The Unjust Defenders of Justice

by Hassan Rilwan and Uhwet Mallo

Can you remember when the uniform of any security personnel represented security and peace? Then, there was truth and respect in and for the uniform, but not anymore. Not when those same people, who have sworn to protect the Nigerian citizen may as well be the robbers or the barbarians on our highways.

Nigeria’s long history of brutal military and police behavior against its own citizens is no longer news. Despite the fact that the police argue on the non-existence of a culture of inhuman treatments, we cannot shy away from the obvious which till date glares us in the face. More worrisome is the connivance with the political class in debasing their fellow Nigerians.

Have you encountered any security agents abusing a citizen? I am sure a lot of people have stories of varying degrees. Personally, I have. I have seen uniformed men beat up a man (a father) one morning right in front of his children. They kicked him with their boots, despite the children’s cry for plea. How humiliating for a father- to beaten before his own children?

You believe, I suppose just as I do, that every Nigerian citizen should be treated with at least the least possible amount of dignity and that there should be due respect for human rights for whoever may be involved. Putting into perspective the November 3rd 2008 Uzoma Okere vs. some naval ratings, if these ratings where properly schooled in handling such situations, it would not have degenerated to the extent it did. Come to think of it, shouldn’t the horse whips be used for the horses and so should be kept in the stable? Why will any officer want to hold it on the street much less use it on a citizen; a human being just like him? Uzoma Okere is just one of the many victims lucky to have an ex-military man and a sergeant-at-arms in the National Assembly for a father at the time of this unfortunate incident. I wonder what would have been the fate of Uzoma, if her father was “just” an “ordinary” man.

In 2005, six youth were reported dead in a police vs. robbers combat. Reports revealed that these youths were shot at the police checkpoints and their bodies posed for pictures – ridiculed even in death?.

This unrelenting situation was also quite obvious on the 22nd November, 2008, at constitution road Kaduna. Stern looking police men suddenly highlight from a vehicle and bounce on a teenager perceived to have dared to slow down the convoy of “Her Majesty”. Several AK 47s are turned into clubs with their butts fighting for relevance between an 18year old boy’s head and the windscreen of the car. The last time I saw this was in a movies about the Rwandan genocide titled “Sometimes in April”. I saw with my own eyes the debasing level men of the Nigerian police can get to. Unguided rage and sheer cruelty was let loose as the supposed and legal custodian of the law, the police, unleashed unimaginable terror and brutality on an innocuous teenager, Abdulhakeem Ahmed (18 years old). They used the butt of their gun endlessly on the car and the young boy as though they had a brief to destroy and kill. The overzealous policemen, who were in the convoy, suspected to be that of Hajia Saratu Mahmud Shinkafi (not ascertained yet), the first wife of the Zamfara State Governor, descend mercilessly on this teenage boy whose offence was to be on the road when the convoy of “Her Majesty” was passing!

The show of cowardly barbarism continued as they hit the poor boy from almost all angle, battering him. When they were done, they came heavily on his car smashing the wind screen and shattering other component parts into pieces. The frustrating thing was that, while these overzealous policemen vent their venom, “Her Majesty”, the governor’s wife watched in fascination the dexterity of her security guards without motioning whosoever to stop the blatant cruelty. For now though, pending the outcome of police investigations, we will stop at the established fact that the occupant of the car is a governor’s wife.

It is only in this country that public officer make fake promises and postures. Or how else would someone rationalise the action of a Governor’s wife who sits and watch the destruction of a teenager. Yet they all tell us their pet project is to protect children, women and the elderly. What did the woman do to protect just one soul when she will use media hype to misinform us about several millions of children who have benefited from her largesse perhaps in their dreams? She is a mother who most likely has a son of Abdulhakeem’s age. Yet if anybody in this country tries that on her son, all hell will be let loose.

The police action is actually not surprising because we are already used to uniformed men being overzealous. The surprising factor of this unfortunate incident is the aloofness of their principal. Many in this country have lots of issues to grind with Obasanjo’s macho attitude. But even baba condemned civilian oppression by uniformed men during a campaign rally when he collected the whip the police man was using and whipped the man to order.

Since the country’s return to democracy nine years ago, there have been strategies and efforts at refurbishing the country’s image in the international community. We believe that the government’s policy is attainable only if the people concerned are ready to respect every citizen or foreigner’s fundamental human rights as human beings. Only then will Nigeria as a country be positively perceived, especially security wise internationally.

It is high time people began to pay publicly for their crime as a show of commitment of Police leadership for the rule of law. Our politicians should realize that the power they posses is actually the power of the people they try to oppress. They should be wise to recognize this so as to avoid a revolution that may consume them. The Inspector General of police should immediately investigate all recent incidents with the aim of bringing the culprits to book. He should also come up with an emergency reorientation scheme that can teach his men that they are actually meant to be the friends of the people and their trusted protector against injustice of any kind.

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