Lockdown: Good and bitter sides of security agents

Posted by FN Editor | 2 years ago | 899 times



By Evelyn Usman

Lagos , Ogun States and the Federal Capital Territory , FCT Abuja, were compulsorily locked down on March 31, 2020, on the order of President Muhammadu  Buhari, with a view to curtailing the spread of the Corona Virus 19, that has been ravaging the entire world.

At the first stage of trying to manage  its spread, different measures were deplored by state governors, particularly  Babajide Sanwo-Olu ,of Lagos State, where the index case was discovered.

Social distancing was encouraged and gatherings of people banned from public places to churches and mosques.

Schools were also shut. The Nigeria Police Academy , as well as those of the Military, nationwide, were not spared either.

Enforcement

Despite this directive, some night clubs in Lagos and other pubs  still operated.

To enforce its adherence  in Lagos State, security agents from relevant  government agencies with the Police as the lead agency, were deployed for this purpose.

However, in a display of high-handedness, some policemen were seen in a video that went viral, destroying goods in a  shop , in an attempt to carry out the task

The video was greeted with outright condemnation from different quarters. One of the critiques was  Monday Ubani,  the immediate past second Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Asso­ciation, who   urged the IGP to ensure that the policemen  caught in the trending video were not only arrested and pros­ecuted but that the trader should also be compensated.

He described the destruction  as  not only barbaric, but also unlawful, adding that it was carried out without any logic or wisdom. He said that the policemen should have  sealed the  shop and arrested its owner rather than destroying his wares.

He further pointed out that as at the time the inci­dent took place, the  Lagos State House of Assembly had not passed the law that criminal­ized opening up of business premises during the time of restriction.

Caution

Two days after the video went viral, the Lagos State Police Command issued a statement, disclosing that the policemen involved in the showdown had been arrested and were undergoing Orderly  Room Trial. . But their names and ranks were never disclosed and the outcome of the trial  yet to be disclosed.

However, to forestall a re-occurrence, the Police boss, IGP Adamu, cautioned officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force  deployed for the enforcement of the lockdown and social restriction orders to ensure that the rights of Nigerians were  not infringed upon,  under any pretext.

He also stressed that  persons on essential duties, duly exempted from the restriction orders, should be accorded due courtesies and unfettered access to and fro their places of duty.

The IGP who  noted that the global community was in extra-ordinary times, with the lockdown taking its tolls on every component of our national life, further admonished  police officers deployed for the enforcement of these restriction orders to  be professional, humane and tactful and as well show utmost respect to the citizenry.

To this effect, he directed  Commissioners of Police in all states commands  to immediately commence  the conduct  and monitoring of policemen deployed on enforcement duties in their areas of responsibilities.

He also, charged Zonal Assistant Inspectors General of Police, AIGs across the nation to ensure adequate supervision of personnel under their watch, as well as ensure due compliance with the Standard Operating Procedure guiding this special task. The AIGs and Cps,  according to him, were  also to ensure robust anti-crime patrols and surveillance around vulnerable targets such as medical facilities, shops and markets, residential areas, financial institutions and Automated Teller Machines, ATM points, amongst others, so that criminals do not take undue advantage of the current COVID-19 challenge to perpetrate crimes against the citizenry. Unfortunately, the security men on the road engage in various forms of extortion. The lockdown has created avenue for them to fraudulently enrich themselves.

Killings

Despite the admonition to security agents deplored to enforce the social distancing and lock down directives, aimed at enabling  the containment of the COVID 19 global health threat, Nigeria, has witnessed killings of her citizens by these law enforcers.

The first killing  that greeted the enforcement occurred in Warri, Delta State , last Thursday, after one Joseph Pessu , a father of two,  was shot dead by a soldier for allegedly flouting the state government’s sit-at-home order. This incident happened on the second day of the sit-at-home directive.

Protest

His death sparked protest as irate youths took over the expressway, preventing vehicles from taking that route . Two Military personnel on a motorbike who ran into the mob, were attacked and their motorcycle burnt. One  of them was killed in the process.

Threat

The killing of the Military personnel was seen as affront by some of his colleagues  who threatened to avenge his death. The soldiers in a video that went virile were seen boasting that they would rape all the women in Warri, be they married, single or aged and in the process infest them with HIV aids

But  the Military in a swift reaction, said the soldiers in the virile video had been arrested and would undergo disciplinary measure. As was the  case of the arrested policemen in connection with the destruction of a trader’s wares in Lagos, the outcome of the investigation into the soldiers brazen display of  unprofessionalism is yet to be made public.

Kaduna killing

Another killing recorded since the sit-at-home directive occurred  in Kaduna state, four days after that of  Warri, Delta state.

In this case, seven  persons were  killed in  Trikania,  Sabogeri Nasarawa, under Chikun Local Government Area of  the state,  during a clash between youths and a police team  enforcing the stay-at-home order in the state.

 

Trouble as gathered, erupted after attempt by  a Civilian Joint Task Force to disperse some traders was vehemently resisted.

In the Police attempt to forcefully disperse the traders, some shots were fired and in  the process, seven  persons were hit, while five sustained bullet wounds.

