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Nigeria: Decay in the Police Force.

The trust vested on the Nigerian Police to as the protector of the life and property of the ordinary and vulnerable has waned dramatically since the end of the civil war in 1970—as a matter of fact it marked the beginning of the end of an era of professional policing. An average Nigerian man on the street will rather opt to resolve matters of crime for himself or for themselves, as the situation may warrant without involving the police, while the affluent recruit them as pawns for oppression and show of power. This in itself evidently paints a graphic image of the disparity between the few irresponsible affluent men and the poor, not to dwell on the rank and file of the police. The state of the barracks they occupy is also an indicator of their attitude to the noble job of protecting lives and property of the rich. For most Nigerians the perception of a relative joining the police is abominable which is not only distasteful, but in some extreme situations, disgraceful. But the job has to be done anyways— by eligible Nigerians not robots. Just like every Nigerian thinks every minute of ways of survival and sustenance, the police men all through the rank and file must survive too, so they must think and act obsequiously towards the right people and the public for promotion, recommendation and other aggrandisement against the demands of professional ethics and best practices obtainable in the job.

Is the Police really your Friend?

The cliché “the police is your friend” has lost its mark in crime fighting and prevention. This was originally meant to make the citizenry comfortable in reporting crime or suspicion of crime to the police but when this situation occurs, the whistle blower is more often than not, the victim of his romance with these vipers. It will be recalled that a man, William Ekanem suffered a fatal injury to his spinal cord in the hands of his Chinese boss, Master Wan who delivered some martial kick to his back which affected his spinal cord. The case was reported to the police at Ibafo, but it was quickly swept under the carpet as monies had allegedly changed hands and nothing was done, leaving the victim helpless. (please continue to ask questions on this)

The recent case of the Kidnapper, Evans who gained notoriety through his daring robbery and kidnapping escapades also goes to show that the police is indeed your friend. In part of his confessions gracefully released to the media, he noted that he had been arrested for armed robbery in Lagos sometime in 2006 but through the influence of a female police officer he was miraculously released in Imo State and the charges against him were dropped. The said Police woman has since been promoted to the rank of CSP. The twist to this event seems to make most of the officer who handled the Evan’s case in 2006 culpable in one way or the other. This change in fortune of a notorious kidnaper cum robber beats every reasonable imagination that could possibly arise:

  1. Arrested for a crime in Lagos (2006)
  2. Declared wanted for a similar crime in Imo
  3. Transferred to Imo for investigation
  4. Released in Imo with no charge pressed against him

The missing link in the chain goes to show that he was exonerated in Imo, but he was not transferred back to lagos where the latest of his crime had occurred for further investigation and prosecution. Instead he was allowed to roam the streets of Nigeria. Did the Lagos Police Command demand his transfer back to Lagos after he had been released by the Imo Police command or why didn’t the latter see it fit to transfer Evans back to the Lagos Police Command to be investigated further for his latest crime. These brings to fore the system of preliminary investigation by the police of interstate crime.

In all honesty, Evans mysterious escapade was made formidable by the police system and catching him was not as hard as you can imagine. They had the man they were looking for sixteen years earlier—if at all they were actually looking for him.

Another incidence happened before then early in the year, where a young man explained his ordeal with these vipers on Instagram. He had been shot accidentally by a drunk police man around Mushin environs. He managed to drive to a police den in Surulere were he reported the situation but in their usual lethargy they could not take action. They told him the police officer who shot him was not from their station so they could not make an arrest except he could identify the station the culprit was from. Since he was alive and well, and all that was needed was to get treated he attributed his survival to God. A lot of these things happen on a regular basis most of them are not reported while a few are underreported through social media outlets and only a hand-full are reported through traditional news media which allows for public scrutiny. It is when negative reports of the police appear on the pages of the newspaper and other news media platform that they swing into action. That is where the individual giant is awoken and not the institution as a whole—then an order is given to fish the culprit out and other paraphernalia, making an eyo festival show for the media.

