ANAMBRA, Nigeria – The period preceding the Christmas and new year celebrations is often referred to as the yuletide.
In Igbo land, the yuletide is a great period for reunions. It doesn’t matter one’s age, the yuletide is enjoyed by all, and each enjoys it according to their age, understanding, wealth and others.
It is usually a great period for Anambra people as it forms a part of reuniting the people of the state, as those living in the diaspora move home to celebrate with their kith and kin.
It is also a period when most communities, churches, social clubs and many others fix their ceremonies, especially as they are sure all will attend. It is also a time for many to show off their wealth and acquisitions.
People prepare specially for this period but it is not only individuals that prepare even the government does.
In Anambra, the government first sets the pace for the celebration.
For the Anambra government, the preparation for the yuletide begins as early as November or before, when it begins to do palliative works on roads around communities in the state, in preparation for the enjoyment of returnees.
It also goes ahead to award multimillion naira decoration contracts across the state, which lights up communities with multiple colours, especially at night.
It then hosts the Carol of Nine lessons, which sets the tone for Christmas. In some years, the carol is followed by a music carnival, but that didn’t happen in the 2020/2021 yuletide for obvious reasons; the rampaging coronavirus.
All these set the tone for the year’s celebration as indigenes begin to come home for the celebration.
Just like every other year, the Anambra State police command worked extra hard during this period to ensure a safe and secured environment for the returnees.
It also gave out early warnings about the use of fireworks, sirens, and covered plate number.
This is also in addition to the ban by the Inspector General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, on the use of police personnel as security for private individuals for the reason that some personnel are turned into domestic aides.
In a warning, early December 2020, the Anambra State Police Command also banned the use of fireworks during the season.
“The Anambra State Police Command has banned the use of knockouts, firecrackers and other forms of fireworks during the Yuletide period. Also banned is the use of unauthorized sirens, tinted glasses and covered plate numbers.”
The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. John Abang, who gave the order in a statement by the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Haruna Mohammed, said that knockouts, fireworks and such constitute a serious security risk noting that it is capable of misleading the security personnel on the apparent danger of gunshots as well as engender fear in the minds of the peace-loving citizens.
“Consequently, parents and guardians are advised to warn their children and wards from purchasing and using knockouts as the law governing the sales, purchase and use of fireworks is still in force.
“Groups or persons desiring to commit the above-stated offences are warned to desist forthwith as anyone arrested would be dealt with in accordance with the law.”
Despite the warnings and threat of punishment by Police authorities, the bans were not adhered to as reported by our correspondent who moved around the state attending traditional, social and other functions during the yuletide.
He reports that on the nights preceding Christmas and New year days, variants of fireworks rent the air causing joy and panic among citizens, depending on the location and mood of the people there.
Also, the ban on the use of sirens, covered number plates and tinted glasses were not adhered to.
It was observed that a lot of private individuals who returned to the state for the celebration had pilot cars attached to their convoys, with blaring sirens, just as most vehicles in their convoys had covered plate numbers and carried tinted glasses that made it impossible to see through into the interior of the vehicles.
OgeneAfrican found that virtually every well to do Anambra man who returned for Christmas had at least two security men attached to them, flouting the ban on police personnel being attached to dignitaries.
At a store in Awka, Police Personnel who was not only attached to a private individual but was reduced to a domestic aide as he was saddled with moving wares bought by the dignitary in a cart from the store into the boot of the SUV car driven by the dignitary, while his other colleagues stood guard over the dignitary, with their AK 47 guns.
A lawyer, Mr Uzo Ben said, “If that is what your worry is, then you can be sure you will worry for a very long time. This country will take a long time to be fixed. From what I know, for you to get security personnel to be guarding you, you only need to apply to the state Police Commissioner, and you pay some money and they give you security. You also promise to take care of the policemen attached to you.
“Let me tell you, policemen are even happy to be attached to some of these people because of what they get from them besides their salaries. As it is, if they share out the available security men to dignitaries, how many will be there to guard you and me? That is Nigeria for you,” he said.
A woman who simply identified himself as Kasie spoke of an ordeal she recently had with the police. She said, “I reported a matter at Zone 13 (Ukpo) during the yuletide season and I was told I had to hire mobile policemen because they were scarce. And because of the scarcity, nothing has been done on that case till date. Can you imagine?”
The Anambra State Police Command has, however, denied that it assigned police personnel to any dignitary, during the festive season.
The Spokesperson for the Command, CSP Haruna Mohammed who spoke on the various bans said, “Yes, the bans are still in force.”
On whether arrests have been made on the ban of covered plate numbers, tinted glass and use of siren, he said, “I do not know whether arrests have been made until I get details from DPOs.”
Barr Uzo Ben, however, believes that no arrests would be made, insisting that the dignitaries who should be arrested for the violation are the same people who use police escorts to intimidate people on the road and drive through every police checkpoint without any check.
But speaking on the use of police personnel as personal security, the Spokesperson denied that the state command had approved any policeman as security attaché to any dignitary. He said, “The command does not assign police personnel to personal individuals without approval from the IGP.”
When reminded that some people who do not merit being given private security personnel were flaunting them in communities in Anambra during the yuletide, He said that those group of people may have gotten them (policemen) from other states, and not Anambra.