THE police can go to ridiculous ends to cover its poor investigation skills. Sometimes it intimidates suspects in order to extort money from them.
A case in point, obviously one of the many that managed to get to public attention, is that of Iyabo Ojo, a pregnant woman who the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, in Lagos has held for six months under the suspicion that she was aware of the criminal activities of a suspect simply called Ibrahim.
Police in an encounter with an armed robbery gang that included Ibrahim, allegedly found Iyaboâ€™s telephone number among those Ibrahim stored in his telephone. Iyabo responded to the policeâ€™s call and was taken from her Akure base to Lagos, where she has been held since last year.
There is something disconcerting about this case. Is the police saying that each time it arrests an armed robber anyone whose telephone numbers are in the robberâ€™s possession is an accomplice? What proof is one supposed to give to counter the police? How many Nigerians know what those who have their telephone numbers do?
What control do people have over who gets their numbers?
We support the policeâ€™s efforts to stem armed robbery and other violent crimes. We think the police needs more support from the public, the authorities and institutions to acquire the facilities it requires to do its work better.
However, there must be a commitment on the part of the police to stop intimidating people. Most people the police detains are held for offences they did not commit. The police expects them to prove their innocence.
The police lacks any interest in charging them to court. It does not even have the capacity to prosecute the cases.
This setting is ideal for corruption. People held under curious circumstances and dumped in police cells that reflect hell are willing to part with hundreds of thousands of Naira to regain their freedom. Those who cannot afford the money are held forever, another reason for the high number of detained people who await trials that never come.
In Iyaboâ€™s case, her captors are allegedly demanding N400, 000 to release her. Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Okechukwu Onovo should ensure that, Iyabo, a pregnant mother of two, regains her freedom.
He should tell his men and women to stop ridiculing the police. Cases like Iyaboâ€™s challenge the image of the police, create disaffection between the public and the police and compounds the fight against crime because the police makes itself the publicâ€™s enemy.
Why has Iyabo not been charged to court, if she committed an offence? Does her constitutional rights not include quick access to justice? There must be consistent efforts by the authorities to ensure the police stops victimising those it should protect, especially the poor, the weak, and the lowly