Nollywood actor, Ime Bishop Umoh popularly known as Okon Lagos has said the Police have the right to raid Uyo’s Red Light district, popularly known as Maitama. In this interview with TheMail Newspaper, the comedy actor who is currently serving as a Special Assistant to the Governor on Ethical, Attitudinal and Social Reorientation said the raid was very essential as it was done in a bid to curb prostitution. The actor who was there at the scene of the raid said the police are in order, but said it is unfortunate that law-abiding citizens were also arrested. Excerpts:
What is your take on the raid by the Police at Maitama?
You have to look at it from an objective stand point. Drawing a critique of the whole situation, the Police as an enforcement agency of the government are under social and civic obligation to maintain law and order. The onus and responsibility of protecting and safeguarding the people is rested on them. And anything that is immoral, anything that is anti-social that ought not to be a part of the society, that ought to be curbed lies within the jurisdiction of the Nigerian Police to check and enforce. What they did was correct; they were simply doing their duties. Under normal circumstances it constitutes a nuisance for young girls to take to street hawking with specific regard to prostitution. It is a social menace, it is an ethical vice. The police owe the society, they owe themselves, they owe the state the responsibility of a raid if necessary. In that regard, they are absolutely correct.
But the Police, as far as I’m concerned are human beings and they are not devoid of imperfections. In the process of raid, there will definitely be instances of arresting one or two persons who are actually not prostitutes. It is within what ought to be the case for them to conduct a proper investigation. I know the Nigerian Police are thorough. They may be few bad eggs or mischievous persons in the force, but that definitely cannot qualify the police as being bad or corrupt. So, in the course of their investigation, if they find out that one or two persons (because they will know) are actually not prostitutes they will be released. They have the apparatus and what it takes to conduct investigations and discern the truth. Definitely, the ones they had adjudged as prostitutes will be prosecuted and others will be released.
What of the embarrassment and assault they have meted out on law-abiding citizens during the raid?
Maitama, as much as it is a night-life hub of the city of Uyo, it is a red light district no matter how you look at it. If you look at yourself and you know very well that you are a responsible person it is not right to go and sit down in that kind of place (like hanging out). I’m not trying to be judgmental, I’m not trying to say that people who hangout in Maitama in the night are not morally upright people, they are not right-thinking people, they should be stoned to death or crucified. No, absolutely far away from that. But the truth is, it is risky. When you know that the place can attract a possible civil police raid then you stay off. People who live in glass houses are not supposed to throw stones. Of all places in Uyo, you can’t chose to go and sit down in Maitama, especially when you want to take your fiancé out. I heard one person say that he was just having a nice time sitting out with his fiancé and then the fiancé was arrested by the police. There is a way you dress and you won’t be touched. There is a way you dress and someone seeing you mistakes you for a prostitute. It is something we will have to look at from another perspective. If I came there, possibly with my wife, (forget the fact that I’m a public figure), it is very possible she may not have been arrested because of the way she dresses.
Can’t there be a civil police raid where nobody is assaulted?
If a police man hits you and brutalizes you, that is wrong. By all moral standards it is wrong because you don’t even know the health condition of the person you’re hitting. You may give that person one big hit and the person drops dead. It is not even right for you to hit people. People aren’t animals. Moreover, that person isn’t even convicted by a court for you to say this person is actually convicted and you can possibly use that as an excuse to hit him or her. Even at that, I don’t think it is morally permissible for the police to hit someone like an animal. If actually there was any form of ethical brutality, that is where I may fault the police. But truly speaking, that raid was very essential. But it is very unfortunate that people who are not prostitutes were picked up. It is bad. But there is no one who is perfect. For example, if you dress in sexual provocative manner and I see you in a red light district and you say I won’t pick you if I’m conducting a raid. It is an impulsive act. I will pick you up but after reconsideration and possibly more investigations you will be released. After thorough investigations, you will get to know that this person is not actually a prostitute. If a corps member was arrested, questions will be asked. Questions like which batch, which PPA, have you passed out etc will be asked to properly identify them. If you properly identify yourself the police have no business keeping you or pressing charges against you. If you dress in a sexually provocative way in a red light district, the police are not God, they are humans. They will arrest you. The government of Udom Emmanuel is absolutely in sync with the rule of law. If investigations are done and they are adjudged suspicious they will be charged to court. Nobody will lock anybody up in the cell for more than 24 hours. For those who are not prostitutes, it will be wrong for them to be kept in incarceration for more than24 hours. Between now and 9am tomorrow (Friday), everyone is going to be sorted out. If you are innocent you will be released, if you are a suspect you will be charged to court. Most of these people are not even Akwa Ibom girls. People come from neighboring states and come and practice prostitution openly with so much impunity in the state. I’m not trying to say that the constant raid is going to eradicate it but it is going to keep them on their toes, it is going to curb it to some extent. Punishments are definitely deterrents to crime. It is going to decrease the social menace. It is absolutely unfortunately that some of these girls have been picked and most of them have no business with prostitution but the police act based on empirical facts. If you are in the red light district, don’t dress indecently, there should be a thick line of demarcation between you and a street whore.