*What is Police Brutality?
By police brutality, we are talking about a situation where, those charged with the responsibility of protecting lives and properties are found wanting of endangering those lives and properties. It is a clear case of doing the exact opposite of what you are been recruited and paid for, using the very fire arms meant to protect for intimidation purpose.
According to Wikipedia “Police brutality or excessive use of force by law enforcement can be legally defined as a civil rights violation, where law enforcement officers exercise undue or excessive force against a subject. This may include, but is not limited to, physical or verbal harassment, physical or mental injury, property damage, and death.”
“The term ‘police brutality’is sometimes used to refer to various human rights violations by police. This might include beatings, racial abuse, unlawful killings, torture, or indiscriminate use of riot control agents at protests.” -Amnesty.org.
*Brief Emergence of Police Brutality in Nigeria.
Police brutality is as old as the police force itself. The colonialists in the independent era used police to keep nationalists mute. Even after Independence, politicians continue to use police to intimidate oppositions, especially during elections. This is evident in the 1959, 1964 and subsequent elections.
In the words of Eric Guttschuss, Nigeria researcher in the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. “The Nigeria Police Force, established in 1930, has a long history of engaging in unprofessional, corrupt, and criminal conduct. Over the years, this unwieldy force—Africa’s largest—has proved difficult to effectively manage and control and has become largely unaccountable to the citizens it is meant to serve. Many Nigerian police officers conduct themselves in an exemplary manner, working in difficult and often dangerous conditions—some 250 policemen and women were shot and killed in the line of duty in 2009—but for many Nigerians the police force has utterly failed to fulfill its mandate of providing public security. Indeed, 80 years after its birth, members of the force are viewed more as predators than protectors, and the Nigeria Police Force has become a symbol in Nigeria of unfettered corruption, mismanagement, and abuse.”
*Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) & End SARS movement
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) is a unit of the Nigerian Police under the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence. SARS is one of the 14 units in the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department which was established to detain, investigate and prosecute people involved in crimes like armed robbery, kidnapping and other forms of crimes. The idea was that they would be armed in mufti, simply for the important element of surprise. They would take cover, and communicating with walkie-talkies to apprehend armed robbers.
Over the years, the SARS have deviated from their founding principles. Mike Okiro, a former police chieftain posited that the issue with the unit is “policy somersault”. Pinpointing that they have drifted away from their original assignment.
According to a publication by Pulse.ng a Nigerian news website, “What SARS became was a national scourge that a witch-hunt machinery against Nigerian youth with dreadlocks, piercings, cars, expensive phones and risque means of expression.”
The #ENDSARS movement has been in existence for a couple of years but got nation wide popularity with recent events. On Saturday 3rd October 2020, a video started trending on social media showing a SARS police officer shoot a young Nigerian in front of Wetland Hotel, Ughelli, Delta State. It was alleged that the police officers took away the young man’s vehicle- a Lexus SUV . The trending video caused public outcry on social media, especially on twitter, with the #ENDSARS hashtag attending. – Wikipedia.
The ENDSARS movement has generated mixed feelings from Nigerians at home and those in diaspora and it has gained attention globally.
*Causes of Police Brutality
(1) Substance abuse:- An armed officer under the influence of drugs and alcohol is as good as a mad man with ammunitions.
(2) Absence of professionalism:- More often than not, police officers behave contrary to the rules of engagement, thereby substituting professionalism for instinct.
(3) Office rule:- In a situation where junior officers are been mandated to make up to a certain amount of money on a stop and search, arrest or any other operation. These officers will go to any length to meet up with the amount to avoid been on their superior’s black books.
(4) Selfish interest:- Sometimes, the officers are not acting on any instruction to go out and make money, they personally go out to see how they can make money with the influence of the arms they posses. Officers who raid brothel at regular intervals requesting to be settled by sex workers in kind are not having the intercourse on anyone’s behalf, rather they do it for self satisfaction.
(5) Greed/Jealousy:- The bulk of police brutality in recent times has rich or well/flamboyantly dressed youths as the main casualties, some act of brutality are prompted by envy, reasons why sophisticated phones and cars are mostly seized.
(6) Discrimination:- In a society where there exist class distinction and clearly drawn line between the noble and commoners, the men in uniform are likely to oppress the haves not for the haves.
Some are of the opinion that, it is how a people are, that is how they will be policed. Meaning that the Nigerian populace are been brutalized because of their nature. This is wrong in principle and practice because that are loads of innocent and law abiding citizens who have been casualties of deaths, rape, extortion and harassment of men in uniform.
The assertion that police brutality is not only a Nigerian problem but a worldwide malady is too weak of a defense to keep mute to injustice. We can make the world a better place only if we begin with ourselves.
Why the agitation against police brutality, since they are numerous societal ills ?. If we must change it all we must start from somewhere and the fight against police brutality can be the starting point.
Another postulation is that ending SARS, which is a unit in the entire force, will not bring about the desired change. Since the entire system is corrupt. It is indeed justifiable or noteworthy to say that putting a stop to one of the unit of a disfunctional system will send a strong message down the spine of most public officers, that it is no longer business as usual.
A- Tracking:- All officers of the police force must have all their operations and activities well documented in a data base for easy identification of bad eggs, in a reward and sanction approach.
B- Independent/civilian oversight:- The police should be monitored by a independent oversight committee made up of mostly civilians who are experts in criminal and legal studies, who will submit their reports to all arms of government.
C- Proper funding:- A man entrusted with protection of lives and properties must be well paid as at when due. Also the force be funded with the requisite funds to build infrastructures that will aid learning and ease operation.
D- Adequate training:- The efficiency of the force In recent times goes beyond ammunitions, it revolves more around sophistication of technologies and the know-how of the officials. IT and man power must be critically looked into.
E- Curriculum:- The police academy should have it curriculum remoulded in a way and manner that the inculcation of certain principles will be enhanced.
F- Enactment:- The national assembly should legislate a police brutality act, a strict sanction should be placed.
G- Deterrence:- Strict punishments for erring police officers. The fact that offenders get little or no punishments will make sanity hard to come by. The case of the Divisional Police Officer attached to the Lagos State Command who shot and killed a young man for no reason during the 2012 occupy Nigeria protest comes to mind. Another is Tafa Balogu an Inspector General of police forced to retire for N13billion corruption and later sentence to just six months in prison.
✍🏾 Sultan Babatunde LAWAL.
A graduate of Political Science from University of Ilorin. A post graduate student of University of Ibadan. A Certified Admin Manager|Writer|Administrator|Comrade|Politician| Public Speaker.