It still baffles me when I see and hear the slogan ‘the police is your friend’. The big questions that have lingered on in my mind are; Are they really our friends? Do they really care about our welfare? Do they fight for our rights and ensure peace and order in our society? Or are they mercenaries of chaos? Until recently, I found the answers to these questions. This is the story of a final year student; IBRAHIM MOMODU, twenty-two(22)years of age, and a student of the University of Benin from the department of Science Lab Technology, who murdered by the police at the Ogida barrack on the 27thof May 2013. Murdered on what grounds? It was alleged that he was a robber prowling the vicinity on a motorcycle and was shot on the leg by a Divisional Police Officer (D.P.O) because he tried to refuse a lawful arrest. I wonder why a gun shot on the leg would suddenly appear on the chest because I never imagine our police force to be part of a magic circus. Here arises another question hanging on the pendulum of the societal clock. Who shot the boy in the chest that led to his untimely demise? I thought this denial happens only in cartoons and movies. I begin to wonder about the functions of the police, whether it is to take life or preserve life.
The point that really makes me smell a rat in the bag, is the quick burial of the boy without notifying his family. The newly found attitudes of the Nigerian police makes me go berserk, and have kittens. John Bancroft, the founder of the police force in the 1930’s never intended professional misconduct, neither does the Police Act stipulate that a police must kill a person upon having a screw loose in the head or irated by the actions of the citizens. I wonder what a human could have done to warrant such sore and ignominious treatment. This is really not the first time that the police have portrayed this ludicrous disposition to the Nigerian public and the International community at large. The very fact that Section 24(e) CFRN 199 provides that “It shall be the duty of every citizen to render assistance to appropriate and lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order”, will continue to be a constitutional dead-letter as a result of the disposition of the police to Nigerians.
What then is the position of the law in relation to this societal issue? Section 306 of the Criminal Code Act provides that “It is unlawful to kill any person unless such killing is authorised or justified or excused by law.” Can it be said, beyond the preponderance of all vagaries of doubt, that the act of the policewoman shooting a male student on his chest is justifiable or excusable by law? Section 315 of the Criminal Code Act provides that “Any person who unlawfully kills another is guilty of an offence which is called murder or manslaughter according to the circumstances of the case.”
Some pundits may say it is not an unlawful killing since they are authorised and institutionalised, boldly executing functions within their exclusive domain as their duties require. This would amount to be a subjective argument. If the deceased Momodu was with a gun, it could then have been said that they shot him in self-defence in the execution of their duties. But this was not the case. The police shot him on the chest when he was without a weapon. Can it then be said that Momodu constituted, or had reason to constitute a reasonable modicum of threat to the existence and well-being of the policewoman who shot him? The policewoman’s action is a clear usurpation judicial function and an utter deprivation of Momodu’s fundamental right to life. As regards the deprivation of his fundamental rights, Section 33(1) CFRN 1999 expressly provides that “every person has a right to life…” as regards the usurpation of judicial functions, it provides in that same subsection that “…no one should be deprived intentionally of his life, save in the execution of the sentence of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty of in Nigeria.” This therefore means that only the court has the imprimatur to declare a judicial fiat of death sentence on any person charged with a criminal offence.
In fact, it can even be said that the defaulting policewoman had no intention to arrest, for if she actually had an intention to arrest, she would had shot him on the leg. It has been established that it is only the court that has the judicial power to pronounce death sentence or order the execution of a criminal. It means that any other institutionalised or executory body e.g. the Police Force, the EFCC, et cetera, in the exercise of their duty cannot kill or snuff out the life of any citizen except in the case of defence. It therefore means that the policewoman’s action was unlawful and Section 319(1) of the Criminal Code Act provides that “…anyone who commits the offence of murder shall be sentenced to death.”
The police is meant to be the centre of the nation’s control tower concerning security. They do not reflect the National ethics of discipline, integrity, et cetera as contained in Section 23 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. They rather act in manners that are unscrupulous, always on their marks to take bribes every now and then, and in n a hurry to oppress people who stand against it, they act in tardy manners, tentative towards their duty but up and doing to get involved in purely civil matters because of the meagre amount or chicken feed that would swell their pockets; very truculent and have left us with no legacy. This will be a food for thought to all policemen, both constables and inspector-Generals. If you take bribe, you sell your integrity. It is the cheapest and the least expensive route to a policeman’s heart. The masses see it as a weakness on the part of the police, but the latter see it as their strength to walk over the masses.
Oh! What an ignorance! A split hair discrepancy. Policemen may ignore their ignorance, but their ignorance will never ignore them in public.
It is therefore time for the police to hold their moral view tenaciously and be ardent about maintaining peace and order instead of being instruments of chaos. It was once said by a renowned writer that “true nobility is not being superior to others but being superior to who you were.” For to be loyal to your superior is a duty, to your equals is nobility, but to your inferiors is humility. It is high time we clean the force of all “criminals”, who parade themselves as ‘catchminals’ to wake them up from their illusory slumber and stop them from being myopic to the erroneous fact that the Police Force is a place to make daily gains. It has also been said that “if you cannot stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen.” It is also time for the ‘dutiful’, shylock; and incompetent ones to leave while the competent ones who are ready to serve be brought in.
The Nigerian Police force constitutes a gathering of highly impetuous, lugubriously ludicrous, and unscrupulous ‘servants’, and until the force is swept, brushed, cleaned and wiped, we cannot have a better service.