Bail is free

Police bail should be free.  Paper post on the walls and tillers in all police stations in the country indicates that police bail is free.  But this is not the case, instinct dictates to them to exhort from every prey who lands in their den. Most times the Divisional Police Officer feigns ignorance or cordially encourages persons in their custody to pay a price for the little administrative bail work before release.  It is the poor who suffer the most, as they have no relatives or legal representative to bail them and as a result, languish in police cells all over the country. The Nigerian police is not strictly regimented which has allowed for a lot malpractices on the job, or perhaps it may after all be regimented but the character of the personnel are very questionable. Whatever the case may be the end result is an embarrassment to the police institution and the country.

Most of their white paper policies of reform have basically been paper work and oration of ideas rather than actions. The institution has a reputation for making promises without delivery. Sometime in April 2016 the Police through its Ex Inspector-General, Solomon Arase announced that it will start to implement drug tests on it personnel, but the policy like others did not fall through and another citizen was shot by a drunk police and nothing was done. The The Ex I.G also admitted that most police men with weapons were psychologically unfit to handle such lethal weapons. The police have done more harm than good in a perverse country were the codes of moral standard has been discreetly rewritten and extravagantly carried out while the law of the land has been constantly battered to a pulp by some political forces.

Other policies that failed to fall through

In August 2015 It was announced that police men attached as personal aides to affluent Nigerians should be withdrawn, but it is obvious that these affluent Nigerian are more powerful than the Institution’s policy. To exercerbate the situation the institution itself is bereft on how to implement their policies. These affluent Nigerians make a show of their wealth and want police escort everywhere they go, when they should consolidate their colleagues in fulfilling their statutory mandate of protecting the life and property of every Nigerian. It is the delight of every police man or woman to be attached as security aides to any affluent Nigerian and even organisations who seeks police protection because of the unspoken benefit. Their distinctively smart dress is evident of these benefits and many more—a far cry from the average police man in the station. It will not be surprising if these attache’ police personnel lobby for this seemingly juicy position.

Another policy was the ban on road blocks. This seems to have fallen through within the city and towns, only to be moved to the interstate highways to exhort from erring commercial bus drivers and criminals and sometimes obtaining from private motorist.

Who’s to blame?

To cast aspersions upon an institution such as the Nigerian police against a backdrop of truthfulness and honesty is in itself a quagmire. A moral quagmire that must be traversed. Can the police institution be blamed entirely for this mess or should the society controlled by an established government with every resource at its disposal be blamed?

Strong institutions have been advocated for as a panacea to the many problems facing Africa and Nigeria in particular. This was part of the suggestion former President of the USA, Barack Obama recommended in a speech delivered in Ghana. Africa has seen too many strong and influential individuals with hardly any impact on the community they represent. If strong institutions are in place, strong individuals will find it difficult to override processes and the society will be better. The institution itself has a role to play and they must realise that they owe their duty to the tax payers.

Brilliant ideas of modern policing should be encouraged and not limited to the police alone but other security experts. The police must also work on the character of its personnel as this goes a long way on how the lowest ranking policeman sees himself, and how he should be perceived by the society. Lowself esteem is prevailent amongs the non-commissioned officers and this is largely due to society’s negative perception of the police as a professionally corrupt institution. Periodical training should help at instilling confidence in carrying out their job efficiently because if they know what to do at any given situation that may arise, it will go a long in boosting public trust.

The government of the day has a bigger role to play to ensure total commitment of the police through adequate welfare packages especially adequate housing, life insurance amongst other. Also their salaries should be reviewed periodically. But it seems the government has somehow failed to see the need for effective internal security especially with respect to policing. A quick analysis of government’s commitment is the 2017 budget recently passed into law shows that the Nigerian Police Force of over three hundred thousand personnel had crumbs allocated to them, a far cry from the hundred and twenty five billion (#125, 000.000.000) allocated to the National Assembly of only 469 members.

The debate recently has been that the Federal government should allow for state policing. Advocates for state policing maintain that it will make policing effective and will ensure timely intervention in times of crisis. However ever due to bad governance, most state of the federation are still owing its workers salary, how much provision can they thus make for policing in the midst of this debt.

By: Ajilore Dehinde.




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