Palpable bias – The Nation

While we condemn the killings in Ile-Ife, we wonder why arrests there have been swift unlike other crises situations in other parts of the country

The swiftness with which the Nigeria Police Force arrested and paraded 20 Ile-Ife indigenes in Abuja, over the inter-ethnic crisis that engulfed the ancient city,the penultimate week, could have been viewed as a new beginning, if we see such happen with respect to similar crises in other parts of the country. The arrest of persons from only one side in the crisis between the Ile-Ife indigenes and the Hausa settlers, has made some Nigerians raise allegations of bias against the police. We condemn the gruesome killings in Ile-Ife, but we are also concerned that police have not acted with the same despatch in dealing with crises in other parts of the country.

For instance, those who killed one Bridget, in broad daylight, in Kofar Wambai market in Kano, last June, over allegations of blasphemy, have not been arrested and diligently prosecuted, many months after. Again,those responsible for the recent butchering of people of Zaki-Biam have not been arrested, neither have the armed herdsmen alleged to be responsible for the mass killings in Benue State been arrested and paraded, as in the Ile-Ife crisis. Also, the intermittent killings of the indigenes of southern Kaduna have not resulted in the arrest and parade of the herdsmen allegedly responsible.

Of note, at the onset of the Kaduna crisis, the presidency said the Federal Government could not immediately interfere because we are operating a federal system of government; so the Kaduna State government was given a chance to quell the crisis. In dealing with that crisis, the state governor, Mallam El-Rufai was given all the latitude and support by the Federal Government, even to the extent that he claimed to have sent emissaries to pay the herdsmen whom he alleged came from outside Nigeria, to kill and maim.

Other gruesome mass murders and mayhem haven taken place in Enugu State, many times in Plateau State, also in Nasarawa State and some other states, without a swift intervention by the security agencies. In some cases, the killers have been fingered, while in some others they have openly boasted, yet the police have not exhibited the sense of urgency as they seem to have done in the Ile-Ife crisis.Those accusing the police of bias also point to open threats by known elites, before or after such killings, yet no arrests were made.

For us, it is better late than never. So, we urge the police to immediately arrest the herdsmen and their leaders who claimed that the killings in Benue and elsewhere were in retaliation for the killing of either cows or other herdsmen by the communities that were brazenly attacked. Also, the killers of Bridget should be arrested. Such an across-the-board action by the police will defeat the accusations of bias over the Ile-Ife crisis. When the police manifestly treat every criminal infraction without fear or favour, we will join them to tell those accusing them of bias to go to hell.

So, whether the crisis took place in Ile-Ife or in Kano or Benue or Kaduna or Enugu or Plateau state, we support the police to arrest and charge the suspects. In the Ife crisis, some Yoruba leaders and groups are claiming that while the crisis was between Hausas and Yorubas, only Yorubas were arrested and taken to Abuja. Another complaint is that while the alleged crime took place in Ife, Osun State, the police arrested and relocated the alleged suspects far away from the scene of the alleged crime.

Even if the Governor of Osun State,  Rauf Aregbesola and the state police command would not be given the opportunity to deal with the crisis, as happened in Kaduna, how can the police justify moving the suspects far away from the scene of the crime? Have the police pondered whether the crimes allegedly committed are federal offences? If they are state crimes, what is the chance that in accordance with our constitution, the suspects would be swiftly brought before the courts to answer to the charges against them?

If the crime committed is federal crime, are there no federal courts near the crime scene, where the suspects could be charged? After all, the police should only be interested in justice for all, not an undue punishment for the accused locals, who are deemed innocent until proven guilty. To defeat the allegations of bias, the police should arrest all those involved in the Ile-Ife crisis, from both sides, without favour or ill will. They should also bring the suspects back to the jurisdiction of the alleged crime.

We urge the police not to treat those arrested as guilty, even when no court has heard the case against them. It is also important to always remember that Nigeria is a heterogeneous society, and no institution of state should act to exacerbate any of our fault lines.

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