The embattled policing institution in Nigeria is being progressively battered and dealth severe ethical blows by persons wielding executive powers of the federation under whose supervision the security forces are classified.
Although the Nigerian Police has had foundational hostility towards the people and a terrible public face as the ready-made tools for the systematic oppression of the masses right from when it took off basically as a colonial agent, but the credibility crises tearing apart the fabrics of the Nigeria police appears to have assumed frightening dimension at these moments.
These credibility challenges are capable of eroding the remaining public trust.
The crises of credibility afflicting the police in our country ranges from corruption; nepotism; bribery, political thugery and other manifestations of social ills. The current police hierarchy is a product of deep seated nepotism because many more qualified senior professionals were illegally weeded out by President just to reward his man Friday who was suspected to have played an unclear role in Kano state during the 2015 Election. Kano state produced an incredibly high number of votes even as all the votes were declared valid. A top official of INEC reportedly died in a fire outbreak of suspicious origin and this was never investigated till date. This is however not an attempt to draw a nexus between that tragedy and the rapid promotions of the then commissioner of police to the rank of Inspector General of Police. However, his rapid rise is beyond belief.
Back to the theme of self induced credibilty crises in the police, it would appear that if we view the policing institution from head to toe, the character and texture of this agency of government are marked by inefficiency, ineffectiveness and political manipulations from the political class.
At the local levels, the police are used to chase after poor traders and street hawkers with the motive of extorting; harassing and physically molesting the citizenry to part with their hard earned money.
Also at the micro level, the police are used by the political class who call the shots at the center to carry out politically motivated brutal attacks and assassinations. This professional indiscipline and misconduct are not treated because the handpicked Police service commission headed by a former police inspector General lacks the will power to bring about the desired transformative changes.
The worst specie of the Nigeria police are those code named special Anti-robbery squad (SARS) going by the reports emerging from all parts of Nigeria of the monumental atrocities, human rights violations that they undertake including daylight robberies.
Due to the unprecedented quantum of criminality of these police operatives, Nigerians from all walks of life recently organized protests to demand that Nigeria disbands the so-called special anti-robbery squad of the Nigeria police force whose members have metamorphosed into special robbers.
Rivers state is one place these police operatives are directly used to harass state government officials because of the obvious fact that the state is controlled by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.
Few days ago, Governor Nyesom Wike’s special assistant on new media Mr. Marshal Obuzor was reportedly brutalized and severely injured by operatives of the special anti-robbery squad (SARS) in what is regarded as an attempt to eliminate him.
The SARS operatives had last Monday, around the popular Mandela car wash at the old Government Reservation Area, Port Harcourt, allegedly accosted Obuzor, manhandled him, used machetes and rods to inflict injuries on him.
Led allegedly by one sergeant Clever Kporoko, the SARS operatives further assaulted Obuzor and left him with a ruptured ear requiring major surgical procedure in France.
Not long ago, the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 2 command Mr. Adamu Ibrahim upheld the recommendation of police disciplinary body of the dismissal of four policemen attached to special Anti-robbery squad (SARS) for committing armed robbery.
The four policemen were dismissed and charged to court on the offences of armed robbery, kidnapping, unlawful detention, intimidation and threatening violence against Chukwudi Godwin Odionye.
The indicted SARS operatives are all sergeants namely Adeoye Adekunle; Adenira Adebowale; Agbi Lucky and Odighe Hehosa.
These same SARS are known to have committed serial extra-legal killings of suspects in their custodies all over the country.
The United States government reports thus: “Police and other security services have the authority to arrest individuals without first obtaining warrants if they have reasonable suspicion a person committed an offense, a power they often abused”.
“The law requires that, even during a state of emergency, detainees must appear before a magistrate within 48 hours and have access to lawyers and family members. In many instances government and security officials did not adhere to this regulation without being bribed.”
