MEDICAL & DENTAL COUNCIL OF NIGERIA

MEDICAL & DENTAL COUNCIL OF NIGERIA REACTS TO POOR MEDICAL TRAINING; A ROOT CAUSES ANALYSIS.
The news of the barring of great University of Benin (Uniben) College of Medical sciences graduates from registration with the Nigerian Medical & Dental Council came as a shock to many alumni of the university especially those who passed through that medical school. Only a couple of years ago UNIBEN alumni were all rejoicing that UNIBEN came up as the best University in Nigeria.
In a statement in Benin on the 21st of February 2008 by Mr. Eddy Akporere, Head Public Relations and Protocol said that the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities released in January, 2008, showed that University of Benin maintained its first position in Nigeria, in the past one year.
He added that the new World Universities’ Ranking has again placed University of Benin, Benin City ahead of all Nigerian Federal, State and Private Universities in terms of global visibility, in terms of researches and academic programmes.
The announcement by Professor Roger Makanjuola of the Medical & Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) de-accrediting the College of Medical Sciences of the University of Benin, Benin City did not only shock some of us but was very demoralising considering that only a couple of years ago UNIBEN was voted the best university in Nigeria; how did this sudden fall from grace to grass happen?
Professor Roger Makanjuola himself a medical doctor and professor of psychiatry would not have taken the decision lightly as the current chairman of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria especially as he himself knows what it feels like for an accreditation to be withdrawn from a faculty or college as he was the ViceChancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife when the faculty accreditation for the faculty of law was withdrawn by the National University Commission NUC in January 2006.
Professor Roger Makanjuola is a man who may be keen for the best standard of care for Nigerians and more importantly keen to maintain the standard of medical training and practice in Nigeria. We all recall his road show in the USA seeking support from well placed alumni of OAU Ile Ife to come home to support their university so it is difficult to ascribe politics into the decision on great UNIBEN. Is this therefore a case of the University of Benin authority affronting the MDCN’s earlier decision of refusing the Niger Delta University accreditation for its medical training and Uniben authorities stepping over to assist the young university and taking the fall? One can only guess.
One cannot fault MDCN of Nigeria for their punitive action against university medical schools in Nigeria as the practice of medicine has actually deteriorated like everything else in the country but this sorry state of affairs is unfortunately not limited to only Uniben. How has the great Uniben been pulled down from its Olympian heights as the best university in Nigeria to be de-accredited in medicine where as an institution it has made a great impact nationally and internationally. Reading through the suspension letter signed by Dr. A. A. Ibrahim, Registrar of MDCN, ‘the Council wishes to reassert that the issue at stake is the unsatisfactory and inadequate training of students who shall be licensed as doctors to treat the citizens of this country based on the visitation panel report to MDCN. However Council would be ready to pay an accreditation visit to the College of Medical Sciences within the next twelve (12) months, on an appropriate date in 2011, if the University authorities invite such a visitation’

The statutory functions of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria is to approve the institutions at which courses of training are to be given for persons who are seeking to become members of the Medical and Dental professions as well as the courses of instruction prescribed and the qualifications to be granted by such institutions. Council also has the responsibility for supervising the nature of the instructions and the examinations leading to the qualifications to be granted in these cases (vide Medical and Dental Practitioners Decree No. 23 of 1988, Sections I (2a), 8( I a & b) and 9 (1, 3 & 4), after several reviews, the enabling Act is now CAP M8. In pursuance of these duties, the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria sends visitation panels from time to time to inspect newly established medical schools with a view to approving formally their training programmes as required by the law but UNIBEN is a first generation university in Nigeria and would have had series of such inspection and would have been a grand master in getting the college of medical sciences of the University of Benin ready for such accreditation and re-accreditation so what went wrong?

The story is that the University of Benin a few years ago was approached by the Niger Delta University College of Health SciencesWilberforce Island, Amassoma, Yenogao; Bayelsa State of Nigeria to assist with the training of her medical students as her College of Health sciences was not accredited for medical students training. The then VC of the University of Benin agreed as this was a common practice amongst Nigerian universities usually between a well established
universitylike Uniben and an upcoming university as the Niger Delta University who had its first intake in 2002.

