A resounding cry has continuously echoed all over the Federal Republic of Nigeria, lamenting the presence of disorder, chaos and the absence of will by authorized bodies or agencies of government to enforce the dictates of the law.
Our problem as a country does not stem from the scarcity of enacted laws. Truth be said, we have numerous well drafted laws both at the federal and state levels of government respectively. Well suiting laws enacted to governing even trifle circumstances.
Without mincing words, the Nigeria Police Force has displayed it’s hunger for criticisms and a need to review its lackadaisical attitude towards carrying out its fundamental lawful duty as provided for under Section 4 of the Police Act 1967, which saddles the Force with the responsibility of the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of the law and order, the protection of life and property and due enforcement of laws to mention a few. But over the years, despite the epic display of incompetence in executing her duties, the police have wrestled hard to prove a point. It has shown that it abhors any form of assistance from the public in pursuance to carrying out its lawful obligations. Thus citizens should stay clear and amuse themselves patiently as the force displays its ineffectiveness.
For instance, in Nigeria it is a known culture that the police frequently arrive at every crime scene hours after the event has assumed a past status. The force would embark on her appalling customary duty, rounding up any and as many people within arm’s length and tag them as crime suspects, and as usual, kick off the fruitless investigation, majorly interrogating innocent citizens who had no connection to the crime.
A recent apt example would be following up the story of what led to the violent riot in the Federal University of Agriculture Abekouta (FUNAAB), last Thursday 18th of August 2016. Students of the school had experienced constant cases of armed robbery since the early part of the year. And during most of these unforgettable encounters, the culprits have been said to successfully raid houses, carrying away various valued properties, grievously wounding students and on some occasions ravishing the female victims.
Many students expressed their dissatisfactions over the fact that the Police Force at this crucial moment were not only always absent to save the day, but that they gave a cold response to reports which were tabled to them, which in most cases led to a futile endeavour. According to a victim who lost his laptop and huge sum of money in a house breaking case, after reporting to the police at police station, the police asked him to embark on the investigation himself, stating that the culprit was an insider amidst the students in the hostel.
The last straw which broke the camel’s back was the armed robbery which took place in the night of the 17th day of August, at Adejoke hostel outside the school campus. The alleged robbery lasted for a time span of almost 3 hours without any slight interference. This unfortunate news as it subsequently appeared did not please the ears of fellow students. They embarked on a protest which denigrated into a violent protest or riot properly so called. Various properties were destroyed by the frustrated mob, they claimed to use the avenue to showcase their displeasure at the recurrence of robbery without any concrete action by the government or the police to curb same.
As usual the guardians of the law intervened, and in an attempt to restore peace and order, they shot teargas into the air. Furthermore, a police officer was alleged to pull his trigger aiming at one Taiwo Abisoye, a student of the institution. Another appalling report is the fact that the police were stated to engage in arresting as many students of the institution, including those who had no involvement whatsoever in the violent drama. Some were also arrested while in the peaceful confines of their various abodes.
This act of the Nigeria police force is seriously extreme, it lacks reasonable justification. In fact, it goes to show how clogged, reluctant and perhaps nonchalant the police was at the crime scene in arresting the actual participants, rather their large discretion was narrowed to accosting those who chose to grieve in the confines of their rooms.
These sub-standard acts of the police give grounds to a moral justification of the fact that citizens of the country have lost trust in the capacity of the police. Thus as it stands today in Nigeria, a reasonable citizen is one who can handle things himself before the subsequent arrival of the police.
From a disinterested perspective, in my opinion, a more reasonable approach would be for the force to rather cut the tree from the root, than attempting to trim off persistent branches. Simply put, vigorously combat stealing, robbery and other related crimes for instance and thus you kill the urge for the public to execute jungle justice. Rather than always flexing muscles in bringing to book those frustrated citizens who deem it fit to help themselves. Thus it would be killing two birds with a stone.
The police force should also desist from enforcing and interpreting the law in manners that contradicts the intentions of the lawmakers. For instance, Sections 69-77 of the Criminal Code, provides for the offence of “Unlawful Assembly”, particularly “Riot”. The law states procedures to be used in preventing the occurrence and persistence of the offence of “riot”, giving room for justification if while an officer executes this duty death or grievous harm is inflicted on any of the offenders. Obviously the police needs a reminder of the fact that the above provisions of the law is by no means an avenue to inflict harm, apply force or end the life of a citizen save with strict compliance with the procedures of the law.
Importantly, if a careful study is applied in viewing the contents of the above provisions, the true intentions of the lawmakers would suffice. The letters of the law brings to fore the more pressing concern of the law in safeguarding the right to life of citizens of Nigeria rather than a means to put an end to their sojourn on earth. The clamour for the citizens to be dispersed and for the sake of necessity it provides an exception where rioters refuse to desist from such act. The criminal code did not provide an opportunity for a police officer to re-evaluate the average speed of a bullet into the skull of a citizen; it only provides a haven for rare situations of necessity.
How then can the police explain the depth of their adequate supposed grasps of the law, when in majority of riots today, at least one or two citizens lose their lives. It is no defence at all to state that the rioters were at all instances reluctant to desist from the violent protest.
Conclusively, to the citizens of Nigeria, more precisely the languishing students of FUNAAB. Please make no mistakes about it, the provisions of the law only gives room for a peaceful protest to express displeasure. The dictates of the law clearly abhors and provides capital punishment for the offence of riots, and any protest which involves violen
ce and destruction of properties or leading to unrest in the society, and it must be noted that it makes no difference to assert that the riot started initially as a peaceful protest. And to further prove this point, the ground norm of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which is the constitution, in Section 33, subsection 2(c), provides that one exception to the enjoyment of our fundamental “Right to Life” is in the event that such a person is killed for the purpose of suppressing a riot, insurrection or mutiny. Thus no matter how depressing the experiences might have been, the proper way of expressing grievances should be via a peaceful protest devoid of violence, else every citizen involved in the riot after the clarion call has been made to desist, would be on a frolic of their own. And if injuries are sustained or death ensues as a result of the decades old itchy hands of the police force, such act is covered by provisions the law, since their demise is as a result of unreasonable disobedience.
By CHRISTOPHER AWODIMILA