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Cross River : After Ifere Paul 's Release What Next? By Inyali Peter

Comrade Ifere Paul, Social Critic 
According to the Median Newspaper, the Cross River State Commissioner of Police, Hafiz Mohammed reportedly told newsmen on Friday that Social Critic, Ifere Paul was in Police custody "as a suspect on kidnapping and cultism". However, the laughable charges against him in Calabar Magistrate court yesterday revealed that his crimes were more about his critical piece on social media on the Gov Ben Ayade administration as well as his messages exchanged with Goddy Akpama.

The sudden change of mind and twist to what the Commissioner told newsmen on Friday is what many are still pondering about. Questions like, is Ifere no longer a suspect for kidnapping and cultism has continued to pop up.

Cross Riverians demand explanation from the Commissioner of Police because if he doesn't, this would have confirmed the initial suspicion of a possible compromise and collaboration between the Police and the Government to intimidate and gag opposition and critics voices in the state.

Besides, recent developments are raising concerns that the Police under CP Hafiz have allegedly become more political than professional. And their suspected politics is to cover for government when they should act or act against innocent citizens when they disagree with the government.

For instance, this is over a month that Barr Joseph Odok was gruesomely attacked by hoodlums suspected to be hirelings of officials of the government yet the progress of the investigation have remained unknown. Prime suspects in the case are working freely today.

Rt Hon Paul Adah raised alarm of gun scare in his house few weeks ago and the suspects who drove in Cross River State government official vehicle were released without even taking a statement from him. The Commissioner said the incident was a case of two fighting. Curious minds have imagined the normalcy in people driving all the way to Hon Adah's frontage only to fight. Is his frontage now a boxing or wrestling ring? Yet,  the Police didn't see any need to investigate the matter.

Also, under the leadership of the current Commissioner of Police, the Police made concerted efforts  to stop opposition All Progressive Congress from holding a party function in Obudu. The then DPO who has since been transferred to Borno State kept saying that there was an order from above that he shouldn't allow APC hold any function in Obudu. Where is this above that seems so far from us? when has it become an offence for registered and recognized party to hold a legitimate party function?

Similarly, despite several court judgements restraining the Police from harassing, arresting, intimidating or disrupting Peace Corps activities in any part of the country, the Commissioner has allegedly proscribed Peace Corps activities in the state. The same Peace Corps that awarded Cross River glorified tailoring shop code named Garment Factory its first major contract. The same Peace Corps that the State government donated two utility vehicles too.  The same Peace Corps that came second to Police in the match pass competition during the independent day anniversary celebration.

Peace Corps went to Ogoja and Yakur respectively to conduct verification of its members but the Police kept disrupting and disturbing them. Even if the President has not signed the bill establishing it into law, the organization is still operating as an NGO. The question is, what is Peace Corps struggling with the Police under CP Hafiz? Is it not the same organizations that have hitherto enjoyed mutual respect and understanding?

All these are happening in Cross River State but Peace Corps is reportedly going on with its verification exercise in other states including the Commissioner home state.

These are just about the few examples of the abnormally and shortcomings of the Police under its current leadership in Cross River State.

Now that Ifere's arrest has awakened our consciousness to the seeming compromise by the Police, should we go to sleep after his release? Can't we unite to compel the Police to make public the outcome of the investigation into the suspected assassination attempt on Joseph Odok?

Should we go to sleep and assume that all is well? Shouldn't we demand that the Police be fair to every Cross Riverian and stop acting like its exist only for the purpose of protecting, supporting and covering up for those in government? Shouldn't we demand more commitment of the Commissioner to the oath he took to serve the people not only those in power?

No doubt, under CP Hafiz, the Police has recorded remarkable success in its efforts to curb the menace of kidnapping, armed robbery, car snatching, communal clashes, cultism amongst other crimes in the state. However, the manner in which the security agency has handled issues that affects opposition and activists in the state have left little to be remembered of the progress in curbing crime in the state.

Odok's case has come and gone. Hon Adah issue has come and gone. Ifere has had his own share. I've been threatened with assassination. But in all these, the Police has not shown enough seriousness and commitment to uncovering the truth may be because it allegedly involves the government.

Elections are drawing closer, are we just looking like that? Are we going to wait until we are told one day by the Police not to disagree with government policies again before we know something is monumentally wrong with the way things are going? Are we going to relax until our rights to hold and express opinions be taken away from us by the Police before we shout on top our voices against the act of intimidation perpetrated by the Police and agents of Cross River State government?

Recall that Ifere was illegally declared wanted by the Attorney General of the State who CP Hafiz relied on his petition to make the arrest but the then Commissioner came out to disassociate Police from the callous and mischievous declaration.

The then Commissioner said there was no evidence of any crime committed by Ifere and if there was, the law empowers the Police not Attorney General to declare him wanted. In fact, the Police was specific then to state unequivocally that the issue was political and was because Ifere criticises the government on social media.

CP Hafiz is about the third Commissioner under Ayade. He's less than 8 months. Ifere has been around. He was around during the tenure of former Commissioners. In this whole saga, the Commissioner has insisted that he (Ifere) has issues with Police before he even came. If that's the case, why didn't the former Commissioners order his arrest if actually Police was looking for him as reported in the media that the CP said? Why did Police decline from arresting him when the State government declared him wanted? So many questions begging for answers.

While we await explanation from the CP, it behoves on us to collectively call on the Police to be more responsible by treating everybody fairly and equally.

There's no gain saying that the Commissioner is my friend but many Cross Riverians including myself no longer have confidence in the Police under his leadership. Except, our hopes are renewed, we now fear Police more than even people who don't want to hear the voices of opposition and critics in Cross River State.
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