The US State department also reported in the year 2017 human rights report that: “Police held for interrogation individuals found in the vicinity of a crime for periods ranging from a few hours to several months, and after their release, authorities frequently asked the individuals to return for further questioning”.
Observing that the law requires an arresting officer to inform the accused of charges at the time of arrest, transport the accused to a police station for processing within a reasonable time, and allow the suspect to obtain counsel and post bail, however these standards are not kept.
The Americans reports that: “…Police routinely detained suspects without informing them of the charges against them or allowing access to counsel and family members; such detentions often included solicitation of bribes. Provision of bail often remained arbitrary or subject to extrajudicial influence”.
These incredible levels of atrocities pales into insignificance when compared to the political chess game that the office of the Inspector General of Police and the commissioners are playing with the heads of the various executive arm of governments at micro and macro levels.
The current Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Kpotum Idris has gained notoriety as a tool in the hands of presidency at the moment for carrying out political vendetta and targeted attacks of perceived opponents of the president especially in the central parliament.
The Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki and his deputy professor Ike Ekweremadu were held hostage only few days ago by detachments of armed police operatives.
These rogue elements in police were detailed to embark on these nocturnal assignments to stop the key senate leaders from gaining access to their chambers just so the few loyalists of the presidency in the senate can stage palace coup to unseat the duo and install persons who can become stooges of the president as preparation for general polls become frenetic.
However, the Senate President took a decoy and gained access to the National Assembly by reportedly driving a rickety car that could not be detected by the armed police operatives sent to stop him from exiting his home in Maitama.
Sadly, the spokesman of the police denied knowledge of this scenario and falsely claimed that it was stage managed.
This same spokesperson of the police has made several substantially untrue claims in his primitive attempts to clean up the bad image of the police.
Incidentally, these serial falsehoods have continued to erode public trust in the institution of the police even as the institutional integrity of the police has suffered monumental damage due to self-inflicted fiasco.
When Nigeria celebrated the golden jubilee of independence, the catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria authored a public statement advocating the growth of a new Nigeria.
They had at the back of their minds, the kind of political misuse of the armed security forces by the executive to carry out vendetta and attacks against political opponents.
Hear them: “The state is the government and government should serve the people. But in dictatorship, people are compelled to serve the state. The tragedy is compounded when the state itself is personalized. In a personalized state, citizens, whose freedom should be protected by the state, are at the mercy of a tyrant to whom they are compelled to show allegiance. In a country where the state has seized the people, state apparatus like the police and the Electoral Commission are either unable or unwilling to protect the votes of the people”.
“In fact, they may participate in manipulating the elections. In the state of tyranny, elections are repeatedly and recurrently rigged, and the beneficiaries, who parade themselves as elected officials, are not accountable to the people.”
“There is greater danger to life and property when this occurs in a country of ethnic and religious diversity such as ours. In the absence of a firm political will to conduct credible elections and strengthen democratic institutions, competing ethnic or religious groups strive to seize the state, nursing the hope that since the wealth of the land is in the hands of the state and not in the hands of the nation, whichever ethnic or religious group seizes the state seizes the wealth. And very often, it is not so much an ethnic group, but a loose coalition that cuts across ethnic groups, that seizes the state and, by the same fact, seizes the nation, its land and its resources”.
The clergies affirmed that: “Having witnessed one rigged election after another, it is clear that the legitimacy of government is lacking. Government is not in the hands of those who are competent. Government is not serving the people. Our steps towards democratic ideals remain tentative.”
“In Nigeria, we are still left with a form of government in which the governed seem to exist for the utility of the governor. As many cases of corruption and abuse of office come to light and go unpunished, cases of government officials working for their own utility and not for the interest of the governed.”
This bad situation of criminal manipulation of the police compelled the group that I lead to write to World leaders a letter with trepidation and profound worry about the raging grave threats to the survival of democracy in Nigeria created by the diminishing state of respect for the fundamental freedoms of the citizenry.
