Nigerian cops are usually reviled. Citizens often accuse them of demanding bribes from crime suspects or victims, engaging in extra-judicial killings and colluding with criminals for financial returns. Not Monday Agbonika, the exceptional police chief at Isokoko Police Division at Agege area of Lagos, southwest Nigeria.
Residents say Agbonika, the Divisional Police Officer, DPO, of Isokoko, has turned the once notorious division into a friendly place and the Wall Street Journal, the influential American publication, described him in an article this week as an exceptional police chief who does not demand or accept bribes.
“It’s all about community policing,” he said at a public function recently. “I just try to ensure that I have a plan on the ground, study the area and find out what the concerns of the community are and I follow the plan,” he added with humility.
“A few years ago, it was a very notorious police station. There were cases of extra judicial killings. Victims were asked to pay for basic services and suspects were freed after paying a bribe. There was also money for bailing suspects out,” a resident told P.M.NEWS recently, echoing the feeling of others.
Residents have built a magnificent police station for Agbonika and his men, a striking difference from the ramshackle building they used to occupy before he came in four years ago.
To Agbonika, a native of Kogi State and a Masters ‘Degree holder in psychology, from the University of Jos, Plateau State, north central Nigeria, policing is made interesting when the needs of the community are identified and a genuine desire to satisfy them undertaken.
“I get information from the community, I work with them, they all have my phone numbers and can call me at any time of the day and we tackle problems together. All these have really helped.
“When I was a child, I hated to see people being cheated, so as a child, I took up issues of people being bullied. I see this as an opportunity to prevent people from cheating others. Then with the community policing training, I get much done.
“And by involving the community members like the vigilantes, I put policemen on the road at key areas and the robbers know that policemen are everywhere and they keep off the area. I just ensure that my men are there and more importantly I ensure that the overall plan is carried out. When we follow the plan, everything goes as planned,” he said.
The 44-year old DPO has instilled discipline in his staff and police extortions have been eliminated. There is no payment for bail and victims or suspects are not asked to pay for fuel, paper or pen. Indeed, P.M.NEWS confirmed that everything is free.
To him, “an ideal policeman should have genuine interest in serving the people. He should be a policeman that will accept the shortcomings that we have in the system such as lack of logistics. He must know that he is a servant and not a lord over the community.”