• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Poor Image: How did the Police get here?

Poor Image: How did the Police get here?

The recent ENDSARS protest has brought to the fore some fundamental issues such as rising insecurity, inequality, unemployment and mismanagement of economic resources in Nigeria. It also exposed the people’s veiled perception about the police.

The protest against police unfriendliness and cruelty was the lead by the youth to express anger and draw up conversation over poor state of Nigeria’s social-economic status.

During the protest, many police stations were torched while some officers and civilians were killed. The alleged anger over police hostile activities encouraged the protesters to boldly defy the guns to attack police stations. They literally chased policemen out of the roads and stations into hiding places. The protest was overwhelming with the youth speaking with one voice against police brutality.

The protest was pervasive in most parts of the country which gives indication that the cause of the protest was endemic. With such deep odium and hatred against the police, starting with now disbanded Special Anti- Robbery Squad, SARS, how then did the police get to this stage of deep detestation by the Nigerian youth?

Prior to Independence, the police that was established in 1930 was subject to the colonial masters’ dictates. They were used to advance the course of their masters against the people while ensuring the enthronement of law and order, their principal function.

Writing in africasacountry site, Cheta Nwanze, a policy analyst agreed with this assertion. He recalls that prior to 1930, there was Hausa Constabulary, established in 1879, the Royal Niger Company Constabulary (1888), the Niger Coast Constabulary (1894), and the Lagos Police, which was established in 1896.

Read Also: Armed robbery attacks in Lagos suburbs on the rise as police continue to stay away

He said the different police forces were merged for, “administrative convenience.” From that moment on, the police was administered from Lagos. “Its main purpose was to stifle dissent to colonial rule.

“This particular mission statement is important, because asides from a few isolated cases, our police was never really an investigating force. In 1960, at our “independence”, our policemen simply swapped masters. Their brief did not change. The FG still used them to enforce their own point of view, even if that viewpoint was not entirely legal”, Nwanze said.

Since then, the police was seen as dancing more to the tune of politicians and ‘big men’ against the people. The citizens observe with consternation how a common man will be beaten up, spends many years in cell or get jailed for stealing small amount of money while ‘big men’ or politicians get plea bargain and are freed for stealing big money. Many of these cases abound.

The common man is always afraid to report crime as he or she is the first suspect. This validates Nwanze’s view that the police ‘was never really an investigating force’. Average Nigerian sees the police as more of intimidating and brutal force than a friend. For instance, bail from police cell is free but money is exchanged to bail a suspect from cell.

At parks, the police with guns literally force motorists, especially commercial drivers to part away with money either for traffic offence or not. The implication of this is that it fuels disorder which the police is designed to correct. Motorists see police as cheap and therefore flout traffic laws.

The proscribed SARS unit of the police did not help matters as they can search phones and laptops of pedestrians and cyclists and extort money.

The police hierarchy is sometimes aware of these misbehaviours among its officers against the people. To checkmate the excesses and build its image, the force has often gone on raiding, arrested some officers. The police force has equally created campaigns; such as ‘Police is your friend’ designed to create bond and image redemption.

The perceived unfriendliness of police with the people got to a boiling point early October, 2020 when the youth defied the guns and the uniforms to protest against police brutality. This protest later turned violent that many police stations were burnt. The question now is how will the police build an acceptable image and bond with the people for social order to obviate future protest.

Analysts believe that high level of social order depends on top brand equity for police, protecting informants and how police carries out its functions. This will start from recruitment of quality, disciplined and educated individuals into police force.

Quality training and reorientation of all policemen and women is critical. This is expected to change the character, mindset, form and content of the personnel in dealing with the society. The present situation where some people appear as sacred cows and others are not is not acceptable to the Nigerian people.

Review of police salary is significant in rebranding the force. President Buhari recognised this when he said during his address on ENDSARS protest on October 22,2020 ‘’With regard to the welfare of police personnel, the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission has been directed to expedite action on the finalization of the new salary structure of members of the Nigeria Police Force. The emoluments of other paramilitary services are also being reviewed upwards”.

It is hoped that the salary review will reduce the collection of bribes, sometimes as low as N50 or N100 by some police personnel especially on the road, a development which has impacted negatively on police image.

Policing is not an easy job anywhere. The society and the police need each other for maximum security. However, the police needs to be friendly while ensuring that their task of law and order is maintained no matter whose ox is gored.