Few days back, I occupied myself with the usual habit of reading through all the editorials of at least the key national newspapers in Nigeria. This was done to read the pulse of the nation given that the primary role of the media is to set agenda for the Country. Mind you section 22 of the Constitution is one of those provisions that are straightforward and requires no technicality to interpret. That section says the media of mass communication is the national conscience.
As i said, on this day i took time to read through the editorials of strategic national newspapers just as thematically, most of these focused on the unprecedented state of insecurity in Nigeria. Interestingly, on that particular day, one of the leading newspapers that prides itself as the flagship of the nation’s media (and it’s truly the flagship of the media industry in Nigeria) dedicated the day to talk about the infamous tenth year anniversary of the terror attacks by the armed Islamists known as Boko haram terrorists. The editorial expertly reminds us that the insurgency as it then was evolved from the angst of the members of the extremist Islamic sect in Maiduguri Borno state ten years ago exactly because of the extrajudicial execution by the police inside a police cell of Mohammed Yusuf the spiritual leader of the outlawed Islamic fundamentalist group. A clear irony that arose from that stark reality of the genesis of the current deadly terror attacks by boko Haram terrorists in the entire North East of Nigeria remains that the same police that created or fast-tracked the instigation of the deadly terror gangsterism by murdering the reverred founder of the outlawed Islamic group has been incapable of containing the uprising. Obviously, the Nigerian Police Force has bitten much more that they can chew.
Indeed there was a period during this last ten years of the regime of terrorism by Boko haram terrorists that the entire police facilities in the North East of Nigeria can’t be said to have been operational because of the intensive bombardments and destruction of the police formations by these terrorists. Even the premier Mobile Police Training college in Gwoza in Borno state was overran and nearly 30 mobile police operatives were taken away and are not accounted for till date. The gradual demolition of the potency of the Nigerian police force became manifest by the rapid collapse of the policing architecture in the flashpoints of boko haram terrorism thereby necessitating the drafting of the Nigerian Army and indeed the Armed Forces of Nigeria to begin to do the routine policing job for which the Constitution authorised the coming into being of the Nigerian police force. Fundamentally, the Nigeria Police Force is dead in many ways as has been uncovered by the successes recorded by the dare devil bandits, kidnappers and the terrorists.
Nigeria has become a big killing fields administered by a range of armed hoodlums. The dare-devil boko haram terrorists were so daring that they brought the battles to the home turf of the Nigerian police force headquarters Abuja even as the then serving Inspector General of Police nearly paid with his life. That bombing of the Force headquarters in the heart of the nation’s capital marked the denouement and indeed the end of what can be called effective policing in Nigeria. So the ten years of the existence of this kind of terrorism by boko Haram terrorists that has now become internationalized in scope has also become Nigeria’s nightmares because of the clear incapacity of the Nigerian police force to exercise their mandate of becoming the drivers of law enforcements in Nigeria.
Another clear sign of the deterioration of the Nigerian police force is the rise and rise of armed kidnappers all across Nigeria for which the Nigerian police force are yet to come to terms on the best way to bring this phenomenon under control. This year alone over ten dozen Nigerians have died whilst in the camps of kidnappers whilst the Nigerian Police set up to prevent or combat this sort of crimunality have been found wanting.
Where then is the Force in the police force? Amidst these challenges of operational inertia of the Nigerian police force is the fact that the operatives and officers of the policing institution have become more or less very unprofessional just as indiscipline has become entrenched and the worst case scenario is that the police have deeply become notorious illegal killers of innocent and accused persons in their custody.
The Nigerian police have practically turned Nigeria into the global capital for extrajudicial executions to such a notorious extent that the United Nations had to dispatch the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings to visit Nigeria and took time to interface with stakeholders of the diverse hue. The findings of the United Nations Special envoy clearly shows that the Policing mechanism of Nigeria has collapsed. As i said earlier, Agnes Callamard, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions conducted an official country visit to Nigeria from 19 August to 3 September 2019. The principal goals of her visit she said were to examine situations of violations of the right to life by State and non-State actors; the Federal State security strategy and the responses at Federal and State level to allegations of arbitrary deprivation of life. She considered violations allegedly committed by State security agencies and by non-State actors, particularly in the North East, Middle Belt and South of the country, as well as actions taken by the State to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes.
The United Nations Special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings also examined specifically the killings of women and members of the LGBTQI community, and, as part of her gender-sensitive approach to her mandate, she said she included a focus on Nigeria’s criminalization of abortion. After the twelve days of her mission, she reports that the overall situation that she encountered in Nigeria gives rise to extreme concern.
