployment of youths, the hunger in the land, the poverty, the
anger, the inequality are not under the control of the police agency. It was
convenient for the hoodlums to attack the police as the nearest representative
of government. When people are angry, they lash out at anything close by –
their wives, their children, their drivers, their workers, their dogs –
anything. It is a psychological compensational mechanism – after which they
The various state governments have made overtures to
assist families of your fallen or injured colleagues. Please go back to work to
make your communities safe. Like we say – without security nothing works.
Before I end this short speech, I like to commend
Police executives like our host today, AIG Iliyasu Ahmed for their dedication
to public service. Your zeal to serve your community and the Nigerian nation is
appreciated. We realize that lack of adequate resourcing is a big drawback to
effective policing in the country, yet you stretch the little you have to keep
our communities safe. I like to say that with the Police Trust Fund and the new
Police bill, things are bound to get better.
From a strategic management perspective, police
executives must find administrative, programmatic and technological means to achieve
more with less. I urge Police executives to build trust between the agency and
the community that it serves. The community will see self interest in effective
policing and support the police. The political pressure that will bring about
improvements in police remunerations and conditions of service will come from
the community. It should be noted that politicians will not give the police
what it deserves, but what it lobbies for. The community holds the key to
effectively speaking out for the police.
The Association of Industrial Security and Safety
Operators of Nigeria, as a leading professional security body will continue to
partner with the police in obtaining resources from the government to enable
the provision of quality service. We shall continue to champion the cause of
the police agency and use our contacts to lobby for enhanced conditions of
service. We also will use our vast knowledge and structured analytical tools to
interpret the realities that confront the police agency and Nigerians. We
belong in an epistemic community that is often not understood. The ontology of
policing, the epistemology of policing and the methodology of policing have to
be subjected to dissection, visualization and empirical examination in other to
create new models of effective policing. Meta level of knowledge tools will be
brought to the table to assist the police agency.
I also urge the various Police Community Relations
Committees nationwide to lend the police a shoulder to lean on in these tough
times. The PCRC as a natural ally of the police agency must speak up and speak
out now that the morale is low in the agency. We all need the police and they
I also wish to urge the mass media to champion the
cause of the Nigeria Police Force. The police performs a crucial function of
crime control and order maintenance. Without safe streets, legitimate activity
cannot be carried out. The media must do its patriotic duty by telling the
stories of police personnel callously murdered by hoodlums. Tell about the lives
they lived. What schools did they attend? What was their favorite sports? What
motivated them to join the NPF? What dreams did they have for their future?
What was their family life like? What colors did they like and why? What foods
did they like? This is the life that these great Nigerians lived, and they
should be honored. No police death should be ignored. Every hero deserves to be
honored. The electronic medium should show their photos and tell their stories.
The print medium should display their images and share stories of their
accomplishments. We deserve to know how they lived.
The corporate world has a major role to play. Funds
should be mobilized to help families of fallen police heroes. Injured police
personnel should receive first class medical treatment. This is expensive. The
corporate world should also help in rebuilding police facilities destroyed in
the October madness that was emblematic of the #ENDSARS protests. Given the
current decline in Federal Government’s oil revenues, rebuilding the police
facilities would be a herculean task. Patrol cars, modern policing equipment
and uniforms are required to rebuild the police service in southern Nigeria.
The individual police man must engage in self talk
that will encourage him to get back to work. The safety net that is provided by
the police is torn right now. It will take the courage, commitment, dedication,
patriotism, professionalism, perseverance and ingenuity of police men and
women, police supervisors, police managers and other police officials to enable
the healing that is required to get things back to normal.
…Ekhomu, CFE, CPP, CSP, PCI, CPOI and the National President of the Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria (AISSON) presented this paper at the occasion of Conferment of Fellowship of AISSON on Mr. lliyasu Ahmed, Assistant Inspector General of Police Zone 2, Onikan, Lagos.
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