THE NIGERIA POLICE AND SOME CASES OF MOCKERY OF COMMON GOOD.
Granted that there are areas of promotion of common good by the Nigeria police force, here we want to expose some of their activities that jeopardize the realization of common good, to see what could be done to mitigate them, if not totally eradicate those ill-activities. This is because, these constitute a social problem which in the estimation of Horton Leslies is a condition affecting a significant number of people in ways considered undesirable, about which it is felt that something can be done through collective social action.
For decades, the police in Nigeria have strayed from their responsibility to protect Nigerian citizens and have instead preyed on them for economic gain. Thus, sometimes they go against the common good for selfish interests. Indeed, the relationship between citizens and the police is very often characterized by brutality, confrontation and exploitation. No wonder a research conducted in 2000 by the Centre for Law Enforcement and Education in Nigeria (CLEEN), a Lagos based non-governmental organization, found that the use of violence by the force against the citizens was widespread. Of 637 respondents to a survey carried out in fourteen states, 14.8 percent said they had been beaten by the police, 22.5 percent said police had threatened to shoot them in the past, and 73.2 percent said they had witnessed the police beating another person. A sample of 197 prison inmates, revealed higher figures of police abuse; 81 percent of respondents said they had been beaten or slapped and 39 percent burnt with hot objects.
It is based on these and more, that we shall see some possible causes of this police mockery of common good, and some instances of such mockery.
SOME POSSIBLE CAUSES OF POLICE MOCKERY OF COMMON GOOD IN NIGERIA.
Because every effect has a cause, we want to consider what possibly could be behind the police ill-activities against common good in Nigeria. Tracing the fundamental history of the ill-activities of Nigeria police, it could be said to be as a result of the influence of the idea, and the then motive for establishing police during the colonial era. The notion, the interior motive and the way police force was used during the era of colonization still lingers in the force of today. The primary purpose for instituting the police force during this time was to advance the economic and political agenda of the colonizers. In many areas, the police engaged in the brutal subjugation of communities and the suppression of resistance to colonial rule. The use of violence and repression from the beginning of the colonial era, marked a dislocation in the relationship between the police and local communities, which has characterized law enforcement practices in Nigeria ever since. It is in line with this that Ralph Ibeazor opinionated that Nigerian police is still being haunted by colonial orientation in which an average policeman sees himself as a ruthless disciplinarian, which the colonial master wanted him to be.
Secondly, another possible cause of some of police ill-activities is due to lack of adequate police welfare and maintenance scheme. Most regimes of government paid little or no attention to the maintenance of police force in Nigeria. This is mostly seen during military regimes characterized by poor police attention, and rather the use of police to enforce authoritarian rule. Like many government institutions, a history of neglect has left the Nigeria police force under-resourced. Thus, there is a kind of inadequate police maintenance and welfare in Nigeria, and this makes some of them to seek ways to help themselves. Sometimes, even when money is budgeted for police affairs, it is either centralized more of, so that the states and divisional command receive little attention or the money is embezzled.
Again, greed and selfishness of most policemen is another significant cause of police ill-activities against the common good. Even when some money is allotted for police welfare, funds are sometimes misspent or diverted for private interest. Even when police welfare is improved, such a policeman would be insatiable, greedy and selfish by disposition. There is then a tendency that such a force man will embark on some ill-police activities for selfish aggrandizement. Thus, more gratuitous form of police corruption appears to be motivated purely by greed. In order to buttress this fact, a typical example is the case of former police boss who had much to live on as a police Inspector General, accused of stealing $98 million USD of public funds When a boss can do such a thing, imagine what lower cadre of police officers will be doing out of greed and selfishness.
Among other possible causes is lack of modern and adequate policing equipments for effective and prompt police actions, for the common good. The police have often been unable to meet the safety and security needs of local communities and are often over-powered by well-armed and often violent criminals.
