A growing number of Nigerians who experience assaults and other infractions from the police have now found a new way to report to police authorities and enforce their human rights.
Checks by SaharaReporters show that more Nigerians now patronise the Police Complaints Response Unit which gets a number of enquiries, cases and reports daily from Nigerians who prefer the “online police station.”
SaharaReporters observed that apart from the Police CRU being accessible, Nigerians prefer to use this new medium because they can attach photographs and sometimes videos of the erring personnel or the incident as evidence.
The police personnel and authorities, who on Twitter, are constrained to request for bribes or show favouritism, are then obligated to look into the enquiries and follow up on the reports.
Some Nigerian users told SaharaReporters that the Police CRU on Twitter is becoming more common among the people because it is unlike the situation in conventional police stations where cases are investigated after “mobilisation fees” have been paid.
“Even when they commence investigation into your matter, they are prone to show favouritism because no one is watching or tracking. But on Twitter, it is a level-playing ground and the police have nowhere to hide. You are able to tag prominent human rights activists to also amplify your case,” a user, who wanted to be anonymous, told SaharaReporters.
A few other users interviewed agreed that the Police CRU’s Twitter handle, @PoliceNG_CRU is becoming a formidable “online police station” for Nigerians to bring their cases and reports to the attention of the police.
The Police CRU’s Twitter handle, @PoliceNG_CRU, was established in 2015, but became more popular during last year’s EndSARS protests when police personnel’s excesses and abnormalities came to a head in the country.
Presently, the police Twitter handle has whooping 162,000 followership and more Nigerians are still subscribing, mainly due to the ability of the unit to investigate cases to logical conclusions.
One of the latest examples was on April 27 when the Ogun State Police Command dismissed three policemen, who were involved in the forceful extortion of N153,000 from one Sheriff Adedigba, a student of the Lagos State University.
The command stated on Tuesday that the three policemen namely Inspector Sunday John, Sergeant Jimoh Asimiya and Sergeant Solomon Adedapo were found guilty after an orderly room trial and dismissed.
They forcefully extorted the said amount from the victim while he was traveling from Abeokuta to Lagos but the matter was brought to the attention of the Police CRU with pictorial evidences.
Having heard about the incident on social media, the Commissioner of Police, Edward Ajogun, ordered the immediate arrest and detention of the officers involved in the dastardly act. The three policemen were quickly identified and apprehended.
Also, in January 21, the police began an investigation of power-drunk policemen who tortured a University of Lagos student, John Akinwale, to a coma in the Mosafejo, Oshodi area of Lagos State.
The police CRU confirmed this, after it had been reported that the operatives demanded N20,000 bail from the UNILAG student, who is also an activist, after dragging him to a police station.
In response to the allegations, the NPF CRU said, “Your complaint is hereby acknowledged and investigation has been initiated.”
In December 2020, a citizen also posted the video of a policeman in Abia State caught on camera, extorting money from a tricycle driver.
The policeman had been on duty along Obikabia/Ururuka road, Aba area of the state, and he was recorded by a camera by one of the passengers, while he was extorting money fron the driver.
The video of the officer was, however, sent to the Police CRU which replied, “Your complaint is hereby acknowledged and investigation has been initiated. Your tracking number is #CRU420938, Thank you for contacting NPF-CRU.”
Also in June 2020, the Lagos State Police Command sanctioned three of its personnel – a corporal and two constables – when a video of them assaulting a woman in the Ajegunle area surfaced on the Police CRU.
The policemen are identified by nicknames, Ade, Tom Polo and Walter.
Also in July 2020, the police CRU initiated investigation into the alleged killing of a businessman, Adeyemi Ajayi, by policemen in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Thirty-two-year-old Ajayi had been killed in the Iwo Road area by policemen said to be attached to the Area Command, Agodi, Ibadan.
Eyewitnesses said one of the three policemen said to be on patrol reportedly had a heated argument with Ajayi, who was on his way to his workplace in company with his cousin, identified as Kayode Atanda.
The policeman said to be drunk thereafter shot at the businessman.
In 2017, the police CRU said 498 complaints against officers of the Nigeria Police Force were recorded between January and March alone.
The police said the unit was able to resolve successfully, 355 of the received cases, while 65 received cases were found to be false or unrelated. Also, 78 cases are said to be still undergoing investigation.
Police sources within the CRU agree that more Nigerians will desire to avoid the bribery, favouritism, lack of human relations and bureaucracies which are characteristic of most physical police stations nationwide and report their cases to the CRU via Twitter and other channels.