BY SIMON REEF MUSA
It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” The greatest weapon against injustice is protest. We may not be able to stop injustice, but we must never be found incapable of protesting against it.
I am not a stranger to the Nigeria Police, having reported on the activities of the force 15 years ago, I have never ceased to be amazed by the stories of wickedness of crime-fighting personnel as they confront crimes on a daily basis. Let me state here that though the leadership of the Nigeria Police has been unrelenting in reforming the system, the disposition of the Nigerian police has most times frustrated the ideals upon which the force was founded.
That is not to state that those who run the affairs of the police are devoid of iniquities. Most often, they contribute in no small measure to the rot by denying required funds for logistics and welfare of policemen and women. Like many sectors, the black-uniformed are not immune or insulated from the temptations directed by men engaged in the use of force.
When policemen engage in the use of force, they do that to prove, even though illegal, their rights to violence. There is a trending video clip involving an armed policeman engaged in a scuffle over a gun used in shattering a car with bullets. A lady, ostensibly shot and groaning in pains as passersby attempt to calm the situation.
The story of the Nigerian police is a tale that is sometimes most unbelievable and a reflection of arrogance often associated with men and women in uniform. It is clear that considering the superciliousness of the Nigerian police, it may be apt to think that once in uniform, these uniformed security men and women see themselves as demi-gods who must be obeyed by all.
Some Nigerians had in the past resisted them and were lucky to tell their stories, while others lost their lives in the process. As it was in the past, so it is with the present. A personal encounter with the wickedness of the police revealed that there seems to be no light in sight in reforming a force that is now a victim of systemic failure.
Recently, a friend of mine working in an international agency was caught in a web of drama that demonstrated the arrogance posturing of the Nigerian police. She had gone to Mararaba Fruit Market with a relation to make some purchases. While driving out of the market, a car driven by a policeman in uniform ran into her and destroyed the right side mirror. Instead of apologising for the destruction, the policeman dismissively told her he was on an official duty. He advised her to just go and replace the mirror.
What angered my friend was the sense of arrogance displayed by the smallish officer whose name tag bears: MM Kiyawa. After the argument often associated with such a scene, my friend insisted the policeman must replace the damaged mirror.
Unable to dissuade my friend to bow before the power of uniform, the policeman agreed to take them to his mechanic to effect repairs. Her relation joined him to lead the way to the workshop. The manner the policeman drove frightened my friend’s relation who took his photo for the records. He got offended and curiously, the absence of his service number pressed the panic button on my friend’s relation.
Meanwhile, my friend had called to inform me of what was happening. I advised her not to be intimidated. Unknown to them, the policeman had perfected a ploy to deal with them. He drove them into an area populated by some street boys, since he rightly perceived they were from the South-east.
He immediately pulled the car in the midst of the boys who immediately surrounded them. Speaking to them in Hausa, he attempted to whip up some sentiments by referring to them in derogatory and unprintable names.
Sensing their accuser had something up his sleeves, they responded in Hausa and explained what really happened. As the enthusiasm of the boys waned, having heard from the ladies who are actually responsibly married with kids, Kiyawa had no option but continue with the journey to the mechanic workshop.
After replacing the damaged mirror, he seized the phone that was used in taking his snapshot. At the Mararaba police station, he charged: Snapping a policeman in the course of carrying out his official duties. One wonders if smashing someone’s car mirrors and intimidating people to submit to the powers of police uniform were parts of official duties. One would have expected that after replacing the damaged mirror, he would let go of the case and make peace with them.
At the police station, my friend’s relation never denied Kiyawa’s complaint, but said she did that to ensure she was not being abducted by someone claiming to be a policeman, adding, “The manner he drove frightened me and I thought I was being kidnapped”.
At the station, a fair complexioned police officer, after reviewing the submissions by both sides, appealed to the lady to let go of the case. However, Kiyawa feared that his picture may be used on social media to cause a frenzy amongst gender groups. It took an undertaking by the lady that she would not use the picture which had since been deleted before they were set free.
There is no doubt that the arrogance of Kiyawa is the trait of most policemen and women who deploy their uniforms to intimidate Nigerians. That my friend and her relation refused to press charges over their ill treatment makes me angry and constitutes a minus in the genuine efforts at reforming the police.
I am aware of the genuine efforts of the Nigeria Police in Nasarawa State, led by Bola Emmanuel Longe, to create a new police that follow and respect the rules. The way and manner the divisional crime officer handled the matter was wrong. Even when I tried to intervene he was angry and felt comfortable identifying with the erring police officer. He should be admonished against displaying injustice. Calling respectable ladies who are responsibly married with unprintable names cannot be the hallmark of the Nigerian Police. In a democratic society, police should serve as the bastion of justice. The Nasarawa State Police Command is called upon to probe into this particular case to avoid a repeat next time. We cannot have improved policing when we have characters such as Kiyawa roaming the streets to harass and intimidate hard-working Nigerians on account of their gender. CP Longe should please look into the matter as the lady who suffered at the hands of Kiyawa is willing to speak up.
There is a need for the Nigeria Police to elevate the academic requirements for enlistment into the police. With hundreds of thousands of youths unemployed, the minimum entry qualification into the rank and file of the Police should be the National Certificate of Education (NCE) or diploma and not Senior Secondary School certificate that is easily forged.
The time has come for the Force to cleanse the police of street urchins and political thugs who only see their recruitment as a platform for making money and enthroning a culture of intimidation for personal aggrandisement.
A situation where police personnel act as armed bandits should not be accepted. The task of reforming the crime-busting organisation is not yet over. I call on the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to rise and tackle the myriad of problems militating against the reform of the Force, especially on the conduct of personnel in carrying out their daily assignments.
BY SIMON REEF MUSA