Police Brutality: A Reflection of True Nigerian Society

Police Brutality: A Reflection of True Nigerian Society

You don’t dare steal in Nigerian open markets. It’s not because you will be caught and disgraced, but because you are most likely going to get caught and lynched. Maybe not all the markets will kill suspects, but many do. Some will only beat the living daylight out of the person and hand him over to the police, while others will burn him alive. Many will claim they lynched the person because the police will release him, while others will say they wanted to teach the “thief” a lesson. No one will remember the law and its condemnation of extrajudicial killings (aka jungle justice).

I know some people will jump in and claim that jungle justice is meted out on “thieves”, “kidnappers”, “rapists” and so on because the police will collect bribes and let them go. I also know people will say something like, “These people have not done anything to you and that’s why you’re saying all these.” Well, it’s not about me or my experiences; it’s about our culture of disobedience to law, aggression and brutality.

A mother, whose son became unruly and talked back to her raised pestle and runs after the boy; please, what message is she exactly passing on to that child? A father, whose daughter told that the teacher punished her, decided to accompany her to school the following day so he can slap the teacher; please, what information is he passing on to the child and to the other children? That man, whose son complained about being bullied but decided to beat his son for being a weakling and instructed him to fight his bullies; please, what did he expect the child to become? You can fill the gaps but I believe we all get the message.

I know some people will ask what the relationship between police brutality and the few examples cited above is, but I believe they understood that Nigerians train their children to become violent. Apart from that, we train them to break the law. We also give them the impression that we, their parents, can kill them and nothing will happen, hence the mother pursuing her son with a pestle. So here are two messages the examples given above say about Nigerians: we are all above the law and we use brutality to control.

Bringing the above analogy to police brutality may be shady but I will try to make it as clear as possible. However, I think an excerpt from Twitter can paint this picture better.

A Twitter user, Dr. Charles Omole, @DrCOmole, came up to voice his opinion concerning the causes of police brutality in Nigeria. In his tweet, he stated, “Many of those protesting SARS brutality are also first to beat and lynch suspected criminals in the public square. Jungle justice is an epidemic in Nigeria. The penchant for taking laws into their hands is not limited to SARS. We must examine ourselves and reform our thinking too.”

Of course you can imagine the type of response he will receive for being bold to make such a statement when a lot of people cowered and would not be honest with the underlying causes of our problems. But one comment from a very young Nigerian caught my attention. This young Twitter user wrote, “Pls how is brutalising innocent citizens the same as brutalising wicked criminals? SARS will hurt and probably kill someone for not giving up their rights. Have {you} seen armed robbers in action? So how can you even try to equate the two?” And so the very young Nigerian decides who should be lynched and who shouldn’t. And believe me, his mindset towards jungle justice was framed and solidified by his parents and the society.

Let’s be honest with ourselves; Nigerians are very aggressive. We treat the gentle in our community as weak. We undermine the authority of the Nigerian police unless it involves SARS. People started renting SARS officials for debt collection when they found out that’s the only police unit Nigerians fear. Even courts cannot instil discipline into Nigerians the way SARS does (no pun intended). We learn things the hard way and so we were hit the hard way.

Now, I am not in support of brutality, be it from the police or from anyone else, I am only saying that we have wired ourselves to be brutal and to only respond to issues when it becomes brutal. Unless we do things in the ideal way, police brutality will not end. We are just running around the vicious cycle. The police brutality is only reflecting the true Nigerian society.

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