Leading Civil Society group: HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has predicted that a bigger nation-wide protests by citizens against increasing involvement of police operatives in extortionist racketeering resembling armed robbery if President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly fail to revive the Moribund Police Service Commission.
HURIWA said the next civil disobedience protests against police armed robbery and gross human rights violations will not be hijacked by reactionary forces embedded within government to destroy the kernel and objectives of the movement, but the Rights group said it is in the self enlightened interest of President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Assembly and all political stakeholders, that urgent and transparent steps are adopted to weed out all the armed robbers, swindlers, extortion racketeering gangsters who have found their way into the Nigeria Police Force to avoid precipitating the kind of nation-wide protests that may further damage National economy in a bigger way than the last #ENDSARS PROTESTS two years back.
Specifically, HURIWA recalled that the Police Service Commission is the statutory civilian oversight body established under the Grund Norm of Nigeria for the Nigeria Police Force. The PSC has power to appoint, promote discipline and dismiss all Police Officers of the Nigeria Police Force except the Inspector General of Police.
HURIWA however criticized the longstanding institutional weakening of the Police Service Commission due to the practice of appointing retired inspector general of police to head the body even as HURIWA described the current leadership of PSC headed by EX-IGP Musliu Smith as the ‘undertaker’ of the Police Service Commission due to rudderless and incompetent leadership. HURIWA said the Police Service Commission has been destroyed by the current hierarchy and grounded in GROUND ZERO just as the Rights group questioned the integrity of the process of elevation and promotions done recently by the PSC going by widespread allegations of financial inducements and alleged bribery for police promotions.
“We are worried by the fact that the Nigeria Police Force of today has become a house of commotion and gross indiscipline even as there are now more armed robbers disguised as police in Nigeria with the reports of the involvement of the operatives in all kinds of extortion rackets similar to kidnapping, hijacking and forceful collection of ransom by police operatives. The NPF is now not different from the ‘FORESTS’ OF KIDNAPPERS AND TERRORISTS.
HURIWA recalled that just few weeks back in Anambra State, a businessman, Chief John Elochukwu petitioned the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, AGF, Abubakar Malami, SAN, alleging extortion of N18 million from him by the Special Criminal Investigation Department, SCID-Annex Awkuzu Unit in Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra state.
Elochukwu in the petition to the AGF wondered why the police authorities have declined to properly investigate the matter while the affected police officers and their civilian accomplices responsible for his abduction, detention and extortion are walking freely and boasting that nothing would happen.
HURIWA asserted that in his (victim of police kidnapping Elochukwu) earlier petition in March 2022 to the IGP Elochukwu listed Mr Martin Ngoesina Okechukwu, Mr Chike Ajah, Mr. Ikechukwu Obiada (Omaba Block Industry), CSP Patrick Agbazue, Officer in charge of SCID-Annex Awkuzu, Mr Osim, the Admin Officer and Mr Uche Chukwudi, Investigating Police Officer, (IPO) as those behind his ordeal and the alleged extortion. He accused them of alleged kidnap, arrest, detention, intimidation and extortion of “N18 million ransom” which was withdrawn from his account paid into Mr. Ikechukwu Obiada’s account (Omaba Block Industry) to secure his release from them.
The Rights group said the victim Elochukwu who hails from Umunnakwa Agwa village, Ifite-Nteje, Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra state, according to his counsel, never had an issue with any person or group in his community since he spends most of his time attending to his business.
Also the Police Command in Kwara says it has initiated an investigation against 26 officers and men over alleged harassment, intimidation and extortion. This is contained in a statement issued in Ilorin by the Command Spokesman, SP Okasanmi Ajayi. Ajayi said that the affected officers were attached to Anti-cultist and Anti-cybercrime units. According to him, all the officers and men have been redeployed out of the units pending the outcome of the investigation.
HURIWA recalled that some operatives of the Nigeria Police, Osun State command recently returned the money it extorted from students of the Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, Ile-Ife.
The operatives, according to a statement issued by the National Association of University Students (NAUS), Osun State Chapter, signed by its Chairman Eruobami Ayobami, stormed the Modomo area in Ile-Ife around 6 am last week Friday and extorted some students in the area.
He added that the union while on a courtesy visit to the State Commissioner of Police, Olawale Olokode stressed the need for the command to rid itself of scrupulous elements to save its integrity.
“It is unfortunate that some men of the Osun police command invaded Modomo community last week Friday, harassed and extorted some student of the sum of N150,000.
HURIWA similarly condemns the widespread extortion of men of the Nigeria Police Force in South East, South West and Abuja just as the Rights group said that because the Police Service Commission has been destroyed by the hierarchy, the IGP’s office is almost playing the quasi role of the PSC as against the clear provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The Rights group carpeted the acting Force Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi, for saying that the Nigerian Police Force will begin eliminating cases of police extortion by holding Divisional Police Officers and Commanders responsible for the actions of officers in their units.
The move, he said, was part of measures being put in place by the force to protect Nigerians and eradicate cases of extortion and harassment of citizens by the police. Announcing the new measure on his Twitter page on Friday, Adejobi noted that the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba-led NPF would work assiduously in repositioning the police force and gain the trust of Nigerians. He assured that through the new intervention, the police would be able to bridge the noticeable leadership gap in the force and restore sanity to the force’s operations.
HURIWA quoted the tweet thus, “In a bid to reduce or possibly put a stop to extortion, harassment, and brutality in the NPF, we will henceforth hold DPOs and Commanders responsible for the misdeeds of their men. “In as much as we don’t promote vicarious liability, we have equally noticed that some superiors fail or lack the willingness and/or wherewithal to supervise and manage their men. “This leadership gap is not in tune with the leadership styles of the IGP and his repositioning drives, thus, counterproductive and condemnable.”
HURIWA faulted the Police Force Spokesman for capturing the functions of the Police Service Commission essentially and to try to donate it to the same Divisional Police Officers that are just like the bank managers who send out the junior police operatives on a racketeering jobs all across the Country. HURIWA has therefore urged President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly to unbundled, reorganise and rejig the Police Service Commission to compel the body to resume doing her statutory duties to eradicate police armed robbery attacks on civilians.