Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
POLICE: The Battered Image And The Selective Friendship
Jaafar S. Jaafar
August 31, 2005
“Bani bakai in kazama dan sanda!” She blurted. This means that I will be disowned if I dare join the police. This was my mother’s response when I happily told her “I’m joining the police” as I finished a course in crime management. “What on earth enticed you?” she enquired rhetorically. Confused, I tried to convince her, Inna, as she is fondly called, but the paroxysms of her anger was unusual, thereby dissipated my pugnacity. Caught between a fear for divine retribution (for refusal to obey parents) and a desire to actualize a dream, hope and ambition that has earned me a sobriquet: “Yallabai”, policeman, in common Northern parlance, which is now a mirage, I became uneasy.
Given that I managed to keep my temper, she waved me to a chair. Narrated with deep insight, was a story of one of her brothers who spent three tortuous months with a torrent of torture, degrading and in human treatments in police custody.
Peace of mind was deprived of a pious and enterprising young man when police whisked him away one cold Sunday morning in January, while taking a breakfast at a tea shop. Not a scuffle ensued as the guileless young man willingly accepted the invitation but politely asked if they could help notify his family. Alas, the pleadings were turned down with a foretaste - he was seriously bleeding when they reached the station. He was then quizzed in relation to a robbery attack on a quarry landowner (which he had no knowledge about whatsoever). He was later beaten and tied with a hand-cuff, hung to the hook of a ceiling-fan and whipped severely till he fainted.
Clad in shorts was his gory body as he woke up to find ‘himself’ lying on a bare floor of a frowsty dark room-cum-toilet with a heavy stench of filth and about thirty five other detainees (that mosquitoes prey on for their sumptuous feast) crammed like sardines in about 10 by 10 metre sized cell. The place was a grisly sight to behold.
The relatives found it difficult to see him (due to exorbitant “visiting fee”). The last time she saw him, his left foot was badly shattered with gun shot (just as butcher would a cow leg), in the bid of having him confessed to what he had no iota of knowledge. However, she gave him up for lost as she examined his condition amidst tears and despair. She then told me the end of the pitiful story that I couldn’t hold back my tears. “This… I will never forget”, she intoned rather vindictively.
Other parents have also made no pretence about their deep-rooted animus against or disgust for our friend, the police. The reason for the hatred stems from their reversal role to the public. The term “police” sends a current of fear, hatred and uneasiness to the average Nigerians. The affinity is like the cat-and-mouse relationship, which is invariably turbulent.
Despite the fact that the law clearly states that a suspect is innocent until he is proven otherwise through trial in law court, but the police in their infinite wisdom, torture, maltreat, maim, kill or detain a suspect for quite a long time on the ground of suspicion or in the guise of concocting pretext for mediation, simply to extort money from the relations of the suspects in order to relish their avarice-bloated minds.
Like ritual, successive Inspectors-General of police could not profer palliative (not panacea) to the battered image and the protracted ailment of the bedridden force. Nigeria police is in an acute disrepair, the police that once had a notoriety of a force where nothing works is fast graduating to one where nothing lives - a cemetery of sundry hopes and aspirations of promising young men/women. A place where N20 is better than a human life. A hotbed of corruption. A jungle where they kill or maim their prey at a slightest or no provocation, presumably to top up their cliché-ridden statistics with indecent haste to facelift their ugly image and earn public confidence.
Standing before Justice Samson Uwaifo Tribunal gives more hope than having an encounter with our friends. However, the “hollow ritual of comic tragedy” (to quote NEWSWATCH editor, Ray Ekpu) gave room for Gani’s intervention. So lest someone holds a view that Ganis’ mastery or intervention would bear any fruit at Gimbiya Street - rein in such view - this is “Hon. Justice Jungle”’ before whom no one stands unhurt. As wisdom would have it, “justice delayed, justice denied” notion is duly adhered to.
Poor my fellow average Nigerians, police is not our friend! They prefer crooks to innocent ones. Police’s friends range from robbers, fraudsters, second-hand car dealers, used handsets dealers down to scrap dealers, nay any person dealing in second-hand wares or items, not a poor ordinary citizen or an informant who may turn out to be a victim. To support this fact, some time in September 1996 in Owerri, the informant of Otokoto Hotel rituals was allegedly poisoned by the police (for knowing about police-crook-friendship) few hours after hinting them on the dastardly act of the ritualist, Duro Otokoto, the hotelier.