If you recall the first intake pre-clinical science students of the University of Benin were trained at the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, while the first intake pharmacy students were trained at the University of Ife. In the same vein, the University of Benin also trained Bendel State University now Ambrose Alli University Ekpoma until they became fully fleshed to produce their own medical graduates. This kind of support and co-operation between Nigerian universities is what is essential to make Nigeria grow as a nation and give support to newer universities but standards must be kept at all cost by those whose duty statutorily it is to keep them like the MDCN, the National University Commission and the Senate of the various universities.

It was this addition of the medical students from the Niger Delta University Bayelsa State which took the number of medical students allowed for Uniben above the acceptable limit for students’ faculty ratio and the ratio of students to infrastructure and equipments. There may be other factors detected by the visitation panel but it seems the crux was the disproportionate ratio of students to staff. This same problem will be detected in other Nigerian universities as they are all usually guilty of admitting too many students above the quota approved for each institution so the commissioning authorities for Federal, State and Private Universities must put resources in place to provide adequate faculty, equipments and infrastructure for producing medical doctors fit for purpose of providing healthy living and preventing ill health amongst Nigerians.

The need for maintaining standard cannot be over emphasised and similarly the morale of the students, and faculty members of the University of Benin Medical School must be maintained so this issue needs urgent resolution so that appropriate infrastructure, necessary equipments and adequate number of staff must be quickly put in place so that a new visitation panel will give the medical school the acceptable minimum standard so that this de-accreditation can be lifted. The quick fix options will be to send the Niger Delta medical students back to Bayelsa State as suggested in some quarters. This will obviously be very inappropriate and an unpopular option as the students have spent between one to three years in the medical school and are at the stage of graduation so every
effort should be made to see that they graduate with minimal delay and disturbance as they have not caused any of these current crises.

There is no doubt the standard of Nigerian medical schools have fallen over these years and visitation panel if sent to other similar university will come back with sorry tales of same situation as found.

The best option will be for the Federal Government to intervene through the Federal Ministry of Health and or Education by voting an emergency fund to support Uniben Medical School so that it can meet the minimum standard of the MDCN. Special plea should be made to President Goodluck Jonathan to facilitate this emergency vote for upgrading the medical colleges not only in Benin but in Yenogao as well after all the Niger Delta University he contributed in setting up is at the middle of the current crisis.

In subsequent years the Federal Government should vote adequate funds for the maintenance of her universities to bring them to international standard and save the MDCN and other regulating bodies the problem of incessant intervention and unnecessary adverse publicity which is not good for the universities, the students, Nigerians and even the regulating bodies.

It may be difficult to blame the conduct of Nigerian medical graduates on their training institutions because they were admitted from amongst Nigerians who believe in get rich quick, who sees the way the politicians are squandering the resources of the nation, who see the lack of transparency, lack of accountability and lack of integrity amongst the ruling class so total re-orientation of our people is needed but we have to start from somewhere. As a child growing up in Benin, medical doctors were the heart and soul of the community as they were respected so it is only fair the re-orientation of the Nigerian society should start amongst doctors to show examplary character, conduct and behaviour. Our countrymen needs a re-orientation not just the medical graduates alone and efforts like this to bring sanity into the polity should be applauded but suffering of the innocent medical students should not be prolonged so as not to throw the proverbial baby away with the dirty bath water so we appeal to the MDCN through its chair person Professor Roger Makanjuola to temper justice with mercy and give the College of Medical sciences of the University a probation of about a twelve
months period while they put their house in order. The Nigerian President must act quickly to redeem the situation as the current father of the nation to obviate the current adverse publicity which is not good for the nation as University of Benin is one of the national flag bearer in academics, research and in the industry.

SEO OGBONMWAN MMED, FMCOG, FRCOG. An alumnus of the University of Benin in the Diaspora.

MEDICAL & DENTAL COUNCIL OF NIGERIA

MEDICAL & DENTAL COUNCIL OF NIGERIA REACTS TO POOR MEDICAL TRAINING; A ROOT CAUSES ANALYSIS.

The news of the barring of great University of Benin (Uniben) College of Medical sciences graduates from registration with the Nigerian Medical & Dental Council came as a shock to many alumni of the university especially those who passed through that medical school. Only a couple of years ago UNIBEN alumni were all rejoicing that UNIBEN came up as the best University in Nigeria.

In a statement in Benin on the 21st of February 2008 by Mr. Eddy Akporere, Head Public Relations and Protocol said that the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities released in January, 2008, showed that University of Benin maintained its first position in Nigeria, in the past one year.

