BY EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO
God sparing us life, by May 29th 2023, the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari will quit office after what would have become some of the most tumultuous 8 years of Nigeria since the British Colonial rulers forcefully amalgamated the North and the South Protectorates which the Mistress of the then Colonial governor Lord Lugard, Flora named Nigeria from the River Niger.
But as the President still has nearly three years out of his eight years to govern the Country that his many divisive actions and policies have almost crippled, there is a critical area that if indeed at his old age of 78, he aspires to bequeath any form of enduring legacies that generations to come will look back at and draw some inspiration, then he has to address the issue of the total breakdown of Law and order all around the Country made worse by the lack of professionalism and Discipline in what we regard as the Nigerian Police Force which has become a farce.
It is for the widespread applications of torture and extralegal execution of the citizens by the Police as their policing tactics, that for two Weeks, millions of youngsters demonstrated against police brutality in what they termed as ENDSARS protests which culminated in the DISBANDMENT OF SARS.
Although in what looks obviously like a COSMETIC AND DECEPTIVE APPROACH because as soon as the police announced the end of the SPECIAL ANTI ROBBERY SQUAD the police also came up with another similar outfit patterned after the unit of the Police in the United States of America known as SPECIAL WEAPONS AND TACTICS TEAM (SWAT). The public announcement of the dissolution of SARS and the formation of SWAT is a perfect act of perfidy because there are no verifiable and concrete assurances that the new won’t replicate the old because if you put a new wine in old wine skin, it’s just like hiding a precious stone inside of a keg of gunpowder and then detonating the device and hoping that the precious nature of the stone would be conserved. The police as an institution is sick and so unless a holistic approach is adopted to change the police from top to bottom, we are simply doing window dressing which is not sustainable.
This is because as a fact, the evil practices for which Nigerians protested for weeks and demanded reforms of the police are still very much with us which has necessitated my question this day that does President Muhammadu Buhari understand the definition of his office and his functions especially with regards to ensuring respect for the rule of law by the police and the necessity for compelling the Police to stop the application of physical torture and extralegal execution of the citizens?
Even with a plethora of commitment he listed out as his own way of changing the trends within the rotten policing institution in the Country, the President Muhammadu Buhari has not demonstrated good enough political will and the necessary willpower to do the needful to create a thoroughly professional and disciplined police in Nigeria.
We will in the next few paragraphs attempt a definition of the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as documented by a constitutional law scholar Dr. Tunji Abayomi.
The President “shall be Head of State, the Chief Executive of the Federation and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation.” Section 130 (2) is copied verbatim from the First Presidential Constitution Degree of 1979.
Section 5 of the 1999 Constitution Decree invests in the President, the executive powers of the Federation, but does not define what the President is. What the section defines is what the President can do. He shall execute and maintain the Constitution and laws.
But section 130 of the Constitution Decree, argues Dr. Abayomi, defines what it means to be President. He is the Chief; that is, one who is above the rest, principal leader, and the eminent power of paramount importance in the entire nation.
Abayomi says, the President is also Executive; that is, he possesses the authority to carry the affairs of the state into effect by securing due observance to the laws as enacted by the legislature and interpreted by the courts.
“It needs to be rested that the duty to enforce the laws is not the same as the duty to enforce all laws. The president has the discretion to determine which laws to enforce, where and when to enforce the law, subject to the important provision that he cannot, in exercising his executive discretion, violate constitutional provisions or act in excess of the limits established by the legislature. The exercise of the discretion to use his law- enforcement power or refrain from it does not constitute a violation of the laws, but the exercise of the discretion to enforce the laws in excess of legislative authority or the Constitution will violate his executive mandate and consequently exceed his constitutional power”, Dr Tunji Abayomi submits.
In the president, by the executive power, the author argues, vested in him, thus resides the power not only to execute laws, assure obedience to them, but also to totally command and control the course of National business.
“Left as the Chief Executive Officer without further enumeration of his powers, he command the Armed Forces. But the Constitution Decree goes further to define his headship of the state including the various administrative departments, whether legislative or judicial.
Also his military powers as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation is confirmed. Under Article II Section 2 of the United State Constitution, the President of the United States shall be the Commander – in – Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States. This provision has been held as vesting in the President supreme control and command of all military operations and the highest Commander of the Forces”.
(Constitutional Powers and Duties of the President by Tunji Abayomi).