On another note, the recruitment system in the police scarcely pays attention to the psychological make-up of the recruits. The effect is that men and officers of quick temper, who find their ways to the police, soon become dangerous elements to the society. With the poor renunciation system in the police that causes huge frustration among members of the force and allows tempers to rise at the slightest provocation, the society then becomes the victim of such characters in the police.
Similarly, inadequate and non-strict training of policemen towards professionalism, efficiency, enlightenment and communication, contribute to production of policemen who do not have foresight of the interest of the people as the watchword in mind. Again, another possible cause of police mockery of common good is inadequate penalizing of erring policemen, and so, others do not fear anything in committing one thing or the other, having known where and how far it can only take them.
Finally, to discus the problems of the police, we refer to the views of a former inspector General of Police, Alhaji Aliyu Alta at a seminar organized by the police commissioner in Jos in July 1991. According to him, there are three basic points that would have robbed the police force whatever successes it would wish to attain during its operations. In the first place, he saw it as greed on the part of senior officers in converting funds meant for the welfare intensions of government.
Secondly, he identified over concentration of duties at the headquarters, State command and the divisional levels. Lastly, he made allusions to lack of proper training and professionalism and communication with the subordinates.
THE NIGERIA POLICE AND DESTRUCTION OF LIVES AND PROPERTY
In an ideal society, the police at all times ought to be servants of the people. However, the literature on police and policing reveals that the police are often in conflict with a significant population of the masses in almost all countries of the world.
In some cases, the Nigeria police are reported to go against the interest or good of the people which they should rather promote, in a bid to carry-out a script prepared either by them or designed by the interests of selfish government rulers who employ them. In some of these cases, lives and properties of the masses are destroyed, thereby, ridiculing, instead of promoting the common good of the members of such a democratic society.
What remains to be comprehended in this regard, when a community protesting police brutality in Mgbem N’Achara community in Okposi L.G.A. of Ebonyi State, reports how the police from zone 6 police command in Calabar were alleged to have thrown canisters which sparked off and burnt houses and properties worth millions of naira. This was as a result of community strife with one chief Omoke. The police came to the community and made some indiscriminate arrests of the residents and set houses ablaze at Amata/Amagu Mgbom. Surely the interest or welfare of the masses is highly compromised here and it is a deviation from the duty they owe to the community.
On another incidence, the Daily Times reported how a female Superintendent and five others were questioned for alleged burglary and theft of which investigations revealed that they catered away properties of some members of the public to an uncompleted building.
Similarly, youth and community of Kaduna village in Debeji Local Government Area of Kano State, who decided to stage a peaceful demonstration to protest purported escape of an armed robbery suspect from police custody March, 2003, experienced a menace by the police as policemen razed 197 houses, farm produce, and properties worth millions of Naira with loss of the lives of two persons.
Thus, in all these, we see a real ridicule of the good or welfare of the people and not a promotion of the interest or good of the masses.
NIGERIA POLICE, BRIBERY AND EXTORTION OF TWENTY-NAIRA SYNDROME.
What becomes of safety of life and property when police check points on the Nigerian roads turn to be more of places for bribery and extortion of money from drivers and passengers? A tour from Enugu to Port Harcourt, for instance, as a commercial driver without offering of money, may not be smooth at police checkpoints. One can even transport harmful materials successfully as far as one is able to ‘settle’ the police on the road. Today, Nigeria police line-up checkpoints where an interest of extorting money takes upper hand than ensuring security of lives and property. This means that a criminal can carry illegitimate goods, deadly weapons and even human heads through Nigerian roads and be successful as far as such a criminal is able to ‘roja’ or bribe selfish policemen. What then, becomes of public safety in this pitiable situation?
Investigations across the country showed that the police have continued to infringe on people’s rights. Some policemen appear to have abandoned the government mission statement: to protect lives and property, and now use the outfit to collect money from motorists and kill innocent people in the society. Some victims who petitioned Inspector General of Police have not received any response till date. It is either command for money, if not, people are brutalized and sometimes killed in cold blood by those who are supposed to protect them.
