BY SANUSI MUHAMMAD
ON assumption of office as the acting Inspector- General of Nigeria Police, Alhaji MD Abubakar said of the police he is to lead: “Our men are deployed to rich and influential individuals and corporate entities that we lack manpower to provide security for the common man; our investigation departments cannot equitably handle matters unless those involved have money to part with. Our police stations, state Criminal Investigation Departments and operation offices have become business centres and collection points for rendering returns from all kind of squads and teams set up for the benefit of superior officers.”
Expectedly, only few Nigerians expressed surprise at the IGP’s comment as he only confirmed the perception majority of Nigerians have of the police.
If the statement had any surprise, it was on the number of years it took before a serving police chief could be bold enough to say it. MD Abubakar deserves some accolades.
As the IGP was making his statement on the decay in the organization he was brought to lead and sanitize, there was a case of ‘accidental’ discharge in Jos capital of Plateau State.
The discharge, highlighted police highhandedness in their relationship with citizens they are paid to protect and defend: a relationship that has been characterized by years of extra-judicial killings that brought Boko Haram to the scene, denial of basic human rights as enshrined in the constitution, arbitrary detentions without trial, outright perversion of justice, sexual abuse and mindless extortion without qualms for the disdain and disgust shown by angry Nigerians.
According to IGP, the cumulative effect of all these, is that the respect the people have for the police in the past has been eroded and the people have lost confidence in the police to protect and defend them in times of need.
For instance, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police was perhaps established to take charge of specific assignments in crimes prevention and control as well as security to lives and property excluding mounting of illegal road blocks, seizure of petroleum products, debts collection, etc meant for extortion.
The squad has branches in the 36 states of the federation including Abuja in most cases funded by the various state governments in anticipation of effective policing.
Over the years, the organization has systematically turned to a replica of its former self and assumed the status of an extortion outfit that has outlived its usefulness to the people.
It was alleged by those extorted that armed robbery suspects in detention at SARS headquarters, Abuja are bailed at over N1million while bail ‘fee’ for other minor crimes range from N500,000 and above depending on the bargaining capacity of suspect’s relations for lawyers are not welcome at SARS areas of jurisdiction.
Although, the office of the Inspector-General is confirmed to have been disbursing monthly feeding allowances of suspects in detention nation wide, in most police stations visited across the country and Abuja SARS headquarters, such allowances are diverted and the burden of feeding suspects transferred to suspects relations including medication for the period of detention.
Tasks for the IGP committee
As the IG has set up an investigating committee on the recent attack at SARS headquarters in Abuja, let the committee be sincere in its assignment and reach out to the suspects to obtain first hand information on how they are treated in detention and how suspects die from hunger, disease or extra judicial killing.
Let SARS give a detailed report of how many suspects were ever taken to any of the courts in Abuja for prosecution and how many armed robbery suspects, car robbers etc were either released on bail at a fee or murdered in detention for failure to pay the stipulated bail fee.
The committee should visit other states where CID offices have been turned to suspects’ extortion venues. In some police stations, suspects have to offer bribes before their cases are charged to courts while in others, suspects are offered the opportunity to select courts so as to regain their freedom at a fee.
In his address at the International Human Rights Day celebrated on Monday, December 10, 2012, the Attorney-General and Federal Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, admitted that the wanton rot in the criminal justice system has escalated the spate of terrorism in the country in recent times.
According to him, the federal government has noted with great concern the fact that the Nigeria Police has over the years relied on “Police Force Order 237” to commit extra-judicial killings against natural justice.
The AGF said the police order which allows the police to shoot any suspect or detainee that tries to escape or avoid arrest has led to series of extra-judicial killings of 7, 195 in just four years out of 2,500 detainees.