Lagos State House of Assembly recently took a bold step to curtail some of the excesses of the police. We commend them. Although complaints about the police and how they deal with some of those they arrest are a global issue, the Nigerian police are said to be among the worst both in corruption and indiscipline, which plays out daily in their dealings with the civil society. Police is far from being your friend, here.
So the bill passed by Lagos State Assembly is a stitch in time that saves nine, if Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu signs it into law.
Among other things, the bill bars the police from parading crime suspects before the media. This makes sense because given indiscriminate arrests now common, parading a suspect before guilt is established is a way of criminalizing the innocent.
The Lagos Bill also prohibits arrest without warrant, except on certain conditions, as well as arresting someone else in place of another.
Our police are known to invade homes early in the morning and drag away father, brother, uncle, even friends and passers-by when they cannot find the suspect. This is a “no no” in civilized societies.
We congratulate Lagos lawmakers and urge Imo State House of Assembly to borrow a leaf from them. This will reduce police brutality in the state and the number of arrested people suffering unjustly in police cell.
We know that pockets of unjust arrests of youths are still going on in the state. Two female students fight in a hostel and a boyfriend police officer arrives with his colleagues and picks up students at random.
Recently, an uncle of 72 years was arrested because the young suspect ran away. The case of 21 year-old Ms Glory Okolie arrested and still in detention for over a month, for being the girlfriend of a member of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), is one of such police excesses. There are other countless cases of the poor and voiceless being arrested and taken to unknown destinations by the police. This should not be happening in 21st Century Nigeria.
We are concerned that the new order given by security chiefs to police and army to get tougher on IPOB members, but not on bandits, who ridiculously broke into the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA) Kaduna, seat of the army, days ago, killing two officers and kidnapping one, could escalate police excesses in Imo State.
We know that it is within the law for police to arrest persons found within a crime scene for profiling. However, it is regrettable that no one, guilty or innocent, walks away from police custody without paying for his/her release/freedom. We are not asking the police not to do their job but to do it within the ambit of the law.
We know that majority of our people do not know their rights, and this aids and abets police excesses. One of the places to start the enlightenment and re-education is the schools. The importance of Civic Education in helping children know their rights and duties cannot be overemphasized.
If the police is a friend of the society then they must act within the law.