SOS to Gov. Amaechi: Brutality and Robbery of Borokiri Policemen
There is the slogan that 'the police is your friend'. Borokiri Police Station have become a nightmare to the residents. In all modesty the policemen in Borokiri have posed a threat to lives, property and a great obstacle to the inhabitants. The men in uniform mount illegal road blocks, cause artificial traffic, cause the road users serious discomfort and extort money from commuters in the full glare of the public. The trend is worse in the night when innocent civilians are daily intimidated with guns and forced ton parts with their valuables, and commuters who fail to comply are branded militants and promptly detained. This daylight robbery has continued under the watchful eyes of some top government officials, who look the other way because they are not directly affected.
By nature, man cherishes life and would do everything to live within the limits of the natural laws to protect it. In fact survival is the first law of nature, as every human institution that violates human survival is seen as an aberration. Accordingly, the primary responsibility of any government is the protection of lives and property of her citizenry. When a government fails to execute this obligation, chaos and anarchy prevails. Again, when society degenerates to a Hobbesian state and is incapable of protecting lives and property, a social order, if it exists, should be terminated. In contemporary politics, any organized institution that is incapable of guaranteeing human survival should be encouraged to atrophy naturally or forcibly abolished.
The world over, the police play important roles without which the sustenance of order, legality, development and democracy may be difficult. The primary role of police is the maintenance of peace and order in the society. In recognition of the indispensable role of the police, government is expected to recruit and adequately fund the police force and train members in the living with civilians, in compliance with existing laws of civility. But the police are not the only agency involved in policing, in the broad sense of the term. Policing has always been necessary in all societies for the preservation of order, safety and social relations. The necessity of policing becomes even more evident in modern societies characterized by diversities and contradictions arising from population heterogeneity, urbanization, industrialization, conflicting ideologies. Policing involves a variety of tasks and responsibilities. Officers are expected to prevent crime, protect lives and property, enforce the laws, maintain peace and public order, and provide a wide range of services to citizens.
Ordinarily the presence of policemen should invoke a sense of security and safety to the innocent and law-abiding citizen. But in Nigeria, the reverse is the case. The average Nigerian would rather live without the Police in his public life. Any encounter, with the Nigerian Police is more likely to leave you with a bruised body or a demoralized psyche or both, and this is done in blatant disregard of the rights as the citizens. In fact as far as a typical Police Officer is concerned, the non-uniformed citizen has no rights to start with, and so there is really nothing to protect. Indeed one of the major 'offences 'a Nigerian can commit against a Policeman is the attempt to lay claim to any rights. In another sense, the police force is an institution of government that is on the streets, in the neighborhoods and in our highways. Because of their civil role, the force that is supposed to demonstrate the nature of the power of government and its relationship with the civilian populace.
In the face of the brutal, animalistic and inhuman tendencies of the men of the Nigeria Police Force, the Federal Government in the recent past, purported to change the name of the organization to "Nigeria Police". It must be pointed out however that what the Constitution recognizes by its Section 214 is the Nigeria Police Force as created by the Colonial masters by the Police Act of 1st April, 1943 which is in Cap 359, of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990. Conceived by the colonial masters as a means of emasculating our country men, nurtured by the illegal military governments as a ruthless machine for the suppression of the civilian populace and the Nigerian Police Force has continued to fulfill the infamous role with grandiose impunity.
The latest victims of the prevalent police oppression are the residents and commuters in the Borokiri area of Port Harcourt City. With over one million population, the Borokiri inhabitants have been subjected to unmitigated suffering through various abusive treatment meted out to them by men and officers of the Borokiri Police Station, the blockade of the only road linking Harold Wilson drive and other interconnected roads such as Captain Amangala, within the Port Harcourt metropolis in order to cause untold hardship to road users. From morning till evening, commuters undergo the trauma of excruciating traffic, harassment and extortion.
