By Prince Charles Dickson
The Nigeria Police has had a rugged past and the picture we see in the present does not give us a hope for the future. Since 1999, the Nigeria Police strength has grown from 112,000 to a little above half a million men. Despite this increase, crime has equally increased more, because the government in its fast motion to nowhere has not been able to discern the simple fact that even if you recruit 10 million men into the police, with almost 100 million Nigerians hungry, unemployed and frustrated, crime would still be high.
Sadly the police itself is one of the worst victims of poor remuneration and motivation. Have you seen what the police barracks look like across the nation?
Despite the poor and degrading nature of our prisons, most police barracks are not different from rehabilitation homes for juveniles. The police have been reduced to an agency of ridicule and hatred amongst the populace. The only robbers they shoot are ordinary citizens who refuse to give them the N20 toll. When they conclude an investigation successfully, it must have been that of a landlord and tenant or two- fighting at a bus stop.
A security outfit without equipment, funding, without logistics, no communication facilities resorts to the very crimes they are supposed to protect us from. When robbers and assassins attack with assault rifles and police come with Dane guns, it is obvious that there is a lot that is wrong.
The edifice called the police is a case of epilepsy; from the change of uniform, to increased recruitment of illiterates that can barely spell their names. The problem is not necessarily just that of the Nigerian Police but that of a nation whose leaders have thrown their responsibilities to the gutters.
So while the #EndSARS protest is good, we forget that SARS is part of the bigger problem. Have you ever seen a SARS of Nigerian Police crime scene unit; the Nigerian Police has a settlement scene unit in every Divisional Police Office. I saw the care and details that goes into securing a crime scene. Does the Nigerian Police have a Behavioural Unit, or do they just arrest for having dreadlocks or beards, or carrying a laptop?
Have you ever seen a Nigerian policeman wear a protective glove at a crime scene? The closest has been at wedding ceremonies or ceremonial occasions.
I was at a local police station recently and watched as different activities went on, from the radio message alerting another station that Adam was about to eat the apple, to the old Olympia typewriter that brought back memories of my late uncle who was a teacher in the Congo.
I noticed the state of the uniforms of the rank, the frustration on the face of officers. I saw how men of the force collected N100 to buy plain sheets, file and biro for a complainant to put down his grouse. Why are the SARS officers more often than not dirty and unkempt…oh I hear it’s about being covert.
Talking about the police, it is interesting to look at the police from what it should be. Police are agents or agencies empowered to enforce the law and to affect public and social order through the legitimate use of force.
The term is most commonly associated with police departments of a state that are authorized to exercise the police power of that state within a defined legal or territorial area of responsibility. The word comes via French from the Latin politia (civil administration), which itself derives from the Ancient Greek ðüëéò, for polis (“city”).
In our experience, the police have contributed negatively to an increasingly disjointed social order in the nation. The Nigerian Police has failed the nation in its primary function of providing safety, ensuring public order, enforcing criminal law, traffic regulations, crowd control, criminal investigation etc.
Like the teaching profession, these days’ people join the force as a last resort. So naturally they vent all the frustrations of life on the job. Bail is free on paper but in practice the price you pay all depends on the offense and the officer in charge.
How many times have we seen policemen disappear on occasion of an armed robbery? Everyone wants to get to heaven, but none wants to die?
A visit to a police barracks tells you the story; poor welfare, houses without common sanitary facilities, falling buildings, electricity disconnected; breeding grounds for miscreants and even worse.
The frustration sips into the policeman’s wife, every nine months another baby, and the thick line of abject poverty, social deprivation moves and finds habitation in the vicious cycle. It is in these situations that officers also wreak havoc, from the pay office, all sorts of fraud occur, the usual illegal deductions, to the ghost officers.
With our police everything is wrong, nothing is right. The new uniforms are only for the Ogas. The material is in the open market and anybody can buy and wear and get a salute. There is a public apathy against the police so much that even if they wore white they would desecrate the colour.
This #EndSARS protest should not just be about the police but equally an examination of our society, one that questions our core values. The fact being that we should be asking how did we get here?
The Nigerian Police and members of the FSARS team who are policemen and in cases women are not entirely bad. There are good ones amongst them. In fact, there are gentlemen officers and men in the police, but they are sadly negligible. We are having the #endSARS protests because our police lack 21st century policing skills that thrive more on intelligence gathering, tactical operations, which should bring about clinical execution of their assignments. We lack security operatives that adopt modern techniques in fighting crimes. The Force is devoid of values like the larger Nigerian society, the reason some criminals are also asking for an end to SARS.
Between an endless hope and a hopeless end, let us see hope in the horizon – though this is difficult to see. The situation is bad; let it not be said that we did not talk, write, and even beg the government to do something.
- Dickson, PhD, is development & media practitioner.
Read the original article on The Nation