Lately, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) has come under public scrutiny owing to the resurgence of indiscriminate termination of lives of innocent Nigerians its personnel are paid to protect.
What is now commonly referred to as extra-judicial killings have become so rampant that the sight of a policeman elicits fears rather than safety from the common man.
The situation becomes worrisome when paramilitary personnel are not spared the excessive application of force as applied on a senior officer
of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSDC), Mr. Ogar Jombo, leading to his death. The incident took place recently at Nyanya,
a settlement on the outskirts of Abuja, watched by his family.
Coming on the heels of that tragedy was the murder of Kolade Johnson by police officers belonging to Special Anti-Cultism Squad in Mangoro,
Lagos. Kolade was at a viewing centre watching a Champions League semi-final first leg encounter between Barcelona and Liverpool when he
was hit by stray bullets.
Some months back, precisely on July 5, 2018, a 23-year-old NYSC member serving in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), named Linda
Igwetu, was shot at a police checkpoint around Ceddi Plaza in the Central Business District of Abuja while returning from a night party
in company of fellow corpers. The victim eventually gave up the ghost at the Garki Hospital, Abuja, where she was rushed to with gunshot
wounds for medical attention.
A few months later, Miss Anita Akapson (31), was said to have been trailed by four men in a Mazda car which later intercepted the car being
driven by her. One of the occupants of the car, identified as a policeman, came out and shot one of the rear tyres apparently to demobilise his
target’s vehicle before shooting her at a point-blank range under the cover of darkness.
A family source alleged in a statement that the assailant is a superintendent of police. She was rushed to the nearby Gwarinpa
General Hospital for medical attention but gave up the ghost from the gunshot injuries later in the night. The late Anita was said to have arrived
a few days before her death from the United Kingdom on completion of her studies to serve in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
One unprecedented instance of misuse of power by police personnel dates back to November 25, 2009, when a mobile policeman called Raymond Egbongbonwuyi literally ran amok on learning that his daughter had died while on admission at a hospital in Ibadan.
He detonated a canister of teargas in the ward, causing the death of two other babies. The enraged cop also beat up the nurses in the hospital, regretting
that he did not have his AK 47 rifle with him.
Extra-judicial killings by Nigerian policemen continued after Egbongbonwuyi went berserk. In the weeks following, one Jane Tutu was shot dead by a drunken policeman at Effurun in Delta state because he claimed the victim was laughing at him.
Policemen are also known to shoot commercial drivers at checkpoints over failure to part with tips. Some have confessed that they extort money
from civilians in order to augment their poor salaries. Others have become glorified eleemosynaries, always peddling stories of woe before motorists
To the average Nigerian, the policeman epitomises brutality, corruption and dishonesty… a foe rather than a friend they profess to be. Unhappy
with their jobs because of poor pay, many policemen are only too willing to compromise their ethics. And, sometimes, they vent their frustrations
on the society, turning back to prey on those they were meant to protect.
It is instructive that Nigerian policemen perform creditably whenever they are on foreign missions. However, when they return home, they fall
into old habits and operate within an environment that is a minus to optimal performance. There is something seriously wrong with a society
that arms many able-bodied men and women and then allows them to roam about with bottled anger and anguish. The Nigeria Police Force is
the citizens’ first-line of security laager.
Now that the long awaited Police Reform Bill has been passed by the Senate, it is hoped that it will be signed into law by Mr. President without
any further delay. The reform is expected to address, among other issues, the myriad of challenges facing the system in the areas of welfare,
equipping and capacity building of the police personnel. Also, the Police Service Commission should be reinvigorated to meet the challenges of
modern policing. No society can afford to treat its police force with levity.