Police harassment, extortion back in force

OPPRESSIVE Nigerian police have stubbornly refused to change as the temporary gains of the 2020 #EndSARS protests have long been eroded. With fierce impunity, armed police in search of bribes are devising new methods at police stations, checkpoints, bus stops and red-light intersections to extort money from Nigerians ordinary. The hardest hit are young people, who are already struggling to survive in a country hit by unprecedented unemployment and security concerns. This theft in broad daylight in official uniform must stop!

To curb the threat, law enforcement and the government must enact tougher penalties, including publicly shaming the culprits and prosecuting them on serious criminal charges.

When rogue police strike, far from enforcing the law, they are lawbreakers hiding under the guise of the state. The law is clear; a person who steals at gunpoint commits armed robbery; they should be treated as such.

The desperation of some police officers for ill-gotten wealth is costing lives. A 17-year-old boy, Emma, ​​was shot dead by a police inspector on July 15 at a checkpoint in Benin, Edo State, because the victim and his friend refused to part with him. the money. Reports say the boy was preparing to travel overseas that week when he was killed. Such a waste! A police sergeant, James Aondona, also shot and killed a truck driver, AondohumbaTerkula, on June 26, following an argument over payment of a bribe at a roadblock in Anyi, in the area Benue State Logo local government icon.

Although most cases go unreported, social media helps expose some heartless cops. An inspector, Richard Gele, attached to Police Mobile Force Squadron 77, Okene, Kogi State, was denounced on Twitter last month after he was caught on camera justifying police extortion of members of the public . He was then sacked.

Two officers attached to the Lagos State Police Command have also been exposed on social media after extorting 400,000 naira from a man, who cried out for help. The cops dragged him to a PoS terminal operator where they withdrew the money from his account. They were also rightfully fired. But not all victims report their ordeal through conventional means or social media. A 2016 NOI Polls survey found that 76% of victims of human rights abuses in Nigeria did not report them.

Knowing they could be easily tracked and identified through wire transfers, some bent cops found accomplices in unscrupulous outlet operators. A recent investigation by PUNCH confirmed this trend at the Berger-Isheri junction in Lagos, where police officers were seen leading motorists towards outlet operators to demand bribes for alleged breaches of the law. intersection lights. Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer Benjamin Hundeyin recently sounded the alarm that vendors had formed an unholy alliance with some officers to facilitate extortion by plying their trade near police stations .

The scam persists because the police authorities do not enforce discipline. The Nigerian police are arguably the most unruly and corrupt security agency in the country. A 2019 survey by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project found that of five major public institutions surveyed, the police emerged as the most corrupt.

It was alleged that senior police officers were receiving ‘feedback’ from below, making the orders nearly impossible to enforce. Despite Force Public Relations Officer Muyiwa Adejobi’s demagoguery in April that divisional police officers and zone commanders would be held accountable for the unprofessional conduct of their officers, evidence of action against errant SPOs since the resurgence of this crisis of extortion have been absent. . Orders from former Inspectors General of Police and incumbent Usman Baba to dismantle roadblocks have been routinely ignored. This should not happen in a regimented organization.

The Nigerian Police needs comprehensive reforms to create disciplined, competent and trained officers at all levels. The recruiting process should be sanitized to weed out recruits with criminal records who compromise the system. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo criticized the police recruitment process saying it allowed armed robbers to enter the force. Ukraine and Georgia have, at different times, disbanded their entire police forces and started over.

Now officers caught in the act of extortion must be publicly tried, prosecuted and imprisoned. They are expected to face criminal charges including armed robbery and kidnapping where their victims are driven at gunpoint to ATMs or point-of-sale terminals to make cash withdrawals. species. DPOs and area commanders must also get their deserved reward. The Police Marshal and Disciplinary Unit should become more active, strengthened and empowered to carry out their function diligently.

The IG must hold its officers accountable. Working with the Police Services Board, he should direct area commanders and police commissioners to identify and flush out rogue officers. PCs and AIGs must be assigned performance targets, or else they are recalled or transferred. A popular American author, John Maxwell, said that it all depends on leadership.

Civil society must not give up. It is evident that the events that triggered the #EndSARS protests have multiplied. As many feared, the dissolution of SARS was a charade, much-needed reforms did not follow.

But Nigerians and young people in particular must not give up. Pushbacks and protests against police extortion, police brutality and abuse of power must be maintained. Victims need to keep talking. Social media has become a real tool for reporting injustices and must continually be responsibly deployed to expose police corruption and other vices in society.

It is bad enough that young Nigerians do not have job opportunities despite years of education, often extended by months of useless industrial action. They lack the social opportunities and amenities that help their contemporaries thrive in other climates. They still only manage to move for a few cruel officers, hired and maintained by the state to protect them, to turn around to harass them and profile them as fraudsters. And for daring to claim their rights, they are shot in their prime with unfulfilled dreams and aspirations. Nigerians should stand up for their rights and stand up against police harassment.

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