The subject of inapt behaviour among Nigeria’s security operatives has been a recurrent one. Scores of Nigerians have been sent to early graves, no thanks to the dastardly activities of some of some wild security operatives. A few years ago, in Agege, Lagos, a female secondary school student was brutally murdered by a trigger-happy security operative in a most bizarre circumstance. It was such a gory sight. Imagine the pain, emotional and mental damage done to the parents of the dead student, who must have toiled over her.
Unruly security operatives and hapless compatriots
Also, in November 2008, a certain Miss Uzoma Okere was brutalized by armed naval ratings in a rather dehumanizing manner as she was stripped naked in full glare of the public for daring to fight for her right. If not for the intervention of the Lagos State Government in the court of law that secured judgment in favour of Uzoma Okere who awarded the sum of N100, 000,000.00 (One Hundred Million Naira) damages against the defendants, she would have suffered in vain, as it is always the case. The case is a land mark vindication of the rights of an innocent Nigerian against recurring assaults on innocent citizens by security operatives.
More worrisome is the fact that the dangerous trend has continued unabated. For instance, from January to April, 2019, in Lagos State alone, about four incidents of misuse of firearms which have resulted in extra-judicial killings of young citizens of this country and injury to others were recorded. More bothersome is that two of these incidents occurred almost simultaneously.
It is difficult to understand why some of our security operatives behave the way they do. It is ironic that they take pleasure in brutalizing the very people whom they are paid and trained to protect. The police are especially culpable in this regard. It is often baffling to see some of them beat up, slap and brutalize hapless compatriots who have neither been taken to the court nor convicted for a particular offence.
This is the time for security operatives in the country to imbibe the culture of civility in their interaction with members of the public. They need to envision what the society would look like if doctors, engineers, civil servants, and other members of the society behave in similar loutish fashion. Leadership of the various security agencies need to re-orientate their officers and men on how to behave in a democratic and civilized setting. They need to re- define their role in a democracy.
More importantly, the issue of discipline must be accorded the prominence it rightly deserves. Globally, security agencies thrive on discipline. Ours must not be an exception. Hence, those who fall short of expectations should be shown the way out. There should not be no attempt to protect those that bring their image into disrepute as this will send wrong signals among the ranks and file.
It is from this perspective that one must commend the Acting Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr Adamu, for, once and for all, giving the issue of discipline in the Force the attention it deserves. At a recent visit to the Police College, Ikeja, Lagos, following a spate of extrajudicial killings by police officers in the state, the Acting IGP declared that the “visit has become expedient in view of recent threat of unprofessional conducts of some police officers”.
In order to effectively express his disgust towards what he termed the “disgraceful conducts of a few bad eggs in our midst”, the IGP vowed to apprehend “the line supervisors of such (unruly) officers including the Area Commander, Divisional Police Officer shall be held vicariously liable for lacking supervision and shall, be similarly sanctioned”.
That, indeed, is the way it should be because extra judicial killing is a grave abuse of Rule of Law and human dignity which are at the heart of fundamental human rights. It should be strongly condemned and denied in any sane society, especially where democratic governance is practiced, such as in Nigeria. It thrives where its occurrence receives none or insufficient response from government and failure to address the root causes and bring perpetrators to justice. Necessarily, a practical means must be devised to arrest this ugly trend.
Law enforcement officers must go through a thorough and effective training on fundamental human rights with emphasis on Rule of Law and human dignity. The National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria must play a more active role by coordinating its work with the law enforcement agencies in Nigeria to ensuring that people’s fundamental rights are respected and protected, and not only wait to react after the rights have been breached.
Without a doubt, the various security outfits in the country are in urgent need of basic restructuring. With the recent upsurge in insecurity and other criminal activities in the country, what we certainly do need to successfully contend with the situation is a professionally inclined security outfit.
On a final note, our compatriots should treat and accord all security operatives with utmost courtesy and respect. This is the least we could do, considering the fact that they put their lives at risk in order to protect us.
Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.