Police violence continues unabated, the stories are piling

Stereotype by the police

Many Nigerians have argued that the Nigeria Police Force learnt nothing from the #EndSARS protest. “They will wait, then return after a couple of months“. Some others argued against such submissions, saying, “they cannot be that bastardly“.

Months later, not up to half a full year, the Police is back in the news – for mostly the wrong reasons.

It starts with the President, Muhammadu Buhari February 4, 2021, through the Minister of Police Affairs, Mohammad Dingyadi, extending the tenure of Mohammed Adamu, the Inspector General of Police by three months.

To back this up, President Buhari and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, declared support for the argument that the law permits Adamu to remain in office till 2023 or 2024.

Adamu already attained the maximum 35 years in service

Nigeria Police

Arguing on the issue of whether Adamu, who was appointed the IG on January 15, 2019, is prevented from staying in office beyond February 1, 2021, Alex Izinyon (SAN), the IG’s lead counsel, contended that the tenure of the IG is not governed by the general provisions applicable to the rest of the police force.

The senior lawyer said by virtue of the relevant laws, the office of the IG is “quasi-political” and “is conferred with a special status” and “distinct from other officers of the Nigeria Police Force.”

He said the IG upon appointment “is only accountable to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Nigeria Police Council and this fact we submit makes his office a quasi-political office with tenure of four years pursuant to Section 7(6) of the Nigeria Police Act, 2020.

Not surprising yes? Of course, it is, knowing how Adamu has led a police force notorious for tagging young Nigerians and ‘picking them up’ just for existing as Nigerians – also kidnapping citizens and locking them up for no reason(s). And, if we thought he was going to reform the police, we should be rethinking our stance.

On March 19, 2021, a group of angry youth of Ovom Community in Yenagoa, Bayelsa, blocked the popular Melford Okilo Road in protest against the Police, Bayelsa Command, for the alleged extra-judicial killing of a 17 year-old-boy, an orphan identified as Samuel Jamaica.

According to the report, the police visited the suburban neighbourhood in unmarked vehicles to search the apartment of three suspects arrested for selling stolen mobile phones when they shot the orphan who was taking cover to avoid being arrested.

Tunde Abass, a Nigerian citizen, has been detained for live streaming an ongoing police harassment case. According to reports, Tunde has been granted bail but has yet been released.

There are other reports he has been taken to an undisclosed location.

On March 16, 2021, a Cross River-based lawyer, Joseph Bassey Arikpo narrated his ordeals in the hands of the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Ibom Police Station for asking that a detainee in his station be allowed access to his relations.

Arikpo told his story before the independent investigative panel on violations of rights by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police units set up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) while testifying in the petition he filed before the panel, marked 2020/IIP-SARS/ABJ/191.

On March 22, 2021, A Twitter user, Somto reported that he was picked up by men of the Nigerian Police after they saw credit alerts on his phone. He has been released but the reason for his kidnap sounds interesting – for a Nigerian who is a legal citizen.

Besides these cases, we are reminded that young Nigerians who were reported missing after the Lekki shooting are still missing and the Police are not bothered.

A reminder that the Lekki shooting happened and it was perpetrated by men in uniform – men who are supposed to protect citizens. Men who have been accused countless times of brutality and extra-judicial killings.

It is a nightmare

“Police is your friend,” an incongruous statement, no doubt. What we see and hear everyday powerfully contradicts it. Police brutality is still a phenomenon and, thank the heavens for social media, we see that the press statements during and after the #EndSARS protests were just plain sheets to hide the rot the force is known for.

Indeed, the #EndSARS protests that shook the nation are certainly not an isolated incident. Instead, they should be viewed as part of an infamous nexus beginning sometime after independence.

And this has informed an ever-growing feeling of distrust as cases of brutality and killings keep occurring. Relationships between the Nigerian police and citizens are largely characterised by suspicion, prejudice, brutality and violence.

Even if we are late to the party asking for police reforms, we cannot sit back and allow these to continue.

Back to #EndSARS and #EndPoliceBrutality?

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