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Adisa: A descent into lawlessness

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Adisa: A descent into lawlessness

By Banji Adisa

A TRIP last weekend to Oyo town provided an opportunity to be treated to another round of unfair treatment of citizens by the men in black (you know them) who have turned their locations to gold mines in the guise of giving bail to people. Yet, Nigerians are being lectured every day by the officers on how free bail is at any police station. In case anyone forgets, the message ‘Bail is free’ is always boldly pasted. Experience has however shown to many people that nothing could be far from the truth.

How can one dismiss some people’s rational  prayer point on a regular basis: The grace to avoid having anything to do with a police man or the station, not even to assist somebody who may have issues with our friends at the station. Of course, they are supposed to be our friends. Either as a complainant, or worse still as an accused, it has always been an unpleasant experience though. Who needs an enemy if these are the only friends around?

In Oyo, a girl from one of the tertiary institutions in the ancient town had narrated her almost two weeks’ detention in the police cell recently. I blame her anyway for her foolishness (or rather waywardness). She had been arrested, in company of a female school colleague, and a man suspected to be of questionable character (as they discovered later) late in the night at a joint, by men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS.

The girls became accomplices of a robbery suspect who had been trailed by the police for some time. But for the financial intervention of the father of one of them who happened to be a prominent citizen of the town, the report goes, it could have been worse. The man allegedly parted with fifty thousand naira to bail out the two fun-loving girls. The question is:  in that circumstance, should he have paid for bail? It is debatable. God save parents from children who have other agenda apart from their mission to school, especially for those of them way out of parents’ sight.

That father’s predicament was what citizen Mukaila Akinsemoyin reportedly was in last week  in Lagos when confronted with a case of theft involving his nephew’s son, Salihu Mohammed who was detained with four other boys at Araromi Ifako Police Division at Gbagada. The Punch had reported that 53-year-old Citizen A’s ignorance (and stubbornness) about the unwritten bail application procedure landed him some punches and kicking by policemen attached to the station.

But that was after he managed to get word across to CP Yusuf Alkali at Ikeja Command (with the assistance of friends who supplied the CP’s contact number). It was a raw deal in which the DPO allegedly looked the other way as his men dealt with Citizen A despite his earlier complaint to the DPO (he expectedly denied ever seeing the complainant).

The parents or guardians of the other four boys detained were ‘wiser’. They quickly settled the ten thousand naira each bail fee allegedly demanded by the officers, leaving Citizen A to carry his can. It is baffling that even after the commissioner’s (CP) intervention with a call to the DPO, the report said, he was not released. Citizen A and his wife were still bundled to the Command where all of a sudden, he was released – obviously on the CP’s fresh instruction.

Curiouser and curiouser the events turned to be. Before he was whisked to Ikeja, the station must have toyed with the idea of implicating him in other ways. He was allegedly ordered to write a statement “that I was the ring leader of armed robbery gangs that terrorise Gbagada area”. He refused. The refusal of course led to the signing of his detention order upon which radio signals were sent to the headquarters on his arrest. Is anyone surprised at the turn of events? I am not. That is the modus operandi of a typical olopa. Well, except he has got the orientation well.

Citizen A has the CP to thank for his freedom, yes. But does it have to go that far? What is the DPO doing on the seat if he could not judiciously handle a theft case? What transpired between the DPO and the CP is nothing but insubordination to a higher authority. The CP should sanction the officer if during investigation, he was found guilty of misconduct. The country is tired of lawless men in uniform. We do not need any touting of the rule of law.

Policemen are not alone in the rule of the jungle. All the uniformed men who are supposed to be more civil in their relationship with “bloody civilians” are guilty. Too many incidents have happened to justify attack on innocent citizens. The Uzo Okeres of this world should know better after her encounter with some naval personnel in Victoria Island the other day.

Some soldiers from the 323 Artillery Battalion in Akure showed last week they were tired of just visiting pepper soup joints in the evenings. They needed to taste action, peace time or not. So, as supposed landlords to one recalcitrant Progress Wood factory opposite the barracks, the commander allegedly ordered an invasion of the factory premises to teach the tenant a lesson for his refusal to continue to service a monthly obligation of about N20,000-N30,000 to an unnamed account. The payment had gone on since 2006 until the CEO’s lawyer recently advised his client to the contrary.

CEO Akintunde Adebiyi put his losses at about five million naira. His offence: He built his factory on land belonging to the Army, according to one Col. Nwafor, the commanding officer. What a warped logic! Is the Army waking up in 2011 to realise the trespass (if that is the truth) after the factory had operated for five years on the land? Where was the Army when the factory was being put up, or was it constructed in a day?

Col. Nwafor in his defence said he showed Adebiyi’s lawyer the document authenticating Army’s hold on the property. If the lawyer was not convinced enough and still held on to his belief that his client has no business throwing money into a bottomless pit, what administrative or legal options did Nwafor or the relevant Army authorities exhaust before soldiers took to the jungle justice?

More often than not, we hear of admonitions by senior officers in the Armed Forces to the rank and file  to subject themselves to civil authorities, in the spirit of civil rule that the country has managed to run for about 12 years now? Where then is the commitment to this admirable injunction?

State police spokesman Adeniran must not forget the promise of investigation to bring to book any culprits, in case a report of willful damage against any person or group is established. In fact, Ondo people cannot wait for the amicable resolution of the issue by Governor Olusegun Mimiko who graciously intervened so that Adebiyi would not suffer in vain, if he had a case.

I pity the Minister of Police Affairs who in the euphoria of his appointment promised the nation a radical change in the operations of the police, especially personnel orientation. We can only pray for him to succeed. But cleaning the Augean stable as they say is too much a task for him in four years. The rot in the system is beyond comprehension, just as the whole society lost it in core values many years back.

In short, who will help him bend the dry crayfish that a greater number of policemen have become in the country? Are they not part of a larger family of this highly rated corrupt society?

Also, who shall we send to help us tame the “mad dog” syndrome in uniformed personnel as was aptly captured by the great MKO Abiola in his days? All we are saying is … enough of unruly behaviour from the privileged few who are only protected by their uniform as agents of the state.

The government must take note of this unhealthy slide into lawlessness across the land. It must be urgently and appropriately addressed. Human rights groups are hibernating these days. Too many people are suffering, too many people are sad, a music legend philosophised many decades ago. The situation hasn’t quite changed.

Madness on the Plateau

My heartfelt sympathy goes today to the victims of the senseless extermination of innocent souls in Plateau State. The government seems helpless to address its energy to the calamities, in the face of bomb blasts in certain other parts of the country. Vigilance is the watchword, before we bomb ourselves out of existence. - Nigerian news, Editorials, Commentaries, Opinions, naija, Nigeria, West Africa

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Updated 7 Years ago

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