Nigeria Police ― An epitome of national disaster

Nigeria Police ― An epitome of national disaster

“Where is my father?” a little boy once asked the mother. “A police man shot him dead when I was still carrying your pregnancy” the mother broke out in tears as she revealed the news after so many years of trauma and depression and having lived with the veracity of the fact that one day she shall break the ice, she finally did. The little boy will forever hate any police officer that comes across the ways of his generation even if there is nothing he could actually do for the moment.
This is what our Nigerian Police Force has put many families in the country and nothing is done about it. They end up saying “it was accidental discharge” or “oga na devil work” and it ends just like that, making an embryo fatherless just because of forty naira. To say that Nigerian Police Force is an Epitome of disaster is an absolute litotes, why not we change it to Nigerian Devil Force (NDF) since they always blame it on the devil so that we will now know that we train the devil incarnates here in Nigeria.
 The majority of Nigerian police officers are disgrace and highly unprofessional in their jobs. Why won’t they be? After all, the criterion for entrance into police force is at least kindergarten (KG) result. What baffles me most is the manner they use in treating issues in the police station. The first thing they think of is “what is my benefit?” they now finally decide on whether to embark on the case or not. If you go to a police station to alert them of robbery in your area, they first of all take cover behind you and then trying to stand on their toes, they peep through your shoulders. Then they ask you the kind of gun the robbers are with, the kind of car and all what not. The moment they hear “AK…” they shout “ha! We no de go”. What a shame. It is only when the robbers are gone that they now come in carrying their ‘shoot and hide’ guns, diving from one corner of people’s houses to the other like back in primary school days when we will dive on the field with our slate to catch grasshoppers. What about when you go to lodge a complaint? Once they see you from afar, they smile; “business don show” they would think aloud to no one’s hearing. They will extort you, you will have to buy them pen, ruler, long exercise book and if possible, eraser. Either you write or you pay for them to write your statement for you. The next is movement money. You now pay at least two thousand naira before they go for any arrest depending on the number of police officers going with you. In other countries, just a phone call, police men will surround the area in sixty seconds. Even if you dialed their number mistakenly, they must have to come to your house to find out what’s amiss.  But in our case here, you will get old before they now come with their rickety looking jeep to your house to say “oga you bin call us forty years ago, we don show”. You wouldn’t help but to slam your door at them. Now tell me, how many of them have complete SSCE result not to talk of Ordinary National Diploma or BSc. apart from the commissioners and AIGs?
In major cities across Africa's most populous nation, including the commercial hub Lagos and capital Abuja, armed police set up checkpoints every evening ostensibly to control high levels of crime, including armed robbery and kidnapping.
But the checkpoints are in reality tolls at which officers attempt to force motorists to pay money, sometimes grinning, Kalashnikov in hand, and asking "anything for the boys?" but frequently becoming more aggressive when there is nothing for the so-called boys.
Those with the real certificates sit back in the office to send others about to road blocks in other to generate money from jobless taxi drivers who are trying to make ends meet just to carter for their respective families. This is the more reason why they are being regarded as Assistant Armed Robbers (AAR). The only difference is that while the armed robbers collect all you have from you forcefully, the police do collect theirs at a fixed price. You will have the leverage to talk with the police to say “officer I don settle before o, ask the other officer” or “I don roja now o”... “You be Number 1…2…4!” the police man will say, as the case may be. But in the case of the robbers, you dare not. The similarities are that, they all stand on the road with arms; they can kill if you don’t give them money. You will hear them say when you meet them at the road blocks: “AAR! You wan jam me?” they’ve exclaimed the AAR telling you what they are in advance. “Oga stop there… abi you never see road block here?” they will ask you calling your attention to their mission and if possible, they will accuse you of an offence you never committed. “Na we be the police search and stop here” they now introduce their official duty to you as if you never knew. “If you wan to pass you have to drop here” they will continue. The question is whether you are dropping or dropping something.  What would they do with you? It’s just your money they need. When you ask too many questions perhaps insisting on your right, they now say “you no de see gun for my hand abi you no well?” their music tone has modulated now. “Come wey you, if you form actor, you go go cell!” another police officer shouts from afar. “Behind counter no be hotel” they now try to remind you of the sufferings in the police station unlike your hotel room. “You go de there three nights before you go on bail” they tell you of their deliberate detention just because you did not give them forty naira. They keep violating section 36(12) CFRN (1999) which stipulates that… a person shall not be convicted of any criminal offence unless that offence is defined and the penalty thereof is prescribed in a written law. Then back to subsection (5)… every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty. But our Nigerian Police Force has turned it upside down. They will detain a motorcyclist for not having seatbelt or inner light just to forge an offence in order to take them to the station, what a shame. Corruption in the Nigerian police force, from armed officers extorting money at checkpoints to top officials embezzling public funds, has led to the beating and even killing of innocent civilians, a rights group said. Institutionalized extortion, lack of political will for reform and impunity mean Nigerians are more likely to encounter police threatening them and demanding bribes than enforcing law, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a 102-page report. But which Nigerian police cares about your rights? If you try to prove that you know your rights, they will tell you “Na you study am, na we de apply am”. They do not have regards for human beings at all. In addition to their blatant disregard for human rights, it is also a common knowledge that when offered the right and adequate "encouragement", many Nigerian police officers can be “bought” and made to “settle scores” on one’s behalf- either through simple threat and harassment, or by making your adversary serve a short jail time laced with torture, or through more heinous means that I’ll rather not mention. Some policemen have been known to aid and abet criminals.
