Tuesday 7 August 2012

Are the police that bad?

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• Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Abubakar• Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Abubakar
• Rights’ groups issue damning reports Reports just released by Amnesty International, CLEEN Foundation and Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) accuse the police of large-scale impunity and rights violations, resulting in loss of public confidence. For lawyers, there is nothing new about the reports; it is the same old story. Will the police image ever change? ADEBISI ONANUGA, JOSEPH JIBUEZE and PRECIOUS IGBONWELUNDU ask.
Year after year, the Police seem unable to shed the toga of impunity. Tasked with protecting lives and property, the police have been accused of doing the reverse. Their reputation for scant regard for human rights remains intact.
Three reports just published by international and local human rights organisations confirm that nothing has changed about the police. Instead of improving, things are getting worse. 
The Amnesty International (AI) in its report on the state of human rights in Nigeria in the past year, blamed the police for hundreds of alleged unlawful killings, most of which remained uninvestigated. The police engaged in torture, forced confessions out of suspects and disobeyed court orders, it alleged.
The CLEEN Foundation, in a survey, claimed that police officers were among the first group of bribe-taking public officials, adding that corruption was on the increase in the country.
The Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), a survey which examined the public’s perception of the police, said 80 per cent of respondents believed that the police were inefficient and unable to protect them from violent crimes.
According to Amnesty, police operations remained characterised by human rights violations. Hundreds of people were allegedly unlawfully killed, often before or during arrests on the streets. Others were tortured to death in police detention. Many of such unlawful killings may have constituted extrajudicial executions, it alleged. 
It claimed that the disappearance of many people from police custody,  only a few police officers were held accountable, leaving relatives of those killed or who disappeared without justice. Police are wearing plain clothes or uniforms without identification, making it much harder for people to complain about individual officers.
It said special task forces, including the Special Anti-Robbery Squads and SOS, committed a wide range of human rights violations. Early last year, the Bayelsa State Government set up Operation Famou Tangbe – “Kill and throw away” in the local language – to fight crime. 
Many officers linked to the operation, Amnesty alleged, unlawfully killed, tortured, arbitrarily arrested and detained people. Suspects in detention reportedly had no access to their lawyers or relatives.
The report claimed: “On 22 February, Dietemepreye Ezonasa, a student aged 22, was arrested by Operation Famou Tangbe and taken to a police station. On 27 February, the police denied that he was in their custody. His whereabouts have since remained unknown.
“On 11 May, Tochukwu Ozokwu, 25, was arrested by Operation Famou Tangbe. The next day the police told him to jump in a river or be shot. He could not swim and drowned. No investigation was carried out.”
 Amnesty alleged the police frequently disobeyed court orders. For instance, they refused to release Mallam Aliyu Tasheku, a suspected Boko Haram member, after a court granted him bail on March 28. He was finally released in July.
The police, it claimed, failed to produce Chika Ibeku, who disappeared from police custody in April, 2009, more than a year after a court ordered that he be brought to court.
The rights group said there were consistent reports of police routinely torturing suspects to extract information. Confessions extracted under torture were used as evidence in court, in violation of national and international laws.
According to Amnesty, scores of people were rounded up by the police and security forces in relation to the violence in the North, but a few were successfully prosecuted or convicted. Previous commissions of inquiry into the Plateau State violence reportedly named suspected perpetrators, but no criminal investigation was started during the year.
It said the criminal justice system remained under-resourced, blighted by corruption and generally distrusted. When investigations occurred, they were often cursory and not intelligence-led. The security forces often resorted to dragnet arrests instead of individual arrests based on reasonable suspicion. Suspects were regularly subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment in detention.
The report said the police frequently arrested and detained children unlawfully, including those living on the streets and other vulnerable ones. Children continued to be detained with adults in police and prison cells. The country’s one functioning remand home remained overcrowded.
