Editorial: Can the police effectively police the 2019 general elections in Rivers State?

It is yet another campaign season. The atmosphere will be charged and perhaps reach a boiling point as politicians swim through the nooks and cranny of the state looking for votes. However, while these movements are expected, together with its attendant comeuppance, the issue of insecurity in the state has been of great concern to residents.

There have insinuations in some quarters that the police command has not lived up to its expectations. Those who harbour such feelings are not entirely wrong as recent developments indicate an upsurge in crime, even within the state capital.

But however one would like to view it, the security challenges in Rivers State is an indictment on the state command of the Nigerian police as the police have failed to make use of intelligence gathering to prevent several criminal activities from happening.

This is evident in the way the police only visit crime scenes after crimes have been committed. Yet in several of those crimes, the end has not been heard or perpetrators arrested.

Take for example the promise made by the command during the build-up to the yuletide that it will ensure that there will be a crime-free season. Yet two days after the police commissioner gave those assuring speeches, there were cases of killings in Eleme and Abua/Odual.

It beggars belief if the police will be able to police the election in Rivers State or should they call for help.

Places like Emohua Local government, Ikwerre Local government and Eleme Local Government and Etche to an extent, lead the pack of hotbeds in the state. There has been no strategic approach to flushing out these criminal elements from these areas. How would elections hold in those areas?

Perhaps, the decision of Governor Wike to inaugurate the Rivers State Neighbourhood Watch and Safety Agency becomes ideal even though it is being politicized due to motives on both sides. However, there is fear that a state government-controlled security agency will be deadly for the opposition.

But considering the fact that federal government-controlled national security agencies are also tools to be misused by the government in power, and in this case, the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, the problem gets more complicated.

The 2016 rerun elections saw operatives of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad, the dreaded FSARS openly being used to rig elections in the state and there is no assurance that such will not repeat itself again.

But this time, people are more concerned about their safety, if they will be safe to even come out to vote. The onus lies on the police to assure residents of their safety and this time, not the usual verbal assurance that achieves nothing. In the case that the police fails, what are the next available option?

The police have to show working. The people need to see that truly, the police are working to ensure that election is free and voters also safe.

The police need to do more in gathering intelligence than it does standing on the road collecting money from motorists. The state deserves better.


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