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Innocent Chukwuma: I Thought I Knew You

The first time I met him was sometime in 2008 if I am not mistaken. It was also the first time I met Josephine, his soul mate.

I was a Superintendent of Police and the Divisional Police Officer in-Charge Isokoko Division in Agege, Lagos. I had read a lot of materials on policing produced by Innocent Chukwuma and Professor Alemika. Even while on several police courses, whenever I had need to undertake a research on policing, the most prominent local/Nigeria Police materials I got were from CLEEN Foundation.

Later I found out that Innocent Chukwuma was the founder of CLEEN Foundation (Centre for Law Enforcement Education of Nigeria), while his wife Josephine Effa Chukwuma is the brain behind Project Alert.

As the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) Isokoko, I discovered many training needs for the personnel at the station. I could not arrange a formal training for them in the police training institutions, so I thought of collaborating with other agencies to achieve this.

Also, I had many ideas about how to improve policing services in my division. For instance, I discovered that the section that handles women and children issues, the Juvenile Welfare Centre (JWC) was not well structured to do this effectively. On many occasions, we had to take decisions on wards, children or even wives, who were being abused by their guardians or husbands as the case may be. While best practices entail that we should not allow them to return to the source of abuse without assurances of protection, we were constrained for lack of temporary shelter and other resources.

So you can imagine my excitement when I met the duo of Josephine and Innocent. That meeting left a lasting impression on me. To this day, I remember the occasion. He encouraged me to try the little I could wherever I found myself. In his soft spoken and humble manner, he said “Monday, you cannot change the Nigeria Police in one day. But the effort you make in your little cell will always count”. That is the kind of effect Innocent had on people. He was highly motivational and had a way of fueling your creativity. For the first time, I met someone who did not think I was dreaming. Someone who understood, and actually assured me and promised to assist. His mentorship was thorough. Innocent took time to visit the station (Isokoko Division) personally to see how far the training eventually arranged for the personnel of the station was progressing.

Innocent was full of original ideas. To my knowledge, he had many initiatives geared at stimulating good police leadership, security and safety practices. In order to motivate police stations to strive towards better services, Innocent Chukwuma organised the Annual Altus Regional Award after PSVW (Police Stations Visitors Week). It was a programme whereby police stations were assessed allover Africa and rated annually on various parameters. In 2009, Isokoko Division won the “Most Friendly” police station in Africa. I was invited to South Africa by Security Watch, to receive the award on behalf of the station.

Isokoko Division was also nominated to participate in two DFID (The British Department for International Development) sponsored projects. The SJG (Security Justice and Growth) and J4A (Justice For All). In 2011, when J4A was to pick a station as the first MPS (Model Police Station) in Nigeria, it was to be Isokoko Division. One of the core initiatives of the MPS programme was VPS (Voluntary Policing Sector) Initiative. This was handled by CLEEN Foundation. That was when I met Isioma Kemakolam and other associates. Since then, I had cause to be involved in one community policing project or the other, which Innocent had either initiated or had been a critical force behind its conceptualization. I even suspect, in his characteristic silent and altruistic manner, that he had recommended me or my station, on many occasions. When he picks interest in a subject, he goes all the way. He also referred many scholars from Europe and the USA, who were in Nigeria and were interested in studies relating to community-oriented policing, thereby expanding my horizon.

By 2013, while Innocent, God bless his soul, was in Ford Foundation, his support continued. He invited me over to the regional office in Banana Island Lagos for a discussion. In a meeting with a selected Ford executives/staff, he simply asked me if there are areas that I needed support. I told him about a vision of a model Family Support Unit project, where victims/survivors of sexual and gender-based violence could find succor. A model, which I hoped will later be replicated in other police stations nationwide. He assured me that he was going to look at my proposal and immediately appointed one Afi Aliu to work with me on the project.

The rest is history. The first ever Model FSU in Nigeria came to pass. It was beautifully constructed at Adeniji Adele Division. DFID also supported with training of the personnel. The project was complete, with a brand-new car and enough funds to run for one year. Innocent had taste.

Such was the kind of influence Innocent had on my career, that in November 2020, the FSU was replicated in Ota Area Command in Ogun State. It is the first in Ogun State. Unfortunately, he was not able to attend the opening ceremony, because of the short notice.

Innocent Chukwuma was a reformist extraordinaire. He was involved in so many other police projects that I know of. For instance, the “Stop the bribe” platform, review of the Police Act, Nigeria Police Community Policing National Action Plan and so many other police reform projects.

“Oga Innocent”, as I normally addressed him, will be greatly missed by the Nigeria Police. He had been a consistent and reliable partner over the years. He was an expert consultant and reformist per excellence. He understood the problems of the Nigeria Police and was objective and practical in his approach to problem solving. He believed in seeking for solutions together, instead of looking for faults. He was never afraid to voice his opinion, which he always did, politely and courteously.

Before now, I thought I knew the man Innocent Chukwuma. It is shocking to discover that there was so much more to a man after he is no longer with us. There was more to him than I ever imagined. After reading so many tributes about him, I realized that I did not know a pinch of the real Innocent Chukwuma. I also wonder if I have any right to write about his exploits with the Nigeria Police Force. Pardon me, because I write as an individual who will always bear a seal of the “Innocent legacies”.

I will miss him sorely. He was the only activist I know, who I could freely discuss my job with, my challenges, fears and visions. If I had known that death will rob me of Innocent so soon, I would have rushed to discuss so many issues with him, but….. Josephine, be strong. The girls need you to be strong. Innocent has gone to be with the Lord. He achieved so much more than anyone can hope to achieve in one lifetime. His legacies are well engraved in humans, institutions, ideologies and systems. He has lived a good life. Let us celebrate his life.

Adieu Innocent
May your soul rest in POWER!