Similarly, on Monday July 12, 2004, Corporal Adejare Apata shot and killed Saheed Aborishade in front of the police post in Orogun, Oyo-state, as a result of his refusal to part with a hundred naira bribe. Again, on November 14, 2002, a policeman killed four and injured eight when a driver refused to part with sixty-naira bribe but gave twenty-naira instead. He opened fire at close range, killing the driver and three passengers instantly while the rest scampered to safety.
Thus, the question of bribery, extortion, injury or killings associated with the Nigeria police, has become a matter of serious concern because when we cannot be assured of security from security agents, then, there is a serious threat to public or societal existence. It becomes then very unfortunate that those who should ensure common good of the people rather ridicule common good of human existence.
POLICE, CONNIVING WITH ARMED ROBBERS– A MOCKERY OF COMMON GOOD.
One of the roles of police is detection of crime and apprehension of criminals. It is then, not a promotion but a pitiable caricature of common good of human society, when policemen aids and even become partners with criminals that cause nuisance to the welfare of human community.
In many instances, it has been witnessed where some men of Nigeria police force either sell arms to armed robbers or aid in armed robbery operations themselves. Dayo Thomas in the Week newspaper, reports how the police was slashed for abetting crime, and president Olusegun Obasanjo remarked that some men of the police force hire their guns to robbers and connive with criminals to perpetrate crimes. A question that demands an immediate answer becomes: do such policemen not know what the robbers are up to, and for what purpose were the policemen given those arms to use for? Surely, to venture answers to the two questions would give birth to serious contradiction of the supposed mission of both these policemen and armed robbers.
Similarly, police constable Musa Waziri says that for almost two years, he has been a courier of arms and ammunition for a syndicate of armed robbers in connivance with some of his superior officers. Again, Mallam Yahaya Sule, had been fingered by a gang of armed bandits in police net as their main supplier of weapons. Waziri further confessed that Inspectors Gregory Ngaji, David Dawa, Danjuma Gobong and Solomon Dankat, Sergeants Peter Odah and Sunday Asudahi, are also members of his gun run.
There have been also other cases where police connive with armed robbers to perpetrate crimes. For example, a neighbour on returning from Lagos narrated orally, a story on how some policemen planned a robbery with some armed robbers. When they were alerted to come and catch the robbers; they pretended they were coming, only to arrive when they knew that the robbers must have left, and started asking: “wey them, wey them”. This is certainly a mockery of the common good of the people and clinging to selfish interest without regard to common good and their duty.
POLICE BRUTALITY AND EXTRA- JUDICIAL KILLINGS.
What can be compromised with human life? It is sacred, precious, and priceless. Every person has a right to life and respect for the dignity of his person. One of the roles of police as noted, is security of lives and property. When this is negated it becomes a serious rape of police duty and so, a serious mockery of common good of which they are called to protect and promote.
Nigeria police has been known for cases of brutalizing Nigerian citizens who fail to comply with some of their unlawful demands, and worse still, perpetrating extra-judicial killings of some Nigerian citizens. Instead of protecting the life of citizens, some policemen have knowingly or carelessly destroyed lives of some people. According to the Nigerian Tribune of February 14, 1992, a police Inspector on February 13, 1992 tried to arrest a driver at a checkpoint, the driver seeing the arrest as part of police victimization resisted the arrest, leading to a scuffle in which the officer battered him in a state of comma with the butt of the gun.
In another incidence, the high court at Bomadi (Bendel State) awarded 102, 500 naira against a police Corporal, following injuries suffered by Mr. David Enaibe, who was shot by corporal Ota Sowie on road block along Patani/PortHarcourt road on April 19, 1989. He was asked to alight from his car, as he was doing so, he was shot on the left leg and was permanently incapacitated after being hospitalized. Similarly, on 22 August, 1991, three persons returning from a revival centre Apata Ibadan were shot by the police. Two of them, Busoye and Yetunde died while Bora Agunloye sustained bullet wounds on her arm.
