Police brutality is the excessive and unwarranted use of force by law enforcement agents against a group or individuals. It is an extreme form of police misconduct and a civil right violation according to Wikipedia.
Sadly enough this is the obvious reality of the Nigerian state and a true reflection of the state of governance which is highly suppressive and autocratic
Police brutality as the word sounds is almost synonymous with the Nigerian police force as most of its officers are largely corrupt making justice and fairness far from the ordinary citizen and if not constructively remedied will create more insecurities making peace an unaffordable luxury in Nigeria.
Research has shown that the use of unnecessary force by most government all over the world compounded or worsen the situation because ideas or genuine concerns can never be killed rather you create more martyrs, radicalize them and give room for them to respond using the same force or violent nature you already adopted as against negotiation which if not also contained will lead to freedom fighting and then give room for criminals to hijack and unleash terror on the state and its citizens.
A typical example of this was first experience in Niger Delta after the execution of the Ogoni leader Ken Saro wiwa and 9 others over the struggle for resource control and cleans up of Ogoni land. The execution of these Ogoni leaders who fought using legal means sent fear into the hearts of the Niger Delta youths and created a defensive mechanism as well as violent approach to demand for same resource control which was militancy, kidnap of expatriate and constant attack on oil facilities which was considered an economic sabotage as it brought the economy to it knees.
Another example can be traced to the clamors for the formation of the Biafran state which initially started with a cry of being marginalized but was ignored or was not given due attention and proper representation in the center, metamorphosing into the demand for a separate state of Biafra coupled with protest and town hall meetings which yet again was met with strong resistance of force by the government as usual to silent or kill the idea by arresting and killing unarmed protesters who are largely young people. Currently we are faced the consequences of such Police brutality or executive order to shot on sight unarmed protesting youth, which has finally turned the men of the Nigerian Police Force, the military and other government establish Para-military personnel to strong targets of armed youth terrorizing the region today.
Like every other protest especially anti-government protest which usually ends with the NPF swift response in deploying all it arsenals on helpless protesters , the End-SARS protest of 2020 which culminated to the historic killings of both protesters and members of the police force especially the Lekki toll gate shooting where scores of unarmed young patriotic Nigerians demanding for a better Nigeria were alleged to have been shot in cold blood by unremorseful trigger happy military officers not considering the national flag they were waving and the melodic recitation of the national anthem as at the time of the unprecedented assault. This barbaric and inhuman act has altered the future and will forever change the socio-political behavior and psychology of an average Nigerian youth towards how they go about in their demands to influence government policies especially observing that the same government will be quick to dialogue with repentant militants and terrorist groups giving them presidential handshakes as well as swiftly meeting their demands but it is an irony that peaceful protesters gets the opposite.
The drums of 2023 general election re-ignited the hopes of aggrieved young people who might have considered more extreme measures as alternative to the peaceful protest in 2020 that failed as a result of it being hijacked by paid thugs to create havoc and give the protest a wrong dimension to justify police brutality but even the police force paid ultimate price as most criminals took advantage of the situation to create chaos and settle their age long dispute with the Nigerian Police Force.
Everywhere in the world including saner climes police brutality randomly sparks civil unrest or protest like the case of the American George Floyd in May 2020, Thanks to the professional containment of that protest which grew into civil unrest and created chaos as well, members of the American police would have also recorded higher number of victims like their Nigerian counter-parts during Endsars where officers were hacked to death in some parts of the country. Also note that it took the apology of the American president and the Police chief as well as a solidarity display of knee symbols by men of the American police society to calm the angry protesters who were largely youths.
The judicial panel of enquiry set up to investigate all police brutality in the Nigeria case to bring offenders to book did not eventually see the light of the day as its recommendations were just lip service. The most annoying of it all was the flagrant display of arrogance on national television by the minister of information and the state governor of Lagos state contradicting themselves claiming no lives were lost in the Lekki toll gate shooting that was captured live on Instagram by DJ switch who was later declared persona non grata by the government for recording the live shooting of helpless young Nigerian, for fear of being executed she went into asylum in Canada.
Until government show some level of remorse for this inhuman act, locate families of the murdered victims from police brutality and overhaul the entire police system, the aftermath of that endsars might snowball into greater movement that will be bigger than the institution of the state and if met with the usual force then we might just be hardening and pushing our younger generation to the wall to fight back using whatsoever means until they see the birth of a favorable state which explains the theory of revolution.
The Government might call it terrorism like the IPOB case that first started with MOSSOB , but truth remains that these so called terrorist as it would be labeled by state actors are freedom fighters to others which is why the government must always consider using the negotiation table to its advantage before the adoption of force which can be considered only when all necessary options fail.
You can agree with me now that police brutality ignited and irked terrorist in the North East to a full scale war with the state of Nigeria and same is responsible for the constant attack and killing of uniform personnel’s in the eastern region. The senseless attack through the destruction of government facilities and killing of its uniform personnel’s makes the protesters turned terrorist almost guilty of what they are clamoring to change even though they were a creation of police brutality.
Take a random opinion sample from the general public and you will understand the frustration and anger of the average citizen over the Nigerian government not because they have been instigated or indoctrinated by opposition party to hate the ruling party or government of the day but they are only reacting to the hunger, insecurity and hardship in the land and by so humans will find a way to express their displeasure and dissatisfaction through public opinion, pressure groups, protest and election when the need arises, so therefore it would be unethical and inhumane to unleash untrained riot police on them to maybe arrest, brutalize and imprison them for being humans. Such actions will infuriate the people and make constituted authorities less recognized by it citizens then creating a ticking time bomb waiting to happen which in most cases leads to terrorism and such is usually difficult to contain because they are usually aided and abated by few citizens who recognizes them as freedom fighter and not terrorist as government may call it.
Recommendations added to the above will include the psychological evaluation of all police officers, good welfare packages as recommended by the 5×5 endsars protesters and emotional intelligence training for all police officers especially the rifle wielding ones.
The use of force could be necessary by the government to maintain its sovereignty over terrorist groups, criminal gangs or violent protest groups without genuine concern or due process but should not be considered on its young citizens reacting a system or government policies that has failed them especially when trying to gag their voices with police brutality. If it keeps occurring then we should expect some form of retaliation and disregard for constituted authority which is why its facilities and service personnel are being targeted in North East and Eastern regions.
Also corrupt and drug addicted police officers who daily exploit helpless citizens especially young people should be investigated and prosecuted to serve as deterrence to law enforcement agents as well as renew citizens’ trust in the state.
On a final note the police force should understand that irrespective of how intoxicating power and the use of force gives them a sense of superiority over civilians, it can also be their greatest undoing because the use of force is violence and the consistent unwarranted use of violence creates or gives birth to greater violence and its offspring’s are monsters.
Written by Okafor Innocent Okwudili
Okafor Innocent Okwudili is HR consultant, trainer, a safety and security expert and capacity development specialist with great leadership qualities. He holds a degree in political science, a post graduate professional diploma in safety and security management and a certified Human Resource Management Professional. He is also an associate member of the OSHASSOCIATION UK with so many other global professional certifications like Risk management competence certificate, Threat and Vulnerability assessment certificate, Effective communications certificate all from ISO and grant writing.
This article is an Excerpt from the report ” A Nigeria For The Many And Not The Few”