- The three officers dismissed must be prosecuted
Once again, it is bad news about the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). On June 8, three police officers, an inspector and two sergeants, exhibited the condemnable brutality for which the police and virtually all security agencies in the country have become notorious. The errant policemen accused a citizen, Mr. Ademuwagun Temitope Solomon, of being a fraudster and sprayed him with tear-gas at the Chinese Town in Ojota area of Lagos. An asthma patient, Solomon collapsed and developed an asthmatic fit. The officers who perpetrated the act were from Area ‘H’ Command of the force in Ogudu, Lagos, and had been on a neighbourhood patrol assignment when the sad incident occurred.
The good news, however, is that the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Imohimi Edgal, acted swiftly, got the culprits identified and subjected to orderly room trial in accordance with stipulated regulatory and disciplinary procedures. Accordingly, having been found guilty as charged, the three policemen – Inspector Momoh Sulaiman, Sergeant Emmanuel Monday and Sergeant Adamu Usman, were immediately de-kitted and dismissed from the police force. We, however, hope that this will not be the end of the matter but that the dismissed officers will be duly charged to court.
We note that the state police command has been punishing its men for various offences in its bid to sanitise the force. For instance, in the first quarter of this year, eight were dismissed, four had their ranks reduced, 28 were served a warning notice, three were severely reprimanded while five were discharged and acquitted. There is no doubt that these figures are only a tip of the iceberg and do not accurately reflect the depth of impunity, indiscipline and rampant corruption that plague the NPF. Indeed, only a minuscule number of cases of police abuse get reported although advanced Information Communication Technology (ICT), particularly the ubiquity of sophisticated mobile phones, have enabled citizens to capture policemen and officers visually as they perpetrate crimes that violate the law and the rights of the people.
Their stern verbal declarations on assumption of office notwithstanding, no Inspector-General of Police has succeeded in eradicating extortionate road blocks on our highways. Allegations of gross abuse of human rights, connivance with criminals, extra-judicial killings and even now, incidents of police officers forcing innocent victims to transfer money into their bank accounts via ATM assail us on a daily basis.
There are at least four urgent measures that must be taken, in our view, to help transform the police into a friend of the public not just in words but in deed. First, the relevant authorities must move fast to enhance the pay and other welfare packages of men and officers. Theirs is certainly one of the most dangerous of jobs and this must be reflected in their remuneration packages.
Secondly, the funding of the police force as an institution must be substantially improved to enable it provide its officers and men not just the requisite facilities for operational effectiveness but also a conducive environment to live and work through massive upgrading and modernisation of police stations and barracks across the country. Thirdly, the curricula of the police training schools must be overhauled to inculcate in police trainee cadets the essence of human rights and respect for the citizenry.
Lastly, an intensive re-orientation campaign has become imperative to radically transform the mentality of the average policeman and woman. This should imbue them with a high sense of self esteem and make them realise that the honour and dignity they enjoy among Nigerians can only be a function of the respect for human rights and high sense of professionalism they exhibit in discharging their functions.