Perhaps Nigeria’s most controversial police officer of the modern era, Joseph Mbu, on Saturday formally bowed out of the force after 31 years in service, with an appeal to the Nigerian media not to exaggerate his “sins” and those of his colleagues.
Officers and men of the police bided Mr. Mbu goodbye at a stepping-down ceremony at the Police Staff College, Jos.
The assistant inspector-general of police, who enrolled into the force in 1985, was commandant of the college until he was suddenly retired along with 20 other colleagues on July 1.
At the ceremony, Mr. Mbu described his service years as fulfilling and urged men and officers still in service to always eschew ‘eye service’ in the discharge of their duties.
Mr. Mbu himself is believed to have engaged in excessive ‘eye service’ to please the Goodluck Jonathan administration during his tenures as police commissioner in Rivers and Abuja, and assistant inspector-general in charge of Zone 2, Lagos.
“I am privileged as a police officer to head various formations and commands, including the political capital, Abuja, and the economic capital, Lagos,” he said.
“Other formations and commands I headed as commissioner of police include the Directorate of Police Education, Mobile Force, Oyo, Rivers and the FCT.
“I was also the Assistant Inspector General of Police Zone 7, Abuja, Zone 2, Lagos and also the Elite College, the highest Police institution in Nigeria.”
He then called on the media not to overflog the alleged “sins” of officers and men of the police in the course of duty, but rather to seek and understand their peculiar circumstances and work as partners with them to ensure peace and sanity in the country.
Mr. Mbu, who once described himself as a “radical rebel” and a “lion”, left the force without achieving his ambition of becoming Nigeria’s inspector-general of police, having told officers and men of the Ogun State Police Command on February 12, 2015 that he was working hard to get to the top of the police hierarchy.
At the Jos event, he was sober, and perhaps remorseful. He did not roar like a lion or sound boastful, violent or dictatorial. Rather, he spoke gently, and penitently.
In the past three years, Mr. Mbu had gained notoriety as a brutal, partisan and medieval police officer who had no regard for professionalism and human rights.
The retired AIG bounced to national prominence in 2013 shortly after he was posted to Rivers as police commissioner. Rotimi Amaechi, the governor of the state at the time, soon accused him of partisanship, saying he had taken sides with Patience Jonathan and her husband, who were fighting him.
At a point, Mr. Amaechi petitioned the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), accusing Mr. Mbu of orchestrating a “grave and deteriorating human rights situation” in the state, and requesting the commission to use its “legal power and competencies” to salvage the strategic security formation infrastructures and networks in the state allegedly compromised by Mr. Mbu through his “pattern of actions and utterances.”
Mr. Mbu, however denied victimising the governor. He described Mr. Amaechi as a power-hungry dictator who hated him because he refused to be subservient to him.
Mr. Mbu and Mr. Amaechi remained estranged until he (Mbu) was moved to Abuja as commissioner.
While in the nation’s capital, the police officer recalled his time in Rivers with relish, describing himself as a lion who succeeded in taming Mr. Amaechi, a leopard.
The then Rivers governor shot back describing the cop as “a puppet who completely lacked the steel and strength of character of a lion, and is rather a shameless, corrupt puppet and toothless attack dog of a woman.”
In Abuja, controversies continued to swirl around the police officer.
In June 2014, the #BringBackOurGirls campaign group sued him after he announced a ban on their protests in the Nigerian capital.
The group has been holding daily sit-ins since May 2014 to demand that government does more to free the over 250 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram from the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, in April 2014. But Mr. Mbu moved to halt the daily peaceful gathering.
In October that year, Justice S.E Aladetoyinbo of an Abuja High Court ruled that the police did not have the right to ban protests, saying while citizens were mandated to notify security agencies before protesting, they were not obliged to obtain permission from the police to stage protests.
But shortly after that case was resolved, Mr. Mbu courted controversy again. He ordered that a journalist with the African Independent Television, Amaechi Anaekwe, be detained for describing him as controversial on a TV programme. The journalist was only released after the police headquarters compelled Mr. Mbu to do so.
While several Nigerians, who considered him barbaric and an embarrassment to the police, continued to call for his retirement from the police, the Goodluck Jonathan government rewarded him with promotion to the rank of AIG and deployed him to Lagos as AIG in charge of Zone 2.
While in Lagos, Mr. Mbu continued to attract controversy to himself like bee to honey.
On January 15, 2015, Mr. Mbu threatened to bring down any community where the killing of a police officer takes place.
“Honestly, any policeman who is killed by any community in my zone, I will bring that village down, we have to rise against the killing of policemen,” he said.
About a month later, on February 12, 2015, the AIG said he would order the killing of 20 civilians for any police officer killed during the 2015 elections.
That threat sparked anger across the land, with the Afenifere Renewal Group demanding his redeployment from Lagos, and a lawyer, Tope Alabi, asking a Federal High Court in Lagos to strip Mr. Mbu of his police rank and declare his office vacant.
Months before then, Nigeria’s main labour union, the Nigerian Labour Congress, had described Mr. Mbu as a serial embarrassment to the police.
“He does not seem to represent the mainstream 21st century police if his routine primitive, partisan and primordial outbursts are anything to go by,” the NLC had said in a statement by its General Secretary, Peter Ozo-Eson.
“He is a serial embarrassment to the Police Force we need. The Police Force we need is the one that is concerned with public good, law, order and justice. We doubt Mr Mbu is in the right company.”
All however went quiet at Mr. Mbu’s end after his major backer, Mr. Jonathan, lost the 2015 presidential election and he (the AIG) was redeployed to the police college in Jos.