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Is there truly a Nigeria police force?

By Emmanuel Onwubiko
09 June 2022   |   3:09 am
Under the extant police Act signed in 2020 by President Muhammadu Buhari, the police are assigned the legal obligations of law enforcement and there are a plethora of provisions

Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Under the Nigerian Constitution, Section 214(1) establishes the Nigeria Police Force in writing.

Under the extant police Act signed in 2020 by President Muhammadu Buhari, the police are assigned the legal obligations of law enforcement and there are a plethora of provisions on sanctions that awaits police operative who is unprofessional and indisciplined. However, from empirical data, the Nigeria Police exists not for the commoners but the police have been overwhelmed and overpowered by indiscipline just as the majority of the operatives are not as professionally inclined as the laws, precepts and expectations of Nigerians would want them to be. 

In this piece, I’m presenting four samples of encounters between Nigerians and members of the Nigeria Police force to establish a very straightforward premise and an emphatic statement that Nigeria doesn’t have a police force as it should be and as it is all around the World in such jurisdictions like the United States of America, the United Kingdom,  Australia,  New Zealand, Japan, China and even South Africa as it were.

Many reasons and excuses are adduced to say these are why Nigeria Police Force is truly not a positive force to reckon with and is anything but a professional law enforcement institution but simply a contraption with persons made heads of the different departments but whose style is rudderless and lawless and because there is absence of oversight responsibility by the dysfunctional Police Service Commission, what we have can’t truly be described as a standard Police force judging from universal pedigrees of similar institutions in other foreign jurisdictions aforementioned. 

There was an encounter between a businessman in Anambra State and the Anambra State Police Command in what is clearly a case of policemen turning their detention facilities, using their uniforms and guns paid by taxpayers to kidnap, blackmail, extort a Nigerian whom they framed up in some phantom charges and made him cough out N18 million from inside the police cell in Awkuzu, Anambra State in the same notorious SARS facility in which many youngsters of Igbo origin were framed up by the police essentially led by an Igbo born police officer and killed in some of the most troubling cases of extrajudicial execution of citizens which was one of the factors that instigated the nation-wide protests by youths against police brutality two years back. 

Recently in Nasarawa State, a former Federal Commissioner of the National Population Commission was attacked and killed even as the Police and soldiers he invited never assisted to rescue him. 

Indeed the police in the Nasarawa State’s Command sent only two police operatives who had one gun but when they got to the crime scene and saw the sophisticated guns wielded by the hoodlums, the policemen fled and left distressed Nigerian to his fate. 

The story was narrated by a former information minister Mr. Labaran Maku and the survivor of that dastardly attack and the daughter of the victim of this gruesome killing. 

The narrative is that the former Minister of Information and ex-governorship aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party in Nasarawa State, Labaran Maku, spoke with a journalist Collins Sunday about the assassination of his campaign agent, Zakari Umaru-Kigbu, by some gunmen last Saturday and here are the issues the erstwhile minister raised. Asked what was his relationship with the late Zakari Umaru-Kigbu, who was assassinated last Saturday in his home in Nasarawa, the former Minister fought back tears and asserted that the victim of this crime against humanity was his brother, friend and political ally. 

The second of the four subsets of experiences about the Nigeria Police Force is replicated in the press statement by the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria titled “HURIWA tasks IGP on police officers accused of kidnapping, blackmailing and extortion of N18 million from Anambra businessman.”

The story goes thus: Prominent Civil rights advocacy group, HURIWA, has expressed disappointment and sadness at the lack of action by the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, on a subsisting petition against Mr. Martin Ngoesina Okechukwu, Chile Ajani, CSP Patrick Agbazue, an officer in charge of SCID-Annex Awkuzu, Mr. Osim, the admin officer, Mr. Uche Chukwudi (IPO) for alleged unlawful kidnap, detention and extortion of a whooping sum of N18 million from a businessman Mr. John Elochukwu.

The other case is that of a 12-year-old Gbagyi girl raped by her Igbo neighbour in Kabusa village which HURIWA handled and the statement we authored asked the police as follows: “HURIWA seeks justice for 12-year-old victim of sexual assault.”

The story is as follows: “Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has urged the Federal Capital Territory Police Command to ensure that justice is served in the alleged sexual abuse case involving a 12-year-old girl in Kabusa village, Abuja.

HURIWA said it visited Kabusa Police Station, on the outskirts of Abuja, to ascertain the progress of the Police investigation on the alleged assault by her neighbour, a 54-year-old father of three, Mr. Ikemba, an Iron Bender. 

According to the group, on reaching the police station, it saw the alleged victim and her poor parents, apparently waiting for the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), to refer the matter to the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID) within the Federal Capital Territory Command.

The group said it ascertained that the teenage victim was kept at Kabusa Police Station from Saturday, when the matter was reported by neighbours till Monday afternoon, on the excuse that the victim was kept to obtain a medical report because according to the Investigative Police Officer (IPO), the police did not want the evidence of the alleged rape to be tampered with if she was allowed to go home with her the parents

The group appealed to the Federal Government, especially the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs to liaise with the police to facilitate quick medical examination of victims of sexual assaults because keeping the victim in a police station and detaining the suspect could create the impression that the alleged victim is being criminalised.

While appealing to the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and the National Human Rights Commission to monitor the progress of this matter to ensure that justice is done, it also urged the FCT Police Commissioner to ensure that justice is done to this vulnerable child.

The last story is about the invasion of a Church in Imo State by the Police from the IGP’s office at the alleged instigation of the Imo State’s controversial governor who as alleged used his Chief Security officer to perpetuate the horrendous crime of going after his political opponent Rochas Okorocha and followed his son-in-law right into his Anglican parish in his hometown where he had gone for his Mum’s burial to arrest him with policemen who wore neither uniforms nor carried identification. These police invaders of the Church shot sporadically inside the Church even as hundreds of worshippers who had turned up for the solemn event scampered for safety.

The Inspector-General of Police did nothing about those who carried out this attack reminiscent of how kidnappers operate and after two months without action to sanction these policemen, HURIWA went to the Federal High Court and filed a suit seeking for a mandate to compel the Police Service Commission to investigate the invasion but for a month and a half, the Chief Judge of Federal High Court, John Tsoho failed to assign the matter so we withdrew it from the court since we have been denied justice by the Court. 

The first action we took was reported thus: “HURIWA petitions PSC, demands the identity of policemen that invaded Imo Church.”

The story said HURIWA has petitioned the Police Service Commission (PSC) to reveal the identity of the police officers, who invaded a church in Imo State to arrest Uche Nwosu.

It said contrary to the video evidence and belated official confirmation of the Imo State Police Command, Nwosu was arrested by the police right in the church after shooting sporadically in the midst of worshippers.

These variegated cases of absolute nonchalant attitudes of the Inspector-General of Police, Alhaji Usman Alkali Baba, show the most brazen sign of the existential collapse of the Nigeria Police Force and that the institution exists barely on paper because the IGP does not care even if the entire police institution collapses on his head if he has refused to demonstrate any sign of functional and effective leadership. 

The Inspector-General of Police, Alhaji Usman Alkali Baba, needs to wake up or be made to wake up and be a leader who would restore the dead policing institution back to life and not continue to behave like the official undertaker of the Nigeria Police Force. 

Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and was the National Commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria.