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WHY SHOULD ANYONE TRUST NIGERIA POLICE?

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A major sign that Nigeria has reached virtually the borderline of a failing state is the precarious situation of the Nigeria Police Force constitutionally assigned with the duty to maintain law and order.

Just few hours after the reported bus explosion in the Rivers State capital Port Harcourt on Thursday May 17th 2012, the Rivers State Commissioner of Police Mr. Mohammed Indabawa gathered journalists to refute the widespread speculation that the incident which happened at Rumuokoro Roundabout at about 11am in the morning was not after all caused by the terrorism activities of the dreaded Maiduguri, Borno state- based armed Islamic fundametalist Boko haram group but was gas explosion during the cause of a planned robbery operation by some four armed robbers.

But several persons including this writer took the statement of the Police chief with a pinch of salt because of the low evel of trust for the Nigeria Police force whose operatives have on several occasions disappointed Nigerians by their spectacular failure to carry out their assigned constitutional duty of maintaining law and order.

To demonstrate how bad the image of the Nigeria police has become, Nigerians even still have some elements of trust for the political office holders who obviously has the notoriety for being responsible for the economic devastation of Nigeria much more than the police operatives who routinely demand and obtain bribes from the citizens before doing their jobs for which the tax payers' money are used to service their salaries.

Most Nigerians will rather believe the highly disreputable members of the political class than trust the Nigeria police. In most developed societies, the cordial relationship between the people and the police is responsible for the low crime rate in those civilized democracies like the United Kingdom and Norway.

But in my fatherland Nigeria, soon after the Rivers state police commissioner sought to douse the tension generated by the widespread rumor that the Port Harcourt bus explosion was bomb blasts by the Boko haram Islamic terrorist, sensing that not too many Nigerians took the police version of the story of the circumstances surrounding the incident as true and credible, the State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi went on the airwaves to debunk the speculated involvement of the armed Islamic militants in the bus explosion and offered an explanation that the explosion was caused by gas cylinders packed by some armed robbers while on their way to rob somewhere within the city and the moment this story was aired, the tension that was building all across the state significantly reduced.

One thought that flashed through my mind soon after the Rivers state Governor made the clarification and the people responded positively was to ask some persons around me in Abuja whether this was not the same Governor Rotimi Amaechi that not too long ago was severely criticized for allegedly ochestrating the passage of a dubious bill in the Rivers state House of Assembly which awarded generous post-retirement benefits and largese to all previous holders of the office of the state Governor and deputy governor?


Besides, the most frustrating aspect of these obscene post-retirement benefits is that the so-called law-makers of Rivers State never envisaged the fluid economic circumstances that Ngeria is facing and how buoyant or otherwise the purse of the Rivers State Government would look like in the coming years when they proceeded to legislate payment of these huge post-retirement benefits to all previous holders of the offices of governor and deputy governor. The total package meant to be delivered to this category of persons covered by this generous post retiremnt payments as recently passed by the Rivers State House of Assembly include but not limited to two houses in Port Harcourt and Abuja for each of the beneficiaries, chaffeur- driven special utility vehicles maintained by the Rivers state treasury and other sundry financial allowances which will cost the Rivers state people huge amount of money from their lean resources even when several thousands of Rivers State indigenes are homeless, jobless and are economically deprived because of the large scale corruption that goes on at every level of government in that state as well as other states and the federal Government.

Those who heard me asked the question why the people of Rivers State as well as other Nigerians are prepared to trust information emanating from these much villified politicians than officers of the Nigeria Police, what I got as a collective response was that no Nigerian was prepared to gamble with his/her precious lives by trusting the Nigeria Police Force. One of my respondents whose father retired as a police commissioner pointedly asked me why anyone should trust the Nigeria Police Force after most of its operatives have perpetrated series of heinous crimes against humanity inclding extra-judicial execution of suspects in the police custody, and even innocent citizens.

Another person simply looked at me in shock and stated that he is prepared to trust the seemingly corrupt and inept Nigerian politicians than the grossly incompetent operatives of the Nigeria Police Force because according to him, the politician robs the citizens with biro[pen] but the operatives of the Nigeria police force kill, maim and harass innocent citizens with guns and ammunitions purchased with tax payers' money. He further informed me as if I am unaware, that most of these indicted police operatives never get punished because of the fact that the police as an institution has rightly or wrongly assumed the duty of presuming to be the prosecutor in all cases and once a matter affects any police officer, other high profile police officers in the mood of the so-called espirit de corp will conspire to kill such cases. One is left to wonder whether Nigeria is still a constitutional democracy so much so that the officers and operatives of the Nigeria Police Force are allowed to pick and chose which of the criminal cases it should diligently prosecute or not. Why is the office of the Federal Attorney General and Minister of Justice and the offices of the 36 state attorneys general and commissioners of justice not alive to their constitutional duty by making sure that operatives of the Nigerian Police are not allowed to play the role of the sole prosecutors of criminal cases as damaging and extensive as murder involving serving operatives of the Nigerian Police Force as suspects/accused persons? Why has the Federal Government and the respective state administrations in the federation and other federating units including the Federal Capital Territory looked on and allowed this regime of impunity to continue whereby the hierarchy of the Nigeria Police undermine the prosecution of police operatives or officers indicted for murder of unarmed civilians? Why does Nigeria not yet have independent institution to monitor the use to which police operatives and other armed security operatives put their weapons to and why is the so-called Police Service Commission so compromised that it has failed to discipline most of these grossly indisciplined police operatives? So I ask just like my previous respondent aforementioned, why should anyone trust the Nigeria Police?

