Mr Emmanuel Ikule, is the Executive Director, Network of Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), Foundation. An organisation focused on police reforms, human rights violations, seeking practical ways to police brutality in Nigeria.
In this interview with NigeriaCrime.com Lagos correspondent, he talks about why police officers have become targets to bandits, and unknown gunmen, what the foundation is doing to keep officers in check during the upcoming elections, his take on Inspector General Of Police Akali Baba and other sundry issues.
In recent times we have seen that a lot of police officers have become targets to bandits, and unknown gunmen and some are killed while providing security to VIPs what you do think can be done to put an end to these needless killings?
The first and primary thing is that, when you don’t keep people occupied, they can be recruited for anything. Youths are angry, most people are angry because those in the government have rendered them not useful to themselves, so they are available for people that can cash in, pay for their services to do whatever.
The election is coming up, we pray the same thing doesn’t happen when young people are paid to also cause problems during the election. This happens when a government fails to provide anything helpful, and the current government have failed to provide anything succour or employment for young people. So even those that are working are underpaid, people in federal universities have not been paid for months, and retired people at home have not been paid. But billions every day are accrued to their account and you are tasking people on every single thing. The central bank brings up ideas that won’t help any common man. So when the government has rendered itself useless to the people, It results in the people attacking those public officeholders because they have failed to fight for them. So they are fighting them now to fight for the people.
What is your take on the activities of unknown gunmen?
For police officers, particularly the issue of unknown gunmen, I will say that there is nothing like unknown gunmen, it is a media creation and those that want to criticise or cause a problem, tag it and create a script that will fly, that is what they have been doing. People that have been causing problems, do know these people. If a government can stand and give billions to an individual to secure petroleum pipelines what is the responsibility of the NAVY? The government is empowering these thugs which is why thuggery will always become a ministry in this current administration. If thuggery can be addressed, it will reduce.
On police officers dying, when end SARs happened, after end SARs certain stations were attacked, not because these persons wanted to attack the stations but if you check critically of all the stations that were attacked, they were known for doing something wrong. Those persons that came out to attack those stations were people that have been abused by police officers from those stations. There are many of these stations, when we went for a public tribunal in the southeast, in imo state, out of 12 petitions we received on the first day, nine came from a particular station called Tigger base. That means they are notorious for tormenting people, torturing people. They will arrest people without giving them access to their families and they will be there for years, some of them end up dying, and they are known for shooting, extortion and all that.
So when opportunities come those particular stations will be attacked, not because these people normally want to go and attack them. Police are a need, every country needs police, for the security of lives and property but when they have failed to perform their mandate, and become predators instead of protectors, the people they are supposed to protect will turn back and attack them. That has been the issue they are having presently. That is why people have been dying, and that is why officers have been dying. but if they come down, to doing their primary assignment, Some of these issues will reduce. We already know that our police officers are grossly inadequate there is a need for consistent recruitment.
But what will you say of a government that contradicts everything, it is the role of the police service commission to recruit police officers, but the same government that has made these laws, went ahead to put the same recruitment of constables in the police act of 2020. That tells you the rubbish mindset that our government has when constitutionally it is the role of the PSC to recruit, promote, discipline and dismiss officers, so why do that? So the IG now hold on to that to cause issues meanwhile, he knows it is not his role. A high court in the country has also told the IG that this is not your role, it is null and void. and this has prevented the PSC, from recruiting for some years now.
Officers are dying, others are retiring and they are not replacing them. So these are issues inherent in the system.
Another thing again is if the police service commission should be empowered to work, to be around in the 36 states and be allowed to play that oversight, over the agency, it shouldn’t just be word of mouth, the resources to police, the police should be available to them to do this. And the CRU as the internal complaint mechanism in the Nigerian police force should be empowered. They have not been supported, they have been using their funds, and it is a fault. So they are just in Abuja. So these are the issues, that is why issues of police abuse, and police poor behaviour has been happening has been happening all over the country, because of these gaps and inadequate inherent in the system.
Last year a stray bullet from the police killed a young man in Ajah, few weeks later a barrister was shot dead by the police still in Ajah, what do you think can be done to forestall these needles death?
No law permits the police to torture anybody, even Boko Haram that is slaughtering Nigerians are not been killed like that, they are arrested and freed So why common citizens can not be arrested and prosecuted following the law? These are gaps inherent in the system and they need to be fixed.
