Nigeria Police, Please be our friend

Hello Nigerian Police, be our  friend for real! I write this at the risk of sounding like a broken record. However, certain incidents happen that bring to the fore, once again, the mediocrity that we impose on ourselves. Some times  ago, the social media shared the story of a man who was lying motionless and dying on 3rd Mainland Bridge, and like the Biblical story of the Samaritan, series of people in uniform whose jobs it is to look after the public failed to take the appropriate action that could save his life. To those who live in Nigeria, it is hardly a story because it happens all the time. This is the new level of numbness we have reached, such that mediocrity has come to live among us. This is a story only because it happened where many people could see it developing. There are countless chilling stories of people who stood by and did nothing. Many times, not because they were not aching to help, but because there are usually heavy repercussions that they know could happen if things went wrong. And thing often go wrong as the police makes you number one suspect with or without cause.Back in primary school, it was a common question, the one that said “Police is your —-“. I naturally chose enemy and got that answer wrong more than once before I was properly educated on the appropriate way to refer to the police. I definitely made up my mind because of the times I had seen them ‘harass’ my father over vehicle papers that they finally found to be in order. Nothing they did by way of action changed my answer then and even now, I have only a few scattered incidents to point to if I had to defend the police. But against the backdrop of reports we receive about how these same men and officers are exemplary when they go on peace-keeping duties in other countries, one is inclined to wonder very loudly if there is something about the air they breathe in Nigeria that makes their job performance in Nigeria so repulsive.First, there is no denying that some people who wear the uniform are not qualified to do so. Some are cognitively deficient and some are outright criminals who somehow found uniforms to wear. Facts like these are the reasons abuses occur so often. Aside these misfits, there is a crop of police officers who are very well educated and who understand what their jobs should be. Many of these young policemen have been in our undergraduate classes and you will not find them lacking in evaluating the society they live and work in, or in making suggestions that could help. Somewhere along the line, there is a terrible disconnect and this has lasted so long it is difficult to know where to begin to clean it up.Therefore, rather than trying to capture the entirety of the malaise, it may serve a better purpose to skip to the end and hit the real issue. And that is, those things must change. We cannot continue like this. The police has taken too much for granted and they still will like to be allowed to continue that way. Whereas there are indeed glaring tales of neglect that the government must address in order to properly re-position the police, some of the issues we suffer for are policy issues that ought to be resolved within the police ranks. They are things the police hierarchy is already empowered to achieve without requiring any sort of clearance or funding.

1. The police has to say one thing and it should apply the same way in Lagos, Uyo,Zaria, Yola and every other part of this country. We cannot say that police should allow citizens take accident victims to hospital without fear, only to have it happen in Lagos alone. Everywhere else, a helper is chained to a post. Lagos cannot continue to be the only place fuel sells for N87 and the only place doctors are allowed, because of public outcry, to first save the lives of persons with gunshot wounds. In other places (and even in many cases in Lagos still), the doctors are arrested and left with indelible experiences that harden them enough to watch the next victim die without moving a finger. Doctors want to be assured of their own personal safety before touching a dying man not because they are heartless but because it makes them prey to heartless people. The lives of citizen should be paramount. It is true that police needs to screen gunshot wounds and arrest fleeing criminals, but with the number of guns in the wrong hands, there are more innocent people than criminals carrying gunshot wounds.

2. The police must sustain and improve on policies that have helped reduce crime, have improved their image or have enhanced their performance rating. The last IG removed the roadblocks despite outcry and proved that the absence of roadblocks does not heighten crimes. Today, the roadblocks are back with a vengeance. Apart from this, we again have men bearing police weapons while dressed in just about anything they can find. Some wear identical t-shirts and race around in unmarked cars. This really makes it difficult to know the men that are SARS of the police from the SARS of the underworld. Despite previous efforts to curb this, it has been on the resurgence. When a driver is waved downby a man in a black t-shirt and, camo shorts and trekkers, what is the first thought that comes to his mind? What if he tries to flee believing them to be robbers? He gets shot. What if he stops believing they are police, he gets robbed and possibly shot.

3. The current IG outlined a number of policy drives when he assumed office. One of them is to improve the investigation abilities of the police. He specifically indicted police for arresting people even before investigating. He would have it the other way. Arrests would be made as an outcome of investigation. This would have helped to reduce the number of people awaiting investigation (not even trial). However, nothing appears to have changed. People still get arrested just to get the ‘free’ bail money and countless people still languish in detention while their files lie dead in the drawers rather than addressing these, we still have police debating with families of kidnap victims whether or not ransom was paid. Notice that Nigerians do not even bother to prove the police wrong. Ever so often, photos of police men and women in smart senior uniforms still appear on the internet doing menial duties for wives of political office holders and expatriates; holding bags, umbrellas or fanning them. We still have a population of people who believe that police provides logistics for kidnappers and robbers and extortion of motorists continues unchecked everywhere in this country. Such glaring cases of incompetence and disregard of ethics breed distrust and this is the principal reason Nigerians take laws into their hands and mete out punishment to suspected criminals.  We cannot continue to live like this. We cannot continue to pretend that our police is not an embarrassment. Whatever it is that makes our officers work only when they want to must give way. While we pressure the government to restore dignity to the police, we will tell the police without mincing words to commence the reforms within. There is so much more the police can and should accomplish within and they must start now. Government must improve their welfare, make efforts to keep them safer as they work and ensure that their insurance is one that works. In the meantime, let the clean-up begin from within.


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I'm Christiana Oni (Sanchez May), a writer, lover, friend & teacher. Anything that comes in chocolate form is definitely my favorite.

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