Why Nigeria Police Must Be Reformed —Mukaila Apata Akinsemoyin


At the risk of and discomfort of my life, I will courageously tell the truth to any government in power either at federal, state or local government level when it is relevant to do so. I will praise openly when tremendous achievements are made likewise I would also condemn vocally and promptly when mistakes are made.

I want fellow compatriots to know that most elected and appointed public office holders in this country do not care a hoot about institutionalizing good governance. Most of them are deaf and blind to see or hear the rumbling on the streets and the bad storm that was coming,

The effort to rid Nigerian police force of human rights violations and all forms of crime should be accelerated. For the right deterrent to be served, therefore sufficient firmness must be demonstrated. Government urgently needs to consider a move that would be sweeping, but impactful to bring a final end to the recurring police atrocities in the country.

The news did not come to me as surprise when recently it was reported that four policemen led by Sgt. Eboma and others were arrested for armed robbery. One of them, Sgt. Andrew Ochei was reported to have had the sum of N18m in his bank account while one of his partners in crime, also a policeman has N3m in his bank account and drives a Toyota Camry V6 and also recovered from them was a land rover 2010 model. These cases reveal how awakened desire may become a forcing-bed in which seeds of evil germinate quickly to strange and terrifying growth.

The basic mission for which police exist is to prevent crime and disorder while our policemen here are merchants of death. You don’t know what you can get away with until you try, but the greatest incitement to crime is the hope of escaping the punishment. Nigeria police do not have effective or transparent mechanisms of internal control and discipline. The result is impunity, forgetting that sooner or later the cleverest of a criminal will fashion the rope for his own neck.

But what about those who are still in service, who owe their extra-ordinary escape from being exposed due to the craftily-planned extra-judicial execution of their civilian accomplices? Research has shown that the majority of policemen/women who engage in misconduct and other related crimes are those ones with godfathers in the force.

They are the IG boys, Zonal Commander’s boys, Commissioner’s boys, Area Commander’s boys and DPO’s boys. As a result, the quality of services therefore significantly deteriorates and corruption becomes a common practice among police officers occasioned by poor supervision and control. Our inability to make our policemen accountable is what is giving those irresponsible officers the courage to do whatever they want and more painful is the fact that most of their illegal activities are being carried out with egregious impunity. This is why the police have been punishing and inflicting pains on innocent citizens without batting an eyelid, without fearing the consequences of their action.

How do Nigerian police authorities demonstrate zero tolerance for corruption and human rights violations? You might need to find out.

The police presently do not have genuine concern about the increasing crime rate in the country but what financial benefit it would offer them. There are several allegations of consistency and unfavorable disposition of the police towards members of the public whenever cases are reported.

The complainant or an informant would be requested to pay at least N10,000 for mobilization fees, otherwise no action will be taken. Most of the time, the complainants are requested to pay N2000 before their complaints could be incidented in the crime diary.

Other allegations are wanton arrest of citizens by the police over trumped-up charges, indiscriminate arrests and extortion of money from the citizens by the so-called anti-robbery units of various police stations over threats of detention,

There are many instances of extra-judicial killings, assault, rape, torture, robbery, car theft, stealing, fraudulent conversion of exhibits to personal use, indecent assault on female suspects, compromising of cases, connivance with criminals to foment trouble with the aim of arresting innocent members of the public in order to extort money from them, public extortion on the highways and bus stops, arbitrary charges and abuse of court processes.

Others are revealing informants’ particulars to criminals, maintenance of two detention registers, one for legally detained suspects and one for the illegal detention victims, twisting of armed robbery case to assault occasioning harm and stealing; so that the suspects will be given bail in court, pervasive system of returns, etc . For the police, the vital thought has flown, the root is dead, the stalk is dry, the leaves withered, the fruit rotten.

A disturbing aspect of police abuse in Nigeria is the impunity enjoyed by the violators. Nigeria police do not discipline or sanctioned the officers for violating fundamental rights of citizens. In few instances, police authorities refer some of the complaints for investigation but never results in punishment of the officers that violate human rights or crime simply because of their godfather. Invariably, the complaints grind to a halt in the face of obvious lack of police co-operation compounded by a clear lack of will to hold them accountable.

Police authorities sparingly use the instruments of suspension or interdiction of policemen with pending complaint which is quite serious and this gives the culprit a capacity to intimidate and harass the victims from pursuing legitimate complaints and other avenues for redress. In nearly all cases, the policeman/woman that perpetrates all sorts of crimes enjoys impunity which inspires them to repeat similar misconduct over and over again in the name of law enforcement.

The fact that these unlawful acts are committed regularly and routinely by the police do not diminish them as crimes or the severity of the damage they inflict on public safety and security. If anything, the routine nature of these abuses destroys public confidence in the police, and encourages a tendency towards self-help, vigilantism, police-for hire, and do-it-yourself, and Boko Haramism, etc.

Another important point is where police abuses rise to the level of crime, the police still remain the primary investigating agency. (You report a devil to a devil). Police being the primary investigating agency has been broadly identified as the root cause for the frequent cases of police abuses and crime in Nigeria. The army in itself is not insulated from the kind of criminal actions that we hear or witness from the larger society. But Nigerian army with recent development have shown Nigerians that Army have zero tolerance for any act of indiscipline on the part of any officers no matter how highly placed. The Police Service Commission established in 2001 as the oversight body for the police has nominally strong statutory powers but remains institutionally deprived of strength.

An unruly dog, if not securely chained to its own kernel, is prone to wander into places where it ought not to be. To reposition our armed forces, to uphold the rule of law in all its actions and decisions, the government is hereby advised to established an Independent Police Complaint Commission (IPCC). A special prosecutorial team to ensure accountability for complaints of human rights abuse or criminal behaviour by the police.

Police provost units should be limited to deal with matters of internal discipline only. Disband all human rights units in the police because they are at least ineffective and idle.

I know there are going to be divided opinion on these pieces of advice; On one side, there will be timorous souls who are scared of allowing a new cause of action, on the other side there will be the bold spirits who are ready to allow it if justice so required. The Commission’s functions among others is to make sure that complaints received against police actions are dealt with effectively, and also to set standards for the way the police handle complaints and the practices reviewed from time to time. They should also be charged with the responsibility of investigating allegations of brutality and related crime or misconduct by law enforcement officers.

The commission should undertake regular monitoring, inspection, and visitation of police cells and any exceptions noted or observed should be addressed squarely. The commission shall be empowered to conduct trial and pronounce punishments ranging from fine, demotion in ranks, suspension, or outright dismissal or refer for criminal trial in court on any proven cases.

Any person can make a report to the commission, if you are a member of the public who has been the victim of the misconduct by any police personnel. Misconduct could include policeman/woman being rude to you or using excessive force or unlawful arrests or unlawful arrest and detention or an abuse of your rights; or who was present when the alleged misconduct took place, or close enough to see or hear the misconduct, provided you suffered loss, damage, distress or inconvenience; Or was put at risk or in danger; Or you are a friend or relative of the victim of the alleged misconduct, distressed by the effect of the incident on the victim. Or through referrals from Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) , or other organizations. If the current administration can painstakingly diagnose these proffered remedies, then the war against law enforcement abuse will be as good as won.

•Prince Akinsemoyin wrote in from Lagos.Tel.: 08023163949

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