The gross misconduct by Government Security Forces (GSF) against civilians has become a major cause of concern in Nigeria today.
Military, Police and other security officials have always been granted “special status” which puts them “above” the laws they are meant to enforce. In fact, many civilians have caught-on to this “special status”, that they pose as fake military or policemen in order to falsely use the authority in the position, to extort unassuming civilians, or get a pass and break the law.
These last few months, there has been a spike in reports of such incidents. A case was reported on 3rd February 2017 and it involved DSS agents beating up school teachers in Federal Government College Calabar. According to news reports:
A Civic Education teacher, Mr Owai Owai, had beaten 10 pupils of Senior Secondary 3, for forcing some Junior students to sweep their (SS3) classroom while classes had commenced. One of the SS3 pupils was said to have called her mother, Mrs. Asuquo, a DSS official, on the telephone.
Asuquo reportedly raced to the school and invited her DSS colleagues, who stormed the college premises, shooting indiscriminately. They flogged the teacher publically Mr Owai, and other teachers, who attempted to caution them.
The operatives (DSS) went berserk and started shooting and hitting teachers with anything they could find: blows, kicks, stones, gun butts! Some (teachers) ran into adjoining bushes and farms to save their lives.
Some of the teachers started taking pictures and video recording of the incident. When the DSS operatives found out, they went after them, forcefully collecting their phones and further brutalizing them. Phones, money, glasses and other valuables were taken away by the operatives.
Several teachers sustained injuries from the assault and battery. The officials also beat up the security men at the gate while fleeing the school.
Graph showing GSF Misconduct incidents reported in the media from 1 August 2016 – 7 February 2017- Bulwark Intelligence.
Although recent reports released by officials indicated that Lagos forces had the most reported cases against police misconduct, the media’s reporting of this situation affects almost all states in Nigeria. The spike in Lagos, reflects the larger number of security officials operating within that state.
Also recently, there was a 1 Feb 2017 case involving Abu a motorcycle rider who was beaten to death by a soldier around Shomolu, Lagos. According to reports:
The soldier reversed his car to exit the premises, the vehicle hit the back of the victim’s motorcycle. Abu struggled with the motorcycle, a female passenger arrived at the scene. The passenger hit the body of the car to alert the soldier not to run over Abu, who was still battling with the motorcycle.
The soldier came out of his car and slapped the motorcycle rider repeatedly. As the rider tried to explain to him what actually happened, he descended on him with blows and beat him up. The soldier beat the rider until he could not stand on his feet; and he left in his car. As he was beating the man, he said nothing would happen if he died. Everybody present was afraid to intervene because he is a soldier.
Map showing GSF Misconduct incidents reported in the media from 1 August 2016 – 7 February 2017- Bulwark Intelligence. (Click Here to View Bulwark Intelligence Interactive Map of GSF Misconduct Cases Reported in the Media)
The causes of these incidents can be attributed to everything from serving officials adapting to the current economic circumstances in the country, to simply abuse of authority.
There hasn’t been any conscious effort to correlate these GSF Misconduct incidents with drug use or health issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) or other psychological issues associated with exposure to highly stressful and violent environments such as the Boko Haram War and other Operations taking place across the country.
Either way, the lack of a hard handed response by the leadership of these agencies to this abuse of power, further perpetuates these instances. The Federal Government and leaders of these security agencies must take stronger punitive actions in order to eliminate such unprofessional conduct among security personnel.
Failure to call security operatives to order will result in fewer citizens being concerned about assisting the police or military in their fight against crime, insurgencies and militancy. Losing the support of the people will simply make crime fighting that much more difficult.