But in all honesty, the speed at which the standard and professionalism of the Nigerian Police Force are declining shows that President Muhammadu Buhari does not adequately understand his powers in the area of mandating the hierarchy of the Nigerian Police Force as the Chief law enforcer of the nation to end the era of the use of extrajudicial killings of citizens who are or are not in conflict with the law. Section 36(5) of the Nigerian Constitution says all accused persons are presumed innocent until a contrary determination is made by a competent Court of law in line with section 6 of the Constitution and section 33(1) which safeguards the right to life rules out the use of extralegal killings of citizens by Nigerian Police Force or indeed any other person or authority.
These incessant state tolerated impunity of the men and officers of the police has virtually become a publicly endorsed nuisance to such a nauseating extent that NATIONAL OUTRAGE no longer greets these intermittent police executions of the innocent by persons paid by the tax payers to enforce the law.
In Awka the Special Anti Robbery Squad run execution ground. In Abuja, the same and in PortHarcourt it’s almost the same. The current ten year Old TERROR attacks on Nigeria was ignited by Police extra judicial killing of the founder of Boko haram sect Yusuf Mohammed.
I have said it over and over that Nigeria has no choice but the fundamental overhaul the police and eliminate all the rogue operatives whose hands are stained with the blood of the innocent. Few days ago, Ifeoma Abugu a corner was killed by the police.
This is the record of the killing of Ifeoma Abugu who has joined the long list of victims of police assassinations as reported in a petition by the group of legal representatives hired by the family of the deceased.
The lawyers wrote thus: ”RE: Alleged sexual assault, Assault and murder of Ifeoma Stella Abugu by Officers of special Anti Robbery squad who are still at large. The Above subject matter refers, We are solicitors to the Abuja family of miss Stella Ifeoma (hereinafter referred to as ‘Our client ‘ ), and in whose instructions we write.
“Sir , it is our client’s instruction that Ifeoma was arrested and whisked away in lieu of her Fiancé ( Mr. Afam Ugwunwa ) at Wumba Village, Lokogoma, Abuja on 10th September , 2020 at about 5.00pm by men of special Anti Robbery squad (SARS) operatives whose identity we don’t know yet at the time of instruction.”
“Sir, according to our client’s instructions, the SARS operatives invaded the deceased fiancé’s apartment at Wumba Village, Lokogoma, Abuja at about 5.00pm in search of Mr. Afam Ugwunwa Who was not present , they therefore arrested the deceased in lieu “.
“According to residents and eye witnesses, Ifeoma was whisked away by the operatives same evening in a healthy state. On 15th September, 2020 information reached the family that Ifeoma Stella Abugu is dead and her body lying with Gwagwalada specialist hospital.”
“Meanwhile our clients’ have gone to SARS office guzape , Abuja and made sensitive findings including that the officers who carried out the arrest were on illegal duty ; the matter has been transferred to Apo police division headed by DPO Usman for preliminary investigations ; and investigative police officer ( IPO ) Inspector Bulus is also investigating the matter currently”.
Ifeoma Stella Abugu, a young participant of the National Youth Service scheme who is serving her fatherland in the federal capital territory is the latest to join the fatal statistics that have piled up courtesy of police brutality and reckless misuse of state power due largely to a break down in the enforcement of service discipline in the Nigeria police force.
SARS in Abuja killed Ifeoma just a week before millions of Nigerians poured out on the streets of Nigeria to call for an end to police brutality and the protests were rudely interrupted when some government officials hired armed thugs to infiltrate the peaceful protests and attacked the protesters killing many in the process. Few weeks after the ENDSARS PROTESTS and with the convocation of judicial review panels over police killings are going on, the police are still committing extralegal execution of the citizens. In Anambra State, two KEKE riders were killed by police for denying the police N100 bribe. In Aba, the police also killed a commercial motorcycle operator. Only Yesterday, another innocent Nigerian who was on a bike in PortHarcourt was killed by a drunk police operative.
Vanguard newspaper reported that the Rivers State Commissioner of Police (CP) Joseph Mukan, in a swift response on the development said the fatal shooting of the victim was “without justification” by the Sergeant who is yet to be named by the police.
Abiodun was shot right at the entrance of Elelenwo Police Divisional Office by the Sergeant where a patrol team of the Division had dragged him along with Ismaheed, his sibling, after arresting them on a bike they were riding.
