The President of Rights and Freedom Advocates (RIFA), Mr. Luqman Soliu commends Nigerian Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo over Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) overhaul directive and called for total overhauling of Nigeria Police Force:

In the recent time, the complaints by majority of Nigerians and other residents in the Country of grandiose lifestyles, illegality and criminality of most officers of the Nigerian Police Force deployed to Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) got to the peak of terrorism-like as they unleash terror on innocent Nigerians with ease. In fact, their activities have gone wild than ever imagined that their criminal dispositions even surpassed what they were created to curb. Therefore, the directive to Inspector-General of Police by the Acting President Yemi Osibanjo that SARS should be reformed with immediate effect is highly commendable.

This is an indication that truly the current government takes the citizens’ welfare serious and would not allow some criminally-inclined individuals rubbish its effort at repositioning the Country for good. From Gombe to Ilela in Sokoto State, from Port Harcourt in Rivers State to Bida in Niger State, from Katsina to Kaduna, from Ado-Ekiti to Ibadan, from Abeokuta to Benin City and from Shaki/Igboho/Igbeti/Kishi in Oyo State to Warri in Delta State, From Abeokuta to Okenne and from Potiskum to Abuja especially in the night the story remained the same as the case from Ibadan to Ijebu-Ode and Ago-Iwoye to Abeokuta did not differ at all on how most police officers on the road operate in an armed-robbery style pointing gun to commuters who failed to part with money gently. The data gathered in the last two weeks by Rights and Freedom Advocates (RIFA) in a survey revealed that in a trip of an hour 10 to 25 minutes between Abeokuta (Ogun State Capital) and Iseyin in Oyo State, a motorist would spend nothing less than N900 to the men of Nigerian Police while a trip from iseyin to Saki will gulp similar amount. The audacious police officers at FARI Petrol Station using police VAN 118 near Ijebu Ode along Ibadan-Ijebu Ode road is not different from what the officers using VAN 123 do in Ago-iwoye and environment.

The police officers at Kila-Olodo axis of Abeokuta-Ibadan road even operate with higher level of impunity the same way SARS officers extort motorcyclists in Abeokuta of at least N2,000 per bike caught every day with no crime committed except flimsy excuses such as high seat, riders’ leg position on the bikes, etc as if there is any law or regulation that forbids such practices. We have been receiving complaints about notorious habit of some of the Abeokuta metropolis SARS officers for the past few months as well as allegation of how SARS in Oyo operates like a killers squad even as police officers along Akinside –Coker road in ifo do not differ from what the officers along Igbesa- Atan road in Ado-Odo ota among other routes in the area do.

Just recently in July 2018 some corps members deployed to a state in northern Nigeria reported of how police officers along Katsina-Abuja road billed motorists according to number of passengers carried the same way police officers near Ajura along Siun-Ogere road operate by billing any car or bus carrying load/
passengers when no one shares police officers’ salary with them. The extortion tendency of the police officers has led to the worsening economic and social status of the citizens as traders and drivers add police unaccountable toll on the charges they collect from passengers thus leading to hike in transport the same way a trader would increase the cost of his ware by amount paid to police on the road. The worst is that those who are supposed to be law defenders are lawbreakers.

Most police officers now wear uniform without number while some officers cover their numbers with cardigan or gun to evade identification. Can such officers accuse any citizens of a crime when police Act indicates that police officers must be identified easily while on duty? In fact, some officers compete at beer parlour for bottles while in uniform when Police Act even forbids anyone from abetting officers in police uniform take alcohol.

A resident of Port-Harcourt recently opined “I think we are all Nigerians, the issue of police collecting money is not a hiding thing even though they pretend. Yes inside Port Harcourt in an area called Rumuolumeni, the police there do take money from the drivers and along East West Road.

The same thing happens in Emouha between Elibrada and Rumuji as those policemen collect money from drivers with force”. We receive sad news of how police officers kill, incarcerate and deform citizens whom they are engaged to protect. In fact, as majority of civil activists clamour for decongestion of prison, some police officers complicate issues with inconsequential matters that are used to send people to prison leading to thousands of prisoners awaiting trial over issues they even know nothing or little about.