Regarding the issue of killing, the last recruitment of constables that happened, I interacted with a PPRO of a particular state and he confided in me that they went to some locations and asked some chefs to give them people for the recruitment and the people that the chiefs gave were the notorious people in their community, to they, they are freeing the community in from those miscreants, unfortunately, you are sending them in the police meaning you were legalising whatever they were doing. Their mindset isn’t to go and serve, it is going there to victims and enrich themselves whether hook or crook which has been an issue, the quality of persons we recruit into the police force, So the police service commission, I have always told them that they need to have NOPRIN on board, work with them, at least to monitor the process of the recruitment let an external eye be there to witness the process. We have been told that WAEC now assists in conducting their exams, and all that. But we interact with officers who can’t communicate even at the level of senior officers who cannot write simple English we are trying to imagine the constables they are recruiting and how many of them can read and write. So the system itself needs work, tech is a big gap generally in the country if there are cameras or beeps at different checkpoints it will show the rot inherent in the system and it will show even the officers and the extent to which they have been victimising citizens so these issue of killings will reduce.
What is your opinion on the performance of the current Inspector General Of Police Akali Baba?
He has actually started well and he is mobile, unlike others who just remain in Abuja, he is trying to attend events and all that, which is fine. And trying to also see that officers are been disciplined what we have always advocated for and we are happy that he is on the right track. Another thing that happened this year that also ensured that officers are disciplined is also as regards to the resignation of the former chairperson of the Police Service Commission who was a retired police officer so to him, it was like trying to extend the police service commission to become a police place and he was not seeing anything wrong because he is used to the old ways of doing things, where torture was allowed, where certain things were permitted. But we have the anti-torture act of 2017 that prohibits all forms of torture, we have the violence against persons act that prohibits all forms of violence act and we have the ACJ 2015 the arrest in lieu issues that have been addressed, unlawful arrest, unlawful detention, who can go for bail, conditions for bail and all that, so all the security agencies are supposed to be working inline with the works that have respect for human rights and all these things. Former IGPs have tried, and the new IGPs have started working towards that angle and are trying to discipline people.
So we urge him to continue the good work, at the same time we urge him also work closely with the CRU, the Complaints Response Unit because many IGPs have not been working with the CRU. they see the CRU as a bad child because they have been working to discipline the police but meanwhile, the people feel more at home now relating with the police because of the trust they have started getting from the police because of the CRU. Because they have tried to make the police know that the police can also be disciplined and that the police will be accountable. That is what people have always needed and that is what they are seeing now where people will tag them, write their abuses on Twitter or chat with them on WhatsApp and those cases are being addressed. That is how a normal Democratic government should work. So we are encouraging him to keep up with the good work but also work closely and have regular meetings with the CRU, there is a need to do this if we want to move the command forward. We are always available to work with the police, to continue to bring to the fore those erring officers. Since we have members organisations in all states, the PR Organisations need to work with the people. Currently, we have a challenge in Ogun State where we wrote a letter to the state police command to organise training of police officers on policing protests, for about a month we didn’t get a response, We had to shift the training to Osun State. So some of these PROS are just there to defend the police anything to empower people they try to prevent it from happening because they want the police to continue in their old way of doing things, not democratising the police.
What is your take on the upcoming election, pvc collections and INEC?
To ensure a free and fair election the police have been trained, INEC is doing its part but a lot needs to be done. Three-quarters of people haven’t collected their voter’s card, so there is a need for INEC to allow the collection of voters card during the festive period because people are working and need to feed because the government is providing nothing for the people. They should allow people to collect their cards during the election period. Because these are the times when people can be free to collect their cards. People who are working and earning a living can’t leave their work and go and collect cards because they will be punished for it. So they should open at all times so people can walk in and pick their cards, yet it would be convenient for them, but their real work is once in four years. They should sacrifice that time for the electorate to be able to access their card.
Meanwhile, Police officers on election duties should ensure that people that are arrested during elections for vote buying and other electoral offences are made to face the music.
Panels are being set to handle electoral offences, but over the years there have been no meaningful outcomes.
From our part as NOPRIN foundation, we will ensure that officers that go against during the election are brought to book but elections are not just officers, the INEC Adhoc staff, the collection officers, and the party agents are all involved, hence the whole process should be monitored. And anyone involved in electoral crime should be disciplined. No system wants to promote without checks and balances. If they are disciplined going forward people will learn. If no system acts as checks for erring persons the system will continue. Vote buyers should be brought to book, where the funds used for vote buying should also be brought to the fore. People are not being able to feed themselves, people are dying daily of hunger, and then during elections, people bring out billions in cash. where is the money coming from, these persons should be brought to book. The country is in debt, where are the funds from? new naira notes have been printed recently we just hope that the monies are not being printed for the government in power to use to campaign, that is another challenge.