The Criminals in Police Uniform ∼ By Olusegun Adeniyi
There is a video circulating on WhatsApp that calls to question the integrity of the Nigeria Police Force and highlights the challenge of national security in our country.
Given the frequency with which the four-minute video clip is being passed around, it is inconceivable that the attention of the authorities has not been drawn to it.
But in the unlikely event that the Inspector General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Idris to whom it was directed, is not aware of the video, below is the scary information as provided by the young lady who should be commended for the effort:
Nigerians, I am greeting you. Please, don’t be angry that I covered my face to speak to you. I covered my face because the information I want to share with you is beyond whistle, it is trumpet. And I don’t know what will happen to me if my face is exposed. This man (displays photograph of a young man) is (name withheld); that is the name he is known by and that is what he uses as his car plate number. There is nobody who goes to nightclub on Lagos Island who can say they don’t know him and any nightclub he enters, the place will ‘shut down’. Just last month, this guy celebrated his 30th birthday at (club name withheld) in Ikoyi and almost all the well-known big men and celebrities (displays the photograph of the guy with a popular artiste) were there. The kind of money he spent that night [of his birthday] within three hours, even E-money doesn’t have the courage to dispense that amount of money. His house in GRA Ikeja is worth over N250 million. But let me shock you: I travelled to Owerri last week to see my uncle at MOPOL 18 Barrack and that was where I saw this same guy in the uniform of a police sergeant, carrying AK47. I couldn’t believe what I saw. When I returned to Lagos, I started reflecting on what I saw. I started doing my own research and investigation. That was when I discovered that his real name is (withheld). I then took his name for a search on Facebook which confirmed it to be real and that he is indeed a police sergeant. So I downloaded some of his photos [on display]. If this guy is truly a police sergeant, since when have police sergeants in Nigeria started being worth over N2 billion? But if this guy is not a police sergeant, how come he is wearing a police uniform with the rank of a sergeant and armed with AK47?…
Coming a few weeks after the Offa armed robbery massacre in which a dismissed police officer was arrested as one of the kingpins and the shooting in Ado-Ekiti by a policeman who was hired from his duty post in Lagos by a yet-to-be-named politician, the IGP and his men must respond not only to the questions posed by the lady in the video but also to the growing allegations that many of the men and officers in the uniform of police are neck deep in criminal activities, including armed robbery. Even without conducting any survey, it is easy to discern that many Nigerians neither trust the police nor do they feel that their officers and men can be held accountable for their actions. What this lack of trust does is to undermine the legitimacy of law enforcement without which a society is endangered.
Before I go further, let me say very quickly that the presence of criminals in the police is not peculiar to Nigeria, it is a global phenomenon. In the United States, for instance, the report of a study released in June 2016 revealed that on annual basis, about 1,100 police officers, averaging about three per day, are charged with committing crimes. In the course of the study, said to be the first in the history of the United States, the researchers compiled 6,724 cases involving about 792 officers per year out of which 674 officers were arrested more than once.
Conducted by researchers at Bowling Green State University through a grant from the American Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice, the seven-year study (from 2005 to 2011) revealed that 40 percent of the crimes were committed by policemen while on active duty. According to the lead researcher, Philip M. Stinson, “Police crimes are not uncommon…Our data directly contradicts some of the prevailing assumptions and the proposition that only a small group of rotten apples perpetrate the vast majority of police crime.”
In yet another report published on 1st October last year, the ‘Star Tribune’ revealed that there were hundreds of police officers in the state of Minnesota who had been convicted of criminal offenses yet still kept their law enforcement licenses. “Jared Taylor choked a man until he blacked out. Steven Brown fired a .38 Special during a confrontation with his fiancée. Tom Bernardson punched a man so viciously that he put him in the hospital with a concussion. All three were convicted in Minnesota courts…Dozens of them are still on the job with a badge, a gun and the public’s trust that they will uphold the law”, according to the report by Jennifer Bjorhus and MaryJo Webster.
I have highlighted the foregoing not to justify the criminality that has become prevalent in the Nigeria Police Force but rather to put the issue in its proper perspective before highlighting the dire implications of having a preponderance of lawbreakers in law enforcement. From his @segalink Twitter handle, Mr SegunAwosanya, a passionate young man with a commitment to social justice, has for almost one year spear-headed the #EndSARS social media campaign that has accumulated hundreds of cases and data on the impunity—extra judicial execution, armed robbery, extortion, rape, torture, abduction/kidnap and coercion of innocent citizens to write incriminating testimony against themselves etc—involving men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Anybody who has followed the campaign and the testimonies of victims most of who name the policemen involved (sometimes with video evidence) can only come to one inescapable conclusion: impunity and criminal activities are rampant in the Nigerian police. Yet, when the agitation started late in 2015, according to Awosanya, ”we thought we were dealing with a few bad eggs until further revelations indicated that we have a full blown organized crime syndicate. We went further to prepare a public online petition which garnered over 36,391 (and counting) signatures from September 2017 till date.”
For sure, there are many good men and women in the Nigeria Police Force who are themselves victims of the Nigerian malaise and they must be commended. Besides, we have also not treated the police well as a critical institution. I have in the past recounted the October 2011 statement by a police officer’s wife at the Obalende barracks in Lagos which revealed the indignities to which their families had been exposed and it may be worth repeating in the light of the current challenge: “We have been suffering in silence. These barracks are like a refugee camp. We have no toilet facilities, no pipe-borne water and no electricity, and we are now being threatened by flood and reptiles. We live a little above animals. We are like sub-human beings here. This is a place of death; the mosquitoes here don’t surrender to insecticides…”
To the extent that there is a strategic relationship between the well-being of the police and security of citizens, the total neglect of the rank and file may have resulted in a situation in which they practically have to fend for themselves and their families and with guns in their hands, the temptation to go rogue is so huge that many may have fallen for it. That is a serious problem that the authorities will have to deal with but in the meantime, IGPIdris must address the immediate issue of the ‘billionaire police sergeant’ in Lagos.
There are pertinent questions for which Nigerians demand answers. If the young man is a real policeman, where did he come about the loot he is spending so recklessly? And if he is not, how did he obtain his police uniform and AK-47 and to what end has he been deploying them?
You can follow me on my Twitter handle, @Olusegunverdict and on www.olusegunadeniyi.com