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When police becomes the thief

By News Express on 11/10/2017

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The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) has a very notorious image, which must be cleaned up through fundamental attitudinal transformations of the men and officers of the institution.

Apart from their acclaimed notoriety as being corrupt and excessive bribe-taking, some percentage of those enrolled in the Nigeria Police have also entered the book of infamy as perpetrators of various crimes, ranging from petty-stealing to sophisticated robbery. Some readers may be wondering why we give a lot of attention to some of these manifestations of crime and criminality within the ranks of the police.

The symbolism of the policing institution, which portrays their operatives as the enforcers of laws that prevent and punish criminals, makes it the more bizarre to  see that some of these trained police operatives get involved in carrying out violent crimes in the society. There is this popular aphorism that he who goes to equity must go with clean hands. In the same vein, people are left shell-shocked whenever it is discovered that the same police operative, who should save the society from crime, is the criminal.

The immediate trigger for this piece is the celebrated case of men of the Rivers State Police Command, indicted by the state governor of being the brains behind all sorts of criminalities and violent robberies, including kidnappings for ransom.  In fact, as I write this piece, a taxi driver has just been killed by the operatives of this notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Port Harcourt, over allegations of belonging to a cult group. This commercial cab operator of Yoruba descent, according to witnesses, is said not to belong to any cult group. By the way, is it in the place of the police to arrest and kill suspects, before they are prosecuted in a competent court of law, in line with section 6 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria? The scope of allegations of involvement of police in crime has, however expanded, as I earlier stated, in Rivers and several other states. Few weeks back, during the last Easter festivities, a Nigerian returnee from Malaysia - who went home to Owerri, Imo State, for his traditional wedding - was extra-legally killed by the police, for failing to part with some of his money. 

Let's revisit the matter of involvement of SARS operatives in dastardly crimes in Rivers State. The Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, a lawyer, had in early September specifically accused operatives of the police Special Anti-Robbery Squad of carrying out most of the armed robbery incidents and kidnappings in the state.

The Rivers State Governor - who in his capacity can access lots of intelligence -  also told the media that visible evidence exists to show that his allegations were not sensational but factually accurate. 

The governor further noted that official signals from the Police had clearly proved his allegations to be genuine and credible. According to Wike, criminal activities of SARS, Rivers State, have been uncovered by the Inspector-General of Police X Squad, Abuja deployed to the state, after the squad busted the attempted kidnap of one Mr Azumana Ifeanyi, on September 11, 2017 at GRA, Port Harcourt.

Rivers State Government officials stated that the official Police Signal with the title: “Police Wireless Message” and reference number, DTO: 121030/09/2017 - INGENPOL-X-FHQ ABUJA TO-INGENPOL SEC ABUJA, noted that the squad received a distress call on the kidnap of Mr Ifeanyi, and immediately swung into action. Incidentally, they met three SARS operatives robbing: then, a gun duel ensued.

The operatives had taken Mr Ifeanyi to a Fidelity Bank ATM, where they compelled him to withdraw N500,000 as ransom, according to Rivers government officials. One of the SARS operatives was killed, while Inspector Justice Nyeche, who led the IGP team was injured, the narrators said.

Wike said: “Most of the kidnappings and armed robbery taking place in this state are done by men of SARS. They use exhibit vehicles to operate. As the Chief Security Officer of the state, you complain. But, they choose to play politics with crime. They fight crime in some states, but they refuse to fight crime in Rivers State. We are done with the elections, but they are using SARS to create insecurity in the state.

“As I speak with you, they will deny. But the SARS operative who was killed was among those who raided the Rivers East Senatorial District Collation Centre. This man can be identified in the video as one of those who invaded the collation centre with his commander.”

The governor alleged that the deliberate acts of violence being perpetrated by the Police in Rivers are being orchestrated as part of a ploy to rig the 2019 general elections.

“I have never seen a country where they politicise crime! It is very obvious that they want to give the impression that Rivers State is unsafe. They want to instill fear, preparatory to declaring during the elections that there is so much killing in Rivers,” Wike regretted, adding:

 “Authorities are deliberately trying to destroy a whole state, and you want the people to be happy. I will no longer write. Now is the time to take my case to the public, for the whole world to know what is happening.”

The governor said his administration has invested more than any other in logistics for security personnel, yet the police is continually working to undermine and destroy the state.

Apart from the allegations of police involvement in violent crimes, there are several cases of professional indiscipline by police operatives, which rubbishes the essence of the policing institution. Take, for instance, cases whereby police operatives have been caught in Lagos attempting to rob innocent night-crawlers, to an extent that these armed police operatives would take their victims to the automatic teller machines (ATM) for them to withdraw money to settle the police.

