close

It has become a routine for security agents to harass
Nigerians, particularly youths, under the guise of law enforcement. Nigerian
youths are intimidated, extorted, arrested illegally, arbitrarily detained and
even killed extra-judicially.

This unfortunate development has been perpetrated by regular
security agents like the police and even the military for a long time. But it
seems the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and some other
paramilitary organizations have entered the fray.

In Ibadan, Oyo State, EFCC operatives, using crude force,
sacked the patrons of a nightclub in a bravado style. This action caused so
much concern that there would almost have been reprisals from the public. Law
enforcement is a given globally, but the manner security agents in this country
go about it leaves much to be desired.

In the case of Club 360, the aforementioned nightclub, EFCC
officials invaded the building at midnight and ransacked it thoroughly,
subjecting those present, especially youths, to a crude and humiliating
treatment. Vehicles, phones and laptops were confiscated. In all, about 89
persons were arrested.

By every given standard, this seems an unusual way to
enforce the law. It is harassment. Granted there could be some suspected
fraudsters at the location, but what about the innocent among them? Should they
have been manhandled and treated badly as well? In civilised climes, law
enforcement is intelligence-driven and, therefore, excludes all forms of
over-drive by security agents.

Although the EFCC has the responsibility to check and
prevent financial crimes, their dramatic incursion into nightclubs and
entertainment homes on the allegation of harbouring internet fraudsters may
amount to using a gun to kill a mosquito. The outcome is usually unintended,
one of which is to discourage investments and businesses.

When people lack trust in their security apparatuses, they
tend to recoil from society in apparent disgust and blend with their social
class, tribe or religion and do businesses in ways that benefit only them and
their families, not society or the nation. This is dangerous because of its
negative economic implications.

Harassment of innocent and young Nigerians by security
agents, notably in the services sector, will certainly harm the economy if not
checked. First, the nation’s economy is a weak and struggling one which is
being diversified from the hitherto oil monopoly we have always had.

Since Nigerians, especially at services centres, have become
vulnerable to attacks, unwarranted arrests and detention, they will customarily
be wary of patronising services-based businesses like restaurants, nightclubs,
entertainment enterprises, among others.

In the United Kingdom (UK), for instance, statistics
revealed that out of the four areas of the economy (services, manufacturing,
construction, and tourism), services alone contributed about $2.65 trillion
which amounted to over 80 per cent GDP in 2016. These services included retail,
food and beverage, and entertainment. That is how significant the services
sector of a nation’s economy could be if properly harnessed.

But in Nigeria, rather than encourage services providers,
security agents, under the pretext of law enforcement, often invade and
humiliate them, most times unjustifiably. What foresight or tangible benefits
are there to be derived from such precipitate action?

Similarly, EFCC officers stormed a nightclub in Osogbo, Osun
State, in October 2019. At the end of their operation, they arrested suspected
94 Yahoo Yahoo boys on an allegation that they had turned the place into a den
of internet fraudsters. The EFCC had also carried out mass arrests of youths in
similar operations in Enugu, Uyo, Aba and Lagos. Sadly, such clubs are usually
unable to recover from these invasions.

In a popular case, the EFCC arrested a musician, Naira
Marley (real name Afeez Fashola), allegedly for singing songs that glorified
internet fraud. Is that not baffling? By their legal roles, the Nigerian
Communications Commission and the Nigerian Copyright Council, as regulators,
are in charge of this field, yet the EFCC intruded by taking over their
functions.

The many untoward activities of the anti-graft agency are
responsible for the crude state of the organisation. Twenty years into the Fourth
Republic, they are yet to imbibe the basics of law enforcement in a democratic
setting. Isn’t that too long a time to adjust to the present reality as against
the brutal days of military dictatorship?

Besides the EFCC, the youth have other security agencies to
contend with. Those among them who drive expensive cars, use iPhones, laptops
and technological gadgets are repeatedly hounded by the police and the
military. At a time in 2017, the molestation was so much that some young
Nigerians founded the hashtag, #EndSARS.

The #EndSARS demotic movement was incensed by the human
rights abuses such as arrests, extortion and detention of the youth by the
police. As a result, the police high command in Abuja promised to rehabilitate
the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Whether that was done or not is yet to
be seen.

While that was going on, the police renewed their abuses
when a policeman killed Kolade Johnson at a TV viewing centre in Lagos last
April in his desperation to arrest young men and women wearing dreadlocks and
“sagging” trousers. For wearing tattoos, the military descended on some youths
in Aba last year, arresting and torturing them.

Just in December last year, some police officers attached to
the Eagle Crack Unit in the Rivers State Command allegedly tortured a motor
mechanic, Ikwunado Chima, to death on allegations of being a secret cult member
and a robber. At random, officers stop vehicles and arrest young people for
flimsy reasons, apparently with the intent to extort money from them.

It is wrong to assume that every young person is a criminal
and therefore deserves to be treated as such. Law enforcement agents,
especially the police, variously rob young Nigerians by compelling them at
gunpoint to transfer monies into their accounts electronically. Girls are not
exempted as sometimes they are indecently assaulted by security agents.

Is it a crime to be a youth in Nigeria? Nigerian youths
already have enough in their kitty. Unlike other climes where young people are
entitled to many benefits, in Nigeria, they are deprived of every good thing.
No jobs, no quality health care, no good education, and above all, no future.
Indeed, youths in this country are in the most precarious state.

Therefore, security agents shouldn’t add to their misery.
Their rights should not be violated on account of where they go to have
relaxation or fun and what they put on. If they violate the law, they have to
be accosted with civility, not in a gangsterish manner.

Leave a Response