Opinion: Who will tame The Nigerian Police Force?

  by Akanimo Asuquo Sunday 

The police in Nigeria are an endangered species that may be heading toward extinction…

‘The police is your friend’, so says the jaded cliché. In reality, the reverse seems to be the case .The irony of this statement is evident in the hostile and aggressive manner that Nigerian policemen bark out orders to fellow compatriots on our roads and in their stations while discharging their duties. We are familiar with exclamations such as hold it! Park well! Put on your inner light! Etc. These commands are rendered in bellicose tones and the motorist is expected to respond with immediate alacrity in order not to draw the ire of the policeman .An average policeman in Nigeria is unfriendly, perennially angry, haggard, ill-trained, ill-equipped, and constantly cuts an alienated picture in the eyes of the public.

He is also poorly clad in heat-absorbing black uniform, fagged out, grossly underpaid and housed in the most squalid, ill-maintained and decrepit habitation known as barracks. During the last nationwide protest organised by the Nigeria Labour Congress, a detachment of policemen in Wuse area of Abuja made attempts to dissuade protesters from marching into a cordoned area. They were not properly dressed as policemen. Most of them sported jeans trousers and T-shirts. The only paraphernalia that made them pass for policemen were their rifles and bullet-proof vests. Similar scenarios are commonplace across the country and are emblematic of the complete breakdown of ethical values and discipline in our police force. Who really is in charge of our policemen? Who disciplines them?   

The word ‘police’ conjure different meanings to different people depending on how pleasant or unsavoury one’s experience with the police has been. To some, it is an agency that visits untold hardship on hapless road users by setting up illegal tollgates otherwise known as checkpoints .At these checkpoints, illegal extortion of money from innocent citizens is brazenly perpetrated with unsanctionable impunity.

 Police checkpoints are business centres run by the police and surreptitiously endorsed by the police authorities. In Lagos, commuter bus drivers part with varying amount of money daily to these officers .In a bid to ensure that they are not ‘taxed’ twice in one location, an access code is sometimes given to the ‘co-operating’ drivers so that they will be spared from ‘double taxation’ on their return trip. This practice is very popular with the police patrol team stationed around Jibowu area and Agege motor road. Sadly, this shameful practice has become the norm and the police authorities are turning a blind eye to this.

A trip to Ladipo automobile parts market in Lagos mainland will further throw some light on the state of decadence prevalent in the force. At a particular spot, there is a convergence of these men in black and their counterparts from sister security organizations. They provide illegal escort services mainly to buyers of used automobile engines and other sundry wares like refrigerators, television sets etc. They are also hired for a fee by commercial bus drivers to accompany them in a bid to keep street urchins and touts from demanding tolls.

The police have become a beggarly outfit. The gate of a particular police station in my neighbourhood has this inscription-‘Donated by the Welders Association’. Policemen and military men do not pay transport fares when they avail themselves of intra-city transport services.  What happens to budgetary appropriations meant for the police?

The police in Nigeria are an endangered species that may be heading toward extinction if very urgent and radical steps are not taken to tackle the festering decay ravaging the force.

Professional and ethical discipline should be the hallmark of the service. The new acting Inspector-General must not tread the same path that his predecessors treaded. He must stamp out corruption in the service. He must wage a war against illegal extortion and police brutality on our roads. Erring officers must be shown the way out and summarily prosecuted. The police must learn how to behave and function in a democracy.

Special squads should be set up and trained to handle the new wave of crime such as terrorism and cyber-crimes that are currently holding sway in the country.

 

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