ILLEGALITY OF POLICE BRUTALITY by Agherario Emmanuel
In Nigeria and several part of the world today the phrase “police brutality” is not new as everyone inclusive of the writer at one point or the other has suffered one form of brutality/intimidation from the police or other security agencies who are established by law to ensure law, order and security of the country in relation to violation of the human right of the victims/citizens.What then is human right and what then is police brutality? As was held in the case of Uzoukwu Vs. Ezeonu (1991) 6 Nwlr (pt. 200), p.708 @ 760-761 “…human rights are rights which every citizens must accepts as belonging to each person as a human being, these were termed ‘human rights’ as it was envisaged that certain rights belong to all human being irrespective of citizenship, race, religion and so on …”
According to Jerome Skolnick and James Fyfe they define police brutality as a conscious and deliberate action that a police officer undertakes toward suspects who are usually members of a powerless social group (for example racial minority or homosexual). Also Police brutality can be said to mean the unnecessary use of excessive force by officers or members of the governmental department charged with the preservation of public order, the promotion of public safety, and the prevention and detection of crime when dealing with civilians, it can either be in form of verbal attack and/or psychological intimidation.
It must be noted that by law the police have the right to use legitimate force if necessary to make an arrest, maintain order, or keep the peace. Just how much force is appropriate under various circumstance can be debatable however when an officer uses excessive force i.e. force well beyond what would be necessary in order to handle a situation he or she is said to brutalize and/or violate the right of the victim.
Incidence of police brutality:
Most cases of police brutality go unreported and the few complaint/incidences recorded never reach investigation stage but many thanks to social media and development in technology which now enable victims/citizens to use their mobile devices to record interactions with police/security agencies and stream instances of brutality online thereby alerting the public that this kind of behavior is occurring.
On May 16th 2016 Kenyan Police brutalized some civilians who engaged in a peaceful protest for election reforms ahead of the presidential election to be held in 2017 at the state capital. The police officers were captured beating the protesters with batons and firing canisters of teargas at them.
United States of America:
Police on 8th February 2016 killed a naked Texas man wandering around an Austin neighborhood early Monday morning using lethal force. The 18 year old unidentified man, who neighbors said appeared to be black, was shot and killed by police officers after allegedly charging at the officers.
Police Attack Protesting NLC Leaders in Ebonyi: The police in Ebonyi state on Thursday, May 19, 2016 attacked and beat up members of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, who staged a peaceful protest in the state against the increase in pump price of petrol by the federal government.
Female Police woman kills Bus Driver in Lagos: On May 22, 2016 a female Police corporal beat-up and killed a commercial bus driver, Muyiwa Ijadoola, at the Igando area of the state on Sunday night. The policewoman, who was simply identified as Taiwo attached to the Igando Police Division said to have attempted to compel the driver to drop the usual money for the police, but he refused. Taking the law into her hands she allegedly dragged him down from the bus and used her baton to beat him to a pulp, in the full glare of her colleagues. While she was beating him, the driver who tried to protect his head with his hands, slipped and fell, hitting his head on the ground.
Onitsha notorious D.P.O(33) in Anambra State harassed, tortured and brutalized lawyers 2017: reports has stories of the ugly ordeal of one Chiamaka Nwangwu Esq in the hands of Jane Mbanefo, the supposed notorious DPO with 33 police station, Onitsha Anambra State who allegedly brutalizes and detained lawyers who come to her station unbehalf of their client and sometimes collects all personal belongings of victims. Only recently after several complaints were committee setup by the NBA Branch Onitsha to take actions against her, this we are not even certain will see the light of the day.
Reported Atrocities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad: a quick search on Twitter with the hashtag #EndSARS will show you hundreds of (unconfirmed) horror stories ranging from wrongful arrests, illegal detention, extortion, torture and in some cases murder by these special squad.
