Amaechi, CP Mbu and Politics of Security in Rivers State

The recent altercations between the Rivers State Commissioner of Police Mr. Mbu Joseph Mbu and the Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi is becoming very unsettling. Since the man was posted to the state, neither he nor the Chief Security Officer of the State has had any rest. There has been series of bickering which eventually resulted to the outburst in which the Police Commissioner called the Governor a dictator. Pundits are saying that the frigid relationship of the duo is already impacting negatively on the security in the state where criminality has suddenly started to rise. Observers believe that this may be the worst relationship ever between a governor and a serving Police Commissioner that has come to public knowledge. Granted, the Police is a federal institution with a command structure and so the Commissioner of Police takes (or ought to take) instructions from the Inspector General of the Police. On ground, the Police is also expected to be impartial non-partisan, professional and neutral but we all know what the real situation is. Where to strike the balance is now at the discretion of the officer in question. Even at that, most Police Commissioners find a way to manage the relationship to continue to be in the good books of their state governors. Or put differently, governors always try their best to bring Commissioners of Police posted to their state on their side by adequately 'taking care' of them. My friend, the former Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim was a former Commissioner of Police in Bayelsa and was said to have so 'cooperated' with the then Governor Goodluck Jonathan that he decided to pay him back by elevating him when he became President. Do not get me wrong here, this is just a simple example where a cordial Governor-CP relationship paid off. And so why is the Rivers State clearly different? The rumour that the Commissioner has insisted on taking instructions from Abuja may be valid but insufficient in providing explanation for some of his 'above the board' actions. One will naturally expect the CP to obey orders from above. But even Police Commissioners in states controlled by the opposition parties have managed to work harmoniously with their governors without shifting their loyalty. Why is Mr. Mbu so different that he could go confrontational publicly with the Governor? Who is this spoiler, waiting to benefit from the breakdown of law and order in Rivers State? Is this just about the CP himself or are his actions consistent with the script written by those allegedly behind him? Is he deliberately acting beyond the script due to a desire for a higher reward?

The role of the Police is to prevent the breakdown of law and order. The Governor of the state being the Chief Security Officer is supposed to be working with the police and other security agencies in the state to ensure adequate security of lives and properties within the command. The political situation in Rivers State in the past few months have been such that the Governor and the President at some point allegedly found themselves at cross purposes. Such a frosty relationship will naturally put the Commissioner of Police, a federal officer under some pressure. Candidly, such a position is unenviable. He will be naturally caught in between obeying the instructions from the CSO of the state, his immediate boss or the orders from above. But that is where the professionalism of his training ought to have kicked in. Leaning fully to any one side of the divide may lead to the breakdown of law and order, which will bring disrepute to the Police as an institution. In the case of Mbu, his actions and pronouncements have been so partisan in such a manner that leaves no one in doubt as to where his loyalty lies. One cannot believe that he offered the services of his men to escort the ex-militants when they demonstrated against Amaechi's government even up to blocking the Rivers State government house. As the demonstrations were going on, it was reported that the Commissioner himself and the AIG, Jonathan Johnson, were on a courtesy visit to the Governor. The same Commissioner of Police came out to ban other peaceful protests in Rivers State immediately thereafter, ostensibly to prevent a counter-protest by the peace-loving people of the State who are clearly in support of their Governor. How else can someone describe hypocrisy?

Rivers State is an important doorway to the Niger Delta and Port Harcourt remains the most populous city in the region. It houses the only international airport in the region and is therefore one of the most important entry points of the world into the Niger Delta. One will only recall the portrait of that city during the heydays of militancy to understand the level of risk anyone runs by playing politics with security of such a strategic state. The consequences will surely spread and snowball beyond the region up to the south-eastern Nigeria. With the distraction of Boko Haram insurgency, additional insecurity in the Niger Delta is one luxury that the Jonathan administration cannot afford. Efforts must be made to nip this in the bud, cost what it may. The Rivers State Governor must be reminded that he is the one who will be held fully responsible by the citizens who elected him. Mr. Amaechi must therefore explore every peaceful means to resolving the current impasse internally before it degenerates.

On Mr. Mbu's conduct, I sought the comments of professionals. The Program and Advocacy Coordinator of the Civil Society Network for Police Reforms, Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma responded thus to the River's saga; “The Rivers State CP has failed to exhibit principles of professionalism, discipline, non-partisanship, neutrality and integrity consistent with his high office. He failed to display knowledge and understanding of his duties as a police officer which is to serve the people, not any partisan political regime or interest and to provide equal protection to all and not to serve as a hatchet man of any political interest in a dispute. He has exhibited patent ignorance of the law and the limit of his powers when he threatened those who may embark on peaceful protests or street demonstrations without seeking or getting police permit. That threat seeks to arrogate to him and the police, powers they do not have under the law. It is an utter infringement of the fundamental human rights of citizens to freedom of expression as guaranteed in Chapter Four of the Constitution. The CP can no longer be trusted to professionally and impartially police the state by enforcing the law within the law. His clear acts of bias presents a test case for the newly reconstituted Police Service Commission to prove sceptics wrong by demonstrating its doubted ability and willingness to ensure discipline and accountability in the police”.

Mr. Anyakwee Nsirimovu, Chair of the Niger Delta Civil Society Coalition in a terse statement described Commissioner Mbu as “ an officer craftily drafted to Rivers State for a hatchet job and who has shown himself as someone superior to the constitution and the law by operating on illicit powers and authority based on arbitrariness'. Others have likened the conduct of Commissioner Mbu to that disgraceful event where late AIG Rapheal Ige led a team of policemen on the 10th of July 2003, to abduct the then Anambra State governor, Dr. Chris Ngige, allegedly on the instruction of his estranged godfather Chris Uba – a clear rape of democratic tenets.

Based on all of these and more, the Inspector General of Police needs not wait any further to heed the calls from respected Nigerians to send Commissioner Mbu off to another posting elsewhere. Clearly, the people and, very importantly, the Chief Security Officer of the State have lost confidence in him. Vox Populi, Vox Dei.

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Articles by Uche Igwe