By Bisi Lawrence
The Acting Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, has spoken: (a) no more “torture”, and (b) no more “road blocks”. While the first proscribed practice is accepted as barbaric and pronounced as criminal in every civilized country, the second is adopted as normal police action against crime, and established as standard operational procedure, “s.o.p.”, especially in isolating a scene of committed felony.
However, it had gone beyond that in the peculiar circumstances of our country. Those circumstances relate particularly to crimes committed on the road, like highway robbery, and others which involve the use of the highway by the criminal to effect an escape. Curiously, both measures would seem capable of providing considerable comfort to vicious criminal elements like, for instance’ the Boko Haram, coming at the time they did.
In isolating the scene of a crime, the restraining of unauthorized movement obviously helps to protect against the destruction, or compromise, of important evidence. The setting up of checkpoints (or “road blocks”, if you like) also serves, in its own way, to apprehend any criminal who might have broken away from the scene of crime and preparing to laugh all the way to a comfort zone. Unfortunately, it is well known not to have served that purpose most of the time.
But there was a time—seems now like a century, but barely thirty years ago-when this was a very effective means of preventing crime.
I had a personal experience on the road between Asaba and Benin City, years ago, when I was chased by robbers for some fifteen miles till we approached a checkpoint. My “Peugeot 504” was in pink condition then and I had no fear of being overtaken, but I was so relieved when a checkpoint came into view.
My pursuers slowed down while I raced up to the police officers to plead for rescue. They waited patiently for the men in the car – another “504”, by the way – and interrogated them politely before asking them to step out of the car. They looked harmless, but a swift search of their vehicle produced no less than seventeen weapons of various calibers. And that was how that checkpoint saved me. Two of my friends also had similar experiences in the same area Later.
So while it is true that the checkpoints have degenerated into “Golgothas” where innocent citizens are browbeaten, and brutalized, and even murdered, they have served in fighting against crime to some considerable degree.
And they still do. For instance, the recent apprehension of some members of the Boko Haram in the East can be very easily underestimated in its value of disrupting the plans of the terrorists. They were discovered and taken in at a checkpoint and the sect later announced its intention of extending its operations to the South.
Maybe those arrested at the checkpoint were to form an advance party for the subsequent invasion. Other people felt that they were more likely there to “enliven”, so to say, the celebrations then taking place at Nsukka, at which the former President Olusegun Obasanjo was present. Whatever the position, the mounting of checkpoints around that area at that time, effectively foiled their foul intention.
But of course, one cannot ignore the harrowing stories that go around of policemen shooting commercial drivers over the non-payment of bribes; or of young men cut down in the bloom of youth over a silly argument, just to show who carries the gun; or policemen shooting even their own kind, mindlessly-all in the steamy environment of a checkpoint. A police chief who is desirous of a force whose activities would be a credit to the country, a pride to him and an outstanding service to the nation, would definitely take steps to correct the awful situation.
But such a step should not be akin to throwing the baby out with the dirty bath water. The truth is that corruption will go on; it would still operate for two good reasons. The first is that it cannot be stopped; We simply don’t have enough men to “police” the police. Secondly, it is a profitable venture, long established and now almost institutionalized. The level of venality in the nation as a whole, would in fact provide it with all the cover it requires to flout any official directive against it. But it can be reduced over time.
As for torture, Acting Inspector-General Mohammed went as close to admitting that his men practise that horrible thing as could ever be imagined for a senior police officer of the highest rank. Scotland Yard would be scandalized, the FBI would be dismayed, even MOSSAD would almost puke if one mentioned the word, “torture” in their vicinity. Investigations cannot be conducted successfully without questioning—even rigorous questioning.
But torture? That is strictly for the birds. National security, of course, sometimes demands a slight enforcement of reasonable persuasion to protect the lives and welfare of so many people. That sometimes entails measures that cannot endure undue scrutiny by too many eyes, and may not be acceptable to a plurality of judgments. And such measure, of course, may not be applied in every petty case of larceny, and all that. But can we actually discard all those measures? Perhaps we should even be seen to be shocked at the mention of it … like the FBI and the KGB and all those other civilized organizations.
In any case, against the backdrop of the current assault on the security of the innocent people across the nation, any softening of the posture to combat violent crime may send out the wrong signals. One thing is sure: that would not provide the terrorists in our midst any discomfort .
Echoes: ‘Thank you, Uncle Bisi. 1 was so pissed off by the headline Junaid’s interview that I didn’t read it. But thank you for your response … 0805.635.5723)
Echoes: “Thank you very much, sir, for answering Junaid Mohammed for me. I think we should stop propagating such a thought, since as one Nigeria, we stand. We should not allow the Sudanese style of partitioning, and allow Nigeria to fall apart .. 0810. 024. 7563).
Echoes: “Dear B.L., How is your Peugeot 504? Mine is quietly folding up. Thumbs up for your reaction to Dr. Junaid’s published interview. May he be blessed by the water of your “ASSURED” fact of the concluding paragraph of your reaction to keep him from venturing into any suicidal venture … 0803.671.5373)
Echoes:” What is treasonable felony in what Dr. Junaid said? All the tribes are ready for break-up now, because we have a bunch of i—ots at the helm of affairs in Nigeria … (Tayo Taiye Agbaje, Garki, Abuja – 0805.637.3583)