Reforming The Nigerian Police

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Reforming The Nigerian Police

By Peter Claver Oparah.

 

For the avoidance of doubt, I don’t like the Nigerian Police, least of all, the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Unit of the force. My hatred for the police stems from the way they do their jobs; mistaking the guns they were issued to protect Nigerians as instrument of terror, extortion, intimidation and harassment.

The Nigerian police conducts itself in such annoying brash, crude, uncultured, dumb manner that galls the mind. I am. sure the police is the most hated institution in Nigeria today despite its claim to be our friend.

The men of the Nigerian police have massively de-marketed the force that only bad and negative imprimatur has come to represent the public image of the police. Worse still, the police which should be a principally intelligence agency has leased the intelligence aspect of its duties to the guns they are given to guard the people.

Worse still is this penchant of the police to advertise itself as unaccountable, irreformable and doomed to perfidy. Perhaps, this has been the reason many Nigerians doubt that the police could ever be reformed. It is certain that most Nigerians have sincerely given up on the Nigerian police and its notorious ways.

But, even with all these badges of shame, the police is still the necessary evil we all agree we need. No matter how high pitched our distaste for the police and its vile ways are, we still need the police if we are not to degenerate into a state of nature. Even, with all our negative perception of the police, Nigerians still need the police so the pursuit of its reform to make it better continues.

Lest we run the risk of hasty generalization, there are still many good men and women in the Nigerian Police. There are still policemen who do their legitimate duties with high degree of etiquette and zeal.

There are still legions of policemen ruled by high moral standards. There are still many policemen in Nigeria that have sacrificed their lives and comfort for the good of Nigeria and Nigerians. But the sad reality is that because these good seeds are in the minority, the bad seeds in the Nigerian police have overwhelmed their and sown dirty images and impressions of the Nigerian police.

Take the SARS issue for instance. SARS has greatly contributed in taming crime and has sacrificed unquantified number of men in a bid to rid the country of crime and its perpetrators.

But it had over reached itself in terms of the conduct of its operatives. It has bluffed all previous demands for reform and cleansing and had carried on in an annoyingly lawless manner that has drawn widespread opprobrium among Nigerians.

Make no mistake about it, I don’t buy most of the outlandish stories Nigerians tell in recent times about SARS but the truth is that the body clearly deviated from its core mandate and minimum best practices that can only breed the kind of resentment that led to its scrapping by the Inspector General of Police.

Some points need to be made clear. It is in line with police duties everywhere to suspect, arrest, interrogate and prosecute, especially in crime issues. But such is no license for intimidation, detention, extortion and brutalization.

Not every suspicion or arrest leads to detention. In some cases, the police can have reasonable grounds for suspicion or arrest. Where such arrests are proven to be groundless, the police releases immediately, with apology.

Where it establishes grounds to take it further, it moves on in line with universal best practices which doesn’t allow the excessive use of force or commercialization of bail as well as forceful illegal monetary extortion which SARS had been massively accused of

There is nothing wrong with the police taking in anybody for questioning based on suspicion generated by appearance, as many Nigerians wrongly protest. There is nothing wrong in doing sting searches, as many complain.

These however have to follow civil, transparent processes that must not necessarily lead to detention, extortion and all manners of atrocious conducts that SARS have been charged with. No one will question civil, open and mature interrogation that ensures all citizens stay within the confines of legality.

What is wrong is when such is done with brazen force and impunity where the subject has not violated the rules of engagement and going further to criminalize suspicion by automatically detaining victims and extorting them and forcing stringent bail conditions on them where no offences have been proved against them.

All said, my honest take is that scrapping SARS was wrong. Fact is that the rainbow coalition that massed under the #EndSARS banner gathered from diverse interests. Many were criminals that see the end of SARS as a borderless license to advance their seedy businesses unimpeded.

Many were distressed political wayfarers that see the protest as viable grounds to advance their worsening political interests. Many were from the limelight-hugging and attention-seeking potentates, the wannabe celebrities that saw it as another golden chance to advertise themselves.

Such riotous make up is the reason why no credible alternative was fangled to #EndSARS. Because there was no deep thinking binding the campaign, nothing was suggested to replace SARS after it is ended.

Many good heads however believed that reform is the way to go to redeem not only SARS but the entire Nigerian police. While the #EndSARS protagonists fiercely fought off this in their orgiastic demand to end SARS as the cure-all medicine for the excesses of SARS, they have seen the open chasm and the deep holes in their demand, after the police high command acceded to their demand and ended SARS. They have therefore come to embrace the reform demand which they repudiated at the peak of their demand.

The Inspector General of Police has promised to empanel a new body that will replace SARS, which is what it should be despite the naivety of some of the #EndSARS protesters that SARS would be the last of such anti-robbery units of the police. Of course the new body will be drawn from the same pool SARS operatives are drawn, which is the Nigerian Police Force.

Of course many of them will still come from the disbanded SARS. Where they don’t end up in the new unit, the same SARS operatives will jump into their uniforms and continue their nefarious acts in the notorious checkpoints on the nation’s highways or at the various police stations.

So the entire police force needs reforms that will target an upward review of their conditions of service, scale up their equipment, close monitoring of their activities, retraining and reorientation, strict  internal discipline, among other reform imperatives.

The Nigerian police must curb the notorious penchant of the police to constitute annoying nuisance on the nation’s highways through all manners of roadblocks, where they use guns and all manners of weapons to extort and rob Nigerians.

Police has no business searching vehicle particulars on the highways and employing same to rob Nigerians and constitute serious impediments to movement as well as business in Nigeria.

We need the police on our roads but purely for security. Police on the highways shouldn’t be blocking roads at every 100 meters and frisking vehicle papers. They should rather be stationed on the sides of the road, watching for any security glitch or doing motorized patrolling on the roads and not the sordid roadblocks they excessively mount on Nigerian roads.

Then the police high command must take serious the task of monitoring and enforcing actions among the rank and file of the police force. This is an area that had systematically been ignored in police administration and which is key to reforming the police.

The police high command could have effectively dealt with the bad eggs of SARS if it wished to do by carrying out constant raids on the operatives and severely punishing errant operatives when caught perpetrating these vices or when reported.

But in actual fact, the police high command has treated complaints with levity and even encouraged these bad eggs because they share in the corrupt proceeds from these rogue SARS operatives.

Take the issue of highway roadblocks for instance. We have, over the years, heard different Inspectors General issue orders for their disbandment but each time such orders were issued, they were often followed by increment in such notorious roadblocks and a worsening of their nefarious activities.

If the police wants to stop these roadblocks, it will immediately empanel an enforcement team that will target errant officers and sack them while others learn from it. If the IG unleashes a crack team to monitor and enforce roadblock dismantling on all our roads today, with a view to arrest and dismiss offenders instantly, the menace will automatically stop.

But it is widely believed that roadblocks still exist and indeed worsening because the profit from roadblocks runs through the entire police high command, even up to the Inspector General of Police

All said, much needs to be done to reclaim the police. While the government needs to reform, restructure and reposition the police, the police high command must start enforcing simple rules and directives, enforce discipline and start working to cleanse its image.

The task of reforming the police is very difficult and enormous but let the police start by tracking bad eggs in the force, enforce and instill discipline among its ranks and file and start enforcing orders directives that target the many notorious acts the force is known for.

*Peter Claver Oparah wrote from Ikeja, Lagos. (E-mail: peterclaver2000@yahoo.com)

 

 

Disclaimer: “The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Peter Claver Oparah and do not necessarily reflect those of The World Satellite. The World Satellite will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.”

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