Ismaheed, a phone and laptops repairer, who, along with the late brother, hails from Kwara State, narrated: “On Friday night, police on patrol stopped us. I was riding a lady’s bike with my brother on the passenger seat.
“They searched us, saw our ID cards. When they saw nothing implicating, one of the senior officers told a restless junior officer to leave us.
“The defiant junior officer insisted we were criminals and he must take us to the station. My late brother entered their van, I pleaded to ride on my bike joined by one of them.
“I rode in front with the officer riding with me and the rest of the patrol team were coming behind with my brother. The edgy officer who was on the bike with me starting asking how much we have to bail ourselves.
“I told him I have N2, 000. We got to School Road at Elelenwo, they asked me to drive to the Police Station. I got there and parked. The senior officer returned our phones they earlier seized and asked me to go home and bring documents for my bike/the next day. I agreed.
“The police that shot my brother, who was evidently drunk insisted he must do something bad to us. Again, the senior officer told him, leave these guys to go, let them report back tomorrow with the bike’s documents.
“Immediately he started beating me, hitting me with the butt of his rifle. Other colleagues pleaded with him, he won’t listen. Before I knew it, I heard gunshots.
“I saw my brother lying down in pains. I heard two gunshots. One met my brother on the leg and the other hit one of the policemen. That was when the senior officer took the gun from him.
“He was still struggling with me, but I forced my way to meet my brother. After rushing to three hospitals without attention in bid to safe my brother’s life, I told them to take him to the hospital he’s registered for medical care.
“When we got there, they did not attend to us, I found that very painful. My brother had lost much blood. We then moved for the Braithwaite Memorial Hospital. On our way, I was the only one with my brother on the truck of the patrol van. I tore my shirt to tie the bleeding. I was still telling him to keep hope alive.
“I was calling everyone to tell them what was happening. They heard my calls, stopped and asked me to give them back my phone. At that, point they drove roughly. I fell from the van, got injured and fell unconscious.
“They knew I fell but they didn’t even bother stopping. They sped off with my brother on the van.
“They sat me down and said I should be there for a while till early morning. My wife called my brother’s Glo line, and it rang in his bag with me. That was when I realised my brother’s iPhone was left in the bag.
“I told my wife all that happened. The next morning, I told my brother’s wife and we had to go back to the Elelenwo Police Station where they shot my brother.
No justification for shooting – CP
CP Mukan in a statement through SP Nnamdi Omoni, the Command’s Spokesman, described the incident as sad.
CP Mukan said: “The sergeant, without justification, shot Abiodun Jimoh who was immediately rushed to the hospital but later died. His remains have been deposited in the mortuary.
“The incident is being investigated and the outcome will be communicated to the public. Meanwhile the Police Sergeant who carried out the dastardly act is in custody for debriefing and psychological evaluation. His Orderly Room Trial will commence in earnest, for possible arraignment.
“The Command is in touch with the family and has commiserated with them over the unfortunate incident and has assured them that the interest of justice will be served in the circumstance, while appealing for calm and allow the law to take its full course.”
Wife of the victim, Mrs Jimoh, who resides in Elelenwo, Obio Akpor Local Government Area of Port Harcourt, lamented, “I have three young girls for my husband. Who will take care of them?
Grieving Mrs Jimoh said: “The three girls are 6, 4, and 1 year old baby. Nobody to take care of my children now.
“They told me at the Elelenwo Division that they referred the case to State Criminal Investigation Division (SCID) at Moscow Road.
“When I got there, they said I should wait for the DPO. The DPO called all officers on duty that day to narrate what they knew about the situation.
“But the person that killed my husband said my husband did not do anything. Another officer said he told his colleague to leave my husband and the brother who they held together, but he insisted on taking them to cell. He just killed my husband for nothing.”
Mr. President Muhammadu Buhari, please Sir, I ask you again, do you understand the definition of the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which you have occupied since May 29th 2015? I ask again, Mr. President, do you know that the Nigerian Police Force under your command and control is a rotten force with no regards to the sanctity of the life of the citizens of Nigeria? What will be the legacy you want to bequeath regarding this damaged policing institution whose deterioration became unprecedented under your watch? You need to pragmatically respond to these line of questions or you will end up as the worst thing to happen to the polity in over a century.
EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs @www. huriwa.blogspot.com, www.huriwanigeria.com.