It is a very common phenomenon in our mega cities to see crooks (419 kingpin or drug baron) roaming in a state-of-the-art cars with a customized plate number and a half-concealed gun, oppressing people and assaulting their adversaries with impunity. The capture of Nwude, Anajemba, late Morris Ibekwe, Fred Ajudua, etc, and the recent nabbing of Mohammed Knight (a spiky-haired alleged 419 kingpin who was alleged to have the protection of Tafa) few weeks after Tafa’s ouster in Kano, for alleged illegal possession of firearms and murder, bolstered the view that police befriend, harbour, cover up, quash or withdraw cases from courts involving these people who enjoy basking in (some) people’s cheers, displaying affluence which police crave. In return, they get huge sums of money from them to buy cars (at a good price from the other “friends”) houses and go for pilgrimage. No one can service such, but crooks. As a gold-toothed police sergeant alludes, “I can bet my gun, no policeman from I.G. down to constable worth his Elephant [insignia] that does not scrounge”.
The auto dealers however, wallow and avail themselves of the “infinite” police protections to buy stolen cars at a giveaway price or change the particulars of a stolen vehicle with impunity. The price slash they get is allegedly shared with the police, given the fact that the illicit deal stands a chance of spilling. For my humble self, I can bet my last exams, no used-car dealer that does not befriend a policeman.
Before I’m “devoured”, my goodness, precedents have lent credence to such tales. I make bold to state that the police is a cesspit of a half-baked born-again criminals. The conviction and subsequent execution of ASP George Iyamu along with Lawrence Aneni, Monday Usonbo and the rest in 1985 attest to this fact. Iyamu was a hybrid of a notorious gang and an indiscipline police force that sets the footpath where the hosts of others tread.
Nigerians can still recall the mind-boggling incident in 2002 when some policemen (now hanged) on a checkpoint along Okene/Abuja Road stopped seven cattle merchants (two escaped with wounds) boarding a bus from Lagos to Katsina with about N3m takings. They asked the traders to alight from the bus for searching. Going through their bags they then saw the money! Crafty, as “Our friends” were, they coaxed them into believing that there was danger ahead and lured them to an isolated primary school, open fire on them, stashed the money away and set them ablaze.
Freshest in our minds is the cold-blooded murder of innocent merry-making Apo Six at a slightest misdemeanor. How sad, the schemers (or our friends) planted guns on their corpses simply to label them as armed-robbers. We pray Justice Goodluck commission will bring good luck. But for the fleeing D.P.O., I doubt if the police would fish out one of their “illustrious” sons, as they can not but reach “dead end” in so many murder cases. The killers of Dele Giwa (investigative journalist per excellence) in 1986, through a letter bomb could not be found (touched) as D.I.G Chris Omeben, who was in charge of the case, said the investigations have come to a “dead end”, contradicting his boss, Muhammadu Gambo (the then IG), who promised to release a report “as soon as possible”. For nearly two decades, the police could not produce the report. Many have chided the then military junta for its failure to set up a judicial commission of inquiry as the police betrayed the public confidence.
Grief-stricken Nigerians also heard from the mouth of a retired C.S.P. Peresuodei Sylvanus, how the has-been former I.G.P. Tafa Balogun (then Commissioner of Police, Rivers State) intentionally toyed with the gruesome murder case of Sen. Obi Wali (one of the illustrious sons of Rivers and one of the best senators the Second Republic ever had). Tafa Balogun was a paradigm of typical Nigerian cop.
The present administration should face reality; Obasanjo should make epoch-making strides in ensuring that the comprehensive five-year development plan aimed at revamping and overhauling the present system of policing by addressing the perceived deficient areas of structure, personnel and logistics as well as training come to effect within the given time. It’s to also note that it’s not only economic model of the Western countries the government should prevail upon. Despite the attendant anti-people clauses in the economic policies, heroic Nigerians are able to withstand! Why wouldn’t the government copy the Western, say US model of policing? At least make their salaries good (enough for crooks’ envy) to check the greatest menace – CORRUPTION in the force. As a matter of fact, the rot in the Nigeria Police Force is compound and cumbersome enough for any discerning mind to believe that a person in the name of I.G.P. Sunday Ehindero to carry. It’s tenable that no Messiah (with the highest degree of alchemy) can rid the police from the shackles of rot wringing the force. Ranging from salary problem, insophistication, laxity, corruption, god fatherism, poor image, habouring crooks, lack of confidence, indiscipline, etc. This is symmetrical or tantamount to believing that the problems associated with erratic power supply lay squarely on the shoulders of the MD of PHCN (NEPA) or rather the Power Minister (apology to late Bola Ige). Blame not, but the Federal Government for our friend’s failure to serve and protect with integrity.
JAFAR S. JAFAR,
is a student of the Dept. of Sociology,
Bayero University, Kano. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.