by Temie Giwa
The stories of killings, tortures, and extortion against the Nigerian police are so many that it is almost a cliché to mention these. Nigerians are generally not safe but the police make us even less safe from harm.
He was shot by a stray police bullet after calling the Nigerian Police to report a robbery in his home. He did not die, but he is one of the lucky ones. She was shot dead by a stray police bullet while at work in Abuja. The police were called to demolish a nearby mall and hoping to scare citizens away from the demolition spot; they killed a 20-year-old girl who was only at work. And there is the case of Ugochukwu Ozuah, shot dead by the police days after his wedding. Bus conductors, Okada men, Marwa drivers and others are shot dead almost weekly by the Nigerian police. Extra judicial killing or killing in error is such a regularly occurrence in our country that it is a major cause for concern. The job of the police force is to protect citizens from thieves and robbers, but who will protect the Nigerian people from the Nigerian policewho are often worse than those they are protecting us from.
Unfortunately, it is not just bullets flying about that one must fear from our police forces. A middle-aged woman, Mrs Akindeleni, fearing for her life, made her way to a police station to report threats she was getting from some folks. She was detained for days for a crime she cannot be convicted for. She was tortured, violated, and left without medical care for four days. Her thirteen-year-old daughter was brutalized repeatedly for daring to ask questions about the safety of her mother. In Abuja, young women are constantly terrorized and arrested by the police for prostitution with the only proof that they are dressed provocatively. Most of these women who are arrested are made to give sexual favors in exchange for their freedom. The stories of killings, tortures, and extortion against the Nigerian police are so many that it is almost a cliché to mention these. Nigerians are generally not safe but the police make us even less safe from harm. If folks somehow manage to evade thieves, rapists and other violent criminals, the Nigerian police will catch them and make them pay for their daring.
The Nigerian police needs reform. Almost everyone agrees with this sentiment. The way things are presently is simply not sustainable. Successive governments since this new democratic decade have been preoccupied with how to fix the police forces. Communities are created annually; various line items are exclusively earmarked for police reform in successive budgets. Nigeria has admitted that her police needs saving but how to go about this remains to be seen.
There are many arguments and proposals out there. Some call for state controlled police forces, others call for more investment in the training and arming of the Nigerian police. Merits and demerits abound in all arguments. Some take to the courts hoping that major settlements awarded to those who are brutalized by the federal forces can serve as deterrents to the trigger and torture happy ways of our police. It is important to continue this conversation over the next weeks to figure out what works in police reform in other states and how Nigeria might learn from global best practices in this sector.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.