By Adedayo Akinwale
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that there is need to fix the Nigeria Police and restore public confidence in the Force.
He stated categorically that the House would not accept extra-judicial killings, harassment, intimidation and other forms of violence unleashed on innocent Nigerians by police personnel.
The Speaker, who stated this on Tuesday in Abuja while declaring open a public hearing by the House Committee on Police Affairs chaired by Hon. Usman Kumo, bemoaned the recent alleged extra-judicial killing of a footballer by the police in Sagamu, Ogun State.
He 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.
Gbajabimila said that the public hearing has been convened to examine the ways the House can act to improve the capacity of the police to deliver on its obligations to the people.
The Speaker however described as unfortunate a situation where some men of the police, saddled with the constitutional responsibility of protecting the lives and property of the people, turn out to be against the citizens.
He stressed that more than any other institution of the state, it is the police that relate with the citizens daily, adding that in many communities across Nigeria, the Police Force is the only representative of the Nigerian state, and the connection between the citizens and the state is often defined by their interactions with the Nigeria Police.
Gbajabimila 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.
He stated: “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 extra-judicial killing of a young footballer by officers of the Nigeria Police.”
The Speaker equally lamented that the citizens who gathered to protest this killing were dispersed by police bullets, stressing that the Sagamu killing was not an isolated incident, as the green chamber is daily inundated with news reports of interactions between citizens and the police resulting in the injury and death of those citizens.
The Speaker said that 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.
According to him, “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.”
The Speaker also decried a situation when the public are as afraid of the police as they are of the criminals, noting that the very fundamentals of the nationhood are at stake.
“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,” he stated.