The nationwide uproar generated by the killing of citizen Kolade Johnson, a 36-year-old father of one in Lagos by a trigger-happy, murderous cop, Inspector Ogunyemi Olalekan of the Gbagada division of the Lagos State Police Command’s Special Anti Cultism Squad (SACS) at a football viewing centre in Lagos on Sunday, March 31, 2019 would have made a whole world of sense if those in authority would see it as a matter for worry.
At the risk of being branded pessimistic, beyond the rabble rousing, at best window dressing of the effect of a deep rooted national catastrophy, nothing much will be done to tackle the root cause of what has remained an age long hydra headed monster feeding on our collective bloodstream.
Sadly, this is happening at a moment when the Nigeria police as an institution has consistently maintained a leading position in exposing our dear country to a global ridicule, staunchly remained a brand ambassador of our national shame and lifted the trophy in everything that makes us feel disappointed as citizens of Nigeria.
There are catalogues of Police brutality and devious murderous activities against citizens whose outcomes have been permanently swept under the already swollen carpet or given a befitting burial in the alter of shenanigans.
Who still remembers citizen Tariela Nikadae, the 20-year-old undergraduate of Petro-Chemical Engineering, Niger Delta University, Yenagoa who was killed in November 2018 by one sergeant Timadi Emmanuel in Bayelsa State?
Who still remembers citizens Joseph Oduluso, Odichi Sampson and Obinna Innocent who were on March 5, 2018 murdered at Ntigha Okpuala in Isiala Ngwa North Local Government Area of Abia State by Inspector Nwitoka Nwinee, Sergeants Emeto Godwin and Chigozie Onina of the state Command?
What of another citizen, an Edo commercial driver who was in February 2018 killed by members of the Nigeria police on a patrol for apparently refusing to give them bribe? How about citizen Godwin Onoja, who was killed by a Customs officer in January 2019 while allegedly trying to extort N5,000 bribe from travellers coming from Europe on the Sagamu end of the Lagos-Ore-Benin Expressway?
While the aim of this intervention is not to rehash the mind-boggling brutality rate of the security forces in general against innocent citizens and the police in particular, it is important to state here that their effectiveness at fighting crime and criminality when put in the same scale with their unbridled penchant for unleashing terror on innocent citizens is earth-to-sky away, as the later continues to have an incomparable upper hand.
To assume that in the same week citizen Kolade Johnson was gruesomely murdered, albeit unprovoked by those who are paid from the national till to protect him, some criminal elements were having a field day maiming our compatriots across the country unchallenged is really a reason for worry.
In the same Lagos where citizen Kolade Johnson was killed for instance, one medical doctor Stephen Urueye a University of Lagos (UNILAG) graduate and House Officer at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) was stabbed to death on Thursday night right in front of the LUTH gate at Idi-Araba, Lagos just 24 hours after his graduation. Sadly, citizen Urueye is the only child of his widowed mother who was said to have single-handedly raised him.
Citizen Gabriel Abiodun, the 60-year-old Bursar of the Akure Anglican Diocese, was killed on Thursday morning by men suspected to be robbers, shortly after cashing a sum of N500,000 at a new-generation bank.
The notorious Abuja/Kaduna expressway, which has become the agony of road users did not miss out of criminality bazaar as dozens of our people were within the same week robbed, violated and killed. The same probably must have taken place in several other states of the federation and the blood of our citizens spilled without any scintilla of justification.
According to a Vanguard report, just about 10 weeks into the year 2018, the country lost about 1,351 to violent deaths. In January alone, about 676 Nigerians were cut down through herdsmen and farmers clashes, sectarian crises, communal clashes, Boko Haram insurgency, cult clashes, kidnapping, and ritual killings, among others. The deaths are 176 more than the 500 recorded in January 2017.
The question that readily comes to mind is, where was Inspector Ogunyemi Olalekan and his company of killers when their fellow arm bearers were testing their might on innocent citizens? What business did they have in the usually largely fun-filled football viewing centre when the identified criminal hideouts were unmanned?