He added that the new World Universities’ Ranking has again placed University of Benin, Benin City ahead of all Nigerian Federal, State and Private Universities in terms of global visibility, in terms of researches and academic programmes.

The announcement by Professor Roger Makanjuola of the Medical & Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) de-accrediting the College of Medical Sciences of the University of Benin, Benin City did not only shock some of us but was very demoralising considering that only a couple of years ago UNIBEN was voted the best university in Nigeria; how did this sudden fall from grace to grass happen?

Professor Roger Makanjuola himself a medical doctor and professor of psychiatry would not have taken the decision lightly as the current chairman of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria especially as he himself knows what it feels like for an accreditation to be withdrawn from a faculty or college as he was the ViceChancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife when the faculty accreditation for the faculty of law was withdrawn by the National University Commission NUC in January 2006.

Professor Roger Makanjuola is a man who may be keen for the best standard of care for Nigerians and more importantly keen to maintain the standard of medical training and  practice in Nigeria. We all recall his road show in the USA seeking support from well placed alumni of OAU Ile Ife to come home to support their university so it is difficult to ascribe politics into the decision on great UNIBEN.

Is this therefore a case of the University of Benin authority affronting the MDCN’s earlier decision of refusing the Niger Delta University accreditation for its medical training and Uniben authorities stepping over to assist the young university and taking the fall? One can only guess.

One cannot fault MDCN of Nigeria for their punitive action against university medical schools in Nigeria as the practice of medicine has actually deteriorated like everything else in the country but this sorry state of affairs is unfortunately not limited to only Uniben. How has the great Uniben been pulled down from its Olympian heights as the best university in Nigeria to be de-accredited in medicine where as an institution it has made a great impact nationally and internationally.

Reading through the suspension letter signed by Dr. A. A. Ibrahim, Registrar of MDCN, ‘the Council wishes to reassert that the issue at stake is the unsatisfactory and inadequate training of students who shall be licensed as doctors to treat the citizens of this country based on the visitation panel report to MDCN. However Council would be ready to pay an accreditation visit to the College of Medical Sciences within the next twelve (12) months, on an appropriate date in 2011, if the University authorities invite such a visitation’

 

The statutory functions of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria is to approve the institutions at which courses of training are to be given for persons who are seeking to become members of the Medical and Dental professions as well as the courses of instruction prescribed and the qualifications to be granted by such institutions.

Council also has the responsibility for supervising the nature of the instructions and the examinations leading to the qualifications to be granted in these cases (vide Medical and Dental Practitioners Decree No. 23 of 1988, Sections I (2a), 8( I a & b) and 9 (1, 3 & 4), after several reviews, the enabling Act is now CAP M8.

In pursuance of these duties, the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria sends visitation panels from time to time to inspect newly established medical schools with a view to approving formally their training programmes as required by the law but UNIBEN is a first generation university in Nigeria and would have had series of such inspection  and would have been a grand master in getting the college of medical sciences of the University of Benin ready for such accreditation and re-accreditation so what went wrong?

 

The story is that the University of Benin a few years ago was approached by the Niger Delta University College of Health SciencesWilberforce Island, Amassoma, Yenogao; Bayelsa State of Nigeria to assist with the training of her medical students as her College of Health sciences was not accredited for medical students training. The then VC of the University of Benin agreed as this was a common practice amongst Nigerian universities usually between a well established universitylike Uniben and an upcoming university as the Niger Delta University who had its first intake in 2002.

 

If you recall the first intake pre-clinical science students of the University of Benin were trained at the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, while the first intake pharmacy students were trained at the University of Ife.

In the same vein, the University of Benin also trained Bendel State University now Ambrose Alli University Ekpoma until they became fully fleshed to produce their own medical graduates. This kind of support and co-operation between Nigerian universities is what is essential to make Nigeria grow as a nation and give support to newer universities but standards must be kept at all cost by those whose duty statutorily it  is to keep them like the MDCN, the National University Commission and the Senate of the various universities.

