By Utitofon Idara
In sane climes, police officers as enforcers of the law are not only respected; they are viewed as the very face of the State, who must be deferred to by civilians and treated with utmost courtesy. The authority they possess is almost larger than life because they personify the protective purpose of state.
In Nigeria however, the reverse appears to be norm as police officers are routinely treated with disdain, just as they are regularly humiliated in ways that are suggestive of an attempt to undermine the State. In one of such pathetic turn of events, a police orderly of the rank of an Inspector was recently attacked and mercilessly beaten to the point of sustaining serious injuries.
The Officer, Inspector Teju Moses reportedly suffered the assault due to the actions of Professor Zainab Duke. The officer is reported to have received the merciless beating because she declined to run an errand, which she deemed inappropriate while in uniform. Hers adds to the rising number of cases wherein so called Very Important Persons (VIPs) treat rank and file officers posted to protect them as chattels that can be abused or treated in sub-human ways.
Recently too, the wife of former Vice President and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, Mrs. Titi Abubakar drew public ire when she turned her police orderly to a bag carrier during the event. The Nigerian police force has vowed to sanction the police orderly of Titi Abubakar, wife of Atiku Abubakar, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, for carrying her principal’s handbag at an event in Abuja. Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi had to weigh in on the issue as he vowed that the Police would sanction the officer.
Curiously, the Police spokesman said nothing about holding the wife of the PDP presidential candidate accountable for turning an officer of the law into a bag carrier. In both of the cases, which occurred recently, it was a case of women VIPs treating police officers sent to protect them in less than acceptable manner.
Several Nigerians have thus called to question the readiness of women to be their fellow women keeper, especially in a clime where abuse of the women folk by the opposite sex has been documented to be on the rise.
Although close observers have been quick to point out that both male and female police officers are treated in the same degrading and condescending manner as the two cases cited above, there have been concerns that women officers are more likely to be badly treated. It is for this reason that many Nigerians have condemned what they described as heart breaking video of Inspector Teju, whose face carried a big bleeding gash in the aftermath of the attack by her principal. To many citizens, the anomaly of a beaten police officer in uniform, sitting on the floor with her face drenched in blood, begging for water to drink amounts to an assault on authority of the Nigerian State. Others who spoke to The Explainer noted that by this singular act, the image of the Nigeria police has again been rubbished and dragged in the mud.
Similarly, the posting of police officers to protect VIPs has continued to generate controversy considering how grossly under policed Nigeria is. According to INTERPOL, Nigeria has a police force strength of 350,000. This number of officers are saddled with the responsibility of maintaining law and order in the face of a population of over 200million citizens.
It is therefore much surprise to many Nigerians that the police top brass would deploy officers out of the few meant to serve the public to VIPs, who turn around to maltreat officers they are privileged to have. For instance, those who have criticised the violation of Inspector Teju’s rights have queried why her principal, a female professor was assigned an orderly in the first place.
Opinions have equally been rife that if similar treatment had been meted out to the victim by a man, the dimension of gender-based violence would have been the dominant part of the narrative. In the end, whether justice prevails on this assault against an officer of the law, will go a long way in showing if the police is serious about ending the humiliation of its officers or not.
Going by the provisions of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) (VAPP) Act, 2015, it is stipulated that ‘Any person who purposely wounds another person with a weapon such as gun, knife, razor blade etc or substance, commits an offence and will go to prison for up to 5 years or pay a fine up to #100,000.00 or can go to the prison and also pay the fine’. It also says ‘Any person who helps or tells another person to injure somebody with a weapon or substance, commits an offence and will go to prison for up to 3 years or pay a fine up to #200,000.00 or go to prison and also pay the fine’.
In the light of this and many other provisions of the law, the ball is now in the court of the police top brass to clearly show they have zero tolerance for culprits who try to harm police officers in the line of duty.
Although The Explainer gathered that Inspector Teju’s assailants have been granted bail, the hope of the public is that the latest trampling on the rights of an innocent officer of the law, would not be swept under the carpet. Anything short of robust prosecution of Prof. Zainab Duke and her staff who physically assaulted Inspector Teju Moses, would be sending out damaging signals that the life and welfare of police officers are not worth much.