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Yes, police extortion is compatible to armed robbery

By News Express on 04/05/2019

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 The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) has of late, consistently maintained the front-burner of public discourse - for all the wrong reasons – particularly for the collapse of law and order in some sections of Nigeria due to absence of effective and efficient policing mechanisms. And now, the belated understanding that bribery and corruption have eroded the integrity of the nation’s policing institutions.

However, once in a while, there have been positive stories of heroism and exemplary show of leadership qualities by a few of the top echelons of the Nigerian police whose illustrious conducts have reassured the nation that there could be light at the end of a very dark tunnel, as far as the police is concerned.

The just-ended election in Kano State provided us the opportunity to note that there is indeed a serving police commissioner who could against all odds insists that the right things be done, as they should.

The Kano State Police Commissioner reportedly resisted all attempts by politicians to corruptly enrich him and to compromise the integrity of the electoral process. He arrested the serving deputy governor for disrupting collation of results.

Another of the very few shining examples is the speech that was made by the Kwara State Police Commissioner, Mr. Kayode Egbetokun, and the Abia State Police Commissioner both of whom told their lieutenants and subordinates to avoid all tendencies of corruption, bribe-seeking and extortion racketeering, which have become very disturbing.

Whereas the Abia Police Commissioner specifically called out the bulk of police operatives serving in Aba metropolis, for their penchant for the criminality of corruption and bribery, the Kwara State police chief was also down to earth when he made a deeply profound and philosophical statement which goes to equate road-blocks mounted by armed police for the purpose of extorting members of the driving public to armed robberies. Extortion by armed police targeting members of the public is pure armed robbery.

The gentleman who now heads the Kwara State Police Command made a valid legal comparison between armed police extortionists and armed robbers, even as he threatens to institute criminal proceedings of armed robbery in the competent courts of law against serving police operatives caught extorting money from road-users while bearing arms and ammunition.

A particular civil rights body with its head office in South-east of Nigeria has even gone a step further to conduct scientific research on these illegal road-blocks by police in the geopolitical zone, which are basically meant for extortion of road-users. Again, the cases of extra judicial killings by police of Nigerian citizens mostly occur during altercations relating to bribes.

Commissioner Egbetokun said any police officer on the highway found engaging in any form of extortion while bearing firearms “completes the ingredients of the offence of armed robbery.”

He said such officers would be arrested, detained, tried and dismissed from the service if found guilty.

Egbetokun, who stated this in Ilorin while addressing senior police officers in the state, criticised patrol officers who were allegedly found to be indulging in such acts while performing their duties on highways in the state.

He was speaking against the backdrop of the reported cases of police extortion on highways through searching personal belongings of motorists, especially mobile phones.

He noted: “Although they have the responsibility to conduct ‘stop-and search’, but it is unethical to seize and start searching anybody’s mobile phones on the roads.

“The practice of searching the mobile phones of an individual on the road for evidence of internet fraud amounts to conducting roadside investigation.”

He said such attitude becomes a criminal offence if it ended in extortion or was done with the intent to extort.

The statement made by the Abia State boss is tangential and or consequential to all of these issues that are interconnected with the specifics of armed robbery vis-à-vis police extortion of citizens.

Mr. Ene Okon warned police operatives in Abia State to desist from unwanted activities, stressing that the number of officers involved in crime in Aba, the commercial hub of the state, was alarming.

His words: “I have a problem with police operatives in Aba. The number of police operatives that are involved in criminal activities in Aba is alarming. Every police operative in Abia wants to be posted to Aba. My question is: ‘To do what?’ Does it mean police work cannot be done at Arochukwu, Ohafia, Nkporo, Isiukwuato and Uzuakoli? Why must it be Aba?”

These are critical issues that should not be swept under the carpets of national amnesia and collective lack of follow-up.

Nigerians must resolve to tackle these challenges headlong.

Armed robbery is one of the most disturbing crimes that contributes to violence and death and, therefore, whatever steps that should be adopted to stem the tide must be meticulously, methodically and consistently applied, re-applied, reviewed and reinforced so we can collectively sanitise the society of the unprecedented waves of violent crimes. Now is the time to do this.

This writer totally endorses the position advanced by the Kwara State police chief regarding the nexus between armed robbery and police extortion of citizens.

Going through decided cases and valid authorities made by the supreme court of Nigeria, it has become clear that the ingredients of armed robberies are same as police extortion while carrying weapons.

“It is well settled law that, in order to prove the offence of robbery, contrary to section 1(2) (b) of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act, Cap 38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 (as amended), the prosecution is duty-bound to prove the following ingredients of the offence namely:

(a) That there was a robbery or series of robberies.

(b) That the robber or any of the robbers was armed with offensive weapon.

(c) That the accused person or persons was/were the ones responsible of committing the offence.

See State v Adedamola Bello & ors (1989)1 CLRN 370; Bozin v The State (1985)7 SC (Reprint); Balogun v AG of Ogun State (2001) FWLR (pt.780)1144.”

It is also the constitutional requirement that it is the prosecution that must prove the guilt of the accused person beyond reasonable doubt. See Section 135 of Evidence Act 2011 as amended. See also the case of Woolmington v PPP (1935) AC 462; Uche v State (2015) 4-5 SC (pt ll)140; Sani v The State (2015) 6/7 SC (pt II )1 at 17.

It must be emphasized here that where slightest doubt exists as to the guilt of the accused, the court must give the accused the benefit of doubt.

It is well settled principle of law also that an accused arraigned in court is presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty by his accuser (prosecution) beyond reasonable doubt, through credible evidence. See section 138 of Evidence Act and the case of Olayinka Afolabi v the State (2010)16 NWLR (pt1210) 584; Okoro v State (1988) NWLR (pt 94) or (1988) 12 SC (pt II) 88.

It must, however, be stated here that proof of guilt of an accused person by the prosecution must be done in any of the under listed methods or ways:

(i)  Through a voluntary confessional statement of the accused person; and/or

(ii)  Through direct credible and reliable eye witness or victims of the offence account, depending on the circumstance of the offence or offences; and/or

(iii) Through circumstantial evidence pointing or focusing on the guilt of the accused person that he was the one or one of the persons who committed the offence or offences charged and by no other person(s) but him.

See Adio v The State (1986)2 NWLR (pt 24); Emeka v The State (2001)6 SC 227; Egboghonome v The State (1993)7 NWLR (pt.306)383.” (As per Sanusi, JSC, in Adebayo Ojo v The State (2018) LPELR-44699.)

The National Assembly must make a supporting legislation to create a national crime data bank so all the names of convicted criminals are entered and can be accessed seamlessly.

The police authorities and the attorneys-general of the 36 states must wake up and begin to embark on the prosecution of all police operatives who are caught extorting Nigerians.

There will be a problem, however, if we say the Office of Inspector-General of Police should handle all of these cases.

There are also ethical issues of allowing just the Police Service Commission to handle cases involving police operatives, given that the commission has a preponderance of police presence.

There is, therefore, the need to set up an independent police misconduct investigation authority – which should be patterned after what obtains in Australia – to be led by a senior judge and an ombudsman who should be free from all interferences and encumbrances.

It is because Nigeria as a nation has allowed these gross and grave crimes of armed robberies/bribe-extortion by the Police that has made kidnapping very attractive crime.

We must do the needful now!

•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist (www.huriwanigeria.com, www.emmanuelonwubiko.com), is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).

Source News Express

Posted 04/05/2019 11:44:18 AM

 

 

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