 

It was this addition of the medical students from the Niger Delta University Bayelsa State which took the number of medical students allowed for Uniben above the acceptable limit for students’ faculty ratio and the ratio of students to infrastructure and equipments. There may be other factors detected by the visitation panel but it seems the crux was the disproportionate ratio of students to staff. This same problem will be detected in other Nigerian universities as they are all usually guilty of admitting too many students above the quota approved for each institution so the commissioning authorities for Federal, State and Private Universities must put resources in place to provide adequate  faculty, equipments and infrastructure for producing medical doctors fit for purpose of providing healthy living and preventing ill health amongst Nigerians.

 

The need for maintaining standard cannot be over emphasised and similarly the morale of the students, and faculty members of the University of Benin Medical School must be maintained so this issue needs urgent resolution so that appropriate infrastructure, necessary equipments and adequate number of staff must be quickly put in place so that a new visitation panel will give the medical school the acceptable minimum standard so that this de-accreditation can be lifted.

The quick fix options will be to send the Niger Delta medical students back to Bayelsa State as suggested in some quarters.  This will obviously be very inappropriate and an unpopular option as the students have spent between one to three years in the medical school and are at the stage of graduation so every effort should be made to see that they graduate with minimal delay and disturbance as they have not caused any of these current crises.

 

There is no doubt the standard of Nigerian medical schools have fallen over these years and visitation panel if sent to other similar university will come back with sorry tales of same situation as found.

 

The best option will be for the Federal Government to intervene through the Federal Ministry of Health and or Education by voting an emergency fund to support Uniben Medical School so that it can meet the minimum standard of the MDCN. Special plea should be made to President Goodluck Jonathan to facilitate this emergency vote for upgrading the medical colleges not only in Benin but in Yenogao as well after all the Niger Delta University he contributed in setting up is at the middle of the current crisis.

 

In subsequent years the Federal Government should vote adequate funds for the maintenance of her universities to bring them to international standard and save the MDCN and other regulating bodies the problem of incessant intervention and unnecessary adverse publicity which is not good for the universities, the students, Nigerians and even the regulating bodies.

 

It may be difficult to blame the conduct of Nigerian medical graduates on their training institutions because they were admitted from amongst Nigerians who believe in get rich quick, who sees the way the politicians are squandering the resources of the nation, who see the lack of transparency, lack of accountability and lack of integrity amongst the ruling class so total re-orientation of our people is needed but we have to start from somewhere. As a child growing up in Benin, medical doctors were the heart and soul of the community as they were respected so it is only fair the re-orientation of the Nigerian society should start amongst doctors to show examplary character, conduct and behaviour.

Our countrymen needs a re-orientation not just the medical graduates alone and efforts like this to bring sanity into the polity should be applauded but suffering of the innocent medical students should not be prolonged so as not to throw the proverbial baby away with the dirty bath water so we appeal to the MDCN through its chair person Professor Roger Makanjuola to temper justice with mercy and give the College of Medical sciences of the University a probation of about a twelve months period while they put their house in order. The Nigerian President must act quickly to redeem the situation as the current father of the nation to obviate the current adverse publicity which is not good for the nation as University of Benin is one of the national flag bearer in academics, research and in the industry.

 

SEO OGBONMWAN MMED, FMCOG, FRCOG.

An alumnus of the University of Benin in the Diaspora.

 

LEADERSHIP BORN OUT OF YAR[1]

LEADERSHIP BORN OUT OF YAR’ADUA’S ILLNESS CRISIS.

SEO Ogbonmwan KSC

There is no doubt that Yar’Adua’s illness has caused crisis of no small magnitude in the Nigeria political landscape and in spite of the ingenuity and resilience of Nigerians who are determined not to go again through the mistakes of 1966/67 some evil people who are making profit out of this disorderly situation are determined to plunge the nation into the abyss.

Right from when Yar’Adua was flown to Saudi Arabia for his treatment after he was said to have collapsed in Aso Rock, all information about his illness have been coming in a drip drip form as the whole medical management has been shrouded in secrecy. As we are aware or suspect, the medical situation of the president is not looking good but he and his closest alleys still wish to hold on to power at all cost.

Anyone is allowed to fall ill;  anybody who is ill is also allowed to seek remedy anywhere in the world for his ailment but what one is not allowed to do is to stop the clock of a nation’s progress; a nation of over  150 million people just that one has fallen ill.

