The Nigeria Police Force and the Drama of Our Time

Akowe John-Duke ‘Selime

The recurring epidemic of callous assassinations and disappearance of personages in Nigeria is driving everyone up the wall. I am having a bad hunch that sooner or later, Nigerians would no longer desire to come out of their houses; solely for fear of the unknown and sidestepping the mysterious hand of men of the underworld. What is the way forward; in a country like Nigeria, where faithful and true inhabitants have become foreigners in their mother country. There is no longer freedom of movement as exposed underneath the segment on Fundamental Human Rights in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Section 41, Number 1. Why rob Nigerians of their Right to Move freely without fear of the unforeseen? Now, as a result of this fearful apprehension, most Nigerians have resulted to disembarking themselves from any journey whatsoever. But will this solve the prevailing circumstances in the country? I don’t think so.

The contemporary Nigeria has turned out to be ruthless and pitiless. There is never a day that nails clips without screams of frustrations and melancholies plunging down the faces of Nigerians over matters of insecurity in the country, ranging from kidnaping, armed robbery, terrorist attacks to internet thievery.There is on no account a day that passes deficient of shed tearsand expressions of grief of irreproachable populace soliciting the political commanders to abet in the provision of safety measuresfor the lives and properties of citizens in the country. What are the security agencies doing to salvage the situation? Should the Nigeria police in particular sit down and allow defenseless Nigerians go through this unpleasant state of affairs? No, they must act very quickly before things get shoddier!   

Nigerians at this moment of her independence feel awfully unconfident and apprehensive in our nation state. For fear of known and unknown predators, a reasonable number ofNigerians have even decided to change their locations to foreign countries where there is a firm guarantee of the wellbeing of their lives and possessions. There is now nervousness and panic in the hearts of citizens; as no governmental organization seems to be aiding the afflicted. It has nauseatingly risen to the echelonwhereby the insecurity of life and property of Nigerians is now top of the bills in our national news broadcast centers. Should Nigerians runaway from these dreadful circumstances, when they have the Nigeria police force?  

I am so pained to hold claim to the fact that even when these unfeeling proceedings are reported; there are no decisions taken at the spur of the moment by the Nigeria police to remedy the prevailing circumstance. In fact, some of them run away for safety; leaving the populace in the hands of the deadly dragons. Nigerians have always understood that the Nigeria police officers are their friends. On the contrary, a lot of them are just on the roads to make the most of civilians and obtain under duress money and other items. They put down their jobs of protecting the common man and start enriching their pockets with ill-gotten money on the roads. Isn’t that pitiable? How did it get this terrible? How did this whole drama begin?

One of the noticeable inscriptions you find in a police station is “Bail is Free”. But it’s so shocking that the Nigeria police officers don’t work with this inscription. They use specific unpleasant incidents of felony to extort cash from the poor masses in the country. They use the high level of crime in the country as a red herring to erratically arrest and detain folks. They toss their network very extensively so they can arrest as many suspects as possible. I have never heard of any situation where people are arrested in the police stations and are allowed to go without paying something. Does this say anything positive about the Nigeria police officers? I don’t think so. They have completely failed to spot the blot and have gone their own ways.      

There are scattered information of how those officially incorporated, publicly vested in their diverse uniform of identification; with their ranks finely crested on their shoulders cause mayhems on civilians all over the place. It is also very much known that police checkpoints or sentry posts have turned out to be a money-spinning illegitimate and illegal business enterprises where they insist sweeteners, backhanders or bribesfrom drivers of commercial and private motor vehicles and travelers in the same way. When there are any resistances from the commuters or the drivers; every person in the vehicle is detained there or taken to the police station for no tangible misdemeanor committed. 

I won’t be mincing words to say that the Nigeria police are clear symbols of the momentous level of methodical putrefaction and breakdown of order in Nigeria. A lot of Nigerians have fallen prey to the dishonorable and amateurish demeanors of deficiently skilled police officers; who make use of their place of power as a chance to bully, browbeat and coerce guiltless citizens just for petite money. Some of these police officers don’t even know what they are doing in the force. They forget totally the fact that they are not to deny Nigerians equal protection under the rule of law. But they over and over againchip away at the rule of law and claim to be doing their jobs. How can a group of persons; all in the name of doing their jobs, take the calmness or tranquility of others for granted? 