The CLEEN Foundation, in its 2011 National Crime and Safety Survey  report presented by its Head, Mr. Innocent Chukwuma, said apart from the police, other public officials that take bribe were those serving in Immigration, Customs, Prison and Road Safety.
Chukwuma said: “Among public officials who demand for bribes, the police (70 per cent), Immigration (66 per cent), Customs (65 per cent), Prison officials (52 per cent) and Road Safety officials (51 per cent) were the highest.”
Corruption and violent crimes have been on the increase in Nigeria in the last two years notwithstanding efforts by government and security agencies, the report said. The survey showed a steady rise in armed robbery from 11 percent last year to 17 percent in 2012, with robbery more prevalent in Edo, Anambra, and Ondo states. 
In a communiqué issued at the end of the Sixth Policing Executive Forum on Intelligence-Led Policing in Nigeria held in Abuja last week, the Foundation observed that lack of efficient performance evaluation methods in the policing system have contributed to lack of relevance of intelligence in crime prevention.
It said there is the need to set out structures and processes that would provide strategic guidelines to gathering intelligence and also to meet up with the contemporary policing system.
LEDAP’s National Coordinator, Mr Chino Obiagwu said despite 80 per cent of respondents expressing dissatisfaction with the police, almost two-thirds said they respected the police in their communities despite their inefficiencies.
The report entitled: Assessment Report Poll Survey on Death Penalty and Crime Management in Nigeria also indicated that the use of the death penalty for capital punishment has not deterred crime, with more Nigerians opposed to its use. 
Most respondents said they feared that innocent persons may be wrongly convicted and killed due to the defective justice system where the police extract confessions by force and forensic analysis are virtually non-existent.
LEDAP said 51 per cent of respondents were opposed to the use of the death penalty. Only 42 per cent supported it, while seven per cent were unsure. Among young people under the age of 30, 59 per cent opposed the death penalty.
“Majority of the people interviewed also believed that the justice system is unfair to the poor, as it is usually the poor and uneducated that are punished by the system while the rich people are protected and often get away with crime,” Obiagwu said.
Lawyers urged the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Abubakar to ensure that allegations of police impunity do not remain a recurring annual decimal.
Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN) said: “Extra judicial killings in Nigeria are almost a daily occurrence. It is not only the police that are guilty, other security agencies too are. The only way to stem the tide is for the IGP to put in place a mechanism to constantly prosecute and convict every officer that is caught.
“We will continuously have bad reports from international organisations if the police do nothing to restore public trust and confidence. If care is not taken, in the nearest future, charge of human rights abuse will be instituted against the head of the police.
“So, the IGP needs to show seriousness. It is not enough to arrest officers caught in the act and then nothing is heard about the case anymore, the public should constantly feel and see the police prosecuting security personnel who indulge in extra-judicial killings.”
Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Chairman, Ikorodu Branch Mr. Sahid Owosile said despite the persistence of police brutality, all hope is not lost.
He said: “The new Inspector-General of Police has come out and one could see some of the changes he is bringing about, such as driving the police out of the roads. You can now traverse the country without seeing the police harassing you on the road. That is a good development. 
“On the human rights thing, it is unfortunate that we don’t have statistics, we don’t have records. If we have records, they would have seen that human rights violation has reduced drastically because if you sit down and write a petition to the IGP, I believe that there will be a response. Unlike what we had before when even if you write directly to the IGP, nothing would happen.”
Owosile also does not think state police will be the answer. “It could be very dangerous in the hands of some governors. However, if you have the right to make law, you must have the right to enforce them. If we have a federal arrangement in our law making process, then the enforcement process must be federal in nature. 
“That is, a federal Police should enforce federal laws, state police to enforce state. We are still a developing country. The thing is about people. It is the calibre of people in government that would determine whether state police will work or not.”
On his expectations from the police chief, he said: “The structural system in the police is so awkward that they do not have jurisdiction. If somebody has stolen your property in a local government where there is a divisional police office, why must you go to state police? 