The collective outrage on twitter and social media platforms is new but few Nigeria Singers long ago has been singing about police brutality. Some of such songs are:
Africa China song title “Mr. President” with lines/lyrics
Poor man wey thief maggi
Omo dem go show im face
For crime fighter *2
Richman wey thief money
Omo, we no dey see their face
For crime fighter * 2
P.square song titled “Oga Police” released in 2006 with lines/lyrics
Oga police e
Wetin be dis e
You just dey stress me, dey vex me
Na which kind yawa be dis e
As a result of years of military rule, Nigeria’s uniformed men are largely above the law. Nearly everyone has at least one horror story to share about the police or military, from extortion to illegal detention, to extrajudicial killing, all without any accountability. Ironically “police is your friend” is the inscription that welcomes you into any police station, especially in Nigeria which is negated by the attitude and conduct of most uniform men. One would ask curiously “what is the major characteristic of a friend” and answer “is the fact that such a person has your best interest at heart” which is lacking in most uniform men.
Police generally have a civil duty as contain in Section 2 and 4 of the Police Act to detect and prevent crime, promote public safety and preserve public order. But like most people who hold a great deal of authority, their powers are often abused.It must be noted that every act of police brutality and abuse of power negate existing laws such as the Fundamental rights of citizens as contained in chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended specifically Section 33 which deals with Right to Life, Section 34 Right to Dignity of Human Person, Section 35 Right to personal liberty etc.
Unfortunately, even with the laws against police brutality and constitutional safeguards many complaints made by victims about excessive use of force are not investigated but swept under carpet.
Recommendations on how to stop police brutality:
- Be IT oriented and use your phones to record such incidences.
Members of the public when experience any form of police misconduct/brutality should take the initiative of using their phones to record such incidences, write down the names of all witnesses of the incidence, take pictures of his or her injuries and get a medical conclusion on the injuries from a medical professional and subsequently upload these pictures on news site such as I witness account with channels and other platforms online to publicly condemn such incidences and draw the attention of the appropriate authorities for disciplinary measures to be melted out.
- Hire the Services of a Professional (Legal Practitioner)
Its good idea to hire a professional (legal practitioner) experience in police litigation cases to help your case and file a complaint in court claiming damages, breach of fundamental rights, seeking injunctive reliefs, public apology, compensation(reimbursement) for doctors fee’s, medical test, lost wages and emotional distress.
- Preventive Administrative control:
To curb these excessive uses of force police administrators must be proactive. Special training programs must be organized to reduce incidents of police brutality. Also supervising officers should be appointed to conduct surveillance of officer’s work and disciplining those who violates departmental standards.
- Civilian review boards
This will comprise of both officers and civilians who will be in the majority. They should review complaint against erring officers and recommend disciplinary actions.
- Recruiting psychologically stable and educated officers:
Recruiting people with little formal education and who is psychologically unstable shows the police force as a disorganized institution.
Police brutality and police corruption happen on a daily basis, songs, movies, social media report might not reflect the enormity of it but there are few instances where they are mentioned. To curb these excesses we must speak up at every opportunity and demand that any incident that leads to a loss of life is properly investigated and anyone guilty of wrongdoing goes to jail. Merely justifying brutality is not good enough. When incident of brutality are reported its important that justice be seen to be done and not swept under the carpet.
For when people feel that they cannot get justice from the state, they tend to create avenues to get that justice for themselves in ways that undermine the state, leading to a war of all against all, a state has legitimacy only to the extant it can guarantee that people everywhere within its borders are equal before the law.
Agherario Emmanuel is a graduate of Igbinedion University Okada , with a diploma in law from Ambrose Alli University Ekpoma and was called to the bar in 2014 He is a practicing lawyer with vast experience on different areas of law under the law firm of Alufe & Alufe (Elohim Chambers) he specializes in Criminal & Civil litigations, Energy law , Arbitration, Oil and Gas Law, Intellectual Property and Human Right