By many measures, the Federal authorities and the international partners are presiding over an injusticepressure cooker. Some of the specific contexts I examined are simmering. The warning signs she said are flashing bright red marjed by increased numbers of attacks and killings over the last five years with a few notable exceptions; increased criminality and spreading insecurity; widespread failure by the federal authorities to investigate and hold perpetrators to account, even for mass killings; a lack of public trust and confidence in the judicial institutions and State institutions more generally; high levels of resentment and grievances within and between communities; toxic ethno-religious narratives and “extremist” ideologies – characterised by dehumanization of the “others” and denial of the legitimacy of the others’ claims; a generalised break down of the rule of law, with particularly acute consequences for the most vulnerable and impoverished populations of Nigeria.
The UN Envoy stated also that over the course of its tumultuous history, Nigeria has confronted many challenges and much conflict, including military rule and mass killings. The UN envoy reports too that Nigeria has also experienced economic boom and considerable economic growth, particularly in the 1990s thanks to its oil resources. “Perhaps it is this history that leads (some) commentators, analysts and even officials themselves to downplay or ignore the warning signs or to assume that no matter their gravity that these will be overcome”, she stressed. However, the absence today of accountability, functionality is on such a scale that pretending this is anything short of a crisis is a major mistake, the UN stated. “It is a tragedy for the people of Nigeria.
Unchecked, its ripple effects will spread throughout the sub-region if not the continent, given the country’s central economic, political and cultural leadership role”, she concludes. These are unassailable facts and much more than this extensively damaging indictment of the Police and the Nigerian government regarding widespread killings illegally lies the equally critical situation of the apparent collapse of the police into incompetencies, lawlessness, inefficiency of a criminal nature and the notorious fact that most police operatives are armed robbers on rampage with far reaching security implicarions for Nigeria.
Going forward, i have tried to recollect just few cases of clear failure of crime fighting capacity of the Nigerian police force. Worst still is the fact that police are only good at parading suspects after their victims are killed. Few weeks back, two 18-year-old Nigerians were reportedly arrested for the kidnap, drugging and killing of a five-year-old boy (Ahmed Ado), whom they abducted from his school in Kano State. Few hours ago a kidnapped University teacher Professor Gideon Okedayo, a senior lecturer at the Ondo State University of Science and Technology (OSUSTECH), abducted by gunmen, was found dead. Okedayo was kidnapped on Igara road in Akoko Edo area of Edo State while traveling to his hometown on Thursday. A source at the university told the media on Tuesday that the dead body of the lecturer was found inside a bush. “It is sad. They have killed Prof. Okedayo. We learnt about his gruesome killing yesterday (Monday) night. “We were called from the police station that they have found his dead body. “And they confirmed to us that he must have been murdered by his abductors. This is just a sad moment for all of us at the university,” he said on phone. The killing by kidnappers of the University don occurred only after few months after the family of Faye Mooney, a 29-year-old British aid worker was killed in Nigeria by kidnappers. A Nigerian man was also shot dead in the attack on a holiday resort in northwestern Nigeria, 37 miles (60km) south of Kaduna, in which three other people were abducted late on Friday evening, local police and the British high commission said.
A certain media analyst stated the historical reality of failure of the policing architecture when he stated that kidnappings are rampant in Nigeria, where both locals and foreigners are targeted, mainly for ransoms. The British high commission said it was aware of the incident.
Specifically, Mercy Corps, the non-governmental aid agency Mooney worked for, also paid tribute to her. “Faye was a dedicated and passionate communications and learning specialist,” said chief executive Neal Keny-Guyer in a statement posted on social media, adding that colleagues were “utterly heartbroken”. Mooney had “worked with Mercy Corps for almost two years, devoting her time to making a difference in Nigeria,” Keny-Guyer added. After the damage is already done, the talkative but weak Kaduna state police said the kidnappers attacked the resort with guns. These incompetent police said thus: “Some suspected kidnappers armed with dangerous weapons gained entry into a recreational resort called Kajuru Castle, shooting sporadically and in the process shot dead two persons, including an expatriate lady, and took away three others,” a Kaduna state police spokesman said, without naming the other person killed. The foreign news agency that wrote the story of the killing by kidnappers of the British aid worker said that in Kaduna and the wider north-west region of Nigeria, kidnapping for ransom has become increasingly rampant, particularly on the road to the capital, Abuja, where armed attacks have thrived. That is the truth pure and simple.