This week alone, there have been reported cases of nearly ten cases of extra-legal killings of innocent Nigerians involving trigger happy rogue police operatives and the Acting Inspector General of Police Mohammed Abubakar does not seem to have any effective internal mechanism to check the nefarious activities of these bad eggs in the Nigerian Police Force who have made it their pastimes to engage in extra-judicial killings of Nigerians. These rogue police operatives and officers indicted in these killings never really get punished. Bassey Jimi, a senior Road Marshal, was full of life on Tuesday morning 15th of May 2012 when he left his family and proceeded to work at the Bayelsa State Road Safety Commission office in Yenagoa but later that day some men from the special anti-robbery squad [SARS] stormed his office and one thing led to the other before they invading police operatives beat the man to his untimely death and this incident in Bayelsa came barely a month after a policeman allegedly shot to dead a Prison Warden in the same state. The police operatives who beat the officer of the Road safety commission in Bayelsa state were said to have invaded the office to avenge what they called the malhandling of one of their officers by the officials of the Road Safety commission. In Abuja, an eight month pregant female banker was Mrs. Doris Okere was gruesomely and bruttaly murdered by a trigger happy police operative in Mpape last year but it took the vigilant proactive activities of some good Nigerians and the National Human Rights Commssion before a case that was filed against the Nigerian Police Force for the dastardly act of one of its operative was determined whereupon the Abuja High Court ordered the Nigeria Police Force to pay the immediate amily members of the late Mrs. Okere including her two year old baby boy the paltry sum of N100 million Naira damages. Sadly, the office of the Inspector General of Police said it will proceed to challenge the verdict at the Appelate Court even without telling Nigerians why the indicted police operative who carried out the criminal act of murder has not yet been charged to court for this crime against humanity. Only this week, a lady Princes Zainab Chinasa Uwakwe who was killed allegedly by the then Divisional Police officer in Aba Mr. Kabbir A. Ishaq was buried and the police officer who allegedly committed this grave offence of murder has not yet being dragged to the competent court of law to be charged for murder but what the office of the Inspector General of police did was to transfer the accused Police Officer to the Katsina Police command far away from the scene f the crime in Abia State and the family members of this young woman killed in her prime are persistently facing threats of attack by some senior police fficers at the Force Headquarters who vowed never to charge the said police officer to court. The other police operatives who were privy to the alleged killing of Miss. Uwakwe by the Divisional Police Officer Mr. Kabir Ishaq were also mass transfered out of Aba, Abia state to muddle up any evidence that could sustain a charge of murder against this 'sacred cow' in the Nigerian Police Force. Just a few days back, in a night club in Lagos, three well armed police opeatives wo excorted aclub patron to a disco at the night club got soaked in heavy drinking and became drunk so much so that they released several shots of live bullets in the air which unfrtunately hit and killed two personsaround the vicinty and the Police Inspector General has not uttered a word to tell Nigerians what he intends to do to end this vicious circle of extra-legal killings of Nigerians by armed police operatives and their imncompetent and grossly indisciplined senior officers. Who then can trust this Policing institution in Nigeria? This is a worrying signal of a failed state?

Mohammed Abubakar or whosoever is incharge of the Nigerian Police Force should be told in black and white that it is dangerous for them to allow trust in the Nigerian Polie Force to decline to zero-level because of the apocalytic consequences that this total loss of trust of the Nigerian Police Force by the Nigerian People. If this catasthropic loss of faith and trust in the operatives of the Nigerian Police Force is sustained progressively, it will get to a time that ordinary police operatives who in anycase live among the people because of dearth of barracks coulbecome targets of popular lynch mobs as ways of avenging the high rate of extra-legal killings by the Nigerian police operatives of innocent citizens and persons in conflict with the law. For now only armed Islamic group in the far North have openly stated their intention to attack and kill any police operative as a revenge for the killing of the founder of Boko Haram in 2009 Sheik Mohammed Yusuf, by the police in Maiduguri, Borno State. If care is not taken to bring all perpetrators of extra-legal killings in the Nigerian Police Force to effective trials, then the victims' friends could take up arms against the Nigerian Police Force as an institution because impunity breeds anarchy and anarchy in a nation- state breeds failue of state apparatus and failure of state apparatus breeds instability and distabilization of the sovereign nation- state. Nigeria as a constitutional democracy must effectively and quickly round up all known murderers in police uniform and quickly and efficiently bring them to justice in the competent courts of law to save Nigeria from imminent failure of its statehood.

+Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, Human Rights Writers' Association of Nigeria, writes from www.huriwa.com.

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