Written by Eagle Okoro
When I read a post by the Commissioner for Information and Culture, Prince Okey Kanu, on a group platform on Friday about the planned courtesy visit to his office by the Commissioner of Police, Mr Kenechukwu Onwuemelie, I shuddered for a while. I simply could not easily fathom the reason a Commissioner of Police would want to pay a courtesy call on a Commissioner for Information.
Although, I do not work in the ministry but I found the visit practically unusual and unprecedented.
That a Commissioner of Police would come down from the Olympian heights of his office to fraternise and exchange ideas with the Commissioner of Information on how to tackle the escalating social security breaches speaks volume of the calibre of the man on the saddle.
I stand to be corrected but I have not experienced this in practice before. Rather, the reverse was always the case with the antiquated old order.
Once a new Commissioner of Police comes to town, he pays a visit to the sitting governor and recoils into his cocoon, while the high and mighty in society line up in the quest to meet and identify with him.
But Onwuemelie has dymistified all that with his visit to The Prince of Ukwa clan to solicit a collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Culture in pursuit of his commitment to eliminate crime and criminality in the state in a unique and practical manner that is essentially intelligence based.
He was accompanied on the visit by the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, Chris Okoro.
Before the police chiefs went into a closed-door brainstorming session with Prince Kanu and his team of top management staff, he briefed his host and the media on the essence of his visit.
Onwuemelie said that he was in the ministry to solicit a robust collaboration with the commissioner and his team in ensuring efficient information management to achieve a healthy society, devoid of avoidable upheavals, social disorders as well as crime and criminality.
He said, “We have realised that information is a strong tool and it must effectively be deployed ethically and professionally for the benefit of society, hence the need to work with the ministry.”
He emphasised the need for better and more discreet information management by news managers in the state to avert the destructive tendencies of negative information and fake news in any society.
According to him, nation-states place high premium on effective information management as a critical aspect of governance.
The state police boss frowned at the rising trend of “mob justice” in the state and appealed to the ministry to up its game in educating the populace on dangers of taking the law into their hands.
He said that nine incidents of mob action were recorded in the state between January 1 and October 13 and that the action resulted in the death of 12 persons.
Onwuemelie said: “The law presumes an individual innocent until proven otherwise by a court of competent jurisdiction.
“Therefore, it would be unlawful to subject anyone to mob justice for whatever reasons.”
He said that mob justice had become an ugly trend in society, hence must stop, adding that it should be unheard of that people engaged in mob justice.
“It is barbaric for us as civilised persons residing within the South-East and Nigeria to be taking the law into our hands under such circumstances because there are several implications and consequences.
“Those perpetrating such acts are perpetrating more heinous offences and crime than the people they are supposedly accusing of crimes.
“Beyond this, people can leverage mob action to unduly visit terror on their supposed enemies or victimise their rivals,” the state police chief said.
He, therefore, underscored the imperatives of a strong synergy between his command and the ministry to tackle the social menace.
In a response, the commissioner lauded the police boss for the visit, describing it as strategic and timely.
He admitted the need for collaboration between the ministry and police command and offered his hand of fellowship and support toward curbing the spread of fake news and dangerous information in the state.
He promised the police boss that the agencies under the ministry were always poised to deploy their human and material resources for the benefit of the police in the state.
“We’ll collaborate with you and give you all the support you need to succeed in the state,” Kanu said.
He urged Abia residents to desist from embarking on jungle justice and taking the law into their hands, notwithstanding the circumstances.
Rather, he implored the people to report their concerns to constituted authorities “instead of resorting to mob justice”.
Kanu maintained that mob justice could be best described as a barbaric act, which did not present Abia in good light, hence should by all means be avoided.
“Please, we are good people; we are civilised people and should not go in the way of such savagery,” he said.
He further said that the State Government and residents must put heads together to nip such barbaric acts in the bud.
“I want to advise the people of Abia, because given the statistics reeled out by the Commissioner of Police, we can see that mob justice is a growing trend and it is a dangerous one.
“People can use mob justice to settle scores with their political opponents and enemies.
“For whatever it is worth, instead of mob action, look for the nearest police station to report your grievances,” Kanu said.
He also urged the people to disregard fake news, pointing out that circulating fake news and unverified information could do more harm than good to members of society.
For intelligence gathering, the commissioner said that because “security issues are sensitive”, there was need for relevant authorities to utilise “structured and well-managed information to address security issues”.
He, therefore, expressed the willingness of the State Government to collaborate with the police to ensure that peace and stability are maintained in the state.
Interestingly, both men agreed that it is only in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity that the Alex Otti-led administration could achieve its lofty blueprint of transforming and rebuilding Abia to meet the expectations and dreams of its founding fathers.
It is expected that the outcome of the closed-door meeting between the police authorities and management of the ministry would rob off positively on the environment, the people as well as their social interactions and relationships.
And because the popular police maxim says that “security is everybody’s business,” it is recommended that all the major stakeholders in society, namely the political class, business community, religious bodies, traditional institutions and community leaders, must join hands with the government and security agencies to collectively build the enabling environment for sustainable development, progress and prosperity of the state. End
– Eagle Okoro is a public affairs analyst and writes from Umuahia