The recent and famous APO killing on June 7, 2005 is quite another pitiable mockery of people’s welfare in a society. It was reported how five Igbo traders and a female undergraduate were murdered by the police in Abuja, who claimed that they were armed robbers, on Wee hours of Tuesday, June 7, 2005, at Garki police station, Abuja.
Recently this year again, I witnessed where a young gentleman was victimized by a policeman for frowning at and speaking against extortion of money from the driver by the policeman. The young man was forced down the vehicle, beaten and asked to roll-down with his body on the floor. It is a very shameful and unfortunate thing for the force in Nigeria who should even arrest any person that forcefully extorts anything from another person. This is a serious threat to discipline and image of the police force in Nigeria.
There are other numerous cases of police brutality, victimization and extra-judicial killings. Civil Liberties Organization even outlined many extra-judicial killings perpetrated by the police against the people. Patterns of police killings in Nigeria and excessive use of force have been documented by other local and international human rights organizations. Indeed, the relationship between citizens and the police is very often characterized by brutality, confrontation and exploitation. Professor Philip Alston, special reporter on extra-judicial summary or arbitrary executions commented during a visit to Nigeria in July 2005. Hear him: “While I do not for a moment under-estimate the scourge of armed robbery which plagues too much in Nigeria, there is no doubt in my mind that the label of armed robbers is very often used to justify the jailing of innocent individuals who have come to the attention of the police for reasons ranging from a refusal to pay a bribe to inconveniencing or insulting the police or some general offence against public order”.
In the final analysis, we see that the police sometimes, become a watchdog that eats up the life of puppies placed under their custody. It is then, not a promotion, but a caricature of security of lives and property of the members of Nigerian human community.
POLICE MEDDLING WITH PUBLIC FUNDS AND PROPERTY.
As custodians of lives and property of a community, the police should be out for selfless service otherwise, there would be no difference between a policeman and a thief. In Nigeria, to what extent can a policeman return wholeheartedly, a sum of money or property that is lost by a person who is not aware of its whereabouts? The answer is scarcely in the positive taking into consideration what have been already experienced as factual.
It is even more disheartening that one chief of the force, was involved in such meddling with fund. The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) proved beyond any iota of doubt that Tafa Balogun, the former Inspector General of police, was guilty of laundering over 18 billion naira while in office. It was reportedly spent buying into some blue-chip companies, and acquiring of several properties in strategic areas of Abuja and Lagos.
In another instance, it was reported how four policemen left their duty station at Ehor (Benin City), changed into mufti and mounted a roadblock near Erua village and robbed various motorists and passengers of their hard-earned money and other valuable items.
The media at 11:00am news broadcast on 20th September, 2005 by Anthony Okeofu, reported how three mobile policemen from Delta State command were caught in connection with a public property, an oil-pipeline vandalization which they are supposed to be custodians of such a common property for common good.
How elaborate and continuous will such instances associated with Nigeria police be? Suffice it to say that there are many cases of police meddling with public funds or property due to greed and selfishness. This continues to cry-out for the urgency of attending to the question: who will guard the guardians? A question clearly confirmed by these few instances, many more, and especially in Tafa Balogun’s case. The policemen and chiefs are supposed to be great custodians of lives and property, but sometimes, they are charged with cases of theft of public property meant for common good.
NIGERIA POLICE, OTHER HUMAN RIGHT ABUSES, CORRUPTION AND INDISCIPLINE.
Respect for human rights and dignity is a cause widely recognized and endorsed by both local and international communities. This is not unconnected with the fact that human person occupies a peculiar position in the universe of creatures. Human person is unique and most beautiful and wonderful piece of creation. That is more or less why there are fundamentally, rights which he necessarily enjoys and of which should be respected and sanctified. Among such rights are right to life, right to freedom of expression, right to citizenship, right to freedom of conscience and religion etc.
