The Police is an integral part of society. They consolidate the government’s essential role of maintaining peace and order by securing the lives and properties of citizens and residents in the country. In recent times, the world has been experiencing various forms of police brutality. It is happening in virtually every continent of the world. In spite of various laws, as well as institutions that have been set up to curb this, Police brutality is still raising its ugly head everywhere, including in many advanced democracies.
According to statistics by the Prison Policy Initiative, the USA leads other democracies in extrajudicial killings by police. The viral video that captured the killing of George Floyd in the US is perhaps what motivated the bulk of Nigerian citizens to protest the gross excesses of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
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Unfortunately, the EndSARS protest in Nigeria was hijacked. This led to a series of violence meted on personnel of the Nigeria Police Force. Several police stations across various parts of the country were razed. Police cells and correctional facilities were broken into, with many inmates released. Police officers who were not linked to the activities of SARS operatives were also attacked. A good number of Police officers were savagely killed in Delta, Anambra, Oyo, and in other parts of the country.
The numerous attacks, killings, and lootings led to the sharp withdrawal of police operatives from their duty post. It was mostly for self-preservation. Many of them, at the height of the protest, were scared of identifying themselves as officers of the law for fear of attacks. The aftermath of the protest saw a general sense of apathy amongst the police operatives. Many felt it is understandable given that those they were created to protect have gone ahead to directly undermine their role with violence and mob brutality. The Nigerian Police decided to speak loudly with their silence and their absence by embarking on what many call a pseudo strike. They decided to leave the populace to their whims and caprices probably for people to appreciate their presence in the superstructure of governance and law enforcement.
Since they went off the streets, many urban areas have been experiencing a high spate of crimes, especially in residential areas. According to Ayo Bamidele, who lives in a secluded part of Ikorodu, it has become a growing trend to encounter thugs daily, stopping and extorting cash from people. Where their demand for money is refused, those hoodlums would threaten to lynch their victims thereby pressuring them into parting with other valuables like phones and accessories. Another witness also reported that there have been more cases of violent cult clashes. This altogether shows the crucial place of the Nigeria Police as a restorer of sanctity in the country.
Martin Luther King avers, ‘the ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that (sic) by the good people.’ It therefore goes without saying that the Nigeria Police Force is a product of its own evil. The bad eggs in the force have successfully dented the image of the force. This has affected the public perception of the force, and brought about the type of violent reaction it witnessed at the mercy of an agitated public. People who have in one way or the other been victims of police harassment did not recline in bestriding the EndSARS protest to provide therapeutic outlet for their anger and frustrations.
Even so, there have been persistent efforts to lift the spirit of dispirited officers. In Ondo, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, assured operatives of the state Police Command of adequate protection if they follow the right procedure in enforcing law and order. The IGP urged the Command not to be dispirited or entertain fear in the course of carrying out their duties, “Your job is important. Without you coming out, there will be chaos and you are special.” He vowed that the police authorities would have the back of any official that worked in line with the professional ethics of the force. The IGP, who was on a tour assessment of the level of destruction of each command, recently admonished police officers to use their firearms to protect themselves whenever they are in the face of danger. In Lagos, Anambra, and many other states, the message to discouraged police officers has not been different. Lagos even gave out N60 million naira to families of policemen killed during the riots. Law and order has gradually returned.
The return of the Nigeria Police is an indication that the Nigerian people are not oblivious of the importance of the law and order in society. It is also another chance for the Nigeria Police Force to redeem its soiled image. One of the demands of the EndSARS protesters is the increase in the remuneration of police officers. Many believe that if the police are properly funded, there would be no reason for the type of corrupt practices associated with the Force, which in turn leads to unprecedented harassment in extortion and brutality. The demands of the protesters thus reinforce the faith of the citizenry in the Force.
It is laudable that the IGP has repeatedly emphasized the need for police officers to act within the ambits of the law in the execution of their duty. Efforts should however be made in making sure that officers not only act within the confines of the law but also be placed on surveillance to identify and ascertain possible aberrations. Erring officers who are found wanting should be made to face the full wrath of the law. The Nigeria Police Force would become a true friend of the people when it creates transparent and trustworthy checks that curtail the excesses of overzealous police officers in the country.
Photo Credit: Financial Nigeria
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