Police harassment of Citizen Towobola

A trending video of a young lady, Towobola, being maltreated and dehumanised by policemen attached to Area ‘A’ Command, Lion Building, Lagos but on a mission in Ibadan, Oyo State has, for the umpteenth time, showcased the low quality of some police personnel deployed to combat violent crimes in the country. This class of personnel is either not adequately trained and not teachable, or it is utterly incorrigible. And because of this, it has continued to constitute a veritable danger to innocent citizens and suspects. Indeed, keeping tabs on the atrocities and grave acts of lawlessness of police operatives is daunting: they break the law and the rules of engagement with frightening frequency and gravity. In the recent video that has gone viral, the errant policemen could be heard and seen indulging in self-adulation regarding the relative ease with which an alleged armed robbery and kidnap suspect and his alleged girlfriend, Towobola, were apprehended.

The young lady was verbally tortured and assaulted with probing but personal, embarrassing and humiliating  questions on her sexual life that had no bearing  on the alleged crime. That was uncalled for because as an adult and a graduate of a tertiary institution, it is within her rights to have a relationship with a man. The treatment meted out to Citizen Towobola amounted to a violation of her right to dignity of human person. Section 34(1) (a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) stipulates that: “Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his human person, and accordingly, no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment.” In the instant case, Towobola’s constitutional right to be treated with dignity even as a suspect was brazenly trampled upon and those involved should be called to account. Perhaps it should also be mentioned that in criminal law, a person cannot be vicariously liable for the crime of another. In other words, even if her supposed boyfriend is confirmed to be a criminal, it does not automatically make her one too.

Apparently, and sadly so, the police operative who called himself Wyclef in the video lacked the capacity to appreciate the enormity of the infractions of the law he was committing, otherwise he would not have proudly shown his face in the video. Or perhaps he was emboldened by the knowledge of worse precedents by his colleagues over which the police authorities had failed to act.  Whether it is in the area of alleged summary execution of suspects, swapping of suspects with innocent persons, unwarranted focus on internet fraudsters for selfish motives or, as in the case at issue, brutalisation and dehumanisation of suspects, undisciplined policemen have become a bad advertisement for the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). The police authorities too have not helped matters, as they have wittingly or unwittingly  reinforced the sense of impunity that such policemen have by the levity with which they treat glaring cases of infraction of the law. Meanwhile, the victims continue to lick their wounds and remain traumatised in the event that they are lucky to be alive, while the culprits keep their job and move on to unleash terror on their next victims.

We have reiterated, time and again, the imperative of fundamental reorientation, training and retraining of police personnel and the need for more thorough supervision of their activities by their superiors. But it would appear that the authorities do not appreciate well enough, the huge challenge that their atrocities pose to the less than enviable image of the force. All units of the force should be reoriented to accept that citizens, including suspects, have rights under the law; that it is unlawful for them to breach those rights and that they have no power under the law to mete out their own version of justice to any suspect before the verdict of the court of law. It was unconscionable, callous, and more importantly unlawful, for the police operatives to humiliate, dehumanise and rob Citizen Towobola of every scintilla of human dignity as they did under the guise of interrogation.

Happily, though, the police authorities promised to investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to book. Subsequently, the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, indicated that the suspects had been arrested. He said:  “Following investigations into the dehumanising treatment of a female citizen as shown in a viral video on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, the Nigeria Police Force has identified three police officers and one civilian accomplice who participated in the unprofessional act. Two suspects, ASP Tijani Olatunji and Inspector Gboyega Oyeniyi, have been arrested for their role in the discreditable conduct and incivility to a member of the public. They are currently being detained at the Lagos State CID detention facility, Yaba. Preliminary investigations show that the policemen, who are attached to Area ‘A’ Command, Lion Building, Lagos, were on legitimate investigation activities in Ibadan, Oyo State, where the incident took place. Effort is being intensified to arrest two other accomplices. Meanwhile, appropriate disciplinary procedure will be initiated as soon as investigations are concluded.”

The culprits should not only be punished, the authorities should cause a rejoinder video to be produced and given wide circulation to appease Towobola and correct the egregious misrepresentation of her person. We equally appeal to her parents and relations to monitor her very closely. The object is to prevent her from taking precipitate actions because of the aggravated emotional and psychological torment meted out to her in the public glare, as it were, by undisciplined police officers and men. It is perilous and unhealthy for social orderliness for policemen to continually tread the path of lawlessness at the expense of innocent persons, especially when such an aberration feeds on official impunity. It also constitutes an infringement on the sanctity of the rule of law.



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