The constabulary and ritual killers
ORDINARILY, an average Nigerian is a law-abiding citizen. But, in a situation in which the rich, ostentatiously, are getting richer at the expense of the poor, it is inevitable, in most circumstances, that the poor are prone to criminality. Although penury is not a tenable alibi for crime, “official” injustice which is often celebrated by the powers that be invariably gives impetus to “unofficial” criminality. The Nigerian constitution and legal system prohibit jungle justice. Although there are circumstances that are often difficult to rationlise why one would take the law into one’s own hands.
However, in a society where the criminal justice system is characterised by weaknesses, it is often seen as a crime to be law-abiding. Hence an average Nigerian would rather prefer self-judgment to a weak and an unreliable legal system. On the other hand, if our constitution interdicts Jungle justice, then, it leaves one in bewilderment when a law enforcement agent gives an order that appears more or less self-judgment. What could have been the rationale behind such order?
Over the years, the relationship between the public and the Nigeria Police has been hostile and very inimical. This is not unconnected to the loss of confidence in the Force, particularly in their lackadaisical approach to distress calls and nonchalant attitude towards crime victims.
A typical Nigerian would rather prefer to kill an armed robber if chance permits than handing him over to the police. But, in recent times, the story has changed. The police have dramatically gained public confidence in combating crime. Despite the relentless efforts of the bandits in unleashing terror on the public, the police have always been on top of the situation.
Several of the criminals have been apprehended while many have fallen to the superior firing power of the police. Thus the drastic decrease in armed robbery cases, except some handful cases reported recently in Lagos and some other parts of the country.
Notwithstanding, our police have put in tremendous and laudable efforts and have recorded impressive results in the fight against crime in recent times. It suffices to say the police are winning the war in this regard.
However, something more horrific, if I may use that word, than armed robbery is on the rampant in our society, though not new. It is hideous and gory crime against humanity—ritual killings. Imagine a gory scene where an innocent toddler is killed and his body dismembered for money rituals. That is the kind of gruesome crime men of the underworld are unleashing on our society. Laudably, our police have been exhibiting remarkable efforts in curtailing the ugly crime. Interestingly, while the police have uncovered the dens of these heartless and ruthless criminals, most of those that have been apprehended were caught with human parts.
While few cases have been unearthed by the police in Delta State and some communities in the eastern part of the country, most of the recent cases were in the South-West— in Ondo, Oyo and Ogun states, in particular. The Ogun State Police Command was able to arrest a notorious ritual killer with 18 human skulls en route Ado-Odo Owode Road while another den was unearthed at Iyana Egbado village, Ewekoro.
Similarly, another hideout was discovered in Labiade-Akaso village, Onipepeye Community, Obafemi-Owode local government. Also, the police discovered another den in Unity and Peace Estate, Itele-Lafenwa Road, Ota. Likewise, the Ode Remo case was a gory sight, where human parts were found. Space will not permit citing other terrible cases of this nature. Based on the aforementioned, it appears that these evil-geniuses have turned the communities in Ogun State to save havens.
Undoubtedly, the above development must have provoked the shoot-on-sight order given by the Ogun State Commissioner of Police, Abdulmajid Ali. Hardly had the police boss given the order than social groups and concerned individuals condemned the order considering it as unpopular. Although the police chief has cleared the air that the order would not amount to extra-judicial killing, concerned Nigerians still express fear that the order contradicts the police code of conduct and susceptible to human right violation. The Police Act reads thus:
“The police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the protection of law and order, the protection of life and property…” (Police Act, Section four, 1979 No. 23).
Interestingly, since the order was given, the Ogun State police have been up to the task, combing every perpetrator of evil while giving the hoodlums no breathing space. When I was listening to the commissioner on television while parading some hoodlums, I saw him as an officer who was talking out of concern for the people, commitment to his job and patriotism to his country. But, inasmuch as it is laudable that the police should deal mercilessly with notorious criminals, it is also very important that they tread cautiously and professionally in the course of engagement. This is important in order to avoid collateral damage.
Ali’s men should not unwittingly bring down the wheats in the bid to taking down the tares. They must exploit every tactical means within their power, professional skills and discretion to get rid of unscrupulous elements in our society. On the other hand, those who are showing concern for human right violation should not be found empathising with criminals in the name of human right. I understand that an average Nigerian police officer is a trigger-happy person. So, they must show a lot of tact and discretion while professionalism must strictly be observed in order to avoid unnecessary casualties.
Yet, it is important we know that these criminals do not have regard for our law; all they care about is getting results. But our police must do whatever it takes to prevent them from getting results, even if it requires going the extra mile as the situation may demand.
•Bakare is a public affairs analyst in Lagos.