Appropriately, the police, as security agents should be of great guardiance and custody to these fundamental human rights. Nevertheless, in certain instances some members of Nigeria police force have been found guilty of human right abuses. But these rights, I think, are guaranteed so that there will not be any encroachment or interference with the dignity of human person, and also that the common welfare or good of the members of the human society will be assured.
There have been cases ranging from forceful arrests, illegal detention and torture, to extra-judicial killings of innocent citizens, which are traces of human rights abuses. It is documented that the Nigeria police earns local and international condemnation for such human rights abuses and indiscriminate killings and torture of innocent citizens.
By way of offering instances, police attitude to people of Yauri town and its environs in Yelwa L.G.A of Kebbi State, who came to the state’s police headquarters to demonstrate having caught four policemen alleged to have engaged in armed robbery operation, is a pitiable attitude. The police opened fire on the crowd, killed at least four people and injured several others.
Another hapless victim was Fidelis Okoji, as Tell reported, who was murdered by a policeman with serve number 397213, named Blessing Igbinovia, along Acme Road, Ogba, Lagos. His offence was that he was pleading with the police in favour of the driver of their bus who had refused to give the policeman twenty-naira bribe. On a similar note, corruption and indiscipline have been found to punctuate some activities of the Nigerian police force.
The Nigeria police force has constituted itself as an epitome of the most evident and distinct manifestation of corruption in Nigeria so much, that the possibility of stomaching it is in itself an impossibility. That is why people have always raised alarm concerning police corruption and indiscipline. People openly express dissatisfaction about their misdemeanor such that they overtly will that they keep-off our road instead of standing there to extort and accept bribes from people. For instance, the “roja me” jargon is an indication of bribery as a vice.
In 1998, a policeman whose primary function is to safeguard the citizens gunned down a taxi driver at a checkpoint near Ondo for refusing to cough-out a twenty-naira bribe. It was revealed that after further probing, the same officer had a skull in his wardrobe, a close observation of which showed also that it was the officer’s deceased wife who died six months earlier.
On a similar note, one would be uncontrollably shocked in the marrow to witness that at a checkpoint between Nkalagu and Eha-Amufu, a group of policemen with a folder on which they registered motorcycle particulars of Okada riders who patronized them with twenty naira, and would not allow any other one until he had sufficiently ‘rojered’ and complied. What a height of police corruption and indiscipline! What recourse to selfish aggrandizement and a caricature of the people’s welfare or good. So, it means that a person can be carrying human head or deadly weapon and as long as he is ready to ‘roja’ the police, he would be very much passed to carry on. It is very unfortunate.
Another instance of police corruption and indiscipline is rape, where some sexual predators in police uniforms have properly raped innocent young girls and women. It will surely be very elaborate to mention every trace of police indiscipline and corruption in Nigeria. It calls for serious attention and reformation, to protect the welfare of the people who may be under the unprotective hands of some security men.
In the final analysis, we understand through these evidences of police mockery of common good, as negating public welfare, and of which the police are called to maintain and ensure. It is an aberration, a misnomer and quite unfortunate. It is then, not a promotion of common good for which a society is made, but a mournful caricature or mockery of people’s or community welfare. An urgent question then becomes, what possible things could be done as attempts to mitigate the ugly situation if not totally eradicate it? We set to proffer some solutions to the problem already stated and evidenced, no matter how far it can carry the force along.
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©DONALD CHISOM UDEOBA IS A STUDENT OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION CHUKWUEMEKA ODUMEGWU OJUKWU UNIVERSITY, ANAMBRA STATE. A PHILOSOPHER AND A PROMOTER OF ETHICS,COMMON GOOD AND HUMAN DIGNITY.
For knowledge and Justice