You would expect the Yar’Adua’s closest friends and supporters  will advice him to transmit power fully to his deputy so that he can have ample time to look after himself in the best medical setting anywhere in the world but they have not done that. Scared that power may be slipping from his (Yar’Adua’s) grip and in turn themselves,  the heartless cabal of his closest associates decided to bring him down to Nigeria and nurse him in an ambulance without access by anyone.

The situation obviously creates doubt in the minds of many Nigerians. The thorny questions that come to mind includet:

  • Is Yar’Adua really in the country especially when one considers the secrecy with which he was brought in the small hours of the night?
  • On the other hand is he dead that there is so much secrecy and security about preventing everyone including the mother, siblings and the acting President of the nation from seeing him?
  • The innermost cabal that is obviously controlling the situation presently, are they unmindful of the feelings of 150 million Nigerians who seem being taken for an inglorious ride?
  • The role of the military in particular the brigade of guard, the Chief of Army Staff, National Security Adviser s who seems not to respect the views of the Nigerian people through the actions of the National Assembly of bestowing power on the Vice President to act on behalf of Yar’Adua as the Acting President of the nation.
  • The role and pronouncements of the Personal Assistant to Yar’Adua who seem to be dishing out information from unelected individuals to the Nigerian people which seems to have compounded the present situation.
  • The inability of Yar’Adua personal physician to inform the nation of his boss’ medical situation from time to time as done in other countries. Does this not call for the creation of the post of a Surgeon General for our country?

However some good has come of out of this ugly situation in the person of Professor Dora Akunliyi who shows she has a conscience, and wishes to do what is right for our people by showing transparency in her dealings with fellow Nigerians. She has shown fearless ness and commitment to her position as information minister to sift the lies from truth in her information management.

Nigerians needs more Dora Akunyili to move the nation forward in a selfless manner as she is doing. Her actions, devotion to duty, from her days in NAFDAC to her present position has revealed her personality as a women with honour, conscience, transparent, incorruptible and has a vision for the good of the Nigerian nation. It is in crisis time that a leader  emerges  and Nigeria has just been blessed with one and her name is Dora Akunliyi.

The other benefits of the Yar’Adua illness include the unity of purpose of the nation in seeking to stop Nigeria from drifting in a rudderless manner at sea. Nigerians from all works of life have been involved in asking for direction from the national assemblies. No one has been left out being concerned, from students’ union to market women, to civil societies, NBA, and the coalition of political parties all have asked for direction from the ‘leaders’  So the ascendancy of Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is not only and act of God but the very strong desire of Nigerian people who have made their feelings known.

The composition of the cabal determined to hold the country down have been exposed.  They are doing this not for the ill Yar’Adua but for their personal gains and personal greed to acquire more personal ill gotten wealth from the common pool

The Yar’Adua illness has exposed the very weak Nigerian Heath system that needs  urgent attention. What is lacking is not the manpower but appropriate infra structure and modern medical equipments to render a 21st century clinical service in at least a few centres in each of the geopolitical zones in the country.

It is also a good opportunity to entrench in the nation’s constitution that the federal government of Nigeria no longer funds treatment abroad for any her citizens. This singular move will help the government to invest appropriately in the national health sector.

We hope that Professor Dora Akunyili who is the type of incorruptible leader Nigeria needs will put herself forward for elective position at the highest level in subsequent election and we hope Nigerians from all walks of life will emulate her outspokenness, frankness, commitment to Nigeria, her transparent attitude and courage.

Those who are moving negative motions in the national houses of assembly against Dora Akunyili are deaf and blind to the quiet revolution taking place across the nation.

 Nigerians want transparency, accountability and openness and an effective government and they are showing it. No more secrecy which facilitates corrupt practices.  I ask them to listen to the new Nigerian song of progress, courage, openness and determination as exemplified by our respectable and hard working Dora Akunyili. Please leave our hero alone.

SEO

© February 2010

 

In the throes of police killings

 

 

In the throes of police killings

Ogbonna Onovo, IGP

TWENTY-two-year- old Ernest Obi lived with his parents in Lagos though they hail from the South-Eastern part of the country. A very brilliant boy, he had one of the best results in the WASC exam, hence, gaining admission to a first generation university was not a problem. He was in 200 level when his father lost his job. But in spite of this, his father struggled to ensure that he did not drop out of school being a source of joy to the family as the first and only child to have gone that far in the pursuit of education.