“The fact that you can go to the Inspector-General Police for simple stealing is a lot of distortion. It is only when you are not satisfied at the local level that you can move up. He should restructure his organisation in such a way that everything will have its own limitation. 
“It is not that when you have offended somebody who reports you to the local police, then the next thing you do is to go to the state. That is not good enough. He must re-structure his organisation. Then, he must have a monitoring unit, a proper monitoring unit where you can report if there are human rights violations and what-have-you. There must be an organisation or a system that can correct that.”
A former NBA, Ikorodu Branch chairman, Mr. Anthony Ebeh, said: “I believe that what Amnesty International, CLEEN Foundation and LEDAP wrote is what they have written year in, year out. It is a recurring decimal. It is what they have said every time about the Nigerian Police.  
“And to my mind and in my humble opinion, they have not said anything which is far from the truth because the question of extra-judicial killings, violation of rights by the Nigerian Police are very very much with us and it is not going to abate anytime. The reason is simple. The Nigerian Police are completely alien to the people they were supposed to police. 
“That is one of the biggest challenges that we have. And so often when you pass by police formations, you hear shootings even inside police cells, inside their interrogation rooms and all that! Do you think they are hunting animals inside there? No! It is human beings that they are shooting.  They are either wasting their lives or wasting their limbs. 
“Any way you look at it, it is extra-judicial. Nobody is supposed to suffer any injury, whether bodily, emotional or any other wise on account of an alleged crime without the pronouncement of the court. So to that extent, the Amnesty International and others are very, very correct.”
Ebeh want to see changes in how officers are deployed. “The Police are too alien to the people they are supposed to police. Now you imagine this scenerio. You are recruited in Lagos, you are trained in Ikeja, you are a Lagosian at best. May be after six months, after your training at Police College, Ikeja, you are transferred to Zamfara. You have never travelled up North since you were born. 
“Then you go to Zamfara, you report at the State Police Command and they assign you to one local government. In six months while  you are still learning the tricks, you are transferred again to Kano. You get to Kano Central Police Command, and then you are transferred again to one small place.You begin to learn the ropes all over again and before three months when you begin to know the tricks, you are again transferred to Ilorin. Probably these transfers continue. The Nigerian Police will say I have 20 years of experience. I have worked in Sokoto, Kano, Zamfara, Kaduna, Kano. 
“But, in truth, they have no experience because he doesn’t know anybody in all these places he claimed to have worked. But if they knew the way other places appointed their Police, the London Metropolitan Police or New York City Police for instance, in USA you talk about the districts, they have their police. 
“What happens is this, you begin to know, to a large extent, the area of your jurisdiction and whenever there is a rogue, that is why it is not so difficult for them to apprehend the offender. Very easily, they can identify them. These are the kind of people within your jurisdiction that would have committed an offence, and when they go after them, not by way of arresting and torturing them, it is by looking at their life over the period that the alleged crime was committed before they take final action. 
“But in our own case, the policeman himself is lost; he doesn’t know anybody anywhere in the area he is supposed to police. So, what he simply does is to resort to brute force. So, unless we begin to embrace what some people are afraid of, the State Police, and create policemen who are recruited in Lagos, trained in Lagos and worked in Lagos all of their police life, those recruited in Ibadan to work in Ibadan all of their police life, we are not going to get there.
“My advice to the Inspector-General of Police is that since everybody is afraid of State Police, even governors, he should reduce the postings of the police. When you send a man to police Lagos State, for God’s sake, leave him alone to police Lagos State so that he can begin to know Lagos. 
“In effect, we would achieve the effectiveness of State Police without necessarily creating a State Police. And beyond that, they should check and re-check and re-check the character of the people they are recruiting and have recruited into the police. It is very important,” he added.



Blog GildedDiva said...

Howdy, is this your only domain or you personally run some others?

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