Many Nigerians felt relieved when the Police Complaint Response Unit (CRU) was launched in 2015. They were happy to have the rare opportunity to channel their complaints on police brutality to authorities via phone lines, SMS, WhatsApp, Emails, Facebook, and Twitter for feedback in real time.
According to the then Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, the multi-platform community-based complaint reporting mechanism would assist citizens in reaching out to the top hierarchy of the Nigeria police to report concerns or obtain specific information from them.
In the same vein, the head of the unit, Yomi Shogunle, noted that the CRU will bridge the gap between the police and citizens as every complaint will be assigned a computer generated tracking number, and also acknowledged, verified, investigated by the unit and feedback offered.
This development was applauded by Nigerians who believed that the CRU, with the motto: “No To Impunity” is unlike conventional police stations where cases are only investigated after ‘mobilisation fees’ must have been paid to top officials.
“I was very happy when the initiative was launched in 2015. I saw Twitter as a level-playing ground and the police have nowhere to hide when citizens lodge complaints about their officers,” Kafayat Adio, a Nigerian who saw prospects in the CRU initiative, told HumAngle.
In its first three years of operation, the police CRU was releasing detailed statistics of some of the unit’s activities, such as public complaint rankings according to states, punitive measures on errant law enforcement officials, and so on.
The public reports and detailed statistics have, however, stopped since 2018 amid rising cases of impunity. Nigerians who spoke to HumAngle questioned the effectiveness of the police CRU following their experiences with cases reported but not resolved by the unit.
Unresolved cases of brutality
Following repeated abductions on the dreaded Ife-Ibadan highway, Osun State, Southwest Nigeria, police personnel were stationed at the outskirts of Ibadan, Ikire, Gbongan, and Ile-Ife to help curb the abduction rate.
Instead of discharging their duties as directed, the personnel were caught on video brutalising road users and collecting bribes from motorists.
The ex-police spokesperson, Frank Mba, was briefed and he asked for the video clip. That was the last time anything was heard about the case.
This reporter had a similar experience in 2018, when two police officers were caught on camera extorting motorists and brutalising young Nigerians in the name of searching for internet fraudsters along Ijebu Ode-Ibadan Road in Ogun State of the same region.
When the footage of the officers’ misconduct was forwarded to Abayomi Shogunle, ex-head of police complaints unit, he promised to examine the case and subsequently issued a tracking number (PCRRU915475).
Months later, police authorities failed to take proactive actions. The CRU has since not been able to give updates on the matter. A Lagos-based lawyer, Sunkanmi Lawal, also told HumAngle that he is yet to get feedback for a complaint of harassment reported in 2021.
“I was harassed by a police officer while driving to court in Ikoyi, Lagos in early February. I took his picture and sent it to the CRU. I was given a tracking number and told to check back for updates. I called them more than five times but was told they were still investigating.
“There was a time I called them in April and the CRU told me they could not track the case. They urged me to call back later but I refused because I felt that my efforts were a waste of time,” he said.
HumAngle findings showed that the complaints on police brutality have been on the rise in the last few weeks. On Monday, March 21, a twitter user with the handle @OsasenagaEno shared a video of an officer who extorted him for not having a tinted permit.
Another Twitter user with the handle, @Senseii_rods also narrated how some police officer brutalised him in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria.
When contacted about our findings, the spokesperson of the Nigeria Police Force, Muyiwa Adejobi, told HumAngle that “we receive more than 5,000 complaints daily. The problem is that some complainants are not always forthcoming after giving them a tracking number.”
When informed about cases that were duly followed, he said “there are many units in the police that deal with different cases. The CRU does not investigate cases, they only assign tracking numbers and inform the appropriate units to investigate.
“The problem is if they don’t get feedback from the appropriate departments handling various issues, there is no way they would give public updates.
“What we are trying to do is to ensure that I summon erring police officers personally. We have many cases and sometimes complainants do not want to testify against the accused police personnel and it is a big challenge for us.”
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