21st January 2020, a journalist Alex Ogbu was killed by the Police in Abuja while covering a protest for a television station.
26th May 2020, Tina a 16 years old teenager was murdered from a stray bullet of an intoxicated police officer who was brutalizing a commercial bus driver in the late hour of the day. She died two days later and those police officer are out without any charges. The famous words, “I can’t breathe again” was used as a hashtag to launch a social media campaign against police brutality in the US over the killing another black man George Floyd. However, the lives of Nigerian citizens are wasted recklessly and unnecessarily by the Nigerian police. As Nigerians, we have seen too many headlines to ignore the existence of police brutality in the country, but in case of any doubt, let’s consider a few things.
The term “police brutality” was in use in the American press as early as 1872, when the Chicago Tribune reported on the beating of a civilian under arrest at the Harrison Street Police Station, Police brutality is one of several forms of police wrongdoing which involves excessive violence by police members.
The Nigeria Police Force, established in 1920, has a long history of practicing unprofessional, corrupt, and criminal behavior. 80 years after the birth of the Nigeria Police, the public perception suggests that the police are viewed as predators rather than protectors. Unfortunately, the Nigerian Police Force is seen as a symbol of unfettered corruption, mismanagement, and abuse, Blackmail, fraud, and other corrupt practices.
This has undermined the fundamental human rights of Nigerians in two key ways. First, the most direct effect of police corruption on ordinary citizens stems from the countless human rights abuses committed by police officers in the process of obtaining money under duress. These abuses range from random arrest and unlawful detention to threats and acts of violence, including physical and sexual assault, torture, and even killings.
The inefficiency of the Nigerian police is primarily rooted in the historical and philosophical formation of our policing system. Firstly, policing ought to be a community-level citizen issue. A national police force should only be a scaled-up version of a community-level police. And so, the Nigerian Police does not actually provide any typical policing service to the Nigerian masses. It seems like their only monopoly is the investigation and prosecution of violent and proprietary crimes. Otherwise, as a public service, the Nigerian police – other than being the visible presence of government intimidation – has been relegated to the role of security guards, drivers or personal assistants of public officials and high net-worth individuals. These services, of course, tie into Nigeria’s patronage system.
Some of the popular cases are listed below:
2nd of March, some trigger-happy police officers shooting a bus driver dead in Mosan, Ayobo area of Lagos for refusing to part with money.
Two weeks after that, a teenage girl was killed by a stray bullet in a shootout between policemen and some cultists in Ikorodu.
25th of March, an Okada rider was shot dead in Kilo, Surulere area of Lagos.
4th of July 2008, Chukwuemeka Matthew Onovo 22 yrs old student was shot dead by the police in Enugu, he was unarmed. Till today, the officers were never convicted.
24th of July 2009, Chibuike Anams was shot dead by a police officer in Rivers state. Till today there is no investigation into the incident.
27th of January 2009, Christian Ugwuoke was murdered by a police officer who shot at a peaceful crowd of up to 50 People in a Wake keep ceremony, injuring two people and killing Christian.
Aneke Okorie, 39 years old okada rider and father of four children refused to pay a bribe at a checkpoint in Enugu state, the police officer shot him in the stomach. He died on his way to the hospital.
15th of December 2008 Joseph Onu a bus driver, was shot after he refused to pay bribe at a checkpoint in Imo state, he died at the hospital. The Imo state commissioner promised to dismiss the officer involved, but no one knows if the officer was eventually dismissed.
These and many more cases of police brutality have been recorded around the world. Right now, the massive global protests against police brutality raises serious issues with our experience with the Nigerian Police force. The police is an essential part of every society, but shouldn’t be a symbol of oppression and abuse of power. When we as average citizens see an officers uniform, we should feel safe and should only have reason to fear when we’ve been involved in some illicit activities. As Sir P.S Jagadesh Kumar says, “The job of a cop is to invest God’s fear in human not to invest human’s fear in God.”
By Whesu Semeton Deborah
edited by Philip Oke
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