The Nigerian Police cannot seem to do anything right at the moment. Every step forward is followed by, at least, a long stroll in the opposite direction.
While crime rates rise, our officers are extorting citizens at gunpoint
A student, Lana Akintola has narrated, via his Twitter account, how three policemen accosted him and made him withdraw 40,000 naira at gunpoint.
A student, Lana Akintola has accused officers of the Nigerian Police, via his Twitter handle @LanaAkintola, of extorting him at gunpoint, forcing him to the ATM to withdraw tens of thousands of naira for no apparent reason.
We live in very delicate times. Due to the reality of the Nigerian economy, the crime rate in Nigerian cities is as high as it has ever been. The activities of kidnappers and crime gangs such as Badoo in Ikorodu have dominated the news in recent weeks. It is little surprise that the average Lagosian, or Nigerian for that matter, is more cautious now, simply because he has to be.
Perhaps, in an effort to instill some confidence and prevent crime in certain high-risk areas, there has been increased activity by Police patrol teams who often loiter around roads and notable junctions at various times during the day.
Last night, on July 3, 2017, Lana Akintola shared his experience at the hands of three policemen stationed at Ojota’s Ogudu Junction, in a series of tweets.
Pulse reached out to Lana for a fuller account of his story.
According to him, three policemen on patrol accosted him as he got off an Uber ride, at first, asking the usual question about who he was.
After asking to search his phone, they reportedly accused him of being a 'Yahoo boy' because they had found a picture of an American celebrity, Amber Rose. They also reportedly insinuated that he was driving a taxi because he was hiding something.
According to him, the policemen suggested that they would make sure he slept in detention, which led to an argument.
One of the policemen allegedly hit him with the butt of his gun. The officers ordered him into the car, after which they drove him to a bank just around the Ojota roundabout.
Lana was then made to withdraw 40,000 naira of his own money which they took before they left him to find his way home.
Police harassment and extortion in Lagos is not uncommon in any way. Since as far back as memory serves, the sight of officers with hands stretched into cars has always been familiar.
We’ve known our police officers to accost citizens and fluster them with all sorts of insinuations, only to ask for something for the boys when they feel the fear has reached an apex.
We’ve seen bribery and Nigerian police appear in the same sentence too many times. It is no surprise that very few people have the same trust in law enforcement agents that you would expect.
Yet, it seems that this sort of behavior is only getting worse.
Instead of protecting lives and property, more Nigerian police officers are setting new objectives for themselves, on their own terms.
It is almost normal now for young men like Lana to be accosted by police officers who claim to be trying to find internet fraudsters.
Their modus operandi is the same everywhere; first, they accost the individual, then they ask to search his phone or belongings. Next, they find a way to connect whatever they find to spurious accusations that the individual is a fraudster.
They threaten to take him to the cell, often using physical force in the process. All of this boils down to one thing; getting “something for the boys”, more often than not, they take it by force.
Lana’s case is not uncommon in any sense of the word.
In 2015, residents of Mushin raised their voices to the government about Police extortion after officers from Olosan Police Station made a habit of driving around the area at night, picking up anyone in sight, and demanding between 10,000 and 30,000 naira for their release.
This form of extortion is par for the course in different residential areas, but you’d be badly mistaken to assume that it stops there.
No, our police also play at the national and international levels.
Just this April, employees of CGA CGM, a shipping company, created a large scene when they staged a protest at their premises to resist officers from Zone 2, Onikan who had come to seize confidential files for no reason.
It turned out that the officers from that station had been extorting the company for various large sums for over 2 years.
In October 2016, a United Kingdom-based businessman, Yinusa Owolabi accused the International Police Force, Abuja of meddling in a matter that was already being investigated by the British police.
Owolabi‘s business partners had reported the case about the non-delivery of generators worth over 42,000 pounds which they had contracted his company to deliver.
How did Nigeria’s Interpol solve this case? By waiting for Owolabi to come to Nigeria, arresting him at a meeting, and locking him up until he reportedly paid 192,000 naira.
It is clear that this culture of extortion and harassment is an institutional problem, rather than one where a few bad eggs are spoiling the entire coop. Between the officers who work the streets and their seniors who have allowed this to fester, it is difficult to put the blame in one direction.
This is not to say there have been no efforts to discourage and punish such behavior.
In May this year, at a lecture held at the Police Officers’ Wives’ Association (POWA) Hall, Ikeja, the Lagos State Police Commissioner, Fatai Owoseni issued an ultimatum to Area Commanders and DPOs in the state to shun bribery or leave the state.
The commissioner cited the example of the DPO Ijeshatedo who after shooting a fashion designer dead, was arrested and held in custody.
“Learn a lesson from DPO Ijeshatedo, who shot dead a fashion designer.”, Owoseni said. “He is in our custody and we are compiling charges against him. He would soon be arraigned in court.”
As Lana’s case shows, it is clear that this sort of threat has done nothing to discourage the police officers who have decided to make a side hustle off doing the exact opposite of their jobs.
Who then does one live in fear of; the thieves who creep in dark corners or the Police who also now creep in dark corners?
Pulse reached out to the PRO of the Lagos State Police Command, ASP Olarinde Famous-Cole. On both occasions, he was unavailable for comment.
Still, anyone can see that these officers of the Nigeria Police, like the ones that extorted Lana, have become more daring and prolific in their indiscretion.
According to Lana, the officers from Ogudu Junction had vests covering their uniforms so he couldn’t see their names.
As it was night, it was also difficult to make out anything that would offer some personal information; his hope of finding them lies in recognizing their faces, voices and build. This would take some help from the Nigerian Police and both Alapere Police Station and its counterpart in Ogudu.
Think about it; There are three policemen in the Ojota/Ogudu area, hoping for another victim to squeeze 40,000 naira from at gunpoint.
It won’t solve the problem, but making a scapegoat of them would be a good place to start.
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