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Lagos police, human rights and arrest of armed robbers

Posted by Written by Chukwudi Enekwechi on 2007/08/23 | Views: 383 |

Lagos police, human rights and arrest of armed robbers

On Saturday, 4th August, 2007, the Lagos State Police Commissioner, Mohammed Abubakar, came on air (NTA Network News) to claim that they have arrested armed robbers. To many Nigerians, this was good news considering the menace armed robbers have constituted in recent times, especially in Lagos.

On Saturday, 4th August, 2007, the Lagos State Police Commissioner, Mohammed Abubakar, came on air (NTA Network News) to claim that they have arrested armed robbers. To many Nigerians, this was good news considering the menace armed robbers have constituted in recent times, especially in Lagos. As the NTA news headlines came on, we were waiting with great expectation that the Lagos Police Commissioner and his men had indeed swooped on real armed robbers, but behold what we saw was a group of girls being paraded on national television. The commissioner later explained that they arrested prostitutes also, since armed robbers usually end up spending their loot on them.

Without doubt, prostitution and armed robbery are detestable crimes, but I hasten to add that it smacks of inefficiency for the police to leave the substance and be chasing the shadows. Each of these crimes is distinct in itself and before you can reach any conclusion on the guilt or otherwise of any offence, you must provide sufficient evidence. This is a basic tenet in law.

Therefore, for its inability to combat crime and face real criminals squarely, the Lagos State Police Command has resorted to window-dressing and propaganda with the intention to deceive the public. In my opinion, there is no correlation between the serious issue at hand, which is the menace of armed robbers in Lagos, and those young girls arrested in various hotels for prostitution. The two must be separated and the Inspector General of Police and the human rights agencies must come together to sift the wheat from the chaff by evaluating the performance of the Lagos police commissioner in this regard.

Though prostitution is not to be encouraged, yet in some societies, for example, Germany, it is regarded as a profession, but the point here is that the persons arrested for prostitution should be charged to court for that reason with sufficient evidence, and if found guilty, punished on the basis of law and not on the whims and caprices of a certain police commissioner.

The question is: why lump different people with different offences together and as armed robbers? Don’t forget that you are dealing with discerning and critical minds. In this country, we must begin to respect human rights notwithstanding the circumstances. The fact of the matter is that the Lagos Police Command has lost the ability to detect and combat crime, and as a way of evading reproach from Abuja, they’ve now resorted to propaganda and image laundering by the mass arrests of prostitutes in hotels.

The question is: are the girls the ones who in broad daylight carry sophisticated weapons to rob bullion vans and banks? For us to call a spade a spade there is the need to address the real issue, through the Lagos police going back to the drawing board rather than choosing the easy way out, and consequently subjecting innocent people to untold hardships and abuse of their fundamental human rights.

We must be able to read between the lines for being human, the Lagos police boss has his prejudices such as religious, ethnic and what have you. Make no mistake about it, one is by no means condoning crime, but the point is that the performance of the Lagos Police Command falls far short of expectation. Granted that you can fool some people sometimes, but you cannot fool all the people all of the time.

The other appalling aspect was where I heard the Lagos Police commissioner talking about God with regard to the people that lure young girls into prostitution. For heaven’s sake, the commissioner had better know that we are in a scientific world, and his job mainly requires empirical evidence to be valuable; and a situation where he resorts to religious sentiments in whatever guise smacks of inefficiency and lack of focus or hypocrisy.

As it is now, all hands must be on deck to ensure that the innocent doesn’t suffer the sins of another by speedily concluding investigations and charging the culprits to courts of competent jurisdiction. The police authorities in Abuja or supervising zone must ensure that in charging these people, a clear distinction is made to avoid a situation where someone arrested in his or her hotel room is slammed with a robbery charge, which we all know attracts no bail, and in Nigeria’s justice system takes long years to conclude. We should also avoid further congestion of the prisons by charging the wrong people.

Again, this is where the human rights bodies must play an active role by ensuring that the persons involved have access to lawyers. From the look of things, many of the people arrested are indigent and appear helpless, and for justice to prevail, the police authorities must consider them innocent and treat them as such until convicted guilty by the law courts.

The job of combating crime remains the primary goal of the police and there is no justification for them to allow criminals to operate and get away with their loots in the Lagos metropolis, mostly in broad daylight only to resort to mass arrests of prostitutes and drinkers as armed robbers. Once more, this does not presuppose that they should leave off the hook any person or group of persons that they have credible evidence as having committed crime. What we advocate is that no innocent person should suffer the guilt of another.

Enekwechi is an Abuja-based journalist and politician and can be reached via e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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