Earlier four western tourists, two Americans and two Canadians , were abducted in Kaduna by gunmen in an ambush in January that left two of their police escorts dead. In the neighbouring Kano state, few days back, an eight year old girl Aisha, who was abducted when they closed from an Islamiyya School with her siblings, was taken away by another lady who covered her face with veil and no formal communication was made with her parents for three days. She was later found dead. A family member, who did not want his name in print disclosed that the kidnappers demanded N200 million as ransom. After two weeks of intensified search, Aisha’s body was found, as she was hacked to death by her kidnappers. Her parents have since taken custody of her body for burial. In Kaduna Pastors have been targeted for kidnappings with over one hundred of them so far kidnapped. From Bayelsa state comes the shocking news that the mother of Nigeria’s former National Senior Football coach Sampson Siasia was kidnapped and has not been seen for over two months. The police in this as in many other cases are unable to resolve the thorny issue of brazen act of criminality by armed freelance kidnappers. Still in Bayelsa, a 78 year old mother of a former law maker was killed by kidnappers not long ago and the police were once more found wanting. Madam Ayoko Owoko, the 78-year-old mother of a former member of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly representing Southern Ijaw Constituency I, Hon. Kate Owoko, was found dead. Her body was dumped by the riverside in Amassoma area of the state. The late Owoko was abducted from her home in Ammasoma on April 17 by six armed men and a ransom was demanded.
“The kidnappers demanded a ransom. But she refused to pay. She told the kidnappers that she had no money,” the family member said. The criminal activities of kidnappers and the total failure of the policing architecture has made travelling by road a nightmare. This nightmarish experience was the lot of some travellers heading to Abuja from Lagos not long ago when over 30-suspected kidnappers and armed robbers laid siege to the Auchi-Lokoja-Abuja highway, killing five persons, including the driver of a popular transport company based in the Southeast and abducting 25 persons, between Abaji and Lokoja in Kogi State. They shot dead the driver on the spot, as well as woman and two men in a Sports Utility Vehicle, SUV. The kidnappers later called some members of the families of the abducted victims demanding for N40 million ransom and above. The criminals, who operated for nearly 40 minutes ransacked all the trapped vehicles riddled with bullets and stained with blood. According to one of the victims, a don at the Delta State University, DELSU, Abraka, Prof Emmanuel Biri, who escaped death by a hair’s breath, the kidnappers had a field day.
His words: “About 20 percent of the bullets expended by the kidnappers were recovered inside the vehicles. Out of the seven passengers in the vehicle I boarded, two (a male and female) were kidnapped and two sustained serious gunshot injuries. The kidnappers are already demanding N40 million ransom from the family of the female hostage. He the University teacher who is lucky to be alive said he was on his way to Abuja when they ran into the ambush by over 30-suspected kidnappers.
He said: “Those who carried out the operation along the road were not less than 30. They were all fully armed with AK-47 assault rifles and they shot directly at the vehicles with direct intent to kill.” These few cases show that Nigeria is in a deep mess as rightly captured by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings who just ended a visit to Nigeria. The United Nations is as slow as a snail in taking measures to provide technical assistance to member nation like a backyard Country like Nigeria to stop these unbridled killings by trigger happy gangsters who have overpowered the national police. Sadly, there is a widening spectre of killings and the people have lost faith in the capacity or willingness of the police to battle this debilitating menace threatening to wipe out hundreds of citizens from the face of the earth.
It has reached a stage whereby the governors of Zamfara and Katsina States personally demonstrated a lack of respect for the rule of law and perhaps to demonstrate the depth of the crass inefficiency of the policing architecture in Nigeria, they met with armed kidnappers and bandits to beg them to ceasefire. Watching photos of these nocturnal meetings of politicians and armed Fulani herdsmen turned bandits and kidnappers whilst the police watches as spectators tells the whole story of the END OF POLICE in Nigeria.
In Nasarawa state the deputy governor nearly got killed by kidnappers last week but his 6 armed police were not so lucky as they were gruesomely killed by these kidnappers. Remember, some months back, 7 armed police were killed on duty by suspected gunmen and till date that case is unresolved.
What we have in our hand by way of a failed police and the phenomenal rise in police misconduct can only be imagined than told. It sounds like a tale told by an idiot because these self inflicted tragedy of running a police force that lacks competencies is a tragicomedy that is befuddling.
Is this why President Donald Trump spoke contemptuously of Nigeria? Nigeria is indeed in a state of emergency marked by an increasing atmosphere of police brutality, collapse of crime fighting capacity and the rise of armed kidnappers and bandits.
This vicious circle of doom, anarchy and impunity is compounded by the increasing acceptance of criminality as a virtue by armed policemen. Sadly, the National Assembly is in doldrums and currently headed by weaklings. Nigerians are now endangered species. Can the United Nations bail the cat?
Emmanuel Onwubiko heads Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA)