• Sunday, July 14, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Reinventing policing in Nigeria

Reinventing policing in Nigeria

It is instructive to recall here how well-kitted and fully-armed policemen flooded the streets of Lagos and Abuja during the October 2020 #Endsars protest. These policemen looked battle-ready and well equipped to repel harmless Nigerians who came out en-masse to defend the integrity of a falling justice system in the country.

Many Nigerians were caught off-guard with the level of sophistication that attended these uniformed men. This is because of what people are used to, seeing on the streets are poorly looking, highly undernourished, poorly armed and highly uneducated, ill-spoken police officers. People wondered if those #Endsars repellents came from the moon!

Of course, they didn’t come from the moon or some other unknown sources. Rather, they seem to have been reserved for special occasions like that day – to ward off agitators who were pushing for a truly united Nigeria. Now, it is easy to see that the current system of policing in Nigeria is a simulated misfortune, one that may have been intentionally made so, just to allow evil perpetrators the leeway to fulfil their enterprise at the expense of other innocent Nigerians.

Now, it is easy to see that the current system of policing in Nigeria is a simulated misfortune, one that may have been intentionally made so, just to allow evil perpetrators the leeway to fulfil their enterprise at the expense of other innocent Nigerians

Changing the status-quo in the current system of Nigeria’s policing goes well beyond inviting international interests who only come to give white-accented speeches and take photographs with high profile police chiefs for media show off. Evidently, there is much more that can be done internally, using a broad range of highly effective domestic resources and with probably some foreign assistance.

Apparently, Nigeria’s current policing system is a mess; marred by unchecked impunity, untold wickedness, hellishly behaved officers, support for criminals in all shades and forms, in-house participation in criminal activities, hooliganism and bullying of innocent citizens, extra-judicial killings, extortion, unlawful arrests and much more.

Well, several members of the force have confessed that these crimes are an offshoot of a poorly managed system by the central authorities, since the reward system and other working or living conditions are quite dismal and officers have no other choice than to resort to alternative self-help augments, howbeit, at the detriment of innocent individuals who struggle alike to honestly earn their daily living. However, this does not justify any wrong doing by the uniformed men of the Nigeria police.

Indeed, the Nigeria Police Force have now become a predatory unit, and anyone who falls victim to these depraved elements may not be spared the breath to tell of the awful tale they experienced.

For instance, a few lucky escapees from the hands of some police officers have recounted several instances of killings resulting from incessant human rights abuses and misuse of weapons by these officers.

Many missing individuals, some say, are lying dead in bushes, uncompleted buildings and gutters or stealthily deposited in mortuaries in the dead of the night by these uniformed men in the process of extorting or harassing their victims.

Read also: The notoriety of Nigeria’s highway policing

In cases when the killing was done in broad daylight or in the presence of witnesses, these police officers would conjure a false statement and label the deceased as an armed robber or an escapee from a drug raid. Sadly, these unfortunate activities still go unchecked till this day.

Being a good cop goes beyond being well educated, well experienced in the force, highly placed by rank, or maintaining a decent physical or relational outlook. These are, in most times, distractions from what a truly dedicated and patriotic officer of the law should look like or possess.

In Nigeria today, many people believe that a well-educated, neatly dressed, good looking and well-spoken police officer represents a good force member. Sadly, experiences have shown that most persons in this category are worse with organised and other white paper crimes. To what extent then, are these individuals different from their counterparts on the highways and cities?

Shifting the current gear in the conduct of right policing in the nation begins with the birth and implementation of realistic reforms. This must ride on the wheels of sincerity and political will and action by the state to see the reforms through.

Proper funding is an inescapable starting point to get things right. Appropriate police welfare in the form of salaries and other ancillary benefits, prompt payment of pensions, funding for national and international conferences, provision of uniforms, and other force gears are vital towards ensuring that the entire system is rid of corrupt saboteurs who take advantage of sovereign underfunding to get at innocent citizens.

There should be fair treatment toward all members of the police force, regardless of their rank or position. Junior officers should not suffer unnecessarily while their superiors live a lavish lifestyle. With proper funding and a fair psychological environment, then, the stage is set for mental re-orientation of current staffing and a re-strategisation toward recruiting new officers.

Of course, priority should be given to education, literacy, good knowledge about policing, and empathy when recruiting a new member into the force. Current members should be re-orientated and erring outliers can be rid of the system. This is a necessary purging process that will help to re-establish the integrity of the Nigeria Police Force.

Reforms should also touch on restoring the dignity of police officers’ living and working conditions. Police academies, barracks and stations must be revamped. Poor living and working conditions have the tendency to embarrass one’s mental sanctity.

Next is a commitment to improving the quality of service delivered by each officer and a system of accountability put in place to monitor compliance. A quick system of justice has to be in place to punish any defaulting officer and this will serve as a deterrent to others who may be power-drunk enough to humiliate or dehumanise any citizen.

In all, we are of the opinion that the Nigeria Police Force have inherent abilities to truly protect the nation, only if the leadership of this country permits it. This was exemplified by the discharge of well-equipped and armoured policemen and women during the famous #Endsars protest as we keenly observed. Perhaps, the same treatment and formation observed on the discharged force men on that fateful day may be extended to other uniformed officers throughout the country. Also, the above-mentioned areas of reform should be uncompromisingly attended to in order to re-boost the morale of these officers who by law, are conditioned to protect and serve the interest of Nigerians.