Nigeria’s total collapse and disintegration appears imminent. One does not need a soothsayer to know this. The ominous signs are everywhere for all to see. Apart from the political turmoil instigated by cronyism, misgovernance, leadership failure and incompetence – all of which validated strident calls for restructuring of the polity and self-determination by some ethnic nationalities, the clock is ticking for the implosion of multidimensional internal conflicts that will soon climax in anarchy and splitting of the country into irredeemable fragments. This is not a prophecy of doom; even the visually impaired can see the thick cloud of imminent rain of crisis that “federal might” may not be able to contain.
The incessant attack on, and killing of, Nigeria police officers and men on a daily basis calls for caution. This should not happen in any organised society. Around the world, there is no government without effective, well-equipped, well-funded and loyal police men and women in place. Police is a civil force in charge of internal security in every country. They are well defended, funded, remunerated and compensated in events of accident or death in line of duty as enshrined in each country’s constitution.
But, in recent times, Nigeria police personnel have become endangered species. They are hunted, attacked and killed like preys wherever they are found in hot zones. This is unacceptable. There is no other way to confirm that Nigeria is a failing state than the way our policemen and officers have become easy target of attacks. Police is a central factor that holds the fabrics of Nigeria’s forced unity together; and the moment the Police is taken out of the equation, in a short time, the nation will be history. Unfortunately, we are fast drifting to the precipice with the way hoodlums, unknown gunmen, cultists, armed robbers, bandits and irate youths attack and kill policemen and officers in some parts of the country.
Incidentally, Nigeria police have not been well appreciated by the public they serve and protect. They are seen from the prism of the bad elements in the force. The rot in the force and the brutality unleashed on civilians do not earn the force deserved corporate respect, support and appreciation. Anybody that has been a victim of police injustice and brutality will not spare a thought for them. The federal structure of the force does not help its situation either. Decent and civil people in the force are either sidelined, transferred to “Siberia” or are even implicated as “risk factors” to covert nefarious operations. Such officers do suffer denial of due promotions and placements. Ethnicity and religion are used against many competent and efficient officers in the force. Did you know that many officers have to bribe their way to the top? The mess and deprivation they experience can be very frustrating. It is believed that these are the likely reasons why they exploit innocent citizens and suspects in their custody. However, these are not justifiable reasons for the unprofessional conduct of some of them, but because the system is not allowed to function fairly, effectively and independently, it mostly accounts for the avoidable pressure and manipulation under which the Nigeria Police operate.
Without trying to rationalise misconducts and illegalities, the fact remains that Police do misbehave everywhere else around the world. We have seen the Police commit murder and brutality in the most civilized countries. What is bad is bad; police are not meant to oppress or kill the citizens they are employed, trained, equipped and paid to protect. As we can also see, such erring officers are brought to justice in the court of law and sentenced accordingly. The same thing happens here, except that our judicial system grinds at snail’s speed.
There are police men that have distinguished themselves in mature, responsible and civil manner. We have seen policemen being harassed, beaten, humiliated and even left half-dead without them retaliating, even when they carry weapons; but chose to endure the assaults without committing murder in the name of self-defence. Kudos to such gallant men and officers of the Nigeria Police wherever they are!
Attacks on the police stand condemned. Statistics show that it is a global phenomenon that must be checkmated at all costs. For instance, a staggering 264 police officers were killed in the line of duty in 2020, representing a 96% increase compared to the previous year’s figure. This is according to a release by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies reported that 60,211 officers were assaulted while performing their duties in 2017. There is hardly a day that passes without us losing a policeman in line of duty in Nigeria. In the last four weeks, over 30 policemen and officers were reportedly killed at different flashpoints in the country.
Nigeria is under-policed. The figure per number of citizens is grossly inadequate. While we are managing to cope with about 350, 000 personnel, half of who are assigned to individuals, private and corporate organisations, the festering insecurity engulfing the country is overstretching the available cops on duty. The time for the establishment of state and local police is now. We have to work the talk.
The poor working conditions is another issue. Apart from the recent adjustment in their salary structure by the federal government following the #EndSARS nationwide protests, their incentives and fringe benefits deserve to be reviewed. A situation where officers and men will have to pay for their uniforms, boots, belts, caps, stationery for their various stations and posts is abnormal. How about the welfare and insurance scheme for them and their families? Ideally, their children should enjoy free education on the bill of the state. This should include the military. Free healthcare and subsidized holiday trips for their immediate family members. With these in place, higher commitment and dedication to duty will be guaranteed and corruption will drastically be reduced in the system. Favouritism, ethnicity and religious biases should give way for merit, seniority and federal character in the administration of the Force. This is possible only if there is the political will to do it.
In the United States, Louisiana became the first state to pass what it called a â€œblue lives matterâ€ law that added police officers to the hate crime statute. Texas, Kentucky and other states have followed with their own laws. Alabama currently makes it a capital offense, punishable by death, to kill a police officer. But proponents of the bill said it could provide stiffer penalties for people who attack police officers in targeted assaults. Last week, 30 men were sentenced to death for killing just one policeman during an intra-religious riots where several people sustained injuries in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Government must enforce legal provisions that protect our policemen and officers. Culprits of assaults on policemen must be speedily brought to justice with grim penalty to serve as deterrent. Doing so is the safest way to sanitize our crime-infested society. Propounding this idea does not prevent erring officers from standing trial also. I read about a recent kidnap case where the victims called the police for help and the victims were allegedly told to pay their ransom first. In another case, the policemen were reported to have offered to deliver the ransom to the kidnappers. A kidnap suspect in police net claimed that he and his gang do share the ransom with DSS officials that supplied them weapons. This is aside the cases of extra judicial killings, bribery and perversion of justice against the hapless and the poor. These are grievous offences against God and humanity. It is quite satisfactory that police authorities do not shield such personnel from prosecution; only that our judicial process grinds slowly.
The most annoying are cases of AK47-wielding Fulani herdsmen arrested by vigilantes or community people. As soon as they are handed over to the police, they are released and their illegal weapons returned to them based on â€œorders from above.â€ This act of impunity must stop, except we operate a Northern Police Force.
Police are law enforcers and internal security administrators that are accessible, reachable and approachable to the citizens. I stand to be corrected! They still rank among the best in Africa if they go on foreign missions. However, the situation can still be salvaged if the General Muhammadu Buhari-led government decides to be sincere by allowing the police force to operate on merit and in accordance with the principles of federal character.
â€¢ West wrote via
Â© The Nation
Saturday, May 22, 2021