Still bent on getting the forty naira, having told you of their deliberate detention, they will now give you an option “but if you wan move, you self know wetin you suppose do”. What is the thing you are supposed to do? Forty naira, that’s it. “Do am quick quick make I no go expose you” as if you committed any crime. “yem something make I hold or I hold you” they keep pressurizing.  When you insist and refuse, that is when they now remember to search your booth and ask for your particulars and driving license even from a bicycle rider… what a shame. “Hey sergeant Bukarti come search him bags and pockets” they are now angry having seen that your particulars are complete. “Any exhibit we see here, alarm go blow your trumpet” they keep threatening you. Even when the taxi drivers do not have their money splitted, they will say “bring am we get change”. Some of them wouldn’t have any choice but to collect as low as five naira. Some of them who are as old as my grandfather have continually sold their birth rights on road blocks whenever they take a glimpse of any swanky car. They wouldn’t mind how old the person in it is, they now chorus “anything for the boys? In this place, there is No Passing Freely (NPF)”. They end up sharing the money realized and taking the rest to the higher officer whom they are answerable to. Recently, three Police officers were seen fighting to the full glare of the public at a road block in Lagos over the money generated from bambi-alah (begging). The fight was heavy I tell you. What a national disgrace. The long-term failure of the Nigerian authorities to address police bribery, extortion, rascality and wholesale embezzlement threatens the basic rights of all Nigerians I tell you most sincerely. What if as they fight, they mistakenly shoot a passerby? They will say its devil’s work. Just between Kwale and Ogwashi-uku, they have 17 road blocks. Between Ogwashi-uku and Asaba, about 6 or 7 road blocks. As early as 5:30am, they stand between Mater Dei Grammar School and Ogbe-atuma before kwale, extorting and giving numbers. Why? When armed robbers came to the banks in kwale recently, none of the police officers was seen around.
So many officers from the Police Force have been dismissed for one crime or the other, most of which have to do with stealing. Some years back, one police officer that was posted to Ashaka in Ndokwa East LGA of Delta state, and hails from Agbor also in Delta state, was dismissed for consecutively stealing a mere fowl. We also know how Tafa Balogun’s name was rubbished in the country for stealing the nation’s cash. The dismissal, trial and conviction of the erstwhile police boss are one of the outstanding testimonies of the determination of the Obasanjo administration to deal with corruption and corrupt practices. There were speculations that the dismissed IG would spill the beans if he was brought to trial. Indeed owing to the ignoble role the Nigeria Police played during the 2003 elections in full view of the public, it was generally believed that spilling the beans was an event that was waiting to happen. But Tafa Balogun was tried and convicted and nothing happened. Instead, Tafa Balogun engaged in plea bargaining which resulted in the mitigation of punishment for his wrong doing. I hope the prison afforded him the opportunity to reflect on the great harm his misconduct did to the Force he presided over, and to the nation at large. Ordinarily, bringing the Inspector General of the Nigeria Police to book would have had the effect of putting fear in the mind of public functionaries particularly the rank and file in the Police Force; but this was not the case, they are bent on getting forty naira.
Nigerian Police officers have become the most fearful set of people I will ever know in my life time. Approximately two years ago, a friend of mine took two Ashaka police men to a place called Igbuku in  Ndokwa East LGA of Delta state, to arrest someone whom he suspected to have stolen his digital camera, they got there, the youths and parents of the community prevented them from any arrest. The officers could not do anything for fear of being beaten up. Another scenario was when Paul Okonkwo (POKOBROS), the owner of Whiz Oil, was kidnapped in broad day light at UNIZIK temporary site junction, Awka in Anambra state, the police men around there pulled off their caps and uniform and ran away with their guns, struggling for space along the narrow street with those of us running for dear life. Some of them dashed into the bush while others hid with us in the gutter. Why should it be so? If they run away, who now protects the lives and properties of the citizenry?
Million of dollars have been pumped into the NPF, yet the organization remains comatose, grossly inefficient, and crime rate is perennially high nationwide. The mere physical appearance of a typical policeman indicates that the many billions invested in the NPF are yet to trickle down to those of lower ranks. In fact, the majority of low ranking policemen have defended their bribe-seeking tendencies to “Lack of adequate welfare for the rank and file of the Nigeria Police Force”. Senior officers have institutionalised extortion by establishing a system in which rank-and-file officers are compelled to pay up the chain of command the money they make at checkpoints, the rights group said. It cited serving and former officers as saying officers had to pay to be given a "lucrative posting", such as a checkpoint in a wealthy neighbourhood, where they are given daily or weekly financial targets and are punished if they fail to meet them. "Crime victims are routinely forced to pay the police to conduct every stage of an investigation from the moment they enter a police station to report the crime until the day their case is handed on for prosecution,” it said. Those with no means to pay are left without justice. Some members of the wealthy elite always pay to contract out police officers as private protection squads. Wealthy Nigerians escorted by a truck of armed police, often willing to beat up anyone who gets in their way, are a common sight in Nigeria and are viewed as a status symbol by some residents, despite efforts by local authorities to ban such convoys. What an absurdity… what a shame.
Their activities are not different from those of the boys’ scout I must say. The only difference is the uniform and the baton they always carry. But the boys’ scout is better because they don’t beg for money or extort and intimidate people. All we just need do is disarm the Nigerian police officers and take them back to the class and then re-orientate them on the axioms of the police force, teach them like the Man ‘O’war boys on how to handle innocent citizens in the country instead of exposing us to absolute danger.
Have you ever been a victim or a witness to police corruption in Nigeria? Have you suffered from extortion and bribery, embezzlement, and failure of oversight? Have you suffered torture or sexual assault from the police? Why not stand bold and make a case? There are several Human Rights organizations across the world, search for them, they are ready to fight for you if you cannot fight for yourself. Be bold.

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