LIKE the proverbial tortoise that is perennially enmeshed in one controversy or another, the police are once again in the news for the wrong reasons. This time around, some policemen have allegedly tortured one Citizen Olaoluwa Bolarinwa to death for failing to give them satisfactory information about his friend who was said to be the real suspect in a robbery incident. Sadly, those that allegedly executed the dastardly act were personnel of the Inspector General of Police Special Tactical Squad (IGPSTS. Curiously,after Olaoluwa’s death, the police declared him an armed robber.
It is bizarre that Olaoluwa and his family were not confronted with the particulars of his alleged crime, but were instead tossed up and down until he died in police custody without his family being aware of his crime and how he died. And it is also curious that police special squads do not seem to have any specific offices: the family of the deceased was asked to come to Ogun, then Lagos State, but they never saw him. While it may sometimes be expedient for the police to be discreet about their operations and to carry out surreptitious investigations, nothing justifies any secrecy after the arrest of suspects. But the entire episode of the arrest, investigation and torture of the deceased was shrouded in secrecy until his ultimate death.
Not surprisingly, the police later came up with an account of the incident which apparently justifies the alleged torturing of a suspect to death. They made an allusion to his being an armed robber when he is no longer alive to defend himself or controvert the suspicious narrative. But even at that, who gave the police the power to declare anyone an armed robber,and then kill him? Which court of law pronounced the deceased guilty of armed robbery? Or in which court was he prosecuted and sentenced to death? The truth is that even if citizen Bolarinwa were to be a confirmed armed robber, the power that the police exercised in summarily torturing him to death does not derive from any legal or legitimate source.
This saddening incident is yet another instance of the murky ways of the police and other security agencies in the country. While many citizens are not alien to the uncivilised treatment meted out to Olaoluwa, they are worried that the police and other security agencies in the country have continued to tread this dangerous and loathsome path despite strident and incessant calls on them to make amends. And their obstinacy is not unrelated to the impunity that has often attended their disgraceful conduct: they have often got away with gross violations of citizens’ rights. At other times, the worst they got was a slap on the wrist. Certainly, the IGP has to do something drastic and remarkable to curb his officers’ penchant for arbitrariness in the handling of suspects. It is time the force relied more on intelligence and the use of technology than brutal force to extract needed information from suspects.
We enjoin the police authorities to conduct a painstaking inquiry into this case to unravel the truth about the death of Citizen Olaoluwa Bolarinwa and ensure that all those who have a hand in it are appropriately punished to serve as a deterrent to other misguided officers. The rules of engagement in the police force, as in other security agencies,are unambiguous: what has been lacking is the will to institute an effective and accountable supervisory system that rewards operatives and their supervisors for good or bad conduct in tandem with the extant laws.
The incumbent IGP must brace up to this challenge and device innovative means to rid the force of the gross indiscipline manifesting in diverse forms and stultifying its operations. Otherwise, he too will go the way of some of his predecessors who came, saw but failed to ‘conquer’ the decadence in one of the most critical institutions in democracy.
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