By Ingye Dooyum

Lately, I have been very vocal about how much of my ‘Nigerianess’ is dying; but that nonetheless has not quelled my concern about the state of affairs in the country. I am worried that those of us – notably, Mubarak Bala – who wish to help this country rise, are persecuted by the police. I am worried that the police, the enforcers of the law, have comfortably turned to oppressors of the people. I write this piece, not only to honour and show solidarity with Bala on his birthday, but to bring out issues, in their true perspective, and with the hope of a true and lasting modifications to them.

 

There is a reason we (Nigerians) hold a great disapproval and disdain for the police institution, and the reason is not far-fetched. As enforcers of the law, the Nigeria police is one of the most corrupt and fraudulent institution, in a highly corrupt country. Like every other Nigerian, I grew up not trusting police officers. The Nigeria police officers are the most morally bankrupt members of any Nigeria institution. Every Nigerian has a bitter story to tell; from been raped at night, beaten, extorted, wrongly accused and arrested, murdered, shortchanged, bribery, etc.

 

Nigerians consign the police to a very low and despicable position that when a family member joins the force, he or she is considered lost. My elder brother once indicated interest to join the police force, and my father, dissenting, told him that if that was the only job he thought he could do, that he would never work in his life time. This is the extent that most Nigerians will go to avoid connections with the police. While this is not to say that all police officers are corrupt; yes, some definitely would be honest; the stench ascending from the highest to the lowest cadre however must be what overwhelms the efforts of the few honest ones. To be most precise and vehement, I have never met an honest police officer – and I have met lots of police officers. I only hear occasional stories about certain honest police officer, but they are like a drop of water in the ocean.

 

This is not slander. I am not trying to destroy the image of Nigeria Police, if at all there is any good left in it. I am stating the Nigerian experience that every Nigerian understands and relates with. We avoid the police like a plague. Authoritatively, I can say that no Nigerian thinks the police is his or her friend. Well, except of course such individual has money to buy their interest, then you, temporarily would be their friend. Nigerians do not respect the police. Nigerians are afraid of even stating their rights in the presence of a police officer, or group of them because you might get shot or beaten for trying to show that you ‘know your rights’.

 

The generally known language of the police is deceit and arbitrary use of force. From the point of confrontation or arrest to the Station, a lot of criminal accusations could be levied on you. A friend of mine was once wrongly accused of threatening to kidnap a former female House of Representative member from Benue state. He was dragged in chains and treated like a convicted criminal. Even when the culprits were arrested and exonerated him, the police officers still collected a huge sum of money from his mother before he was released. They say “bail is free” in police station yet, no one is released for free. There are numerous cases where innocent Nigerians have been arrested, tortured, jailed or killed for crimes they didn’t commit. A neighbour of mine once spent more than a year in police custody for an armed robbery crime he knew nothing about. Today, the man will not even bring himself to greet a police officer.

 

We have seen instances where the Nigeria police force has been used to serve vested interests or ulterior motives. Within this context, Mubarak Bala’s incarceration comes to the fore. It has been 72 days since Mubarak was arrested, yet no one has heard from him. His location is unknown. In handling Mubarak’s case, the Nigeria police have acted in the most unprofessional manner; not only lying, but thwarting every effort to get him released. The head of the police in Kano handles the matter as if Mubarak has been convicted in a law court already, when they (police) have refused to charge him to court. Once again, the police have failed to discharge their duties as prescribed in the constitution. They have failed to rise against their religious bias. Instead of acting as enforcers of the law, they have chosen to appease the mob and those calling for Bala’s head.

 

Numerous petitions have been sent to the police in Kano requesting the release of Mr Bala, but sadly, none heeded just yet. Not only this, despite the proposals made to the governor of Kano state, Umar Ganduje; the governor of Kaduna state, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai; President Muhammad Buhari; the Inspector General of Police, and some prominent persons in that region, none of these actors have intervened in the case. Recently, in a bid to attract the attention of concerned authorities, Leo Igwe, had to draft messages in Hausa language; yet again, all these efforts have yielded no positive result.

