Economic development

No, to SARS humiliation; the consequences of “greasing the palm” of police officers

When selected men and women are decorated with the title to serve our nation, for the purpose of protection and detection of crime and the maintenance of public order, it should be an upmost privilege held to their hearts. The responsibility to protect the country’s rules and regulations, and maintain orderliness amongst inhabitants is a thing of pride, a duty that demands full commitment with legal and fair implementation. However, the case is not as expected, since most of the officers of law disrespect the uniform and misuse the power given to them by the state.

Over the years, the civil force of the state have resorted to bribery and corruption in its highest degree and because of these unlawful practises, many men and women have been wrongly accused, humiliated and deprived of their rights. Despite the call to immediate attention, less or no rigid disciplinary actions are taken to curb this menace, owning to the double-standard, misconduct and dishonesty that has eaten deep into the systems. High ranking law-enforcement officials who are supposed to initiate a total restructuring of the force, continue to pay-no-mind to thousands of complaints. A realisation which has made these officers above the law and the citizens, trembling at their sight or upon monetary request.

Some argue favourable, that enforcement agencies are not paid enough, which is why police men and women outrightly demand for bribe whenever the possibility arrises. Therefore, the act of greasing their palm is seen as a way of livelihood, a circumstance which is expected to be supported by motorist at every check point. Honestly speaking, especially in this part of the world, it has become an acceptable habit were a person is expected to quietly pay, without reporting or exposing wrongdoings, in other to avoid any unnecessary delay or becoming a victim. This behaviour which has infiltrated the minds of the executors has lead to many successful criminal headway, perpetrated against the people and the state.

In recent times, the country is alarmed with unending cases of assault, planting of false evidence and even death by the Nigeria Police Force Special Anti-Robbery Squad, popularly known as SARS. Anyone who encounter these either drunk or biased operatives that are majorly looking for a pay off is called a fraudster during a stop-and-search routine, in an attempt to oppress the person into coughing out cash by any means possible. There are cases which have been reported, were these said law-enforcement agencies would ask for a mobile money transfer or most likely follow the individual to the ATM to collect cash, if victims do not have enough money in their possession. What a shame! Recently, a young lady who was a member of the NYSC was shot and killed by a police man, reasons for such a barbaric action is however still unclear. But, this is an evidence which shows how reckless and heartless they have become. But one thing we must know is that the result of “greasing officers palm” has come with consequences, sequels that are now in full swing with SARS operatives abusing and terrifying citizens near and far.

The bribery situation is now by force or face unlawful imprisonment or battery. A misconduct which was accepted by many is now at its peak, as these police officers humiliate the people, knowing fully well that there are no obstinate consequences, which makes them behave as though they cannot be touched. An act which puts a person in immediate and reasonable fear of battery. For example, when a motorist or commuter tries to exercise his/her basic right by asking a casually dressed policeman to identify himself, the person would either be dragged from the car to the floor or slapped, beaten and insulted, then car documents or mobile phones would be seized until the individual settles or return with the imposed money. These unthinkable actions has resulted to numerous people assuming that police officers are running an unlawful obligation, a thought which has encouraged a noncompliance with agents during these said stop-and-search procedures. Although, some officers say that drivers and passer-byes are disrespectful and incorporative, I think respect is reciprocal. Nobody will be happy with an officer shouting at them at every check point, as attention must be given to the very little things that makes the process meaningful.

Nigerians have shared stories on social media of how SARS personnel engage in unlawful arrest, humiliation, detention and extortion, but yet it seems as though the people cannot fight the mortification imposed by officers who are expected to protect them. An action which unfortunately portrays slavery in our own land. Even though the “End SARS movement” -an advocacy which started on social media against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad- have been supported by the Nigerian senate to scrap the squad, caught the attention of international human right organisations and The Inspector General of The Nigeria Police Force, Ibrahim K. Idris, ordering a reform and reorganisation, these operatives are still detaining and exporting money from young Nigerians illegally.

Regrettably, the cry to end SARS brutality have fallen on deaf ears, seeming as though they were categorically sent out to oppress young people going about their everyday lives. Most people blame the Buhari administration, saying that he has given unnecessary power to enforcement agencies, since he upholds a military rule of governance disguised as democracy. This argument although vague and unclear, might have some sort of focus. It could be from the context that these operatives knowing fully well that he was once a military leader, might want to feed off the fear which his presence as Commander in Chief  brings. His image as a less corrupt leader and one who is steadfast in eliminating corruption could have been the reason why the police force think that they should also instil fear by any means necessary. Hence, be feared also. As a consequence, this supposed opportunity which births terror is now what is being used to humiliate the public into relinquishing their rights and possessions. What happened to the slogan “the police is your friend” that was orchestrated by the enforcers of law and order, if the same people are mostly interested in generating fear and havoc on the masses.

In another instance, some say that is it a gimmick from the opposition, since the elections are near. These contributors are of the opinion that a group of opponents have deployed certain rogue agents amongst the forces of law and order to harass and mortify people, in other for the masses to blame the current government for its inability to protect lives and properties. Therefore, seeking an end to president Buhari’s tenure and the possibility of a re-election. I do not think this is the case, as president Buhari can whenever he wants, as he is yet to do so, dismiss the Inspector General of Police or ask that strict discipline be placed on whosoever is caught defying the oath to uphold orderliness in the state. However, if this argument holds any weight at all, then we have disgraceful leaders with nothing concrete to offer the multitude. Why wont these blatant supporters find better means of showing and convincing the people on how credible they are in holding whatever seat or office they intend to exploit. Must the people continue to suffer these ploys and stunts because of political partisanship? Instead of attempting to find sacrificial lambs by all means neccessary, political leaders and elected officials should push for a coalition or cooperative arrangement between political parties for an intention to promote mutual interest and respect for the people.

What I think the problem is, concerning SARS brutality and others alike, is that the country is suffering and these officers of authority are now desperate enough to force out a means of securing their necessities of life from innocent citizens, through the bribery and corruption dealings that has been a familiar and existing trend from time. A very difficult situation that will be extremely hard to wipe out since giving and offering of bribe is the foundation which the police force is built, as many service men and women venture into the force for the primary purpose of extortion. Despite the fact that policing is saturated with extortionist and blackmailers, there are a few good eggs amongst them. I have encountered some very respectful and helpful officers who rescued me from a not so favourable night and therefore can attest to the fact that there are still men in the police force who should be commended and applauded for keeping a reputable stance amongst widely biased colleagues. With concerns to the future, regrettably, i am less aware of what will become of these good men.

The Nigerian government has to find a lasting solution for this plague of corruption amongst police men and women. The recent infliction of pain the citizens are experiencing, from barbaric killings to police brutality, has to end. How much more uncertainties can we handle? When will our leaders heed to our cry? The condition of a collective brokenness is gradually approaching, were inhabitants of a particular town or city could lead an uprising, if nothing is done to curtail the ignominy and suffering. I pray it doesn’t come to this.

Thank you for taking out time to read my post. Do have a lovely week ahead.

X pj

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