by Kolapo Olapoju
The Nigerian policeman; the scruffy officer in weathered, formerly black uniforms.
The men and women whose task is to protect and serve but turnaround to exploit and scare. The wide-eyed, hungry looking semi-literate officers. The gun toting recipients of uncountable 50 naira notes. The Police, who used to be ‘our friend’, but is now mandated to ‘serve and protect with integrity’, which they lack.
Pick 20 random people and ask them of their thoughts and verdict about the Nigerian police force and I’d bet my poetry portfolio that ten out of ten times, a large majority of the 15 people would have nothing but unsavoury and unflattering words spewed out in the most disdainful of tones; for the officers who are burdened with an obligation beyond their capability, a service that outweighs their remuneration.
An herculean task at best; to protect and serve when their own protection in terms of financial and life security is not catered for.
It is no overstatement or gainsaying of any kind to conjecture that from obvious statistics, 50% of the Nigerian police force are stark illiterates, 30% are semi-literate, while only about 20% are quite literate.
It is a sad, harsh, shameful reality, but it is the true state of things that the officers, – who are saddled with the baggage of preventing and solving crimes, maintaining peace and order, securing and protecting the society and its resources; are mostly a bunch of the most unintelligent people in our country.
It is common knowledge that most people join the police force out of unemployment or lack of alternative means of livelihood, not necessarily because they had aspirations of choosing ‘Police’ as an occupation.
In all fairness to them, how do we expect people who have no respect and love for their occupation, people who have little knowledge and training, people who have minute or no skill whatsoever- to be dedicated to their circumstantial profession, especially one as sensitive and dangerous as law enforcing.
I mean, no one in their right senses would realistically and genuinely expect an officer who is on a minimum wage’ pay grade to risk his life and security of his family, by trying to stop an ongoing armed robbery, even if it were happening around him. Most would duck for cover and the good ones might report the incident hours after the conclusion of the robbery. Fact!
In lieu of this, it would be wishful thinking to hope that the Nigerian police officer would perform his duties in an exemplary fashion when they lack adequate motivation by means of decent remuneration, comprehensive training, good and sufficient equipments, job affection and most often, any semblance of literacy.
Obviously, we are in a turbulent period in the affairs of our nation, and the Nigerian police force is just a myopic entity of the larger society; ‘State of disarray’.
The stark reality, simply put, is that “Nigerian police are not paid to die”, hell hardly even well paid to serve efficiently. They know that their families will be on their own and left in the cold to stave for themselves if they lose their lives in the line of duty. Why then should we expect any form of job dedication from them?
In other developed and developing countries, the police are always ready and ever willing to risk their lives for a worthy cause, but not so here.
Why?, you might ponder…
But then, everyone who is socially aware will know that our police officers lack proper training, adequate equipments, literacy, sustainable remuneration and little orientation among other obvious problems.
Now , it would be judgemental to just sit here and highlight the numerous flaws and several incompetencies of the Nigerian police force, without advocating for the overtly used but necessary word ‘reform’ in a sector as sensitive and important as security.
If the earlier mentioned issues are addressed, we can all hope for a vibrant and active force at best. But if nothing is done, the decay will continue for a very long time.
The Police officer is after all, a human being like you and I.