 

Among all, the Kano state police led by Commissioner Sani Habu have proven to be the most obdurately uncooperative; even as they are expected to maintain a neutral stance in such situations. From the outset, they have not been forthright with the necessary information, employing every strategy within their grip to frustrate the legal representation of Bala. Shortly after Mubarak was transferred to Kano state police command, upon inquiry by Mubarak’s lawyers, the police denied that Mubarak was in their custody, and took Mubarak’s lawyers to all their cells to confirm their story. After that, the commissioner of police in Kano as well as the public relations officer in Abuja, Frank Mba, refused to pick up calls or respond to inquiries. Even though by May, the police claimed to have charged Bala in court, it was discovered that this was just a lie told to keep him in custody. It was reported that several scheduled pre-hearings have failed to hold due to one excuse or the other, and the Kano state police have refused to charge him to court or transfer him to a neutral command where his case will be properly handled. These are reasons to argue – and such reasons are fast gaining popularity – that Mubarak might have been killed in police custody.

 

The police is not a friend to the average Nigerian, but an enemy, and Nigerians have lost faith in the Nigeria vision and dream. Most Nigerians are more willing to identify themselves with their ethnicity, or Africa, than the country; and most think a visa out of the country is the best miracle that could happen to anyone. Already, my ‘Nigerianess’ is gasping for breath. If Mubarak Bala’s life is killed in police custody, that will be the death of it. There is no point thinking one is a member of a political organization when the authorities who manage her cannot protect citizens, or respect their fundamental rights. There is no point identifying with a political community in which a significant part feel it is their right to kill other members who do not subscribe to their faith, or hold critical views about it, while the police endorse such barbarism.

 

What is the point coexisting with a group of people who feel their religious book supersedes the federal constitution? What is the point coexisting with a group of people whose false sense of superiority makes them view others as sub-human? Yes, I once attended a class where the lecturer said a proverb in Hausa ‘ what is the point of rearing chickens if not to slaughter them when you do desire?’ I understood that when someone translated it for me after the class, and I still shiver whenever I think about it.

 

Every day, people die in ridiculous ways in Nigeria. The people have gotten so used to this normalcy so much they no longer care. We live in the valley of death. There are lots of things that can kill you here; a bullet from a police officer, brutality of the military, sword of insurgents, the guns of kidnappers or bandits, blows or stoning from angry mobs, etc. Those who manage Nigeria’s institutions hate the public and are a threat to the average Nigerian. They are more concerned about serving vested interest than the public. And for us to develop, all these have to stop!

 

All over Nigeria, households have ugly stories to tell about the Nigeria police. When we remember them, it is hardly for any heroic deed, but for their oppressive nature. Mubarak’s child too, will grow up with a negative view of the Nigeria police force. He will hear how they abused the rights of his father, and watch how the police continue to violate the rights of others. This is the view we grow up with of the police. The unprofessionalism of the police seems to not be ripe for change anytime soon.

 

First, the basis of the recruitment process is grounded in ethnic and religious preference, when slots are not commoditized. This alone, washes away the merit criterion. In so doing, drug addicts, thugs, drunks, cultists, illiterates, fanatics, thieves, rapists, etc are absorbed into the system. These group of people put on the Nigeria police uniform as well as the Nigeria police oppressive and fraudulent character. Instead of protecting the public, they harass, intimidate, oppress, and extort. Most of the time, they are either drunk or “high” with substances. Since the Nigerian police force does not evaluate the mental state of its officers, the public bears the burden of their madness. Nigerians live in fear of those who are supposed to protect them. A police man from Bauchi, late Galadima, once told me a horrifying account of his service. He told me how he killed young men of my age on the road while on duty and raped countless women. Always reeking of alcohol (ogogoro), he never hesitated to shoot. Held on the sick bed by a kidney disease, MDR-TB, and HIV, he asked me not to pity him because he deserves to die. Galadima, I would later learn was a street thug before he was recruited.

 

By and large, as we celebrate Mubarak Bala’s birthday, we must seize this occasion to lambaste the Nigeria police force for its unprofessionalism and demand for the immediate release of Mubarak Bala.

 

Mubarak Bala must be free, and his rights must be respected.

 

(c) Ingye Dooyum 2020