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For reasons best known to the Nigerian police, it has refused to accept that a person is innocent until a court of competent jurisdiction has declared them guilty. To the Nigerian police, an accused person is guilty and could be maltreated and/or killed before prosecution.

I read yesterday (Sunday, 8 November 2015) from that the Nigerian police killed two young Nigerians who were protesting for Biafra in Delta State. It was horrifying to see the pictures of the bullet-ridden bodies of the two boys who were wasted by the police. This is arrant nonsense! Looking at the rest of the pictures of the protesting crowds, I saw none of them carrying guns or machetes except green leaves. Simply put, these were innocent Nigerians exercising their right of expression. Why should the police kill them?

Even though no authentic research has been carried out to determine how many innocent Nigerians the police had killed and are still killing right now, I am sure the number cannot be less than 1,000 Nigerians monthly. Usually the police will claim accidental discharge (as if the guns have no means of control or that the police were not taught how to control and prevent such occurrence), not self-defense. The police should know that they have no right, and therefore it is an offense, to kill a Nigerian simply because the person is an accused or a suspect. The work of the police in this regard is simply to charge or bring the person accused of infringing on the laws of Nigeria to the court of law for prosecution.

For reasons best known to the Nigerian police, it has refused to accept that a person is innocent until a court of competent jurisdiction has declared them guilty. To the Nigerian police, an accused person is guilty and could be maltreated and/or killed before prosecution. The Nigerian police of the 21st century must drop this mentality. Indeed this poor understanding has largely contributed to their very poor performance in protecting lives and properties in Nigeria.

Poor police performance in Nigeria is squarely due to their very poor attitude to work; it is not about poor salaries and lack of care for them. Poor attitude is reflected in their collection of N50, N20 or even N10 at check-points. If a driver/person refuses to give this money to them, the Nigerian police could shoot and kill the driver/person. The Nigerian police have robbed Nigerians even when they in police uniform. When a person is arrested and locked up at a police station, according to Nigerian laws, bail is free and such person should not be in police detention beyond 24 hours. The Nigerian police is so corrupt that despite displaying at the police station “bail is free”, they will never release a person without collecting amounts ranging from N2000 to hundreds of thousands of naira before a person is granted bail.

It is on record that many Nigerians sleep in police stations for weeks, months and even years without trial. What sort of police is this? Is this how police work is done across the world? Yet the government, fully aware of these atrocities committed by the Nigerian police against Nigerians, has done nothing to stop the police.

People have argued that the Nigerian police are not well taken care of and that is why they force Nigerians to give them money at check-points. I disagree. In the first place, check-points have been pronounced abolished by the police authorities, yet their staff mount check-points and collect money from Nigerians at gun point. Why do the police disobey their own operational rules? It cannot be correct to insist that the police are not well taken care of when we know that there is a full-fledged ministry devoted to the police alone; we have a police service commission, etc. Are funds not voted to these institutions for the welfare of the police? The salary paid to the Nigerian police is not the worst or lowest in the world. Yet our former President could not believe what he saw at the police college Ikeja when he visited there about two years ago.

It appears the Nigerian police are so ill-mannered that they lack the capacity to manage even the little things provided for them. Take a look at police barracks and residential places across Nigeria and compare such places with those of other defence agents. Despite the quality of the houses, police quarters are always smelling, dirty and unkempt. The Nigerian police is among organizations with the worst looking cars and vehicles in Nigeria; but a closer look at such cars and vehicles reveals that these are very brand new models that are simply ill-maintained.

Lest we forget, it was the Nigerian police that aggravated the Boko Haram issue in Nigeria when they shot and killed Yusuf and later went on to carry out mass killing of his members who were arrested in 2009. Today, it is the Nigerian military that is facing the brunt; while the real trouble aggravators (police) are cooling off outside. Why are they not at the warfront fighting Boko Haram?

May I suggest to the Federal Government of Nigeria to review the existence of the Nigerian police in view of the presence of the civil defense, road safety service, EFCC, ICPC, the military and all other various security and behavior guiding agencies of the government. Second, all members of the police who joined the force with qualifications less than a degree, should be discharged from the force immediately and replaced with our teaming graduates who do not have jobs and may be more humane to do police jobs than the current crop of officers who do not even understand the work of the police.

President Buhari should immediately put machinery in place to check and stop the Nigerian police from their atrocities especially the unwarranted killing of innocent Nigerians exercising their right of expression on issues dear to them (killing agitators emboldens them to agitate more and more, be ready to die and may resort to violence if care is not taken). If this continues unchecked, Nigerians may rise up against the police. We need a detribalized, objective, effective and efficient federal police who must have absolute respect for lives in Nigeria. This should be part of the change Nigerians want to see and enjoy in the second Buhari’s government.

* Okachikwu Dibia writes from the Nigerian capital, Abuja.



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