From Aramoko and Akure to Ado-Ekiti, police officers are alleged to collect N200 on every passing bike and or motor while at Oluwo, Onikolobo area of Abeokuta including Obantoko and other areas police extort motorcyclists at will collecting nothing less than N100 at nearly every pass especially in the night while some carry out their own during the day. Between Rounder and Crescent University in the night, a motorist may spend up to N600 for a journey of about 7 minutes ditto to those along Shoyoye/Ilewo-Orile/Oke Ata/ Ita Oshin road of Abeokuta.

Gombe-Potiskum-Damaturu-Maiduguri road as well as Kano-Azare-Potiskum road is not different from how the lawlessness in the heart of Ibadan; Oyo State Capital fared as police officers extort and oppress people at Methodist bridge along Challenge road and Onipepeye bridge along old Ife road including Apata, University of Ibadan gate/Agbowo areas of Ibadan as they do at Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) in Idi-Ayunre along Ijebu ode road. At cele bust stop along Oshodi- Isolo Road among other routes, there are intimidating officers who would even ignore criminals perhaps because they settle regularly and or are good errand boys.

If Nigeria police force could be restored to what we had or better than what we experienced during the regime of Inspector-general of police (IGP) M.D Abubakar when police behave like patriots as they abided by the order to comply with professional conduct, then the nation would jump tens of digits from its current position in the global corruption index of 148th position among 180 countries because once this agency is redeemed with good leadership others would follow.

RIFA keeps receiving complaints on some police officers’ brutality, extortion and oppression nearly on daily basis. We have received report of how someone who failed to pay N20,000 requested for bail was made to spend five good days in the prison courtesy of a Magistrate who did not call for the accused to explain what happened other than asking the accused for YES OR NO response on the case against him. The person’s offence was that he complained that where a co-tenant was placing his generating set was disturbing him and this landed him in prison because the person knew some police officers.

Someone recently spent more than a week in prison courtesy of some unscrupulous police officers who connived with someone hiding under some civil servants cover to intimidate helpless citizens who wanted to halt his dubious extortion business whereby he shortchanged the state government.

The Nigeria Police Force is a symbol of all Nigerians and the characters of the officers is a replica of our society. The officers extol illegality because the society collaborated in the promotion of evils and demonic actions. Therefore, lest we blame the officers, let us blame ourselves.

Even though there are some distinguished officers of the Nigerian Police force especially its leadership that we have interacted with so far, however their failure to take stern action to stop their subordinates from tarnishing their names and images becomes worrisome because it seems the subordinates are now more powerful than their bosses. Even some people that are human rights activists such as ours have suffered from such unjust detention in the past from the hand of these marauding subordinates until their leaders especially at the State and Federal level intervened.

With these scenarios, the Federal government needs to take further action by insisting that all police officers should wear tag and their numbers should be boldly written on their chest whenever they go out for operation. Besides, all police officers that need to wear cardigan or any other apparel must boldly indicate their number on it.

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Should a junior police officer be caught in illegality and reported to the divisional or State Command leadership, such police officer should be seriously penalized for such offence. All police van on the road should be made to have numbers as most of them have removed their vans’ numbers for fear of reprimand. Any police officer who molests a civilian unjustly should be immediately suspended until cleared by a house tribunal at the State Command.

The practice of officers attributing lower remuneration for their iniquities should be regarded as a crime because if an unemployed citizen could not depend on his unemployment status to rob without being prosecuted, it is more criminal for someone collecting something to still steal from the populace with impunity. On the other hand, the civil servants or agency in charge of votes to Police Commands should stop diverting such funds to private pockets and where the concerned agency is unable to account for the votes, the leadership of such should be prosecuted and handed down with immediate suspension and fine.

The police officers should be regularly trained to be abreast of the basic laws of the land, their jurisdiction and expectations of the public and the likely penalties for any offence committed by them. Since police is not a revenue generating agency, all officers collecting illegal tolls on the road should be promptly stopped and erring ones should be disciplined.

When these happen and the public see police turning a new leaf, the public would, on their volition, start donating to police for defending the nation with honesty and integrity.

Luqman Soliu
Rights and Freedom Advocates (RIFA)

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