We have already established that Nigerian law enforcement officers often carry out their duties in aggressive and domineering ways. But what happens when police officers’ actions threaten the very lives of those they are expected to protect?
On Saturday October 13th, Anita Akapson was reportedly shot and killed in her vehicle after refusing to follow orders given by a policeman. The policeman who allegedly committed the murder had already demobilised the vehicle by firing at the tyres and therefore had no reason to fear that Akapson would run away.
Apparently the policeman was attempting to force the car door open after Akapson had refused to heed orders to alight from the car. This story, although shocking, is not the first of its kind.
In August of this year, four policemen were sentenced to death for conspiracy and the murder of a motorcycle operator back in 2016. The policemen had a similar excuse with the policeman who killed Akapson. They insisted that the shots were fired in self-defense when youths attacked them while trying to arrest the motorcyclist.
In both of these cases, the people were unarmed and allegedly refusing to cooperate with the police. In both of these cases, the police would claim that they were merely attempting to do their jobs and in the process of doing so, had no choice but to shoot.
My people, there is a serious problem if our police officers feel that they cannot carry out their jobs without immediately reaching for a firearm and committing violent acts. There is an even bigger problem if Nigerians have such little trust for the police that they are unlikely to cooperate with them even under threat of arrest.
The problem of police mistrust and brutality in Nigeria raises several questions for the government and the individual. Should Nigerian police officers be armed at all? What can the Nigerian Police Force do to regain the trust of the general public?
And, most importantly, how can we finally put a stop to the culture of excessive force and police brutality prevalent in Nigerian law enforcement? It would appear that the Nigerian Police Force needs to employ more thorough vetting procedures in recruiting its officers. The NPF must also consider non-lethal compliance weapons and training officers to use firearms only when suspects are also armed.
It would also appear that Nigerian police officers need to be reminded that their primary duty is to protect the people and the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If they feel that they are unable to do this without posing a threat to Nigerian lives, perhaps they are to seek employment elsewhere.
Funmilayo Adetokunbo A-A, a political and International Affairs Analyst, writes from Somerset, England, United Kingdom.