Abuja – Nigeria’s new police chief said on Monday the force has carried out extra-judicial killings, detained innocent people and lost the public’s trust, among the frankest ever admissions by a top police leader.
“Justice has been perverted, people’s rights denied, innocent souls committed to prison, torture and extra-judicial killings perpetrated,” Mohammed Abubakar, who was named to the job last month, said in an address to senior officers.
Rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly accused Nigerian security forces of massive rights violations.
“Our anti-robbery squads have become killer teams,” Abubakar said in a speech that was distributed to journalists in Nigeria’s capital.
“Many people [are] arbitrarily detained in our cells because they cannot afford the illegal bail monies we demand,” Abubakar said.
“Our respect is gone and the Nigerian public has lost even the slightest confidence in the ability of the police to do any good thing,” the police chief said.
The Nigerian police force “has fallen to its lowest level and has indeed become a subject of ridicule within the law enforcement community,” he added.
President Goodluck Jonathan appointed Abubakar on January 25 amid intense public criticism over the government’s inability to stamp out Boko Haram Islamists who have killed more than 200 people already this year.
The new boss also ordered policemen to immediately dismantle roadblocks across the country that have become symbols of bribe-taking.
“Toll stations in the name of checkpoints adorn our highways with policemen shamefully collecting money from motorists in the full glare of the public,” he said.
He blamed the assembled senior officers from around the country for allowing the illegal practices to go on under their supervision and vowed to punish those who do not rectify the situation.
He also ordered an immediate release of all detainees held in police cells without justification.