Police Inspector, Timothy Samuel,

“After 40 years with the United Nations, I have learned that healthy democratic societies are based on three pillars: peace and SECURITY, the rule of law and RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS” – Kofi Anan former Secretary General of the United Nations. (Emphasis mine)

Police officers in Nigeria are employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged. They are also obliged to perform such military duties within or without Nigeria as may be required by them or under the authority of the Police Act.

This means that the Nigeria Police play an important role in ensuring that Nigeria maintains a healthy democracy as they are responsible for the security of the nation and while performing such duties should have respect for the fundamental human rights of the citizens it seeks to protect, especially now that President Muhammadu Buhari has asked Nigerians to change their attitude and be law abiding.

On the 2nd of October 2015, at the NBA monthly general meeting held at the High Court premises, Bida Road, lawyers in attendance were in shock and awe when they heard that a young lawyer was held in police custody for three days. He was refused food or assess to a phone, his legs and hands were hand cuffed, and he was forced to sign a confessional statement that he assaulted a police officer before he was released on bail.

While it is true that there are two sides to a story, what offense can a legal practitioner possibly commit to warrant this degrading inhuman treatment? Moreover, if a lawyer, who is a professional, can be subjected to such degrading treatment, what would become of a mere citizen of this country who’s not enlightened or knowledgeable in law?

No one is saying that the Nigeria Police should not perform its function, it is the professionalism and discipline lacking in the performance of their duty that is worrisome, and the earlier police officers have respect for human rights the better for this country.

To effectively perform these functions, police officers are armed with rifles to protect themselves and prevent the commission of any crime, but like many antecedents in Nigeria, the reverse is the case. Nigerian Police officers abuse the power imposed on them and use their assault rifles to intimidate the citizens they swore an oath to protect, which begs the question, which sane Nigeria would see a police officer with a rifle and dare attack him knowing how trigger happy most police officers are?

The Nigeria Police lacks the professionalism the Nigerian Military possess. No matter the offense one commits, if soldiers apprehend an offender, they punish the offender no doubt but with respect for his or her human rights. Nigerians respect the military more than the police not because of the difference in uniform but because of the difference in attitudes.

With due respect to the few good eggs in the police force, respect for human rights is a constitutional matter that is constantly in breach by the people who swore to protect it, but police officers do not give the provision of the constitution the reverence and respect it deserves. Any Nigerian who has had an encounter with a police officer would testify to this.

Legal practitioners are not enemies of the force. Truth be told, one cannot perform its function effectively without meeting the other at one point, but police officers shouldn’t be threatened or intimidated by the presence of a legal practitioner that they see the need to use force to prove a point.

The Nigerian Bar Association and the Inspector General of Police need to do more to stop these assaults on legal practitioners by police officers. Officers who are found guilty of committing these barbaric acts should be dismissed from the force to deter others from following suit, the police officer should be made to tender an apology in a national daily and compensation paid to the victim should be deducted from his or her pension.
The country is on the verge of change and the Nigeria Police Force need change with it.
Do send your comment{s}, observation{s} and recommendation{s} to danielbulusson@gmail.com

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