Hardly is there any adult Nigerian that does not have one tale of woe of brutality, assault, harassment, extortion, intimidation or the other to tell against our number one law enforcement agency. Unfortunately, no matter the series of new records they set in denigrating the force, they are like that fly in the scrotum that must be handled with utmost care; we can’t do away with them.
Your chicken mysteriously misses in the eve of Easter celebration, they are your first point of call. Your Sallah clothes suddenly have unusual oil stains and you’re suspecting a neighbour, they are your first point of contact. The leaves of ugu you planted at the back of your compound begins to reduce in a way you can’t explain, you run to the police. Your wife smiles at someone in a way that gives you concern, you report to the police.
Instructively, citizens’ confidence in the force has steadily dwindled that it has finally hit its all time low. The reason is not far-fetched; the chances are that when you take a complaint to the police, both the complainant and the respondent will likely not get justice. Both will emerge fatal losers at the end of the day while the police will maximize their exploitative tendency to milk both parties dry.
This accounts to why the “I leave you with God” cliche has become a self consolatory line many of our people have adopted to soothe their wounded minds. Those who can’t stomach it resort to self help through any means they think they can find justice.
The growing spate of jungle justice across the country is one visible indicator of a completely waned confidence of citizens in the law enforcement agencies.
Today, virtually all neighbourhoods, including those in the rural areas have formed one security association or the other to give themselves a service the police have routinely failed to give them.
The excitement on the mind of Nigerians each time a new police helmsman is appointed has always been predicated on the false hope that a new, refined force will be birthed. Sooner than later he settles down, all the hopes begin to fizzle away like a cigarette smoke in our very eye. Before you say ‘IGP’, he topples the record of his predecessor in feeding a police force that has shown lack of capacity serve the people.
Who would have believed that the kind of “surgery” Ibrahim Idris had pontificated on effecting on the notorious Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) was simply to add “Federal” to it, making it FSARS? What new thing did this bring on board to reform the minds of operatives who see themselves as sitting on the same throne with God Almighty?
What about former IGPs who simply came and changed the colour of Police barrette in the name of “I have rejigged the force for effective performance?”
That the force, particularly the criminal gang called FSARS has continued to produce Kolade Johnsons in wholesale quantity anywhere they set their feet, leaving a trail of blood and tear is no surprise to some of us. Which kind of Police will tell a man he is meant to protect “I will waste you and nothing will happen?” How on earth does such audacious impunity of a terroristic threat explain the senile cliche “police is your friend”?
In saner climes, beyond the pseudo sack of the killer cop, who is just one person out of thousands of potential killer policemen, there should be a mass disengagement of top echelon of the force for leadership failure.
Irrespective of whatever reforms the National Assembly is warming up to effect on a rotten institution like Nigeria police, it will amount to a mere treatment of symptoms rather than attacking the real ailment.
The trouble with the force begins at the point of recruitment. It has become a dumping ground for people with questionable characters. Law enforcement is a serious business that ought not to be left in the hands of people with low moral standards and no education qualification.
There should be a serious profiling of every recruit, not the usual sale of employment slots to politically exposed individuals who eventually use their army of thugs to fill such positions. What we see today is the finished product of such scandalous recruitment patterns.
As it stands, whatever gain the force has made in pinching the skyrocketing crime rate, it has been dwarfed by the activities of bad eggs within it who continue to blow on a full throttle against the collective security and protection of all Nigerians.
The lost confidence will not be regained by mere sloganeering which unfortunately is what the force has been fixated with. Nigerians want to see action plan that will engender their confidence and trust in a police force that will work for all Nigerians irrespective of their social status.
On a lighter note, this viral post on the social media captures the reservation of many Nigerians. “Last Night, on my way home, robbers stopped me and I ran. While running, I saw “SARS” I quickly ran back to the robbers 4 safety.”
Enemanna is an Abuja based journalist.