Last week, some disgruntled personnel of the Nigeria Police Force created an atmosphere of anarchy in Edo State. At a check point they mounted around third junction, they were alleged to be collecting bribes at the point from all commercial drivers and when David Okoniba got to them they demanded N100 from him and he was not having the note for them but had only N50 on him and a thousand Naira note which he said could be offered if the police men could give him his change.
The policemen went livid with anger and decided to pull him out forcefully from the car and flung him out to the road and a fast-moving trailer crushed him to death instantly. Eye witness who gave the story which also corroborated the account of the wife of the deceased who was with him at the time of the incident saw the area thrown into serious crisis as angry mob immediately swung into action to avenge the gruesome and willful murder of a citizen for not paying bribe immediately to the police at the check point. The mob went into rampage setting ablaze police vehicles used for such illegal and shameful operations which amounts to several millions of naira. More lives were also lost to mayhem unleashed by the mob as the policemen who took to their heels as soon as their colleague’s action drew public anger and opprobrium were not so lucky.
There was shooting and unleash of mayhem everywhere until men of the Nigerian Army were drafted to put the situation under control. No fewer than three lives were lost to a mere N100 greedy policemen demand from innocent and defenseless cab drivers.
The Situation is already being investigated according to the Commissioner of Police Kokumo who has assured that all those involved would be brought to justice. Good promise! But Mr. Police Commissioner must not stop at that. He must ensure that road blocks or check points around the city in the mornings and evenings used for this same purpose of extortion of overstressed citizens are dismantled with immediate effect.
The reason is that few days after the ugly incident, policemen were back on the check point in the streets of Benin continuing the extortions. It is obvious that nothing was learnt from the unfortunate incident and it is widely believed that the policemen on checkpoint are purposely sent on such missions by their divisional police officers who inturn report to the Commissioner of police with their share of extorted monies in a country where the government is fighting corruption.
We are pleased with the action of the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obasekiwho immediately told citizens of the state not to take laws into their hands but allow government swing into action to address the matter. By the following day, the police announced that its personnel responsible for the dastardly act have been arrested and are being made to face the law as investigations were still going on. Good move. But Edo people and in deed Nigerians will be glad if the police commissioner will parade the suspects before camera men as other criminals are paraded by the police in Nigeria. Its personnel involved in crime must not be exempted. We would love to see the faces of the killer squad at the check point.
We are also pleased with the visit of the Governor in company of his cabinet members to the homes of the victim’s family in Urora area of Benin where he announced the setting up of a N10 million education fund for the training of two children of late David Okoniba, whose death was allegedly caused by the police officer at Upper Igun, Third Junction area of Benin City, the Edo State capital.
The governor’s assurances to the relatives of the deceased that the government of Edo State share in their grief an assuring them that those culpable in the killing will be brought to book was not only fatherly of the Chief Executive Officer of the state but timely too.
The governor equally assured the family that his visit would be followed to a logical conclusion as a reputable retired Judge of Edo State High Court, Justice Olubo has been selected to head the panel of enquiry which will investigate what truly happened on the said date of the incident that led to the death and consequent fracas between the youths and the police. The governor said he has released, not that he was going to release N10 million fund to be used for their education, to reduce the pain of the absence of their father and ensure their education does not suffer much because of this incident.
He did not end at that. Obaseki also assured the family that government will support in the burial of late David Okoniba and advised the family to take the wife of the deceased to the hospital for medical attention at government expense, as she was still traumatised from the incident. These are quite soothing and reassuring effort of the government.
Edo people would like to hear more from the police on how they plan to assuage the family of the deceased as no amount of money can bring back the life of David Okoniba. They should also tell Nigerians how they plan to end this frequently occurring madness from their personnel.
Late last year the police as an institution were ranked all over the world and the Nigeria Police occupied the bottom of the ladder of all the countries ranked. The way the Police high command has also handled the issue of the herdsmen also show unprofessionalism taking sides with the herdsmen. What with the police being the security guard of all the big men in the country at the expense of the poor people.
Nigerians expect a surgical operation of its police as a law enforcement agency in the country because very few people believe in their efficacy to tackle the myriads of security challenges in the country as they have often been found complicit in crime and criminal activities. They are well known to operate with impunity. The issue of torture of suspects and extra-judicial killings as well as unrepentant widespread corrupt practices amongst its rank and file has kept the image of the police in the mud. The police need to redeem its image before Nigerians and the international community.
The Police ought to be the friend of citizens, not their enemy. But when the police is called into any civil or criminal matter, citizens are apprehensive that they will not get justice because it is always money, money and money. Very often Nigerians are told bail is free, but every Nigerian knows bail is never free. Police always demand bribe as pre-condition for bail. The police is well paid today in Nigeria yet, they still pursue more and more money in untoward ways that even put the lives of the common man in jeopardy. The police need to change its ways of operation and allow integrity into its system. It is important that President Muhammadu Buhari take urgent steps to bail the police out of its present state and make Nigerians safe before people employed and paid with tax payers’ money to protect their lives and property.
Mr. Dan Owegie is a Chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Edo State.