27 April 2012

Nigeria: Who Will Save Us From Police Brutality?


As if to reiterate its obstinate attitude to brutality and to rubbish and dare the Acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, who has just recently warned police about brutality, few days later a policeman in Kano assaulted a woman and even corked his gun threatening to shoot her.

The woman called Madina came out from a bank in Zoo Road where she went to use the ATM and stopped a tricycle called a 'Daidaita Sahu' in Kano . She was about to board it when a police man came out from the bank and demanded to know why she was boarding a vehicle at the place, which was a restricted area.

According to her account in Aminiya newspaper, " I told him that I didn't know, but before I finished my explanation, another policeman came out from the bank and started abusing and beating me."

One would have thought it was a simple everyday life misunderstanding, that they would reprimand her and her explanation would be enough for her and the tricyclist to note against next time and everybody would go their way peacefully.

But no, the policeman had to show his power by beating the woman, disgracing and humiliating her, and then threatening her life as if she were an armed robber. By the way, did he assault her in self defence, or was she running away from the police, as the usual excuse the police give in defence of their assault on innocent citizens?

An onlooker took a picture and captured the police with his corked gun, so he couldn't deny it. The Kano State police command had invited Madina, the tricyclist, Wasi'u Sanusi (whose tricycle was also damaged by the police) and the policeman when they read the story in the newspaper.

And only God knows how many such incidents happen daily in Nigeria, but the stories don't get reported. For long, Nigerians have stopped seeing the police as a refuge; rather, they are seeking refuge from the police!

The police need massive training on how to relate to the people, they should not treat everyone as a criminal, while they know some actual criminals in some cases, but allow them to roam the street.

It is funny that if some people are quarrelling with a group of spectators, they may decide to stop abruptly when they see a police man, because if he tries to intervene and take them to the police station, their problem may just begin. They have to spend money and at the end they may wonder if the quarrel was worth the wahala.

Another example is where a motorist bashes another car, most drivers would rather settle out of 'police station' than go to the police station. The police may keep the cars and before the owners retrieve them they have to spend a lot of money, paying bribe and so on.

Somebody mentions that if he is walking and sees a policeman on his side of the road, he crosses to the other side, "so that I would not be framed on trumped up charges," he said.

This may be an extreme distrust of the police; however, in Nigeria where anything goes, particularly if it involves security agents, it is your word against their own and civilians don't usually get justice.

Granted that the police are doing a great work, risking their lives to protect the people, particularly in the face of the current security challenge but that does not mean they should descend on innocent and unarmed people. Besides, which self- respecting man beats a woman?

What makes the Madina attack more surprising is that it did not happen at a check point where the police can say that she refused when asked to stop, or she was carrying something suspicious, etc, where they panic and shoot at people. This woman came out from a bank, so what warrants the brutality?

By the way, a friend said that if Madina had given N20.00 to the police man, she probably wouldn't have gotten the beating of her life.

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