My World

October 27, 2012

A little mirror to the Nigerian Police

A little mirror to the Nigerian Police

Mobile policemen on duty Photo: Bunmi Azeez

By Muyiwa Adetiba

The swift way the perpetrators of the ‘face book’ murder of Cynthia Osokogu were brought to book, brought huge relief to all of us, and, if truth be told, more than a little pride. But more importantly, it brought closure and allowed the friends and family of the poor lady and to some extent, the larger society, to also have closure and move on with their lives. That is how it should be. A crime is committed, the perpetrators are apprehended, justice is done, the society learns from it, and moves on.

Sadly, this is more of an exception than the rule. We all know, if we live in this country, that most crimes are poorly investigated if investigated at all. In the course of an investigation, (should any be done) crude violence and high handedness often replace patient intelligence gathering. The result is that wrong persons more often than not, are arrested and charged.

Prosecution is another thing. Have you ever seen a police prosecutor at work? I have and its not pretty. To see some police prosecutors being cross-examined, has to be one of the most embarrassing things around, even in this country where nothing shocks. He is so badly prepared that a charge-and-bail lawyer would twist him around his little fingers. The result? Crime— both high and low profile ones—remain largely unsolved.

Last week was the anniversary of the murder of Dele Giwa. That of Chief Bola Ige is another two months away. I was sufficiently close to the two of them to remember their passing away with pain. Always with pain. The first colleague to phone me when I was about to start my publication was the late Dele Giwa.

‘Lets have breakfast together and talk about your publication’, he said.’I don’t want you to make the kind of mistakes we made.’ I still remember those words, just as I remember his offer to foot my accommodation bill if I could attend a printing exhibition with him in Germany.

He was a warm and generous being. I saw him a week to his gruesome death, and he was so full of life and plans for his beloved Newswatch. Because his murder has been unresolved, none of us—his colleagues, friends, and family—have not had any closure.

The same thing with Uncle Bola Ige; he was one of the few people I know that high office never changed. I had been around him in and out of office, and he was always himself, unaffected by high office. A very cerebral man, he surrounded himself with young men who could stimulate him. His simplicity, was probably why he was so easily killed.

I spoke to him a couple of weeks before he was murdered. He told me he was resigning from government and that we should talk. The ‘talk’ never took place. He was good to me, and, like Giwa, difficult to forget.

Between these two unresolved murders were also many high profile political killings. You tend to think the police do not have the capacity or the will to investigate crime.

A recent conversation with a newly retired Commissioner of Police leads me to believing the former. The retired commissioner wanted a crime in which he was involved, investigated. To his utter surprise and annoyance, the investigating police officer (IPO) asked for mobilisation money. My friend tried to pull rank by calling a more senior officer who instantly apologised and promised to look into it.

After a half hearted attempt to ‘investigate’, the matter ‘died’. I laughed inwardly when he told me the story. He had just been given a dosage of what most of us have been swallowing for years. What goes around, they say, comes around.

Are these junior officers being sleazy and greedy or are they in truth, insufficiently mobilised? In other words, how much money is being devoted to crime intelligence, prevention, and detection? A police force is not a police force if it can not prevent, detect, and prosecute crime.

The 2013 budget has allocated a hefty sum to the police force—ostensibly to fight Boko Haram. It will be money misapplied— apologies to a former Vice  President—if the raison d’etre of a police force, is again ignored. The policy that allows a junior detective to fund crime investigation from his salary before reimbursement (if any) is a wrong one. A policy that plays down data gathering and forensic intelligence in this day and age, is a wrong one. So is a policy that does not focus on training and retraining, of detectives.

It’s not the quantum of ammunition purchased (contracts for the boys?) that will make the people sleep with their two eyes closed.

It does not, in the end , matter whether we have Federal Police, State Police, or Village Police. What the people want, and deserve, is an effective Police.

Then, and only then, will the friends and families of Dele Giwa and Uncle Bola Ige and others who were brutishly cut down, have closure and their souls really rest in peace.