Human rights lawyer Femi Falana, SAN, on Wednesday carried out a scathing review of the Nigeria Police, tracing the reason behind the rights violations, extortion, and brutality that has sparked protests across the country.
During an appearance on Politics Today, via a Skype call, the senior advocate traced the problem to how policemen and women are trained for their roles.
It is a process he believes is archaic and leaves officers with “no idea of human rights, human relations”.
“We are really not addressing the problems,” he warned referring to efforts made to reform the police.
“The training of the police is colonial; completely primitive. A man joining the Police Force, he goes to the police college. A woman goes to the police college dehumanised. A cannot make her hair; she has to cut her hair. A man has to shave his hair to the skull. The feeding is bad.”
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Falana’s comments come amid widespread protests against police brutality, especially the activities of the now-dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad that became notorious for extortion, assault, and killings.
The human rights lawyer who has repeatedly condemned rights violations by the police is not, however, surprised by the terror unleashed on citizens by members of the unit and many of their colleagues in the force overtime.
Police training in the country, he said, prepares them to disregard rights.
“They are trained like colonial policemen to brutalise the society and that is what is going on,” he said.
And it is not just starting.
According to him, as far back as the Second Republic, issues of extrajudicial killings had emerged with the Nigerian Mobile Police unit at the receiving end of allegations of brutality.
“So, those who are in mobile unit – we used to call them kill and go in the Second Republic under IGP (Sunday) Adewusi (in office from 1981-1983), that has transformed into SARS.”
The brutality as far as Falana is concerned is implanted in their psyche at the police college.
“What is the training in the college? They (trainees) are teargassed in rooms without windows. And for them (the authorities) that is the way to train them. They are beaten, tortured, and the feeding is bad,” he said.
“So when the man or the woman comes out of the college, he wants to brutalise the society that dehumanised him in the college.”
Then there is the issue of poor salaries and welfare with barracks and stations denied adequate funding.
“Police stations are not funded. So, daily, to run the station, the DPOs depend on extortion of money from the public, from suspects,” Falana added.
“Some stations are not built by the government but by members of the community.”