The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders CACOL, has lauded IG Arase’s speedy intervention in the case of tortured journalist and condemned the recent heightened police harassment on civilians, urging him not to relent until the average policeman becomes a true friend of the people.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, according to a media release has queried the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, over the torture of Lagos-based journalist, Mr. Femi Owolabi, and others.
The victim, Owolabi and 30 other victims was reported on PUNCH Newspaper to have been arrested by policemen in mufti in front of a night club in the FESTAC area of the state and tortured for several hours at the State Department of Criminal Investigation and were released only after the policemen had extorted money from them. A day after it was reported, It was learnt that the Force Headquarters, Abuja, had reached out to the journalist and ordered a full-scale investigation into the matter; a development which led to the IG giving the Lagos police boss 48 hours to investigate what happened with a view to arresting the culprits.
Following the PUNCH publication, the Lagos police high command tendered an apology to Owolabi, ordered the arrest of the nine policemen involved and directed that they undergo an orderly room trial. The Journalist, Owolabi, according to a report on Saturday PUNCH of November 14, 2015 has said that he is not interested in compensation, but wanted the policemen responsible for his ordeal punished. The Lagos CP was reported to have promptly responded to the IG’s query with a recommendation that some of the police officers be charged with armed robbery
The Executive Chairman of CACOL, Comrade Debo Adeniran, in his reaction, commended the speedy intervention of the Abuja and Lagos Command Police Headquarters, in the matter, as a right step to fish out and deter violators of the rights of the populace. He said “the media reports replete with cases of extra-judicial killings, harassments, robbery, torturing etc have risen remarkably in recent times because perpetrators are hardly brought to book. Recent happenings have shown that families of victims are either intimidated by the police or are just too afraid to speak. Most times, police deliberately messes up investigation by encouraging families of the victims to hurriedly bury their murdered relatives, thus truncating the process of investigation through autopsy – all in an effort to pervert justice while on other occasions they tend to disclaim killer cops as impostors in police uniform and refuse to investigate.”
According to him, “What the police men did to the journalist and others involved is total human right abuse and should not be condoned. This case brings to focus the high-handedness and illegal operations conducted by Nigerian policemen, which are largely unreported by victims. It is necessary that the Lagos State Commissioner of Police takes necessary action not only by fishing and trying the police officers behind the torturing of Mr. Femi Owolabi and 30 others but make sure they are prosecuted by competent court of law and if found guilty, adequately punished.” He also agitated for adequate compensation for the Journalist and other victims for infringement on their fundamental human rights.
Assessing the implication, the human right activist averred that repeated assaults and attacks on innocent citizens have aroused anger and fear across the country. One main source of this ugly trend has been ascribed to the poor and inadequate training and orientation on police-public relationship.
Adeniran, therefore, stressed that the police must be made to respect the dignity of the human person in the citizens they are paid to protect, through a well-organized civil response to the actions of some psychotic folks in their midst. Police brutality continues to sour the relationship between members of the public and the force in Nigeria. ‘Police are your friends’ slogan now appears only as a parody of the reality of the police-public relationship.
“There is the need for citizen’s lives to be protected by security agencies hence a stop must be put to torturing, robbery, harassment and use of live bullet on innocent and harmless citizens. The police must be made to realize that they are employed and paid to protect and not to torture and kill the people. The only excuse for the use of force is exclusively against criminals and this should only be permitted as an act of self-defense. We however believe the IG Arase’s effort at cleansing the image of the police could never be attained with those identified bad eggs still serving in the Force.”
Adeniran concluded by calling the attention of the Nigeria Police to the spate of uncivil and unprofessional behaviours capable of debasing the image and profile of the force in the country and urged the Inspector-General of Police to continually embark on measures that will rid the Force of the unrepentant bad eggs within its rank.