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Breaking news: There are honest police officers in Nigeria

On the night of January 29, 2024, four Nigeria Police officers led by Inspector Gambo Gamaraju were on patrol at a checkpoint on the Yola-Jalingo…

On the night of January 29, 2024, four Nigeria Police officers led by Inspector Gambo Gamaraju were on patrol at a checkpoint on the Yola-Jalingo Road in Taraba State. That is not unusual. As police officers often do, they flagged down a passing car and in it, they found suspicious persons with suspicious cargo. The reports never stated the nature of these persons or their crimes, but that is beside the point. The occupants of the car, being criminals of some sort, decided to do what criminals often do when confronted by lawmen—they offered a bribe, this time to the tune of N8.5 million.

Anyone who knows the antecedents of Nigerian police officers at their checkpoints could hazard a guess as to what happened. Except in this instance, the four officers rejected the bribe and arrested the suspects. The suspects and wads of cash were bundled to the police station to face the law.

I know what you are thinking, but this is not fiction. The story was reported on the NTA local station in Taraba. Why is it not trending, you ask? Why are Nigerians not queuing up to gift these officers money, generators, and plots?

Well, as both a journalist and a media scholar, I can tell you that no one knows exactly why certain things—news, videos, images, or memes—trend. It is a function of mood, time, algorithm, and a convergence of various factors, like the right sort of people picking up the story. They just catch a current and blow up. This one hasn’t yet, but I hope it does because for long, the reputation of the Nigeria Police has been dragged through the mud of a cattle market, often because of the actions and inactions of the police officers themselves. Recently, two police constabularies in Oyo State were dismissed for embarrassing the nation when they demanded a bribe from a Dutch traveller. That video, unlike this one, trended. Both the video of their soliciting a bribe and that of their dishonourable discharge from the police.

The steady stream of negative narratives about the police has become so dominant that the force needs to counter the narratives. Is there a better counter-narrative than this, of officers rejecting such a massive bribe as this, especially in these challenging times? Inspector Gambo Gamaraju and his colleagues, although having received commendations from the state police commissioner, who has forwarded these recommendations to the IG for his own action, need to be recognised as an example for other police officers. The Nigeria Police must know the power of a positive example.

Take the case of the Soviets, for example. During WWII, when the Soviet Army was being devastated by the German Wehrmacht and all hope seemed lost, a random Soviet soldier picked up a rifle and shot a German officer from 800 meters. It was an incredible shot from that distance, especially considering the basic weaponry he was using. Two other officers emerged to check on their comrade and were promptly sniped off. The shots from that distance were remarkable, and the shooter was soon identified as Vasily Zaitsev, who, as a child, was trained to shoot by his grandfather. He was celebrated and properly armed by the Soviets with a rifle with a telescopic sight, and within a month, he had shot 40 German soldiers. The legend of Vasily Zaitsev was born. His story and remarkable feats were published in Soviet newspapers, his posters were plastered all over the country as a symbol of Soviet resistance and courage. Between November 10 and December 17, 1942, Zaitsev killed 225 German soldiers before he was injured and evacuated from the front.

Zaitsev may not have won the war for the Soviets, but his legend, greatly boosted by Soviet propaganda, won the morale war for the Soviets, inspiring thousands of soldiers to believe and to give their all.

The Nigeria Police have been in a war of corruption for decades now. They have been losing for the most part. But actions like that of this police team in Taraba State, if applied properly, could be a turning point in this battle and a useful tool in salvaging the image of the police.

There are numerous honest police officers in this country. I am sure as you read this, you are trying to think of one. I know several. One of them is Officer Auta Luka. When a scammer tried to dupe some unsuspecting jobseekers, including some relatives of mine, of their money in the guise of arranging an interview for them with an airline company, the police intervened.

A relative had tried to make the required payment into a designated account when he got a call from a man who introduced himself as Officer Auta Luka from the Gwarimpa police station. He told him they had been investigating the account for fraud and advised him not to make the payment. Others have already made the payment. I spoke to Officer Luka several times during the investigations in which he assured me they would arrest the suspect. I did not expect them to recover the funds, at least not all of it. But they did, and the police invited all the victims to come take their money back. To the best of my knowledge, everyone got their full amount back. At least, those that I know.

I told Mr. Luka that he had rekindled my faith in the police that day because I know that good and honest officers like him are still in the ranks of the force. I haven’t spoken to Officer Auta Luka for a couple of years now, so I don’t know if he had got the promotion I believe he deserves. I hope he has because honest policemen like him deserve good things.

There are many like him and the likes of Gamaruju and his team, I am sure. The police need to celebrate these officers and use them as good examples for others. It won’t be a bad idea for Nigerians and corporate bodies to do their generous acts for men like this as they have done for others.

This is important because these are people who often put their lives on the line for the rest of us. I know we are often frustrated by them on the whole, generally speaking, but we must not fail to praise them when they do well. And the police itself needs to champion the efforts and sacrifices of its fine men and women in the line of duty. For instance, during the infamous Abuja kidnapping of January 2, 2024, in which members of the Alkadriyah family were abducted, not many people are aware that a police officer was murdered that day trying to stop the abduction.

The details of the officer’s death have never been fully reported, and his name has not been published, to the best of my knowledge. How and when was he buried? Was he sent off with the appropriate honours, or was his family left to bury him and suffer their loss?

At least, a suspect has been arrested in the Nabeeha Alkadriyah murders. His name is Bello Mohammed, a 28-year-old, who when arrested in a Kaduna hotel, offered the DPO the sum of a million naira in bribe to let him escape.

Any officer who loses his life in the line of duty, in the cause of protecting the lives of Nigerians, should be honoured and celebrated. The police have to take the lead in honouring its fallen officers and taking care of the loved ones they left behind. The Nigeria Police need its heroes, and thankfully, men like Inspector Gambo Gamaraju and his colleagues, and men like Auta Luka, have kept hope alive.