By Alex Olise
In the light of the heavy backlash and blames that Nigerians heap on the men and officers of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) at the slightest opportunity, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) Ilupeju division, Lagos State Command, SP Matilda Umiah Ngbaronye has urged Nigerians to take a different look at its efforts.
Ngbaronye made this clarification during the recent Civic Space Guard Project organized by the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ), supported by the MacArthur Foundation, the Luminate Group, the Open Society for West Africa and the Ford Foundation.
Though not a member of the panel at the conference, the strong and eloquent police officer, SP Ngbaronye would not allow her voice to be hushed.
She stood stoutly in defence of her career when she reiterated that the Police was trained to protect national interest and security.
She said, “On national interest and security, that is what our law asked us to do. That’s what we are trained to protect.
“If we get intel, whether it is okay by you or not, we have to because other citizens who don’t know what you are doing will be affected. For example, if you are protesting on the road, it will affect motorists, so whose right prevails.
“Where your rights end is where another’s begins. So no matter how bad you think the Police have done, look at the good that we have done. Let’s take away the bias and the pain.
“I was here in Lagos as Deputy Police Public Relations Officer, under AIG Hakeem Odumosu (retd) during the Endsars protest and I am going to tell you that the protest could have gone worse because when the hoodlums hijacked the protest, even the people who started it could not do anything.”
However, the Founder/Director of Research and Policy at Spaces for Change (S4C), Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri disagreed with the ‘protection of national interest’ view mentioned by SP Matilda Ngbaronye.
Speaking in the Civic Space Guard Project with themed “Hushed Voices and the media’s defence of the civic space”, Ibezim-Ohaeri opposed, “the mantra called national security and interest is the most popular refrain used to justify attacks on the media.”
But SP Ngbaronye, who was former Deputy Police PRO at the Lagos State Command during the tenure of AIG Hakeem Olusegun Odumosu, faulted the claim by saying, “Everybody that has come out has given a speech against the Police. I know about human rights and freedom of speech. You have said the rights are being trampled upon by Nigeria Police. People are pointing at the many things the Nigeria Police has done wrong but nobody has highlighted the good things that they have been doing.”
The PR-savvy police officer who drew standing ovation and applause for the Nigeria Police in the audience-participatory event added, “Yes, you need to fight for your rights and it matters a lot but let me tell you why you need to inform the Police to organize a protest, and know that it is peaceful protest that is allowed.
“Imagine that 5 groups want to protest in different locations in Lagos, how do we know if you don’t inform the Police and how do we protect you if you don’t tell us when we are not magicians?
“During the Endsars protest, for example, we were not told that the agreement to protest was a unanimous decision. Everybody uses the toll gate – motorists, people walking – and you decided to shut down the tollgate and some people were aggrieved and complained.
“There was an advice to use a part and the Police will be there so that if anybody comes to hijack, we will handle it but the protests became violent, lives were lost, police officers’ lives were lost and till date, even in this gathering, nobody has mentioned the story of the police officers that died. Also innocent citizens lost their properties because of a wrong move.”
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