Nigeria has a diverse range of security agencies that perform very different roles. The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) handles domestic issues, the Nigerian Army maintains Nigeria’s territorial integrity and the Amotekun is into animal prints or something.
Too much skin
Despite their operational differences, they all have the same goal to ensure the safety of Nigeria and Nigerians. But another thing most Nigerian security agencies have in common is a reputation for human rights abuse and gross misconduct.
And while much of this brutal streak is directed against civilians, there are occasional incidents of officers of these agencies turning on each other. One of such occasions reared its ugly head again on April 3rd, 2022, in Lagos traffic of all places.
This story doesn’t end well for at least one person.
A group of soldiers were stuck in traffic just like it happens to everyone in Lagos. When they investigated what was holding them up, they realised a group of police officers were holding up their lane to pass vehicles in another lane. And because they’re soldiers, they thought they needed to address the slight, so they confronted the police officers. Expectedly, a shouting match started between the two groups.
This is the point where the story of what went down deviates into more than one version, depending on who you ask.
The army’s version of events
During the quarrel, a police officer fired his weapon.
The bullet brushed the ear of one of the soldiers and caused enough damage to send him to the hospital. His mates didn’t like this, so they descended on the shooter and beat him to death.
His name was Inspector Monday Orukpe, and he’s survived by a wife and four children.
The police version
The soldiers, numbering about 30, attacked the five police officers on traffic duty for holding up their lane.
The soldiers beat up the team leader and kidnapped two inspectors and their AK-47 rifles. And when they tried to snatch another inspector, he fired into the air, forcing the soldiers to retreat.
The retreating soldiers turned their attention to torturing the kidnapped inspectors. Inspector Orukpe didn’t survive the injuries the soldiers inflicted on him and died. The second inspector, Igbafe Ojo, is currently being treated for his injuries.
The Lagos State Police Command has called out the Army’s claim of an injured soldier as a lie and demanded the return of the two AK-47 rifles and three magazines the soldiers stole.
So this is the state of affairs right now:
There’s a history of bad blood
The clash between soldiers and police officers in Lagos continues a string of bad blood incidents between officers of both security agencies in Nigeria.
For example, when a team of policemen arrested a wanted kidnapper, Bala “Wadume” Hamisu, in Taraba in 2019, a team of soldiers attacked them. The soldiers killed three policemen and two civilians and liberated the suspect.
The government indicted 10 soldiers involved in the attack but withdrew charges against them to allow the Army to court-martial them first. Their dismissal from the Army remains a waiting game three years later, despite protests from the police.
What will happen to the Lagos case?
The Army has already set up a board of inquiry to investigate the incident, promising to punish anyone found guilty of misconduct. But if the history of how these things play out is anything to go by, the police will be lucky to get justice for its brutalised officers.
The clash illustrates why security agencies have to consider serious reforms for the conduct of their officers, both with one another and with civilians.
In a tribute to Inspector Orukpe, the Police Command’s spokesperson, Ben Hundeyin, said, “You absolutely didn’t have to die.”
And that is as true for the officer as it is for every victim of police brutality in Nigeria.
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