But things took a new dimension when Earnest came home during one Christmas break. The reality that stared him in the face was that his family of eight hardly had food to eat. Many times, they resorted to eating mango fruits (the tree grew in their backyard) for lunch and dinner. At this point, he knew that schooling was no longer possible and the family needed to do something urgent so they would not starve to death.

So, when the firm with which his father worked paid his severance allowance and other entitlements, he (Ernest) advised that they should buy a tokunbo car with which he could operate a kabukabu ( taxi service) to feed the family. The plan was that he would return to school after he must have helped the family to overcome their terrible financial state.

Earnest was making enough money to feed his family and pay the school fees of his younger siblings when fate played a cruel joke on his family. He was killed at a police checkpoint between Ojota and Maryland for refusing to part with N20. This was in 2008.

In a more recent case of police killings, Sunday, an electronics trader at Idi Arere area of Ibadan,  was not involved in the argument that ensued between the driver of the commercial motorcycle conveying him and a police officer when the former refused to pay the “toll fee” of N20, but as it turned out, he paid the ultimate price; he was killed.

The Nigeria Police, expected to be the epitome of courage, honour, courtesy, devotion and dedication to the cause of the citizens and the society at large at all times, have since acquired a new and rather strange attitude- the inclination to cut short the lives of the people  they are being paid to protect.

Hardly can a month pass without an incident(s) of accidental discharge recorded somewhere in the country. While the mass media are awash with the incidents of the killing of innocent citizens, several others go unreported.

On many occasions, police kill as a result of the refusal to pay a “toll fee”, a bribe or because of other excuses that could best be described as flimsy and outrageous.

Early last year, 2009, Monday Ediagbonya, a commercial cyclist in Benin city, enthusiastically drove a passenger to a bank near Emokpae Primary School hoping to be adequately compensated for the service but, oblivious to him, death, in a smart, dark uniform, was waiting. Probably, he would have escaped the cold hands of death if he had not chosen to display a little gesture of kindness.

Just as he dropped the passenger in front of the bank, the ball being played by some boys in a nearby school flew past him and hit the gate of the bank. Monday picked the ball and threw it back to the boys prompting the mobile policeman attached to the bank to query his effrontery.

Attempts by the policeman to seize Monday’s bike was resisted which made the policeman to shoot him in the head.

Nigerians are besieged by the fear of armed robbers, rising cost of living, fuel scarcity, unemployment and now, the fear of murderous policemen. The fear has subsequently metamorphosed into a deep-seated contempt and hatred for the uniformed men in black.

In Lagos, people reportedly cheered when some robbers got the upper hand in a duel between them and a team of policemen.

This not withstanding, people say there is much more going on and that what people know about police killings is a mere tip of the iceberg compared to what actually takes place. Those who have been in the precincts of police stations for a while will present a vivid but grimmer picture. People are summarily and deliberately killed in police custody.  These witnesses say names are called mostly in the dead of the night and that many times, those called never made it back. Only the police can tell where they were taken to.

These people, they say, could be those awaiting trial or those who were randomly picked and/or raided by the police on flimsy excuses. Some were arrested and detained indefinitely while taking a walk in their neighbourhood or going about their legitimate business.

The 2009 Amnesty International report on extra judicial killings of innocent Nigerians by the police revealed a dastardly act that is heart-rending.

According to the report, which covered three years, frrom 2007 to 2009, police kill at will and hundreds of people are unlawfully killed by the police in Nigeria every year. It said: “The police don’t only kill people by shooting them, they also torture them to death, often while they are in detention… some people die because they fail to pay police officers a bribe…”.

Amnesty International, in reference to a Nigeria Police Annual Report, gave the number of robbery suspects unlawfully executed by the force as 3,014 between 2003 and 2008.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission and Nigeria’s human rights organisations have said the killings took place under questionable cirumstances and that the majority of the cases were not investigated, let alone meting out adequate punishment to the officers involved.

Amnesty International,  which observed that some policemen consider the killing of alleged armed robbers in detention as an acceptable practice, reported that its delegate saw 15 people killed in a disused abbatoir, and counted at least 30 empty bullet cases, when they visited the Special Anti robbery squad  in Abuja in June 2009.

In another report, the Delta State branch of the committee for the Defence of Human Rights said about 120 innocent Nigerians are killed annually nationwide at police check points. And that many times, they are tagged armed robbers.

