Friday, February 17, 2012

Police Officer Allegedly Kills a Man Because of a 40 Cent Bribe

A trigger-happy police officer shot dead a passenger in a commuter bus in Lagos, Nigeria. The passenger, who was on his way to church, was killed because the conductor of the bus failed to give him a bribe of 40 cents (50 naira). The freaky officer opened fire on the bus as it zoomed off without submitting the disgraceful amount, which cannot buy you a bottle of Coca-Cola in Nigeria.  This has happened one too many times in Nigeria, in fact, the culture of impunity exhibited by the Nigeria Police has reached frightening heights that police officers blatantly brag about how they cannot be held responsible for killing innocent citizens. Various debates have gone on and on without any solution for curbing this culture of impunity. Shortly after the incident, a violent mob reportedly invaded the police station in the area but could not find any officer to vent their anger on; instead, scores of inmates were released from the cell.

Just recently also, a police corporal, Samuel Ojana in the eastern city of Nigeria, Ontisha, shot and killed a commuter bus driver for refusing to give him a bribe. As usual, news has it that the police officer has been dismissed and would face trail in a civil court. On the surface, this seems like the right step taken in the right direction, but then again may I disappoint you and let you know that previous extra-judicial killings by Nigeria police officers have gone in the same direction without proper justice meted out to them in the end. All we hear is, “it was an accidental discharge;” a statement that has since become a cliché.

It is rather unfortunate that the Nigeria Police is synonymous with inefficiency, impunity, accidental discharges…That is why I still wonder why some Nigerians decried the deployment of soldiers to quell the looming protest in Lagos during last month’s nationwide strike. It was rather glaring that the Nigeria Police would have at best killed citizens in the name of an accidental discharge.  I suppose if the Nigeria Police performed optimally or even averagely, the need for the soldiers would not have arisen in a democratic government. Many People have pointed to the idea of community or state policing as the best option to achieving effective policing. I would not say I am totally agreeing with that idea because merely introducing state or community policing with the present Nigerian structure would not solve the problem. The problems with the Nigeria Police are far more fundamental and rooted. A total over haul and appropriate training is essential. We have to tilt towards forensic policing to achieve optimal results; this can only be achieved with intensive training and re-orientation. Need I say that the police needs to be far more accountable than they presently are?

With a new Inspector General of Police in the helm of affairs, we can only hope policing gets better. The presidency has recently set up a police reform committee to over-haul the police force; we wait to see what would become of this committee. As they say, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I just sincerely hope that the light would not eventually fade out and leave us with an even worse police. In the meanwhile, let the impunity stop and let justice be served on the trigger-happy police officers, at least, that can be a pointer to the fact that the reforms has come to stay.

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