Sunday, 28 December 2014

Article: Police And Human Rights In Anambra State



By Comrade Aloysius Attah

In the police circle, being posted to Anambra State to serve in any division especially within the urban areas is a big scramble. It is a public knowledge that some police officers who believe in the efficacy of prayers embark on several months of fasting and prayer to be posted here and also to remain here in perpetuity unless on promotion to bigger ranks among the superior officers. The story is the same among those who believe in charms and deadly concoctions as they also travel far and wide to prepare the charms or fortify themselves that nobody will remember them for posting outside the state.

The DPOs in some juicy divisions in Anambra and other intelligent officers swim in money that some of them embark on buying choice properties within some interval of working here without even touching their salaries. The situation is compounded by the Omata mentality among some big time traders who deal on contrabands, fake/pirated products and some money bag politicians who patronize the DPOs and some other superior officers to oil their wheel of business so that the police can turn blind eye while their illegitimate business and deals thrive.

This is the foundation that led to the bastardisation of police work in Anambra and the sacrificing of professionalism on the altar of primitive accumulation.  The situation is so bad that some of these men involved in all kinds of shady deals are the members and executives of Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC) and they donate generously to the police stations and the officers.

The rank and file who are mainly on the road on patrols and operations then deal ruthlessly with the so called illiterate traders who are eager to part with any amount provided you don’t take him to the station, tell him to write statement or even cajole him with the threat of putting him inside the cell.

Some among the senior officers who are wise enough try as much as possible to cooperate with some credible human rights groups like the CLO whenever they intervene in any matter while crooked ones among them see us as sworn enemies that should be dealt with at any opportunity for spoiling business for them.

At the inception of the Obiano administration, he declared his continued support to the law enforcement agents in line with the practice of his predecessor, Mr. Peter Obi. As at the last count, the governor said that a total of 100 vehicles have been provided under him to the police. Codenamed Operation Kpochapu, the teams were mandated to check vehicle boots to track kidnappers while keeping a motorized patrol along the expressways.

Unfortunately, from the CLO findings, majority of the teams have simply abdicated from their assigned responsibility to pursue illicit monetary gains either by hook or crook. Their various tents and vehicle have been converted to emergency detention centers and mobile banks.

Their greatest casualties are Okada and keke riders, traders conveying goods on bike or vehicles while they are poised to deal with any uncooperative citizen without any form of provocation.

Police Team At Nkpor Flyover As A Case Study:
The Civil Liberties Organization, Anambra State Branch in the course of investigations identified the police team at Nkpor Express by News parts and Mgbuke market junction as the worst police team on road operations. Led by Inspector Pius Umoh, the team operates with police vehicle tagged number 346 and vehicle registration number NPF 7282 C.

Other members of the team included Corporal Ojokpa Ochi with Force number 374552, Corporal Elue Lawrence with Force number 441889, Another Corporal Chinonyerem Ihekoromadu whose force number was not visible, another police man with force number 030631 and another officer always on plain clothes.

The team from an independent undercover report done by the Chairman of Anambra CLO represent the perfect example of a rotten egg in the police force that should be weeded out to avoid its pollutant virus from infiltrating others.

Sergeant Umoh and his team operate their own version of Onitsha main market in their duty post where everything has a price tag.  They perform the duties of the arresting officer, the prosecuting counsel, the jury and the sentencing officer all at the same time.  In their stand, any bike that passes by without a crash helmet whether private or commercial attracts non negotiable fee of N2000.  Any vehicle without a tinted glass permit whether factory fitted or not attracts N10,000. Not having vehicle particulars or expired one attracts prices ranging from N5, 000 to N20,000. Any keke driver that drops passenger within their vicinity attracts summary penalty of N5, 000.  The policeman on plain clothes is the one in charge of seizing motorcycles and padlocking it with a long chain and key which can contain about 20 motorcycles at a time. When they contravene motorcycles so much that the space allotted for it becomes filled up, they pass immediate judgment of the cash price and threaten to take them to a yet to be identified station if the owner is not ready to play ball.

