Offa robbers being paraded by police

On the creed of ethics, the police must exhibit utmost circumspection in their handling of the Offa robbery investigations, writes Olawale Olaleye

The handling of the ongoing investigations of the Offa robbery, which is being linked to Senate President Bukola Saraki, is not only beginning to erode the confidence of the people in the ability of the Nigeria Police to be as professional as possible. It is beginning to give fillip to a more fundamental issue – which raises fears about the capacity of the police to be ‘proficiently sincere’ in the handling of any case especially, one in which their leadership supposedly has interest.

Perhaps, by any training peculiar to them, the police have a reputation for being dishonest and manipulative. Whilst this is believed to have become entrenched even in their mode of operations, it has also become a familiar joke amongst Nigerians, who often joke about how the police skillfully turn the complainant to the accused, depending on who is involved or who is able to ‘reach out’ first to them.

Unfortunately, to get this done, the police have no threshold. They can go from threats to inconceivable torture and sometimes, extra-judicial killing of an accused, just to send a strong message of fears and intimidation to others, all geared towards achieving a pre-determined purpose as far as the case in view is concerned.

Since the news of the Offa robbery broke especially the alleged desperation by the police to establish a link between the robbers and the Senate president, two very important active players in the dastardly act were identified: a dismissed police corporal, Michael Adikwu, who admitted to having led the operation as well as provided the armoury and a son of a popular Yoruba leader, Kayode Opadokun. It was expected that the news of their arrest would be exhilarating.

But the tide and the excitement began to thin out, when during their maiden parade by the police, those two were conspicuously missing. Not only that, the police in their own wisdom had switched the gang leadership from their colleague-turned-robber, Adikwu, to a 37-year-old Ayoade Akinnibosun, a self-confessed political thug-turned-robber.

Whilst being paraded, the police literally dictated to AY, as the new gang leader is called, what to say at each turn to the chagrin of those present – in a way that suggested he was being guided not to veer off the scripted lines.

During the news conference that followed, the second parade of the criminals, the force spokesperson, Jimoh Moshood tried helplessly to establish links between the robbers and Saraki, particularly, when he pointed out that one of the robbers adorned the attire chosen for Saraki’s daughter’s wedding. How low can the police descend, many would ask?

What was also very instructive at that news conference was the conscious yet subtle change of the narrative from the fact that the suspects claimed they were political thugs being used by the state, who strayed into robbery without the knowledge of their supposed paymasters to insisting there was a link between the Offa robbery and Saraki. And to further establish a pattern, both Adikwu and Opadokun were still not present at this other news conference, where Moshood did more of grandstanding than stating facts.

Questions for the Police
Now, the police have come out to say the others not paraded have been helping with other investigations, whilst the theory of having killed Adikwu is also swirling. It however stands to reason: what is that investigation that Adikwu, a man who admitted to openly killing his colleagues for being unjustly dismissed from the force that these others cannot help with? Why has the leadership of the robbery changed from Adikwu to Ayoade all of a sudden? While the Police parade some are not all the suspects?

It is important to establish where Adikwu got all the arms he provided from if not actually securing assistance from some officers within the system, who may have been in know of the operation? Where are the proceeds from the robbery said to be with him? At least, he must have told the police where the money was since his arrest. So, where is it and why was the money not displayed at the various press briefing so far held if this is truly about the robbery? The Police by their action so far, have created more cloud than they sought to clear.

It is therefore trite to infer that the speculations doing the rounds about Adikwu being killed is quite worrisome and cannot be dismissed on account of police’s jejune submission. If there were no indications to that effect at all, the speculations would not be this rife. Thus, the police’s half-baked briefings are needless, premature and not sufficient to affirm that they are doing anything efficiently or making any headway in their investigations, because there is a mindset.

Already, two different non-governmental groups, Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), a network of 46 civil society organisations spread across Nigeria, and committed to promoting police accountability and respect for human rights and Citizen Communication and Advocacy Centre (CCAC) had immediately taken this up, harping on the implications of descending into the arena, spurred on by premeditated media trial as if the police had an assigned briefing to bring Saraki into the mess. Have the police, by their roles so far, not also confirmed the fears by those who argued that they might have had a pre-knowledge of the robbery to satisfy their predetermined notions of linking Saraki to the entire episode?

It is disturbing therefore that the police and their leadership might be striving hard to politicise a far more serious case like the Offa robbery by consciously moving away from the real issues and desperately trying to establish a link that is probably non-existent between Saraki and the robbers. This, sadly, is the lowest the police can go and it is definitely not in national interest, except to please some identified interests, obviously for political exigencies. .

Even if IGP Ibrahim Idris’ disdain for Saraki is unmistaken and has personal scores to settle with him, circumventing the process of investigation and or the rule of law to decimating his real or perceived enemies is not in his interest to say the least. This, no doubt, reduces the police as an institution, unfortunately, at the behest of an individual. He might be consumed too.

As it is, not just the police or Saraki but the entire political class has a lot to take away from this development. The glorification of individuals at the expense of institutions must stop. It could also mark an end to political thuggery in the nation’s electoral process.

Above all, this also summarily explains what an ordinary citizen goes through in the hands of the police on account of their offhand misjudgment. The Saraki debacle offers a lot of lessons capable of helping to make the country and some of her institutions better, away from police’s obvious partisanship in the Offa robbery.