News Update

About Police Escorts and Stray Bullets

By Uche Amunike

Just last week, something happened in my peaceful town of Urualla. I got a call from a cousin who wanted to know if I was the person that just drove past him, minutes prior. I told him it wasn’t me because I was actually headed to Umunze to drop off my daughter in one of the Catholic schools there. Told him I would come into Urualla if I rounded up with getting her settled down early enough. I asked him if everything was okay and he said there was a situation at hand right there at the place from where he called. I’ll tell you what happened. An important man in my town visited a bereaved family to pay his condolences. He was, as always, with his security details. After he was done and it was time to go, one of the security men shot bullets in the air and a bullet strayed to an innocent bystander and in seconds, he was lying in the pool of his own blood. The second bullet pierced another man’s thighs and he was rushed to the hospital. A day after he was admitted, he gave up the ghost. The third bullet thankfully, just grazed another victim’s jaw and he got treated of the wound. He is still alive.

The man in question is personally known to me and is a very quiet and unassuming gentleman. I couldn’t help but wonder what his state of mind was, when this unfortunate incident took place. I have personally tried to reach him to no avail, but I understand his reasons for being incommunicado. He is human after all. This must be the most devastating incident he has ever experienced. The question then becomes, whose fault was it that those two men lost their lives and in such a gruesome manner? Now, before we begin to apportion blames of who should be blamed or not, it is expedient to state some facts here.

First of all, our society allows individuals who need police protection due to one reason or the other to apply for it as the law allows and then, get assigned with these trained officers. Their duty while with the individual will be primarily to defend him. So, the society allows this kind of request. This means that the man in question did no wrong by having those officers guiding him. He needed to be protected, he applied for police protection and he got his request granted within the ambits of the law.

The confusion here is finding out the reason why bullets were released indiscriminately to the point of two people losing their lives. I was not there when it happened and I am not a trained police officer. However I know enough about guns to categorically say that if the nozzle of the gun is pulled really high up in the sky, it would be almost impossible for the bullet to go penetrating into anybody’s skin. So, is it possible that the angle from which the shots were fired were less than vertical? I can only wonder.

Again, it is culturally accepted in our dear country Nigeria, to shoot what is called celebratory gunfire which is the shooting of firearms into the air during certain celebrations. That is why most people do not see it as strange that most of the Very Important People in our society attend either New Yam Festivals or marriage ceremonies, or chid dedications with their retinue of police escorts with their guns. Remember, Nigerians love to show off and moving with a convoy of fully armed police escorts is a very good way of showing that they are the rich and powerful of society.

This is why it is very surprising to me because even state governors with all the security details they move around with do not start giving instructions for the officers to release bullets into the air, how much more an individual who isn’t the number one citizen of the state.

Now, the questions on my mind are as follows: why the gun was shot in the first place. Was it my town’s man that instructed for the gun to be shot into the air? Was it the officer that took it upon himself to release the shots as a matter of routine? Was it a mistake on the part of the officer that the bullets went in the direction of innocent bystanders? What really happened??? You know, one of the most painful things about this kind of situation is that these innocent bystanders often have nowhere to flee. Again, they do not envisage their deaths most times. They are always taken unawares. Their deaths are always unexpected. They are always shocking. They are always blood chilling. I will still go on to ask, was it that an instruction was given to the officer to announce their departure or arrival as the case may be?

If an instruction was given to him by the VIP, he should have been in the position to educate his master on the rules of being a policeman/private escort. His conduct was quite unprofessional and a lot of problems would have been avoided, if he had not pulled that trigger. So, it was wrong of him to have taken that instruction from the VIP, considering that he was trained on how to use firearms which makes the consequences entirely his to bear. He presently has to dance to any music his command plays as punishment. Of course, the question would no longer be a question of who gave orders to the officer. The question would be who pulled the trigger and why.

Lives have presently been lost and it cannot be reversed. We can only learn lessons from this. There is so much to learn in that tragic occurrence. Important men and women who hire these police officers should use them only for the purposes for which they were hired. It’s a very simple thing. If they are hired for reasons of protection, which I understand is even the major reason most of them pay huge sums of money to get those services, then let them be there as your security men focusing on guarding and protecting their principal. They shouldn’t be used as catalysts for displaying how high and mighty you are. It is not only irresponsible to use them in that manner. It is also uncalled for. Again, there are so many people with various degrees of health conditions. Most people are hypertensive these days because of the hardship in the country and other reasons too. Most of these unnecessary gunshots trigger one crisis or the other when they feel the impacts. You don’t only kill a man when you pump a bullet inside him. You also kill a man when you do things to trigger health conditions that might lead to death. It is also a lesson for the police escorts. If a principal is ignorant and asks you to release gunshots, kindly educate him about the reason why it is improper. Tell him that it is not ethical and that you work with instructions from your command. He can’t put your job at risk and put the lives of innocent people at risk. Most of these important men travel outside the shores of this country and see the way things work. They refuse to learn from them, but rather do things differently here in Nigeria where anything goes.

Let the duties of the police escorts be limited to what it should be. Their job remains to guard and protect. They are trained to give security coverage to these VIPs and as such, their duties should remain. Some of them actually lose their lives or get injured while protecting these VIPs. The VIP should always understand that these security officers are sent to them for ONLY official reasons and not domestic reasons or for status symbols. The police escorts should also not stoop so low for these VIPs. They should try and keep to their security duties and refuse to run petty errands for their households. This is what extends to them dishing out orders to these officers to ‘release bullets’ to announce their arrival or departure from event places.

Finally, there are codes of conduct and professional standards for police officers in the Nigerian Police Force. Let these policemen be allowed to do their duties of safeguarding these VIPs, protecting them and maintaining order in their immediate environment. Let these VIPs help their police escorts to help them. They might respectfully pull the trigger because they want to be obedient but in some cases like the one that led to my doing this write-up, it becomes fatal and both VIP and Police Escorts will have to face the wrath of the law.

I commiserate with the families of the deceased men and pray that God gives their families the fortitude to bear their pains of loss. May their souls rest in peace. Amen. I also hope that lessons have been learned by everyone involved. Let’s always live responsibly. It pays more than we can ever imagine.

God bless us all!