The Nigerian Police’s disregard for Human Rights


The principle aim of Law is to maintain order and, ultimately, peace in any given society, while ensuring that the dignity of man is preserved. Hence, the popular maxim coined by St Augustine of Hippo, "an unjust law is no law at all."
On 7 October, 1969, the police of one of North America’s largest cities were on strike while the city rioted. Two men were murdered, forty-eight injured, seven banks were held up, numerous other robberies were committed, and one thousand glass windows were smashed in the centre of the city. The issue, many citizens maintained, was not the evil nature of man but the importance of law and its enforcement.
I agree! The importance of law enforcement agencies like the police, army, airforce, navy, and EFCC cannot be overemphasized. Our society will be a den of criminals, if there are no law enforcement agents to maintain order.
However, as is the case with every act of man, there are guidelines for the enforcement of laws in society. Therefore, a distinction must, always, be made between the enforcement of laws and the abuse of man’s human rights as provided by the United Nation’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Rights, Nigeria enshrined in her 1999 Constitution, at Chapter IV.
By virtue of these rights, man is a free being and his dignity must, at all time, be preserved. Including: right to freedom from arbitrary arrest, right to a fair trial, right to security of person, and right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
A man’s liberty can only be taken away by the Court following a fair trial, as penalty for committing an offence against the state. The denial of liberty is not used as a means to violate but as a means to deter and rehabilitate society.
Majority of, if not all of, our law enforcement agents have chosen to ignore these rights enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria – which is the principal law of the land, choosing only to remember that part of the law which empowers them to enforce it and secure the nation.
And, no matter how right or justified you think you are, one must never attack or engage in physical combat with a law enforcement agent. By law, they are agents of the state – vicariously her representatives. Obedience to their orders is a must because they stand for Nigeria. So, when they boom, you listen.
That is why policemen shamelessly bully transporters into dropping "ice water money", and when they demur, they will order them to "park well" – often leaving them unattended for hours.
That is why the army arrogantly frogmarch, beat, "punish" alleged offenders.
That is why the police and EFCC detain suspects for longer than the stipulated 48 hours, without bail or charging them to court, because they are "still investigating" the matter and they can’t afford for "justice" to be "obstructed".
I have, many times, witnessed our law enforcement agents’ dehumanization of our people. Once, I even challenged a policeman and "made" him stop brutalizing an unresisting young man whose offence was towing a small car with another small car; a misdemeanor.
You can imagine his reaction! He ranted, I raved. He threatened, I promised. When he saw that I wasn’t ready to play Jane to his Tarzan, he released the young man. He daren’t continue, lest we meet at the Federal High Court, where I will proceed therein to prove his bestiality.
Many who witnessed the altercation and others I later told about it, thought me heroic. Ironically, I grew up wary of the trigger-happy uniformed men who trolled my neighbourhood looking for young men to cart away in their trucks. Still, I couldn’t just look on, desultorily, while a young man is brutalized by a man half his size, merely because he wore a uniform, carried a baton and had a gun dangling from his shoulders.
Each time, I witness these arbitrary abuses of power and the dehumanization of the people they have sworn to protect, I wonder: are our law enforcement agents totally ignorant of the laws which they are enforcing?

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About Egoyibo Okoro

Beautiful. Friendly. Opinionated. Feminist. Scholarly. Apolitical. Christian. Sometimes, I write in Engli-Igbo and/or pidgin English. Just so you know, I am naturally disgruntled about a lot of things, most especially gender inequality, human rights abuses, racism and corruption. #EndChildMarriage. #EndTerrorism. #EndPoverty. #EndRacism. #EndImperialism. The Igbo say, "egbe bere, ugo bere, nke si ibe ya ebena nku kwa ya" - Live and let live!
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