This writer is angry at the system that has thrown up these half educated, ill trained, uncivilized and incompetent men and women as the protector of the populace. Little Any wonder that of all the numerous murders that have been committed in Nigeria, none has been successfully investigated and the perpetrators brought to book in Nigeria. The Nigerian Police Force is still bungling the Bola Ige's, Marshall Harry, A.K. Dikibo, Funsho Williams and numerous other political murder cases. In advanced countries, in the detection of crime, the police resort to finger-print detection, incisive questioning, application of scientific methods etc. the Nigerian Police Force on the other hand will be waiting for a "Keyamo" to produce a "Frayo". This is why the potency of police investigation has been weakened by bribery and corruption- a reason the police cannot successfully investigate the sundry politically motivated murders in Rivers State.
When some Navy goons assaulted one Lady Okere recently in Lagos, it made headlines probably because the lady in question was well connected, but hundreds of Nigerians suffer worst fate in the hands of the Police everyday and nothing is heard of it. Victims most often fear the possibility of unending harassment by the Force, should they seek redress or they have come to accept this as one of the many ill fates Nigerians must go through in life. And there is this tendency for the police as an institution to tend to protect their own. When complaints are made against errant officers, these are hardly investigated. Rather the complainant is harassed, hounded, and intimidated to abandon their quest for justice.
Attempts have repeatedly been made to link police extortion to their poor remuneration, but it is doubtful if these arguments can go far in justifying Police brutality and other antisocial behaviors like rape of women under detention. Their favourite duty is mounting road blocks and extorting money from innocent travelers or negotiating terms of police bail with real criminals while harassing innocent people.
You therefore can claim the right of way on the road with other road users, but it immediately becomes an offence to do that once the Police show up, usually driving on the wrong lane of the road. With the police, traffic rules are suspended or reversed; whichever suits their motives at the moment. When they are behind you in traffic, you must immediately give way for them to pass even if it means moving into the gutter; otherwise, you stand the risk of becoming a 'criminal'. This is why corruption has reached its peak even in the top echelon of the police. For example, police check points have been turned into” Akawo” centres” hence a commuter could be gunned down and tagged a criminal for refusing to pay N50.00 tithe to the uniformed goons. Their recklessness has abbreviated the lives of many innocent people to the great beyond.
The re-branding efforts of the country must include the Police Force. This must start with the senior officers and flow down to the ranks. Erring officers should be disciplined without fear or favour. This would send a strong message down the ranks that it is not business as usual. Discipline as a core value must be restored in the force.
Rivers State under the Governor Rotimi Amaechi administration is trying recapture the glory of the garden city through the provision of massive physical infrastructure and much-needed social amenities to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Verily, the continued presence of policemen whose stock in trade is to create artificial traffic, inconvenience commuters and extort money from road users with chase away potential investors in the State. In fact, the rebranding exercise in Port Harcourt should begin weeding out the corrupt policemen to ensure the security of lives and property and by extension investment security.
To the best of my knowledge, Governor Rotimi Amaechi had earlier warned against illegal extortion by the police or any other law enforcement agents. This writer believes that the Commissioner of police has not demonstrated any doggedly determined to exterminate corruption in the Rivers State Police Command. There is not amount of rebranding, and provision of tourism infrastructure that would attract genuine foreign investors when the checking points in the Treasure manned by such barbaric police force in the name of security. Security is fundamental for any development to take place; the Nigeria state houses foreign embassies and they are obliged to detail their investors of the true situation in Nigeria. Its time for a paradigm shift in the recruitment and deployment of educated persons into the police and update their knowledge with international best practices to protect the human dignity and fundamental rights of the populace in our quest to building a viable nation. There are about 40 million graduates seeking gainful employment. The era of recruiting semi-illiterates as policemen should be a thing of the past. A society inundated with criminally-minded law enforcement agents is a dangerous society to live in.
Rivers people believe that Governor Rotimi Amaechi is a man of action who will swing into action and curb the scourge that is police brutality, harassment and extortion. The Commissioner of police is vicariously liable for any act of commission or omission committed by men of his command. Borokiri residents do hope that with the political will of Governor Rotimi Amaechi and the determination of the CP to wipe out corruption, the deviant, unedifying and reckless behaviour of the police at Borokiri will be contained because a stitch in time saves nine!
Matthew Ebrien, wrote from Port Harcourt| Article source