In the course of undercover to get full details of their illegal operations, the CLO Chairman not only got action shots where they collect money but also encountered various victims who had sordid tales of what they have passed through in their hands. Two among their victims included Chidubem Obianuna, a Keke driver from Ogidi phone no 08163036225, an asthmatic patient who had sudden attack and fainted as the team demanded N10, 000 from him for dropping passengers within the area. In the course of the encounter, Chidubem after being revived lost his mobile phone, wallet, ID card and cash of N7, 000.  Another victim was Chukwuemeka Nonyelu, phone number, 08131961129 whom they collected N2, 000 from him after seizing his Press Cub Motorcycle, Reg. No. JJT 247 QA for not wearing a crash helmet.

Though the CLO has written a formal petition against this police team while the Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Uche Eze has visited the scene and confirmed the CLO findings, we dare say that the Umoh and his team represents the sample of what the Operation Kpochapu teams have turned into . From Awka to Nkpor Junction, Onitsha Owerri road to Upper Iweka and across the length and breadth of the state, the story is the same.  This is a clarion call on the Commissioner of Police in Anambra State, Hosea Karma to beam his searchlight on the conduct of his men on duty and ensure that strict disciplinary actions are meted on any one or team found wanting in the discharge of their duties.

As the yuletide season is here, all nooks and crannies of the state have been dotted with gun totting , plain clothed and even fake policemen all with the sole intent of grabbing money from defenseless citizens. The Okpoko police division, Onitsha CPS , Area command and Ogidi divisions  top the chart in these violations. It is the duty of the Command Monitoring Unit to police the police and ensure that they abide by the ethical conduct expected of them. This Christmas period is therefore a test case for CP Karma for us to know his commitment to crime fighting or whether he came to line up his pockets.

Extrajudicial Killings, Torture And Illegal Detention:
Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended stated that every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and also listed situations where such liberty can be denied a citizen.  Section 34 Subsection 1 of the 1999 constitution also stated that every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and accordingly (a) no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment.

Sadly enough, the above constitutional provisions are observed in flagrant breach daily in Anambra state from the various police divisions to the Special Anti Robbery Squads (SARS) scattered across Awkuzu, Nnewi, Ogidi, CPS, Okpoko etc.

The Awkuzu SARS specifically designed to handle cases of armed robbery, kidnapping, felony and other capital offences still handle cases of master servant issues, business deals gone awry between friends, okada riders caught riding past 7pm among other petty issues. When such detainees find it hard to part with the demanded astronomical bail fees, they are dumped in the cell to rot forever while some of them are paraded alongside hardened criminals while others are summarily executed during their routine decongestion of cells.

A bus driver, Ogbonna Adonu who recently regained freedom from Awkuzu SARS captivity after nearly three months for associating with a wanted kidnapper regaled the CLO  with chilling tales of the horrendous activities that go on behind the walls of SARS. Detainees are suspended half way in the air with head down while the legs are hanging in the ceiling hook. With thorough beatings with electric wires and all manner of shocking torture methods and mock shootings, suspects most times own up for crimes they never committed. Though later declared innocent after months in detention, Ogbonna still parted with nearly N270, 000 before he could be left off the hook by CSP James Nwafor and his boys.

The CLO Chairman during a recent parade of suspects at the police headquarters Awka also encountered a detainee in Awkuzu SARS who gave his name as Chukwudi Chimezie from Nkwere, Imo State.  Chimezie already looking like bonga fish owing to many months of incarceration with no food was too weak to voice out that he was never a thief or a robber. He said he is a driver but it was his master that was implicated in a criminal matter but the man later settled the police and bolted away while he has been left to die in custody.

Evidences abound  and we are not disputing the fact also that SARS and the police command have made tremendous breakthroughs in the fight against armed robbers and criminals but we use this medium to call on the Anambra State Commissioner of Police to order for a full review of all criminal suspects in the various SARS units in Anambra State. The Amnesty International , Human Rights Watch and other credible organizations should come for rescue in Anambra State and let us all put a stop to this human bazaar going on as part of fighting criminals.

(Excerpts from the 25 paged World Human Rights Day Report of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), Anambra State Branch. 08035090548, attahcomrade@yahoo.com)

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