A few weeks ago, while Pulse spoke with Damilola Marcus, also known as Omoge Dami, she remarked that, “Nigeria doesn’t have a protest culture, it’s why anything goes for us.” It was true, as Nigerians simply give up too easily when it comes to protesting – our most effective protests come on social media, mostly Twitter.
But even with our terrible protest culture, around September 2017, Nigerians finally responded to the victim profiling, corruption and abuse of office, promoting exploitation and false imprisonment of Nigerians at the hands of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) over the notorious eight years preceding 2017.
The Nigerian Police Force is widely accepted as Nigeria’s most corrupt organization and was ranked as the worst Police Force in a 2016 global ranking.
Headlined by Segun Awosanya also known as Segalink, rap legend, Ruggedman and Legal services firm, Citizen Gavel, Nigeria fought the battle against SARS with the #EndSARS trend on Twitter NG and became a nationwide discussion that eventually led Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to order a ‘restructuring’ of SARS in third-quarter 2017 under the name Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS).
Sadly, the problem is back again. We knew the problem with SARS’ corruption was never going away with the name change. The people represent the organization, except they were getting counseling or even the sack, the problem was going to linger on.
The problem was always the people behind the organization, not the name in itself. The issue was not aided by another apparent victim profiling in the arrest of photojournalist, Yinka Badmus in December 2017, reportedly for having dreadlocks while eating indomie noodles at a meishai’s place in Gbagada, Lagos.
it was then revealed after the retirement of former Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris in January 2019 that SARS will be restored back to state-level, away from the office of the IGP where it has been since Vice President Osinbajo ordered the restructuring as FSARS. Nigerians have again started protesting.
Lekki rape madness
A few days ago, news broke that two Lekki boys; 25-year-old Don-Chima George and 28-year-old Razak Oke had been accused of raping a 23-year-old lady after they took her to a club and spiked her drink with a depressant, which made her sleepy. Reports also claimed they made a video of while raping this unnamed lady.
However, on February 7, 2019, Nigerian social media – especially Twitter – was pasted with claims that the Lagos State Police Command had freed the two boys accused of rape. This rumour was started by a Nigerian Twitter user who runs the account @KingNelo2.
While Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Chike Oti, stated that the suspects were still in custody at Kirikiri prisons in Lagos a day later, Twitter had erupted in only a manner that they could have acted – however outrageous the claim might seem, it’s not beyond what the Nigerian Police can do or has done.
Protests happened across social media as the #JusticeForRapeInNigeria began trending as against a charge to the Nigerian Police to always carry out its duty like a government organization with loins.
Bail in Nigeria is free
The sad thing though is that a lot of Nigerians are used to the idea of paying for bail, that they allow themselves be strong-armed by members of the Nigerian Police Force into paying for something that is free by Law.
Even worse, because of this misunderstanding a lot of Nigerians spend years in custody without proper documentation or arraignment. According to Quartz, 72.5% of the Nigerian prison population is serving time without sentencing. This has led to a myriad of Nigerians who are now battling the scourge with their civil organizations.
Protests against Nigerian Police
While start-up Citizen Gavel (@citizen_gavel) has been working to reduce then prison population in Nigerian by helping indigent citizens get legal help, Kemi Okenyodo, a longtime campaigner for police reforms tells Quartz that, the “police duty solicitor scheme” that’s already been piloted by the police is a way to reduce the prison congestion in Nigeria.
The process is for Lawyers participating in the compulsory one-year NYSC service to be posted to Police stations, to ensure that detentions are properly documented and legally processed.
Detailing the roadblocks towards getting a police reform bill passed Okenyodo’s worries is as regards ensuring the bill guarantees its key components upon passage because the police bosses never stick to several positive plans they have had over the years due to improper training, sanctions and rank reflections.
Okenyodo sums it up as, “The biggest stumbling block is a lack of commitment.”
To succeed, Okenyodo notes the government has to reduce its dependence on civil aids and do the hard work of sensitizing police officers. She says, ”[There’s] too much of emphasis on civil society groups. We are not the government.”
Another cause is aided by mylaw.ng that channels its effort toward young Nigerians, usually prone to false arrests and victim profiling for around $25 a year to be able to call a Lawyer immediately they need the services of one via a phone application. The team at MyLaw is led by Taiwo Adedokun.
Adedokun tells Quartz that the presence of a Lawyer could prove important in whether a young person gets detained or not as some young people even “self-incriminate under duress, possibly leading to being perpetually jailed without a sentence.”
On her part, Nkiru Uzodi, senior program manager at Policy and Legal Advocacy Center (PLAC), a governance-focused non-profit told Quartz that the Nigerian government and legislature should work to update the antiquated Laws affecting the police force.
Quartz then reports that Uzodi says, “To this end, PLAC is working with the senate committee on police affairs to create and propose a bill setting out updated methods, including making regular training programs for police officers mandatory, defining the protocol for public searches of individuals and clarifying grounds for reasonable suspicion requiring such searches.”
Uzodi says, the big hope is to produce “better trained police officers who are clear on their duties and are better informed. The idea is to improve relationships between Nigerians and the police by having regular town-hall meetings and engaging them.”
At this time, this seems like a concentrated effort that we desperately need.