Be­hind IGP Idris’s Po­lice recklessness

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By Onikepo Braithwaite

The Offa Bank Robbery

Every­day, we wake up and we be­come more con­vinced that we have a govern­ment that does not give one hoot about the rule of law, and that law and or­der in our so­ci­ety, seems to be break­ing down. If the Pres­i­dent, or the At­tor­ney-Gen­eral of the Fed­er­a­tion, or any of the heads of the law en­force­ment agen­cies could speak the Yoruba lan­guage, at their se­cu­rity meet­ings, they would prob­a­bly laugh with de­ri­sion and sar­casm, about the con­stant cry by many, for them to re­spect the rule of law, and re­spond – “Rule of law ke? Ki lon je be? Ko ni da fun rule of law” (rule of law? What does that mean or what is that? Let the rule of law go to hell); and end it with my favourite Hausa proverb, “ina rua an­gulu da kitso” (what con­cerns the vul­ture with plait­ing of hair)! Vul­tures have bald heads, so ob­vi­ously, they have no hair which can be plaited. The proverb is used to sig­nify, a to­tal un­con­cern for some­thing; in our ev­ery­day par­lance, “what’s my busi­ness with that?”. It’s the same thing, with our Ex­ec­u­tive. They are ab­so­lutely un­con­cerned, about the rule of law.

Was I shocked when the news broke out last week, that Michael Adikwu, the Offa rob­bery king­pin, had died in Po­lice cus­tody? Not re­ally. Re­mem­ber that some­time in July (on this page), I had men­tioned the fact that, when some of the rob­bery sus­pects were pa­raded on tele­vi­sion, they seemed to be limp­ing (not as a re­sult of shack­les on their feet); I think one of them, even had a ban­dage wrapped around his foot. In the video footage of the rob­bery which made the rounds on so­cial me­dia, the rob­bers who were seen pranc­ing around like ‘Rambo’ dur­ing their op­er­a­tion, all of a sud­den, af­ter a stint in po­lice cus­tody, were seen to be limp­ing. Why?

Had they been tor­tured in the Po­lice cell? No need to pre­tend that tor­ture does not hap­pen within the con­fines of our law en­force­ment agen­cies. We all know that tor­ture is the Nige­ria Po­lice’s favourite method of ex­tract­ing con­fes­sions from sus­pects, since their in­ves­tiga­tive skills leave a lot to be de­sired. So much so, that, an Anti-Tor­ture leg­is­la­tion was en­acted last year, to de­ter this habit.

I am glad that the Se­nate Pres­i­dent has, how­ever, called for an in­quiry into Adikwu’s death, though we all know that such in­quiries and in­ves­ti­ga­tions in Nige­ria, usu­ally lead to a dead end. Peo­ple al­ready smelt a rat, when Adikwu (a dis­missed Po­lice Cor­po­ral) and an­other one of his col­leagues, Kay­ode Opadokun, were not pa­raded on tele­vi­sion with their group, some­time in June. I won­dered, like many, whether they may have been in such a bad phys­i­cal con­di­tion af­ter be­ing dealt with by the Po­lice, that they were not fit to be seen by mem­bers of the pub­lic; that their con­di­tion, would cer­tainly raise many ques­tions about Po­lice bru­tal­ity, so it was best that they were kept away from the pub­lic glare.

Un­doubt­edly, any­body who was part of mur­der­ing over 30 in­no­cent peo­ple in cold blood, de­serves to be pun­ished to the fullest ex­tent of the law, that is, they could pos­si­bly be given the death sen­tence, if they are found guilty. But, at the risk of sound­ing like a bro­ken record, I say un­equiv­o­cally, that, it is only a court of com­pe­tent ju­ris­dic­tion, and nobody else, that can pass judge­ment and sen­tence on them.

There is am­ple pro­vi­sion in the law for the crimes which the Offa rob­bery sus­pects have been charged for, in­clud­ing Sec­tion 1(1), 1(2)(a), 1(2)(b) and 1(3) of the Rob­bery and Firearms (Spe­cial Pro­vi­sions) Act 1990, which pro­vide for the crimes of rob­bery and armed rob­bery, and their pun­ish­ment, rang­ing from 21 years im­pris­on­ment to death by hang­ing. There­fore, no one, in­clud­ing the Po­lice, is per­mit­ted to take the law into their own hands, no mat­ter how heinous the crime, and tor­ture or kill any sus­pect, while in their cus­tody.

Police Recruit­ment

I must make men­tion of the fact that the crop of in­di­vid­u­als who are re­cruited into the Nige­ria Po­lice Force, is wor­ri­some, and I be­lieve that the re­cruit­ment process must be re­viewed. Many mem­bers of the Force, are crim­i­nals with no scru­ples, who would not think twice about tor­tur­ing or killing sus­pects ex­tra­ju­di­cially. If not, how do you ex­plain Adikwu, a for­mer mem­ber of the Po­lice Force, meta­mor­phos­ing into a full fledged armed rob­ber? Or Po­lice Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent George Iyamu, who was the ma­jor sup­plier of their weapons, and an in­te­gral mem­ber of the fa­mous Lawrence Anini armed rob­bery gang of the 1980s?

