The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila says the House would not condone extrajudicial killings, harassment, intimidation and other forms of violence unleashed on innocent citizens by some men of the Nigeria Police.
The Speaker described as unfortunate a situation where some men of the Nigeria police, saddled with the constitutional responsibility of protecting the lives and property of the people, turn out to be against the citizens.
Declaring open a public hearing by the House Committee on Police Affairs chaired by Rep Usman Bello Kumo, the Speaker bemoaned the recent alleged extrajudicial killing of a footballer by men of the Nigeria police in Sagamu, Osun State.
”More than any other institution of the State, it is the police force that relates to the citizens daily. In many communities across Nigeria, the Police Force is the only representative of the Nigerian state, and the connection between our citizens and the state is often defined by their interactions with the Nigeria Police.
“It is unfortunate and entirely unacceptable that the relationship between the police and many of these communities is now defined by fear, mutual antagonism and an absolute loss of faith in the ability of the police to protect and to serve.
“In the last few days, we have all witnessed as the city of Sagamu in Ogun State has been unsettled by an orgy of violence resulting from the extrajudicial killing of a young footballer by officers of the Nigerian Police.
“Citizens who gathered to protest this killing were soon themselves at the receiving end of police bullets. This is not an isolated incident. We are daily inundated with news reports of interactions between citizens and the police resulting in the injury and death of those citizens.
“Reports of police harassment of young people have become so rampant that they barely even break through the news cycle except when public anger becomes so great that it results in a breakdown of law and order.
“We can no longer stand for this, and we will not. This House of Representatives has a responsibility to speak for our citizens and we will continue to do so even when it is inconvenient,” Gbajabiamila said.
Gbajabiamila also said that although the public hearing with the theme ‘Repositioning the Nigeria Police for an Enhanced Delivery’ might come with some uncomfortable truths, the Nigeria Police should take home the contributions of stakeholders as they would be the ultimate beneficiaries.
“We cannot build people, particularly the police, in a situation where they can barely get themselves together. If I ask the police what’s the situation with the insurance of the police personnel, I know very well the likely answer I’ll get, because it will be in the negative. If you ask what is the pay or welfare package of a policeman, I know the answers we’re going to get, they’re not going to be encouraging.”
The Speaker noted that when the agencies that should protect the lives and property of the people “become predatory, they lose the faith of the public and become incapable of delivering on this responsibility.
“When the public are as afraid of the police as they are of the criminals, and perhaps even more so, the very fundamentals of our nationhood are at stake. We are confronted with an urgent need, deserving of our utmost attention and dedication.
“We must fix the Nigeria Police, restore public confidence and make the institution once more deserving of the true faith and support of the Nigerian people.
“This public hearing has been convened to examine the ways we in the House of Representatives can act to improve the capacity of the Nigerian Police to deliver on its obligations to our people.
“We cannot do that job effectively if we do not first allow for an honest assessment of our current reality. We will not achieve much of substance if we shy away from confronting the failures of recruitment and training, remuneration and welfare, responsibility and accountability that have left us with a national police force that is too often unfit for purpose.”