News Update

Yuletide: Despite Ban, Police Still Work as Domestic Aides, Escorts to Dignitaries

.We didn’t assign personal security to dignitaries, says Anambra Police Command

…As Indigenes Violate Siren, Number Plate Concealment and Fireworks

 By Ikeugonna Eleke

The period preceding the Christmas and New Year Celebrations is referred to as the yuletide. In Igbo land, the yuletide is a great period for reunion. Regardless of one’s age, the yuletide is enjoyed by all, each according to their age, understanding, wealth and others.

It is usually a great period for Anambra people as it forms a part of reuniting the people of the state, as those living in the diaspora move home to celebrate with their kiths and kins. It is also a period when most communities, churches, social clubs and many others fix their ceremonies, being sure of massive attendance, just as it is a time for many to show off.

Policemen standing guard as a dignitary buys fuel in a petrol station at Amawbia.

It is not also a thing enjoyed only by individuals, as in Anambra, the government first set the pace for the celebration. For Anambra Government, the preparation for the yuletide began as early as November or before, when it began to do palliative works on roads around communities in the state.

It also went ahead to award multimillion Naira decoration contracts across the state which lighted up communities with multiple colours, especially at night. It then hosted the Carol of Nine Lessons which set the tone for Christmas. In some years, the carol was followed by a music carnival, but that did not happen last year for obvious reasons; the rampaging coronavirus.

All these set the tone for the year’s celebration as the state’s indigenes began to come home for the celebration.

Last year, just like every other, the Anambra State Police Command worked extra-hard during this period to ensure a safe and secure environment for the returnees. It also gave out early warnings about the use of fireworks, sirens, and covered number plates. This was also in addition to a ban by the Inspector General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, on the use of police personnel as security by dignitaries, for the reason that some police personnel are turned into domestic aides.

In a warning, early December 2020, the Anambra State Police Command stated, ‘The Anambra State Police Command has banned the use of knockouts, fire crackers and other forms of fireworks during the Yuletide period. Also banned is the use of unauthorized sirens, tinted glasses and covered number plates.’

The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. John Abang, who gave the order in a statement by the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Haruna Mohammed, said that knockouts, fireworks and such like constituted serious security risks. He noted that it was capable of misleading the security personnel in the event of danger, as well as strike fear in the minds of peace loving citizens.

Abang added, ‘The use of knock-outs, fire crackers and other forms of fireworks in the state constitute a serious security risk as it is capable of misleading the security personnel on apparent danger of gunshots as well as engender fear in the minds of the peace loving citizens

‘Consequently, parents and guardians are advised to warn their children and wards against purchasing and using knockouts as the law governing the sale, purchase and use of fireworks is still in force.

‘Groups or persons desiring to commit the above stated offences are warned to desist forthwith as anyone arrested would be dealt with in accordance with the law.’

Meanwhile, Fides which moved round Anambra communities, while observing traditional, social and other functions, however discovered that the bans were not adhered to.

On the nights preceding the Christmas and New Year days, it was noted that fireworks rent the air, as several types of its variant were shot sky high, causing joy and panic among citizens in equal measure.

Also, on the ban against use of sirens, covered number plates and tinted glasses, it was observed that almost every wealthy returning indigene of the state had pilot cars attached to their convoys with blaring sirens, just as most vehicles in their convoys had covered number plates and carried heavily tinted glasses that made it impossible to see through into the interior of the vehicles.

On the directive by the IGP for police personnel not to be attached to dignitaries, Fides found that virtually every well-to-do Anambra man who returned for the Christmas had at least two security men attached to them.

At Roban Stores in Awka, Fides ran into a police personnel who was not only attached to a dignitary, but was reduced to a domestic aide as he was saddled with moving items bought by the dignitary in a cart from the store into the boot of the SUV car driven by the dignitary, while his other colleagues stood guard over the dignitary with their AK 47 guns.

Though Fides was unable to speak to any dignitary with a police aide, a lawyer, Mr Uzo Ben, said, ‘If that is what your worry is, then you can be sure you will worry for a very long time. This country will take a long time to be fixed. From what I know, for you to get security personnel to be guarding you, you only need to apply to the State Police Commissioner, and you pay some money and they give you security. You also promise to take care of the policemen attached to you.

‘Let me tell you, policemen are even happy to be attached to some of these people because of what they get from them besides their salaries. As it is, if they share out the available security men to dignitaries, how many will be there to guard you and me? That is Nigeria for you,’ he said.

Another respondent, Mr Maxwell Ejike, who acted as a master of ceremonies at a traditional event in Alor, Idemili South LGA, joked that having security men attached to one was now a measure of one’s wealth.

‘We know that some of you are returning home after a long time, but we want to tell you that Anambra is safe. So, all the security men people are carrying about is not because they are insecure, but is part of the way to know people who came back for Christmas with money. If you don’t have security, you are a no body.’

The Anambra State Police Command has however denied that it assigned police personnel to any dignitary, during the festive season.

The spokesperson for Anambra State police Command, CSP Haruna Mohammed, who replied to Fides inquiry on the various bans, insisted that the bans were still in force. On whether arrests had been made on the violation of the ban on covered number plates, tinted glasses and use of siren, he said he was not aware of any arrests until he got details from DPOs.

Barr Ben however believes that no arrests would be made, insisting that the dignitaries who should be arrested for the violation are the same people who use police escorts to intimidate people on the road and drive through every police checkpoint without any check.

On the use of police personnel as personal security, Mohammed denied that the state command had approved any policeman as security attaché to any dignitary.

He said, ‘The command does not assign police personnel to dignitaries without approval from the IGP.’

When reminded that some people who did not merit being given private security personnel were flaunting them in communities in Anambra during the yuletide, he stated that those groups of people might have gotten the policemen from other states, and not Anambra.