Era of video detectives – Leadership

By The Citizen
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Only recently, a Lagos State Traffic Management Agent was caught on camera asking for a bribe to free an erring traffic offender. He was immediately sacked. But officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force deliberately seem not to fully appreciate the instant and ubiquitous world of social media we live in today. In August 2013, Sergeant Chris Omeleze was summarily dismissed from the Force after a video of him demanding a bribe of N25, 000 from a motorist went viral on YouTube and other montage broadcasting social media sites. In the space of one month, the videos of two female police officers and a policeman demanding bribes from motorists in Lagos and Onitsha, respectively, surfaced on YouTube.  Last week, in a three-minute 45-second montage, another police officer was caught on camera demanding a bribe in American dollars for a purported traffic offence. The abstruse rot in the Force has degenerated to a full-blown shameful stench!

Before we revert to the now flawed cliché hypothesis of a 'few bad eggs', we must first remind ourselves of how, as a preventive measure, police officers are sometimes found seizing or smashing people's mobile phones to foil any anticipated recording stunts by 'video detectives'.  There is an additional headache for the police high command evident in the bribe videos posted on the social media: the alarming display of ignorance and outright illiteracy. These are the men to whom we entrust our lives for protection!

While the police are busy extorting and molesting innocent citizens, they miss out on how far technology has gone. They can be excused, therefore, for being victims of a reality they shut their eyes to. The communication landscape has changed with the advent of social media; it has become more sophisticated, easier to access, more participatory and faster. The result is an increased freedom of expression and ability to document scenes. It seems the police are unintelligible to this new language.

Like the police, Nigeria's criminal justice system rarely keeps pace with new realities. Despite being overtaken by technological breakthroughs and neologistic phenomena strange to its era, Nigeria still solely implements the 1945 Evidence Act handed us by the British colonialists. Of course, we need not reiterate that today's modes of recording, documenting and storing legal concepts and tendencies have made the use of an obsolete legal process completely unrealistic.

How, for instance, can we present a YouTube video as valid evidence in the court of law  when our current system in use did not envisage instant messaging, social media and smart phones capable of doing so many things? Many of us don't even need to append our signatures anymore to authorize legal transactions; we use personal identification numbers (PINs) and passwords.  It was former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton who said in 2008, 'If you are not open to social media spaces then you are not attuned to the dynamics on the street and you sacrifice both understanding and power.' Instead of putting technology (albeit the social media) to crime-busting use, police officers are busy falling victim of their ignorance. And our judges are presiding over modern cases in ancient courts.