Thecable.ng investigative journalist, Fisayo Soyombo has again brought into the front burner disturbing tales within the Nigerian Police Force. The reporter, who spent two weeks in detention, (five in a Police cell) came face to face with Police corruption: high-handedness, extortion, brutality and brainwashing of ordinary Nigerians.
Representing the first line of the Nigerian justice system as the law enforcement agency, it does not come as a surprise that two of the most corrupt institutions in Nigeria, according to a recent survey are the Police and the Judiciary.
The public survey released in March, this year by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) reports high levels of corruption in public institutions in Nigeria for the past 5 years. Of the five major public institutions surveyed, the Police emerged as the most corrupt, while the judiciary follows closely.
This is because the two are like Siamese twins and work in concert. The Police have rubbed its corrupt hands on the court to create a twin-evil that has crippled the Nigerian law and justice system.
It is reported that ‘a bribe is paid in 54 per cent of interactions with the police. In fact, there is a 63 per cent probability that an average Nigerian would be asked to pay a bribe each time he or she interacted with the police. That is almost two out of three.’
For an agency, with the motto ‘Police is your friend’ it is noteworthy to say that our experiences with the Police, say otherwise. Contact and interaction with the Police on a daily basis is not at all palatable. When you meet them on the road, it is either they are begging you to ‘wet the ground’ or pointing their guns at you to force you to part with your money.
My main concern, however, is the latest and trending pattern of Police menace directed at young Nigerian men and women.
Recently, young men have been on the receiving end of brutality in the hands of ‘the men in black’ because of how they look, what they wear and sometimes, the car they drive.
Nine out of ten times, officers-in-arm will stop and arrest a man in his early 20s driving an expensive car in Lagos. The same would happen to a young man with laptop, or expensive looking smart phone or dressed in the fashionable ‘crazy jeans’ or with tinted hair or dreadlock or tattoo on his body.
It gets worse if you are young and carrying a backpack with a laptop and you don’t have an ID card to show. You are automatically considered to be an internet fraudster by these law enforcers.
I have had to listen with chagrin to gory details of Police abuse of young people and it is still ongoing.
Undergraduate Segun (not his real name) was waiting at a bus-stop in Surulere one afternoon when a police van pulled up in front of him and he was arrested with four others.
According to the Police, his offense was that he was wearing a ragged jean and spotted a ‘crazy’ hairdo.
Segun and the others were promptly taken to the nearest station and their pockets ransacked. Segun was carrying a laptop and he was summarily told he would be charged for internet fraud. He was told to bail himself out with N40, 000 but ended up coughing out N30, 000 before he was allowed to leave the holding cell after four hours. To cap it up, Segun said he was marched to an ATM point to collect the money for them.
The others were not so lucky.There are more incidences that I cannot mention here.
At other times it has led to death of young men. One in mind is the fatal shooting of Kolade Johnson on March 31, 2019 by Inspector Ogunyemi Olalekan and Sergeant Godwin Orji. Both officers were implicated for the death of 35-year old Kolade.
It is bad enough that our young people are going through harsh economic and social conditions. So for a Nigerian agency with the mandate of protecting lives and properties to further complicate their livesjust makes life unbearable.
Beginning from the homes, they may have to grapple with barely enough resources to take care of their needs since most parents have been decimated financially by the downturn.
At school, the system is not sparing them too, making most youngsters to venture into part time works to keep body and soul together. Their psyche is already hurt and harassment from Police is ‘a salt to injury’ and injurious to already battered psyche.
We were once young and have all passed through the route. Young people are given to trendy things, be it fashion, music, style et al.They are brash and loud. In trying to find themselves they can experiment with many things. It does not mean that they mean any harm and many of them are not into crime and should not be treated like criminals.
I expect the Police Force to be schooled on this basic psychology and need not aggravate the young people.
One, it would be counterproductive to aggravate them further as we would be dealing with hardened youths who would come back to haunt the system and the country in general.
Two, some of these same youth would one day find their way into the Police Force and would give multiple dose of brutality. Because their psyche has been bruised, the country would be at the mercy of transferred aggression when they eventually take charge. The chain of reactive fury and resentments will be catastrophic when unleashed by the monsters we made with our hands. It could be an endless cycle.
I want to beg the government of the day to tackle this problem headlong and with purpose. The Police Force needs a new heart and body to make meaningful and drastic changes in its ranks and files.
Defiling our young ones is not the way to go because it is tantamount to defiling the future of this country. The law must have a semblance of human feeling to work well.
As it stands now, The Police is the number one enemy of Nigerians and unless urgent reform is carried out, and quickly too, they would end up digging their own grave and ours too.