Like the recurrent decimal that is ever destined to keep resurfacing, one of our most shameful social ills has happened again! This time around, it was the customs officials who were bent on proving their mettle against another agency of government. Reports had it that some personnel of the Nigerian Customs Service, (NCS), last weekend unleashed terror on officers of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, (LASTMA) who had dared to challenge one of its officials for driving in a direction prohibited by law (one-way) around Mile 2 area of Lagos.
The erring officer was said to be obstinate and arrogant and LASTMA had to impound the vehicle.
What followed later was the uncivilised barbarous show we have now all got familiar with. The customs officials enacted primitive pugilism to teach the “megalomaniac” LATSMA workers some lessons. By the time the raw show of power and might-over-right drama was over, no less than three LASTMA workers were seriously wounded; no fewer than four vehicles (all belonging to LASTMA) were damaged, while a police corporal who attempted to record the barbarities on his camera phone was beaten up at gun point.
It is very annoying the frequency with which this kind of primordial senselessness is being enacted nowadays. Any uniformed and armed group in Nigeria today seems convinced that state fitted, kitted and armed it for its own aggrandisement and parochial sense of importance and that it must protect its prestige and invincibility against all people including other agencies of government who might try to encroach on its powers.
In July this year, some armed soldiers had attacked the Lagos government-owned Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) buses. The report had it that one of the buses had accidentally hit and killed a soldier who was illegally plying the route exclusively meant for BRT buses at the Palmgrove bus stop, Lagos.
In the twinkling of an eye, the soldiers had mobilsed to avenge the killing of their colleague; they grounded both human and vehicular movements along Ikorodu road, Lagos, after which they started vandalising and burning any BRT vehicles on sight in mad rampage in which several innocent commuters were also injured! Just like in this case of the mad soldiers, the latest custom officer is another fitting tribute to impunity.
Immunity is now firmly entrenched as a regular fabric in the Nigerian culture. There have been many instances where, police officers, for instance, took law into their hands to settle “institutional” score against “insult” by the “bloody civilians” At times, it would be federal law enforcement agents taking on state law enforcement operatives.
An example of unprovoked attack against innocent citizens was easily afforded by the case of a young lady, Uzoma Okere, who was beaten and stripped naked by six armed naval ratings attached to a Rear Admiral, Harry Arogundade, in scandal that provoked nationwide reactions and condemnation in 2008.
Another example involving the onslaught by soldiers on a fellow law enforcement agent was the case of an official of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) Mrs. Obase Mordi, who was said to have lost her six-week-old pregnancy after she was beaten on August 27, 2011, by naval ratings. Her offence? She was accused to have insulted the wife of senior soldier! She said “When they learnt I am an EFCC officer, they even increased the beating”.
Now why is our society like this? The problem goes to the root of orientation. Most of our law enforcement agents are not properly-educated and oriented in their training before being given uniforms and firearms, thus they tend to muddle up the philosophy behind their existence.
All these institutions claim they have internal disciplinary procedure to re-orientate their erring members, yet culture of impunity occurs with regularity that makes mockery of any such disciplinary mechanism.
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