The mantra, ‘The police is your friend’ is well ingrained in the consciousness of Nigerians, whether they believe it or not. However, it has been revealed that not every person in police uniform is a friend. There has been an increase in the number of criminally-minded persons who disguise in police uniform to perpetuate crime. They have turned the lives of many people in Lagos and other cities into a nightmare. Their mission is to steal your hard-earned money and property as well as endanger your life.
Augustine Okpara encountered some of them in Lagos recently. His story: “It was late in the night as I was approaching Mile 2 from Satellite Town. Some people in police uniform stopped me. They politely asked me to get down from my vehicle for a search. They were very polite and so I obeyed but as soon as I got down they turned to beasts and beat me to a pulp. After the beating, they collected everything I had including all the money I made as sales for the day, my laptop, Samsung tablet, wrist watch, and mobile phones. I was asked to lie face down while they escaped in their own vehicle. They warned me not to report to the police because if I do they will know and come after me.”
Dele Oduwole operated as a fake policeman in Lagos for many years, extorting money from motorists, especially traffic offenders.
A group of men dressed in police uniform recently mounted a road-block near Anthony bus stop along Ikorodu Road, and were harassing and extorting money from motorists. One of their victims was flagged down and asked to park and get down. He obeyed thinking they were policemen only for him to be beaten up and locked inside the boot of his car. An eye witness promptly placed a call to the Anthony Police division who arrived and rescued the man while the fake policemen took to their heels. However, one of the criminals, Erinfolami was not lucky as he was arrested.
These are not an isolated cases. Fake policemen are becoming a common feature in cities across the country. While some use force to steal people’s belongings, others adorn the uniform to curry favour and, in the case of Lagos, enjoy free rides in commercial buses.
The Nigeria Police Force is not unaware of this trend. In a recent message sent through social media networks, the police gave safety tips on how to identify fake policemen at a glance. If Okpara had realised the policemen who appeared friendly and only doing their job were fake, he would have sped off immediately.
The following tips will help you identify fake policemen and avoid being their victim
• The number tag of a real policeman must be six digits; if it’s less than six, he is a fake policeman.
• Only female police officers have their numbers begin with ‘O’. Any policeman with number beginning with ‘O’ is a fake.
• Every policeman’s name tag is woven to the shirt; no more removable name tags.
• A distinction between the normal policeman and the SPY (Supernumerary) police personnel is that a “SPY” number must be either three or four digits with the world “SPY” boldly inscribed on their uniform shoulder. The SPY policemen are members of a division of the Nigeria Police, established to guard properties and also take on artisan and other administrative works at police formations. They are usually attached to financial institutions and organisations that require their services. The Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, last year, directed companies using SPY police for their internal security nationwide to stop the use of police uniform for their operations on or before January 1, 2016.
Be security conscious
Please at night always roll up your windows in traffic; use the central lock to secure your door. Be sure they are real policemen, if they are not just speed off. Be watchful because fake policemen are everywhere. Educate your family and friends so that they would not fall victims.
Know your rights
Only a fake policeman will try to arrest you without committing any offence. If a police officer harasses you, try to memorise his/her name by checking their tags and if possible memorise their numbers too, this will help you make a more effective report to the police authorities.