I have been fortunate to experience on several occasions or read on the pages of national dailies how innocent commuters who fail to cooperate with the criminal antics of the Nigeria police officers on the highways are detained and even have to undergoharassments; whether sexually or physically, sometimes intimidated in anticipation of any negotiations of payment for the release of the detained by any family relative of theirs or themselves. In most cases, motorists fall out vehemently with the police officers and a fight ensues which either leads to exchange of words, exchange of blows or even killing the run of the mill nationals; all for the reason that they refused to give approval to bribe demands.    

There is a case of deliberate hoax going on in the country, where Nigeria police officers disguise themselves as taxi drivers in concealed outfits; going to marketplaces, bus stops, bistros, even along church streets after Sunday worship to arrest innocent people just because there are suspicions of a particular robbery case that happened in the locality. This is so wide of the mark!

These police officers usually draw together selective citizens in open places taking them at gunpoint to their stations where they request for bribes. What is most annoying here is the fact that the police officers don’t even question them or are they hardly hot and bothered about whichever suspected offense done. They simply frame up stories of what they have visualized about any correlated case in the neighborhood and push the innocent ones into detention centers. They keep the innocent ones in custodyas an alternative for the actual criminals who are walking very freely in the streets; some of these real perpetrators are well acknowledged by the Nigeria police officers, still not anything is done to restrain their unrestrained behavior.

There are still issues about the Nigeria police officers who forcefully request that victims of various cases to offer an amount of money to look into a given criminal case. I once saw a video of a man in the police station making a report on something criminal that was happening in his business center. The Nigeria police officers on duty told the man that they had no petrol in their van and requested that the man provides N3, 000 for mobility charges. The man was unable to pay the requisitesum of money for the ostensible mobility charges; for this reason he was deprived an access to justice, as the police officers sat comfortably in their station. 

Meanwhile, we also know about criminal suspects who buy their cases in custody of our Nigeria police officers. They simply bribe the police officers to steer clear of anything that would take them in for questioning and consequent incarceration. In such cases, the senior criminal compensates the police officers after every criminal escapade. This is a gross act of incompetence and unprofessionalism!

I know a huge number of traders here in Nigeria who faces these dares from the Nigeria police on a daily basis. These traders are often beleaguered and badly treated by these Nigeria police officers. They ask for money at every given opportunity. If any of the traders refuses to give them the exact amount of money they need, sometimes their goods are taken as a means of extorting money from them until they pay. The traders will bail themselves and their goods respectively. What about traders who don’t have enough to give; the police officers will chase them away until they pay them something. 

What about other situations where police officers indulge in “stealing by crook” from the commoners? They go to the street to search young boys and girls, and pick money or other valuable items from their pockets. Over and over again, Nigerians have had to make complaints of those very bad and rotten eggs in the police force to the superiors in the station. But various complaints are usually greeted with anger and resentment from the police boss, and the appellant gets punished for it. The Nigeria police officers even go as far as detaining people who confront them about their misdemeanors on the roadways. If the Nigeria police officers don’t safeguard the citizens of the country, who will!

It’s so bad to know that the headship of the Nigeria police force pay deaf eyes to the present challenges of the people in the country. I can confidently remark that they have failed to put in place proficient procedures to put off this practice and hardly ever hold felonious and criminal police officers answerable to their actions. This doesn’t literally mean that all Nigeria police officers are bad. There are many Nigeria police officers who conduct themselves in a commendable way. But if truth be told, the largest part of the Nigeria police officers is more of predators than protectors. They have been prowling on the commoners and have been unsuccessful in their protective responsibilities. If there must be safety of lives and properties; and a total suppression of shady actions of men of the underworld in Nigeria, then the Nigeria police officers would have to raise their arts, respect themselves on our roadways and keep away from collaborating in evil.

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