When the news about the shooting and death of Miss Angela Igwetu, a corps member, just a few hours to her passing out ceremony in Abuja broke, many faulted the policeman accused of the deed and sympathized with her family. The graduate of the University of Lagos was hit on her side by the bullet fired by Inspector Benjamin Peters when he claimed to have heard the girl’s shout for help. She was rushed to the Garki Hospital where she bled to her death for want of a police report and money to deposit.
This tragic event, once again, exposed the undeserved flaws in the Nigerian medical and criminal justice system. The sequence of events leading to the untimely death of the lady starts with the uncatiuous and trigger-happy police inspector and the sheer lack of willingness of the hospital to save a life rather than make profit.
The Nigerian Police not only needs restructuring but a complete overhaul. The level of unprofessionalism that characterizes its men is not of this world. From the popular Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) to its traffic control department, it is a case of bad eggs in the basket. Every day, the social media is filled with experiences of people who have been extorted, wrongfully arrested and paraded and detained, which has led to the #EndSARS campaign by all and sundry since last year. But maybe it will just be a case of “the masquerade has done nothing wrong if he hasn’t flogged the prince”.
The case of Angela Igwetu points to the ever-present need to train and re-orient our police force. There are other proper ways to respond to distress calls than to rely on the trigger. This year alone, we have had about five cases of cops who are trigger happy across the country. This draws one’s attention to the fact that there is hardly a psychological evaluation for our policemen before they are giving guns to carry. Experiences have even shown that most of them do not know how to properly put the gun into safety. The job of policing is a very demanding one, which usually result into some emotional and psychological issues, but since we love living in denial we still won’t check if our police officers are completely sane.
It is obvious that the problem is not in the lack of adequate punishment for offenders but it is in the curing of the symptoms and not the disease. It is a fact that your malaria won’t leave you just by taking painkillers. The same goes for our police force; we cannot expect things to change overnight just by attacking offenders. We need to adequately address the root problems behind the precarious state of our security system in the country.
Now, the erring inspector has been dismissed, will be arraigned, convicted and sentenced to jail. It won’t stop others from following in his path. We need to completely rebuild our system, right from the recruitment process to the training and to the various operations carried out by the Nigerian Police Force. Only when this is done with utmost objectivity and meticulousness can we hope to be well-policed.
Our hospitals are also culpable in the death of many Nigerians as they not only shy away from treating victims of gunshots but refuse to admit them. Witness accounts have shown that police reports are usually the first thing on the lips of nurses and doctors at the sight of a gunshot wound, money to be deposited being the second. Should it be a case of an armed robbery suspect with gunshot wounds, it is still no reason to refuse to treat such person as these acts of refusal have led to the death of many in contravention of the freedom to life as promised in the constitution of this great country. Not only will it rob the victims of life, it also give real criminals an avenue to esscape the hand of justice as the dead face no charges. The management of our medical hospitals need to open their doors and save lives first before asking questions.
If this trend is not nipped in the bud now, men and women of the Nigerian Police will continue to be the Judge and jury while our hospitals, with their inactions, will continue to be the executioner.