This letter was specifically written by us to highlight the dangers posed not only to the constitutional principle of separation of powers, but to urge important global leaders to use their good offices to put pressure on the Nigerian presidency to respect the fundamental obligations to the principle of rule of law and to stop forthwith the illegal use of the security forces and the anti-graft institutions to chase after perceived political rivals of the current holder of the office of the president of Nigeria.
The siege by over hundred of armed police operatives to residences of the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and the Deputy Senate President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, on Tuesday, July 24, 2018 was a rape of Nigeria’s democracy. Recall that the mace, Senate’s symbol of authority was carted away by armed hoodlums in a fortified environment like the National Assembly on April 18, 2018. The aim was to prevent both of them from presiding over plenary and install executive stooges as leaders of the Senate.
Although the attempt to force change of leadership through executive meddlesomeness and abuse of power was scuttled by the Senate President’s escape to the National Assembly, his Deputy was held under house arrest for over six hours by hundreds of policemen and operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Nigerians and readers from all over the World would recall that the letter of invitation to the Deputy President of the Senate requesting him to report at the EFCC headquarters at10am of July 24, 2018 was also dated the same July 24 2018 that they laid siege to his house. This shows that the so-called invitation was an afterthought aimed at perfection of the truncation of the Senate leadership.
This writer also had it on good authority that even though he was willing to answer the invitation even without prior notice, the security personnel and the EFCC would not let him go.
Under the Nigerian laws, letter of invitation by an agency of government is not the same as a warrant of arrest, search warrant, or warrant of house arrest.
This is a grave threat to the principle of separation of powers with the ulterior aim of forcing a regime change in the leadership cadre of the senate.
Recall also that the presidency has since marked Professor Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy Senate President as a persona non grata simply because he belongs to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, but got elected by a bipartisan and an increasingly independent parliament relying on Section 50 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.
Recall again that the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki was made to pass through a tortuous three-year trial over alleged false declaration of assets, which the larger population of Nigerians saw as politically motivated.
He was recently acquitted by the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Recall that the presidency arraigned the Senate President and his Deputy, Prof. Ekweremadu, in 2016 over false charges of forgery of Senate Standing Rule only to withdraw it when it was clear they could not establish anything against them in court.
Men of the Nigeria Police Force from the Inspector-General of Police’s office also invaded the official guest house of Prof. Ekweremadu in May 2017. Nothing was found after thorough search.
The misuse of the anti-corruption agencies is a present threat to the nation’s democracy.
The continuous deployment on illegal duties of the armed security forces targeting certain principal officers of the national assembly is a clear violations of section 34 (1) (a); section 35 (1) and section 36 (1) of the constitution of Nigeria.
Section 34 (1) (a): “Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly – no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment”; 35(1) “Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure permitted by law – in execution of the sentence or order of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty; by reason of his failure to comply with the order of a court or in order to secure the fulfillment of any obligation imposed upon him by law; for the purpose of bringing him before a court in execution of the order of a court or upon reasonable suspicion of his having committed a criminal offence, or to such extent as may be reasonably necessary to prevent his committing a criminal offence”; 36 (1) “In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.”
This is the constitutional function of the police- “The police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all law and regulations with which they are directly charged and shall perform such military duties within or without Nigeria as may be required of them by, or under the authority of, this or any other act.”
Let me once more call on the international community to stand up against the reigning impunity and abuse of power before it is too late, especially considering the great contributions made by World powers to the institution of the current democratic dispensation.
May I conclude by asking the Presidency officials what they stand to gain if their continuous misuse of the police to abuse their office through the crushing of perceived political opponents but ends up fast-tracking or hastening the collapse of constitutional democracy? What if this house collapses? Will the collapsing house spare any of the occupants only because they are the instigators of the collapse? Nigeria must not collapse hoo haa!!!
Those who nurse the ambition to destroy the policing institution whilst chasing after political opponents must remember that as human beings they do also have expiration dates.
Written by Emmanuel Onwubiko, heads the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).