The famous quote attributed to Mao Zedong which states that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” can be rephrased today as “all destructive powers lie in the barrel of a gun.” Political power is not the only one that guns initiate; intimidating and extorting ones also grow from there. A good example of the latter is the constant killing of innocent motorists by Nigerian Police Force.
Everyday, Nigerian news carries stories of how a police officer shot and killed a commercial driver on the highway just because the driver refused to part with his money (usually #50). Sometimes you will find the one about a police officer killing his colleague(s) and maybe committing suicide in the process. The one of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) has already gotten out of hand to the extent that some Nigerians have rebranded the unit as “Shoot At Sight” (SAS).
Nigerian police has been written off as being notorious for human right abuses and extrajudicial killings and they seemed not bothered about it. People make excuses for them saying they are undertrained and underpaid; but should that be the reason the country looks the other way while these officers that are there to protect lives and properties destroy what they were supposed to guard?
I no longer believe the story of under training and under payment because if the Nigerian military personnel can observe some restraints while dealing with civilians, the Nigerian police can also observe that. If you asked me, I’ll say that the reason these men behave the way they do is because of system failure.
If the system has not truly failed, why are these police men mounting road blocks everywhere to extort motorists despite constant public outcry? How come nobody checks and cautions them? Why is the government not doing anything to curb the extortion of motorists by these police officers? Let’s face it, these men knew nobody will question them so they go ahead with their ills undeterred.
Most of the recorded deaths caused by trigger-happy police officers came as a result of vehicle drivers’ refusing to give them money. These officers, most of the times, threaten motorists that delayed in handing over the ‘fee’ by pointing guns and warning them not to move or they will get shot. Some drivers, who want to stand by their rights, sometimes decide to argue it out and end up getting themselves shot. Others may ignore the threat and drive off just for the police officers to shoot at them and the bullets may hit someone in the vehicle or someone standing by. This happens constantly; and is still happening unless something is done about it.
NPF cannot continue to pretend that all is well while its staff members create havoc daily. There is need to do something before this problem gets out of hand. To start with, they should do the following:
1. Monitor road blocks and checkpoints to ensure that their men are not there to extort motorists.
2. Arrest officers that abuse drugs. A lot of them actually abuse substances and act under their influence.
3. Withdraw firearm licence of officers whose mental, emotional and psychological behaviours are questionable.
4. Open a functional platform where citizens can send in anonymous complaints about police officers, and then act on those complaints.
5. Employ qualified candidates who have integrity.
6. Sack officers with questionable characters.
As Nigerians await the reform of the Nigerian Police Force, I’ll like to appeal to all to avoid having heated arguments with armed people – be it police officers, soldiers or thieves (of course no one argues with thieves). In as much as it is uneasy to bear, sometimes it is good to play the fool to stay alive. Be patient; give them that money and stay alive for your children.
But then, you can make use of technology to contribute your own quota towards reforming the NPF. All you need to do is find a strategic angel and get a clean shot of the officer extorting or harassing a motorist. Get a picture or a video and send it into the internet, and then leave the dog and the spirits to struggle over the bone. However, be safe as you carry out this James Bond act. You don’t want to lose your phone or your teeth if the officer catches you; and you definitely don’t want to lose your neck if Hate Speech Bill sees you first.