There are instances whereby those vulnerable individuals arrested by those wayward police have ended up being paraded as armed robbery suspects before the media and, thereafter, taken to the courts to face prosecution and detention for years. Only few hours ago, a drama was enacted in a real life court hearing, whereby a woman being charged for armed robbery narrated her ordeal, and how she was framed up simply for refusing to give sexual gratification to a police man.

As reported, the 27-year-old trader, Mrs Victoria Amodu, told an Ikeja High Court, Lagos that an Investigative Police Officer (IPO) at the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Ikeja Division, demanded sex from her to release her from custody. Amodu, a mother of four, gave the testimony as a defence witness in her trial for alleged conspiracy and armed robbery, before Justice Kudirat Jose. The lady, who denied the allegation, was arraigned alongside one Hammed Isiaka on a six-count charge of conspiracy to commit robbery and armed robbery, contrary to Section 295(2)(a) of the Criminal Law No 11, Laws of Lagos State, 2011.

One of the charges read:, “Hammed Isiaka, Victoria Amodu, and others now at large, on or about August 12, 2014 while armed with a pistol did rob one Elizabeth Moses of a cash sum of N35, 000 and a cheque of N1.4m.”

However, while being led in evidence by her counsel, Nelson Onyejaka, Amodu told Justice Jose that she was unjustly arrested by the police on August 12, 2014 at Church bus-stop, Badagry, Lagos. She said she was selling bread at the bus-stop, when policemen raided the area, arrested her and others and bundled them into their truck, where they met some men who were already tied up.

Narrating the incident, Amodu said: “I was arrested by the police while I was selling bread and taken to the station at SARS, Ikeja. An IPO (name not mentioned) there told me to call someone that would come for my bail. I called a neighbour, a lady that helps me look after my kids. When she arrived, the IPO said a woman could not sign my bail bond, which he put at N400,000.

“I became worried because I didn’t know any man to call since I was no longer living with my husband, and I was also new in Lagos. I decided to call my father. But he refused coming to the station. He said since I was married he had no hand in anything concerning me.

“I didn’t know what else to do at this time, so I started begging the IPO to let me go and take care of my kids since I didn’t commit any offence. The IPO took me outside the cell to a corner and said that I am a pretty lady and that if I submit myself to him, I would be freed. I got angry and shouted at him, asking why he would make such a statement to me. He immediately, dragged me back to the cell. Some others who were arrested that day were released after they paid money, though I don’t know how much they paid.

“Nights after, the IPO brought out some case files and told me and others in the cell to sign them. He said that when we were done signing, we would be released. I agreed to sign the documents on the condition that he would not touch me. But the other men refused, saying they couldn’t sign what they didn’t know.

“The IPO immediately brought out his gun and threatened to shoot them, if they didn’t sign and they fearfully signed it. After signing the documents, we were all taken to a Magistrate’s Court and from there, to Kirikiri Prison.”

Amodu pleaded with the court to temper justice with mercy and permit her to go home to cater for her children.

During cross-examination by prosecution counsel, Mrs Awosika, Amodu denied knowing the first defendant, Isiaka. She said she had never seen him before and only met him for the first time in court on the day of arraignment.

Isiaka, a driver, who also testified while being led by his counsel, Mrs Olamide Amore-Akintoye, said he was arrested on his way from Seme border, while carrying food items belonging to a customer. He said his car was impounded and taken to the station where he was locked up, after he failed to pay for his release.

Justice José adjourned till November 29 for adoption of final addresses.

This is not an isolated matter because this same pattern of forgery and frame-up of innocent persons are replicated right across the length and breadth of Nigeria. The hierarchy of the Police is also insensitive to the plight of innocent persons, arrested by operatives right under their nose. What, then, is the duty of the Police, if one may ask?

 From the Police Act, we will learn the exact functions of the police but which, unfortunately, the operatives are undermining. 

The police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within or without Nigeria as may be required by them by, or under the authority of, this or any other Act.”

The foregoing provision is the fundamental duty of the Police in Nigeria. But, what we see now all over the place are cases of professional compromise and pure armed robbery by lots of rogue police. So, why is the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Kpotum Idris, feeling concerned and sounding defensive, rather than initiate effective internal but transparent mechanisms, for fishing out all the rogue elephants embedded in the Nigeria Police Force?

Your response is as good as mine. 

•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). He can be reached via 08033327672 (sms only) or via doziebiko@yahoo.com 

Source News Express

Posted 11/10/2017 10:27:09 PM

 

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