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As Police Charges Fees For Anti-Kidnapping

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In case you haven't read the allegation made by a membership group in which I am seriously involved with in the last decade that the Nigerian Police Force in Anambra state command specifically charges a variety of service charges from family members of victims of armed kidnappings, then I will extend you the privilege of reading that public statement in full.

It goes thus: A Democracy Inclined Non-Governmental Organization-HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA [HURIWA] has urged the Presidency and the National Security Adviser to the President Colonel Sambo Dasuki [rtd] to launch a transparent and comprehensive investigation of the groundswell of allegations that the police establishment in Anambra State may have some form of partnership with some hardened kidnappers going by the widespread allegations that the Anambra State Command of the Nigerian Police Force charges between N500,000 and N1million from family members of victims of armed kidnappings for the purposes of rescuing them even after payment of ransoms to the violent gangs.

HURIWA said the solution to kidnappings will squarely be actualised if and only if the crime is made less profitable to both the evil practitioners of violent criminal kidnappings and the rogue elements within the security establishment especially the Nigerian Police Force who capitalise on the hysteria and apprehension of the family members of kidnapped persons to extort huge payments under different illegal guises.

The Rights group has also carpeted the National Assembly for abysmally failing to institutionalise state and local policing institutions through the soon-to-be completed constitutional amendment process just as HURIWA said the failure of the legislature at the national and sub-national level to pass the relevant amendment clauses in the extant constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which would have necessitated the establishment of state police to compliment the federal policing institutions means that Nigeria as a corporate entity is not desirous to resolve the growing threats to the territorial integrity of the nation posed by insecurity and armed groups of all affiliations.

HURIWA said it was compelled to alert President Good luck Jonathan about the malpractices going on within the policing institution in Southern Nigeria with specific reference to the widening frontiers of armed kidnappings especially in the South Eastern state of Anambra which has defied all effort by the current Anambra state government to contain the menace including the demolition of housing assets owned by suspected kidnappers resident in Anambra state by the deluge of calls it gets from members of the public. HURIWA wants President Jonathan to sanitize the Nigerian Police force and eradicate all rogue elements that have infiltrated the institution and President would be ensured that posterity would eternally remain appreciative of this legacy of his presidency if achieved.

Condemning as outrageous, criminal and deceitful the alleged demand and receipts of handsome anti-kidnappings 'service charges' by the Anambra state police command the Rights group said the fact that the Nigerian Police makes huge profits from the misfortunes of families of kidnapped persons would make the evil practice of armed kidnappings difficult if not impossible to frontally challenged and crushed decisively.

HURIWA in a statement signed jointly by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf advised the Federal Government and the relevant state governments in the South East to conduct a discreet investigation to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of these disturbing allegations which if unchecked could compound the phenomenon of armed kidnappings of Nigerians by suspected hoodlums who allegedly conspire with some rogue elements in the security community to perpetrate these heinous crimes against humanity.

''The Nigerian Government and the relevant state governments in the South whereby these kidnappings have remained unresolved and unchecked should conduct independent investigation by asking some family members [in cameral to avoid recrimination by armed police and their associates in the underworld] of the victims of this dastardly crime of kidnappings to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of the claims that they usually come under intense pressure by the security operatives to part with their hard earned money to enable these police and other security agents to launch manhunt for these kidnappers. We have been inundated by many callers who have complained that they were made to cough out huge payments to the police commands especially that of Anambra state ranging from N500,000 to N1 million. These payments are never receipted because they are illegal and these incentives are what motivates these crimes of kidnappings to continue since the men and officers of the Nigerian Police allegedly benefit from the misfortunes of kidnapped Nigerians. The Nigerian state must restore strict discipline within the ranks and file as the most strategic way of ending the persistent cases of kidnappings. President Jonathan should please help Nigerians to end this debilitating and vicious crime that has cost many lives and precious wealth of law abiding Nigerians.''

Many national newspapers gave generous coverage to this allegation which came from numerous sources of the very people involved but who preferred anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter and because of the peculiar situation that Nigeria is in right now whereby any genuine effort to make changes in the society is resisted violently. Incidentally in one of the editions that ran this allegation the Nigerian Police Force through the spokesman responded to this allegation and as usual denied knowledge of this scenario and demanded from us evidence before the hierarchy of the Nigerian Police can act upon it. The issue in focus is not that our organization called on the police hierarchy to initiate investigation r to use internal mechanisms to stop this practice of extorting money from family members of victims of armed kidnappings because in that very public statement we made it clear that we are calling on President Good luck Jonathan through the office of the national security adviser to do thorough and an independent investigation into these range of allegations and to restore discipline in the ranks and file of the Nigerian Police Force.

Sadly, the Nigerian Police Force seems comfortably ensconced in the muddy waters of scandals for many years and decades and unfortunately each time a new person is appointed to head this decadent policing institution the hopes that the history of indiscipline and spectacular absence of professionalism fades with each passing day because the new Inspector General of Police will first and foremost follow the bureaucratic steps of paying courtesy visits to state commands and usually show more interest in ingratiating himself with the political class rather than concentrate on introducing a set of revolutionary changes that will reshape the public face of this institution that over the years has become the public face of corruption and bribery.

Most Nigerians are already aware of the notorious fact that the Nigerian Police as an institution is not to be trusted to comprehensively tackle the challenges of indiscipline that has afflicted the ranks and file and even the top echelon of the force over the several years of its existence. Take a walk across your street and ask just any adult about the level of confidence and trust he/she has in the institution of the Nigerian Police Force and I can assure you that out of every ten persons you may run into not even a person will tell you that he/she has unimpeded trust and confidence in the Nigerian Police Force.

The job before the new management of the police are enormous but the most strategic is to restore service discipline because there is a deep rooted stench of gross indiscipline amongst the ranks and file and even the management of the Nigerian Police. Way back in Lagos there was this particular incident of crime that occurred somewhere around Mafoluku whereby a victim of armed robbery operation was reportedly amputated by the criminals because he couldn't afford to give them any valuable item because in his own words all fingers are not equal and when a neighbour alerted a near by police station those robbers walked straight to the neighbour and challenged him to put another call across to the police.

This allegation of demand and receipt of service charges by police for going after alleged armed kidnappers must be probed and the political and business establishments in the South East must take it upon themselves to root out this evil practice by the police because if kidnappings are not rooted out then business environment will be brutally risky and the situation of gross underdevelopment afflicting the South East will continue.

The Police Service Commission must be professionalised because for now the Chairman and commissioners heading that establishment haven't played good enough role to check the widening corruption and lack of discipline that has become the part and parcel of the Nigerian Police Force. Mike Okiro who heads the Police service commission should play less of partisan politics with his valuable time and devote much of these times changing the face of the Nigerian Police which he was privileged to have served and retired as the Inspector General of Police.

+Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and blogs @www..huriwa.blogspot.com; www.rightsassociationngr.com, www.huriwa.org.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Emmanuel Onwubiko and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Emmanuel Onwubiko