The police is a part of the Government of a country responsible for the protection of lives and properties of the citizens of that country. This explains that the Government of a country should be held accountable for the success or failure of the security of that country.
Whether the Nigerian Police has lived up to the definition above leaves much to be talked about. The security lapses, public violence and breakdown of law and order that occurs daily, even under the nose of police officers in Nigeria are pointers to the fact that policing in this part of the world has come to a deadly rot.
Starting from recruitment, to training, to posting, to promotion, to welfare and to retirement benefits, the whole system is flawed! This is a country where no investigation is done on would be police officers to check if they have past criminal records before they are recruited. Anybody, after many failed attempts at securing job opportunity elsewhere is quickly absorbed into the police force when they come knocking, without prior investigation of the person’s past record. Many a time newly recruits have had to part away with huge sum of bribes in order to join the so called system that fights the same crime it commits. In fact with the current recruitment policy, it is very easy for a criminal to join the Nigerian Police and infiltrate it by acting as informant to his criminal gang. This same recruitment policy is responsible for citizens tagging many members of the police, especially low rank officers as ‘never do well’. Why? Many of them, junior officers can’t read and communicate well. There was a case where a police officer in Nigeria could not read the statement written by a suspect at the police station.
Then the training of recruits at police colleges scattered around the country with its dilapidated structures and poor training facilities shows that the Nigerian Government has been paying lip service to the matters of security. It didn’t start with this administration but has it really improved in this current Government? With all the training they are getting many policemen in this time and age still don’t know how to operate a simple computer system! This explains why there are no computer systems in police stations. In a time when many serious countries all over the world have installed ICT gadgets in the vehicles of their police officers, ours is still moving about with wooden batons and long heavy guns which easily tires them out. In fact our police officers look more like hunters with those long outdated guns which they usually use to intimidate and oppress poor masses. Yes! Poor as in poor! This is because I have never seen them use their gun to frighten rich and powerful people in our society. Just the other day, I saw a policeman violently pointing his gun at a bus conductor who ran away for his dear life. If there had been an ‘accidental discharge’ like the men in black or blue always claim, the conductor may not be alive to tell his own side of the story.
An average Nigerian Policeman especially when in uniform sees his position as an opportunity to oppress and break the law with gross impunity. In civilized countries members of the police force address citizens with great respect but the reverse is the case in Nigeria where every men in uniform, even man ‘o war corps is seen as Lord. The police who claims to be our friend would be the same police that would slap you, kick you, brutalize you at any slightest provocation. Sometimes I begin to wonder if ‘how to oppress a civilian’ is a course been taught at police colleges. It also saddens me that the police we have today in our society does not deem it fit to stop public disturbance of peace or domestic violence anytime they sight one. Why must the Nigerian Police remain docile in the face of impending danger and wait to be called upon before acting. Does their training not include being proactive to crime? It is sickening to say that when someone tried to scam me on phone sometime ago and I put a call through to a policeman to report the incident and offererd to help in tracking down this fraudster, what I got was a heart breaking reply. “Oga as far as you don know say them wan scam you no need to stress yoursef begin find wetin no loss’, said the police officer. I was shocked to my marrow! I may have sensed I was about to be scammed, but what about other citizens who may fall victim because they weren’t as smart as I was? Can’t the police stop these fraudsters before they get to them by using good citizens who are ready to help? This lack of proactive measures is the reason touts are allowed to victimize commercial bus drivers in various bus-stops especially in Lagos. I guess the many Inspector General of police we’ve had over the years have been to scared to stop this miscreants from their wicked operations. Maybe they are waiting for the president to give them a directive on how to perform their duty.
Another truth about the Nigerian Police is that many of its men lack self esteem. You see it with the way they cover their police uniform with mufti while on their way to work, to the way they refuse to pay transportation fare claiming ‘staff’. Apart from the fact that they can use their position to intimidate, many a policeman in Nigeria aren’t proud to be one because they are well aware that the citizens see them as the most visibly corrupt part of the Government. The citizens have lost confidence in them and many of them are even afraid to report a crime to the police for fear of being extorted or tagged a prime suspect for assisting the police. Why should one part with money in order to report a crime at the police station? Why should one pay as much as N10,000 to bail a suspect when bail is said to be free? Why should the police favour a rich complainant over a poor one? To say the least our police stations are the most unsafe place the be. This is evident in the way former boko haram leader Muhammed yusuf was killed under police custody and the way police stations in the north have been constantly attacked without strong resistance. With no cctv cameras and security alarm system, anyone can just walk into these police stations with cobwebs hanging on various corners of its walls to perpetrate evil.
The question now is this? Are our leaders too blind to see the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the Nigerian Police? Capital NO! The political class and past leaders are to blame for these woes that has befallen the security arm of this great country. They have succeeded in weakening this institution so as to promote their corrupt tendency. They have ill funded this organization so as to buy them over with their personal money and use them as a tool to gratify their selfish wishes. They have bastardized the system and then went on to create other similar systems that are now on the verge of failure, to duplicate the work of the police. Creating and funding institutions like NSCDC, EFCC, ICPC and co while leaving the police to rot is like caring for the baby and abandoning the breast feeding mother. If the Nigerian Police was properly funded and made to function there won’t have been need wasting taxpayers money to create another civil defence.
Our today’s police officers have poor insurance policy in the case they sustain life threatening injuries or even lose their life in the line of duty. Many of them buy their uniforms with their personal money. They are provided with rickety pick up vans to chase after criminals. Many a time, complainants would have to provide money to fuel their vehicles. Their station is most times stuffy without airconditioners and electricity power supply. They are short of arms that nowadays it has become 4 police officers to a riffle! They are not even trusted to take their arms home. Many of them set out for work like business men going to look for daily bread, instead of people who have a call of duty to attend to. I cannot phantom a policeman coming back from work to say ‘na wa o. Everywhere dry today o. Money just scarce,’ like he was some market women who had gone out to sell crayfish.
In conclusion, any president that wants to succeed in Nigeria should first of all fix the Nigerian Police in a way that no one would be above the law when it is violated even if you are related to an ex general of the army or the president of the country. Once this is done, the country will work and everyone put in a position to provide social amenities in the country will perform dutifully. Then high level corruption would be a thing of the past because people would be aware that the police would come knocking once they are found wanting. People say where there is no law there is no crime. But I say where there is no prosecution of law there is no security!
Uchechukwu Dominic is the author of Little Mariah and A Life Of Runs. He is also a social commentator