The Nigerian Police Force NPF has earned a reputation for misconduct due to its culture of harassment, extortion, torture, and extra-judicial murder. As a result of incidents widely publicized on social media, it is no longer news that our police force escapes culpability for committing often heinous crimes.
What most of us do not realise, however, is that the reason for this impunity is the fact that the NPF’s most sinister crimes are ordered by the government itself. Indeed, law enforcement is supposed to represent the most visible arm of the government. The reality of the situation is that the NPF acts in a very tacit manner, secretly carries out some of the government’s most sinister censorship and fear-mongering tactics.
Earlier this year, young software engineer and CcHub employee Toni Astro was arrested by the police in Lagos when he was stopped by police officers who searched him, discovered he had a laptop and then claimed he was a “Yahoo Boy”. He was allegedly beaten in one of the backrooms of the police station and unlawfully detained until he paid half of his bank balance to the police officers. Astro was arrested by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
This was not the first time this year that the police have been accused of undermining democracy and human rights. Members of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) on Wednesday protested against the invasion of their national secretariat at Ikeja, Lagos, by the Lagos State Police Command. The police claimed to have surrounded the CDHR office to avoid a breakdown of law and order. The CDHR condemned the act as “undemocratic” and “unacceptable”. Likewise, the NPF laid siege to the AIT (Africa Independent Television) office in Asokoro, Abuja in June of 2018. This was part of a larger campaign against press freedom. According to the IGP, the NPF recently planned to acquire stun guns and revise their rules of engagement in an attempt to curb the unnecessary use of deadly force.
Although the NPF does indeed need to curb its use of deadly force in situations where it
is not needed, this reform is nothing more than smoke and mirrors to cover up the need
to address the NPF’s most sinister crime: operating as secret police , a police force that
tacitly, illegally and often violently targets a government’s opponents.
The NPF fits the definition of a secret police force because, for the most part, its actions are only known by the public after they are exposed by civilians. If the government and the NPF had its way, the gross violations of constitutional rights listed above would have remained a secret.
Nigerians expose the NPF either on social media or through traditional media sources, thereby forcing them to answer for their actions. If not for this fact, the NPF would continue to operate in secret as a tool for government censorship. Therefore, we must continue to hold them accountable. We must use our phones, social media outlets, protests, and whatever other tools we have at our disposal to hold both our national police force and our government accountable for sabotaging the freedoms they promised us they would protect.
Funmilayo Adetokunbo A-A, a political and International Affairs Analyst, writes from Somerset, England, United Kingdom.