Defiance

Without mincing words, the level of compliance to the sit-at-home directive by Nigerians, can not be described as total, as people were still seen outside their abodes. Some of them blamed their actions on poverty, as a good number of them live on daily income. Government  on its part,  failed  to ensure a fair  distribution of food stuff and other means to cushion the effect of the stay –at –home directive, thereby leaving the down trodden with no option than to defy the stay-at-home directive, to seek other alternatives to fend for themselves.

The  defiance may   be catastrophic if urgent steps are not taken by governments at different levels to address issues causing to ignore the directives. They appear unaware of the consequences of their action with regard to the deadly virus.

Extortion

The whole process of enforcement is also characterised  by extortion on the part of security agents.

From the North to the South and the East to the West , the story is same. Saturday’s Vanguard investigation revealed that whenever an offender is accosted, he or she will be requested  to part with some money on the spot, failure of which he or she will be taken to the station and  compelled to pay more, with a threat to be charged to court.

But erring motorists, especially drivers of mass transit buses pay more, in order to be allowed passage through states  boarders that have been shut. Such movements as gathered, are usually done at night , with more cases in the northern part of the country.

A clear case  occurred in Lagos on Tuesday, where a woman who alleged that  some policemen attached to Agbowa division collected N10,000 from her.

The woman in a video that went virile on social media, lamented her ordeal in the hands of the policemen. She explained that she had gone to withdraw some money from  an Automated Teller Machine ATM close to her residence ,at about 11am, but that  none was working at the banks visited.

She further stated that she drove out , only to meet some policemen who were enforcing the lockdown order, but that after explaining her mission to them, they, directed her to  an unofficial ATM operator’s kiosk  close to the road block.

She added that she could only withdraw N10,000 but that on her way back, she was intercepted by the same  policemen who arrested her for flouting government’s directive. She said they took her  to the police station, where the policemen allegedly collected the withdrawn N10,000 from her , before releasing her around  10pm. The extortion is everywhere in Lagos.

Two policemen arrested

When the video reached the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Police Command, he ordered for a full scale investigation at the end of  which two policemen were fingered as the offenders.

Disclosing how the policemen were arrested , spokesman for the Lagos State Police Command, DSP Elkana Bala, said: “ Attention of Lagos State Police Command was drawn to a video on social media in which a lady alleged that her vehicle was impounded by the Divisional Traffic Officer, DTO Agbowa Division and a female sergeant. She equally accused the officers of extorting money from her.

After analyzing the video, the officers mentioned were identified by our operatives and arrested.

“ The Commissioner of Police Lagos State, CP Hakeem Odumosu,  has ordered an in depth investigation into the case. While appreciating the courage of the complainant and other well meaning citizens who forwarded the video to our social media page, the Command urged the complainant to take a further step by reporting at the Command Headquarters Ikeja, to enable the Command conclude the investigation. The Commissioner of Police has reaffirmed his stance against corrupt practices and impunity. Members of the public will be updated on the outcome of the investigation”.

Arrest of violators

In some places in Lagos, the enforcement on the lock down is being treated with seriousness, to avoid the spread of this pandemic , as security agents are apprehending violators

So far, more than 200 persons have been arrested since the  stay-at-home directive in the state. Some of those arrested were fitness enthusiasts and youths who took advantage of the restriction on vehicular movement to turn the streets of Lagos into football pitches.

As at Wednesday, 37  persons who were arrested by the State Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Department, Yaba, were arraigned before an Ikeja Magistrate court.

Thirteen vehicles  were  impounded same  by operatives of the Rapid Response Squad , RRS in Alapere area of the State , over same offence.

The 37 persons, comprising both males and females, were arrested in Owoworoshoki and Anthony areas of the state on a one count charge of  violating the social distancing directives of Lagos State Government contrary to Regulation 8(1)( a) &(b) and 17(1)(i) of Lagos State Infectious Disease (Emergency prevention) Regulation 2020.

Next day, (Thursday) 202  violators were  arraigned before two Mobile Courts at the State Force Criminal Investigation Department, CID, Panti, Yaba

The violators, who mostly pleaded guilty to the charge, were ordered to pay fines ranging from N5, 000 to N10, 000 to the Lagos State Government and also ordered to immediately commence a two-hour community service.

The Coordinator , Mobile Courts, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Mrs Arinola Ogbara-Banjoko said that over 260 persons had been tried at the Mobile Courts for various violations since the lockdown began in Lagos.

Ogbara-Banjoko said: “All juvenile offenders and persons with special needs that were apprehended were not arraigned at the Mobile Courts, they are over 50 and not part of the over 260 persons tried at the mobile courts.

“Deaf and dumb persons were separated because we did not have an interpreter. Fines of N10, 000 and community service were handed down by the court.”

Funke Akindele too

The list of those arrested in Lagos will not be complete without mentioning popular Molly Wood actress, Funke Akindele-Bello, her husband, Abdul Rasheed Bello, for violating the  social  distance directive.

The couple was arrested for staging a party to celebrate one of their birthdays, at their estate in Ajah Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos, with guests numbering more than the stipulated number of persons. The guests in a video that went virile,  did not observe social  distance .

They were arraigned before the  Chief Magistrate Court 1 Ogba on one count charge.

The Court found them guilty as charged and sentenced them to 14 days community service, three hours per day, excluding Saturday and Sunday.

 


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