I re­mem­ber al­most 30 years ago, some friends of mine who lived in Vic­to­ria Is­land, were robbed. Their cook’s wife, was also raped by the rob­bers. The next day when one of my friends went to re­port the in­ci­dent at the Po­lice Sta­tion, he said he took to his heels, when he recog­nised one of the Cor­po­rals on the counter, as one of the armed rob­bers who vis­ited them the night be­fore! My friend was so afraid that the Po­lice rob­ber would recog­nise him, and pay them a fi­nal visit, which they would not live to tell, that he ran out of the Po­lice Sta­tion like a bat out of hell, and per­ished the thought of mak­ing any fur­ther re­port to the Po­lice (‘Po­lice is your friend’, in­deed).

Separation of Powers

While Sec­tion 6 of the 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion of the Fed­eral Re­pub­lic of Nige­ria (as amended) (the Con­sti­tu­tion), gives the Ju­di­ciary the power to ad­ju­di­cate on mat­ters (in­clud­ing those in­volv­ing such De­fen­dants as the rob­bery sus­pects), Sec­tion 4 of the Po­lice Act clearly de­fines the gen­eral du­ties of the Po­lice, which in­clude, pre­ven­tion and de­tec­tion of crime, ap­pre­hen­sion of of­fend­ers, preser­va­tion of law and or­der, pro­tec­tion of life and prop­erty (not tak­ing of life at will, by way of tor­ture and other forms of ex­tra­ju­di­cial killing), en­force­ment of all laws and reg­u­la­tions, with which they are di­rectly charged.

The doc­trine of sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers is “a model for the gov­er­nance of a State”. Govern­ment is di­vided into branches, each branch in­de­pen­dent, with sep­a­rate func­tions and pow­ers. For us in Nige­ria, this doc­trine is en­shrined in Sec­tions 4, 5 and 6 of the Con­sti­tu­tion, which pro­vides for three branches of govern­ment, the Leg­is­la­ture, the Ex­ec­u­tive and the Ju­di­ciary, re­spec­tively, giv­ing each branch its own ex­clu­sive func­tions. This doc­trine, is “an es­sen­tial part of the rule of law”.

The essence of sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers, is to en­sure that power is not con­cen­trated in one en­tity, and each branch per­forms its own du­ties, to the ex­clu­sion of the oth­ers. The dif­fer­ent branches of govern­ment, are sup­posed to act as checks and bal­ances on one an­other. The Leg­is­la­ture makes laws, the Ju­di­ciary in­ter­prets laws and ad­ju­di­cates on all forms of mat­ters and dis­putes, while the Ex­ec­u­tive is an Ad­min­is­tra­tor, en­forc­ing the law. The Po­lice is part of the Ex­ec­u­tive, and not the Ju­di­ciary.

How­ever, to­day in Nige­ria, in re­al­ity, we find that the Ex­ec­u­tive seems to have arrogated the pow­ers of the other two branches onto it­self, like in a mil­i­tary to­tal­i­tar­ian, au­thor­i­tar­ian dis­pen­sa­tion, the very an­tithe­sis of what sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers is meant to guard against – tyranny. And, un­til this stops, we will con­tinue to have con­fu­sion, and a gen­eral break down of law and order.

Examples of this usurpa­tion of pow­ers by the Ex­ec­u­tive, abound.

Take for in­stance, the pay­ment of al­most $500 mil­lion for the pur­chase of Tu­cano Jets, with­out seek­ing the ne­c­es­sary ap­proval of the Na­tional As­sem­bly, or the is­suance of Ex­ec­u­tive Or­ders which seems to be not only like mak­ing laws, but in some cases, laws that are un­con­sti­tu­tional and null and void ab ini­tio, or the re­fusal to re­lease on bail, De­fen­dants who have been granted bail by courts of com­pe­tent ju­ris­dic­tion; these ac­tions by the Ex­ec­u­tive, amount to the usurpa­tion of the pow­ers of the Leg­is­la­ture in the first two in­stances, and that of the Ju­di­ciary, in the third in­stance.

The Bottom Line?

The bot­tom line is that, where there is no proper sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers, the rule of law, which forms an in­te­gral part of this doc­trine, can­not thrive or pre­vail. The mind­set of an Ex­ec­u­tive, which feels free to do as it pleases, with­out tak­ing cog­ni­sance of sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers, talk less of the rule of law, gives the Po­lice and other agen­cies, the im­pe­tus to also do the same, know­ing that there is no ac­count­abil­ity, no checks and bal­ances, and no con­se­quences.

*Braith­waite writes via: onikepo.braith­waite@this­daylive.com

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