Everyone is at risk – Vanguard

By The Citizen

It would be dangerous to keep overlooking rising security challenges in Rivers State. The police and the state government have tangled over security issues for almost a year. Things are getting worse.

Everyone seems to know what is wrong with Rivers State. Nobody is doing anything to deal with the situation. From mere altercations that made good headlines, violence has taken a permanent position that unseen hands are permitting. Lives are endangered.

An ever present danger in these affairs is to think that those who are killed or maimed are the victim. The victim is the larger, which in ignoring the excessive use of official violence - and its more hidden abuses in other instances - leaves room for violence to spread.

What happens to policemen who routinely shoot commercial bus drivers who refused to be extorted? Which policemen have been successfully prosecuted for murder even as they fire live bullets point blank at rioters? Have the police not killed unarmed children, women and got away with their crime?

The police believe they can do anything. There are enough precedents to encourage their lawlessness. They have succeeded so far. Are the police punished when their road blocks on our highways cause accidents? Have they not killed without provocation or while quelling mayhems? Those who killed suspects, claiming they were resisting arrest are commended?  When these happen, lawmakers and the executive look the other way. The victims in most cases are the voiceless.

Impunity that has grown from these abuses has emboldened the police. They enforce laws by placing themselves above the law. They are incurably reckless and equipped with enough excuses for the human rights abuses they perpetrate.

The law permits the police to apply appropriate force in maintaining law and order. Was the type of shooting that occasioned the injuries and deaths that we witnessed on Sunday the appropriate force that the Constitution meant? What training do the police have about managing crowds? Is shooting the only way to disperse crowds?

Magnus Abe, a serving senator, is a high profile personality so his case would get some attention unlike others. The mistake that the high and mighty make is to think that they can live above the pervading injustices. So long as they operate in this environment, part of the injustices they ignore will spill on them.

According to Section 14 2(b) of the 1999 Constitution, 'The welfare and security of the people shall be the primary purpose of government'. The police have again indicated that attainment of 'welfare and security of the people' is out off their radar and it should worry the authorities as more contentious matters will surface with the elections.