It gave the example of three artisans, namely: Rotimi Philips, Ibrahim Olojede and Friday Uti, who were reportedly labelled as armed robbers and killed at their mechanic workshop at Alagomeji, Lagos, during a police raid. Incidentally, the brother to one of the deceased was a policeman, and he later disclaimed his colleagues’ claim.

Many times, when these killings are reported, they are followed by public outcry and the declaration by police authorities to deal with such killer-cops. End of story.

Indeed, one can say that police killings are particularly a Nigerian phenomenon because such incidents are very rare in other countries.While consenting that it is a Nigerian problem, some Nigerians proffered reasons for this unhealthy development.

Mr. Kayode Ogundoro, a management consultant, stated that the sociology of policing in Nigeria is ultra vire. He said the nation’s present day  policing is a reflection of the law enforcement agencies of the colonial era, who were used mainly for territorial aggression and to conquer the people physically, before missionaries were bought in to conquer the people’s minds (mental and emotional) to ensure the success of their governments.

He pointed out that the police, which derived its name from the Greek word polis, meaning metropolitan or polity, is meant to “police the polity” by enforcing laws, and that with the coming of civilisation, less arms should be used.

While advocating state police, Ogundoro recommended that people in the community should make the police their friend. “The heads like the DPOs and commissioners should be people with tribal affiliations in the areas they  oversee. With this, crime tracking becomes easier and the police would be less prone to brutality.”

A Nigerian based in the United Kingdom, Dr. Steve Ogbonmwan, however, attributed the situation to the general state of lawlessness and corruption pervading the land. He said: “From the highest office holder who absconds from office without anyone knowing about his whereabouts, to the lowest paid employee, all are lawless. They believe that once they have money, they can buy their way through. In this country, justice is for sale.

He further noted that, in this state of lawlessness and scant regard for the rule of law, there is the tendency for people to arrogate power to themselves, especially when they have certain privileges. Hence, policemen think they have the world in their pockets, being in possession of the AK 47 rifle”.

Ogbonmwam added that the situation is made worse by a system that frustrates hardworking people, but rewards mediocrity and indolence.

To Dr. Akeem Akinwale, a  sociology lecturer at the University of Ibadan, police killings are indices of the weakness in the law enforcement machinery because, people believe they can always escape or buy their way out when they violate the laws of the land. He said the fact that cases of killings that have been addressed are just a tip of the iceberg, while the delay in bringing culprits to justice have not helped matters.

Mr. Ojo Adebayo, a legal practioner, had a different opinion. “The situation has persisted because the claim by police authorities to sanction perpetrators of police killings is a mere cover up”.

He cited an instance which happened in Ibadan, Oyo state, some years ago, during which a policeman shot and killed two people and wounded three others at a check point. According to him, when the case was filed before the court, the police authorities in the state refused to produce the culprit.

But when the Oyo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Adisa Bolanta’s reaction was sought on this, he said he could not speak on the matter because he was not around  then, emphasising that, at the time, issues of police killings, whether accidental or extra judicial, had reduced immensely all over the country because police authorities ensured that culprits did not go free. He cited a recent happening in Ibadan in which a policeman shot a passenger when, according to him, the motorcycle driver refused to wait when he was ordered to. He said that the policeman had already been dismissed and plans were underway to have him prosecuted.

The Oyo state police boss declared that police killings were illegal. “Policemen are not trained to kill, but to maim, and this depends on certain circumstances”, stressing further that, “when a policeman shoots someone, it should be with the intention to maim in order to effect arrest and subsequent prosecution. The situation is such that, even if the judge hands down a death sentence and prescribes the manner by which a criminal should be killed, it is not the duty of the police to kill such a criminal”.

However, the fact that police killings have reduced, is totally unacceptable. There’s the need for the total elimination of this malady  .

There is, therefore, no gainsaying that this,  and other issues that have consistently portrayed the Nigeria police in bad light, are pointers to the urgent need for a complete overhaul of the system to purge it of all “infirmities,” and thereby give  them a human face and human feeling. We cannot continue to hide a leprous finger, for one day, it would infect the others and the whole body bears the brunt.

But while this is being done, Nigeria’s political leaders must begin the process of putting the nation on the path of rebirth by eschewing all those vices that are common among them, which are capable of holding the nation to ransom and thwarting all efforts towards the attainment of the desired development. They must live by example.