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Issues, challenges of policing in Nigeria

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Human beings by nature generally exhibit tendencies to want to do things in the way they like not minding what effects it has on the other person standing or living with them. Even the fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Constitution of individual countries, which is strengthened by Charters in the United Nations relating to Human rights further create the feeling that everyone should enjoy unfettered freedom by these rights.

Rights do not and cannot stand alone. It must be accompanied by obligations. Besides, where one man’s rights stop is where the rights of others start. From these scenario, conflicts and chaos are bound to emerge. The responsibility to manage the emerging conflicts within the confines of our country, i.e. internal security, devolves on the Police. Some countries give priority attention to this while others toy with theirs and merely pay lip service to its needs. It is the management approach adopted that determines the security dividend in any country.

Security, seriously speaking, is not of necessity the absence of crimes. It is a state of equilibrium in the affairs of a nation, which citizens should enjoy and take for granted just like the air we breathe. What guarantees this state of affairs therefore is the type and quality of its Police.

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Although the aspiration of Nigerians to have an efficient and effective policing is legitimate, no society can get a level of policing above what it has planned for and prepared to finance. It will be right therefore to say that a society gets the type and quality of the Police it wants. This desire may be foisted on them as a people by the government’s decisions as to the level of spending on security, the strategies and level of technology adopted and implementation of its policies on security. Unfortunately, sometimes out of sheer gullibility or natural outcome the people may even antagonize their Police and make their tasks more cumbersome. On the other hand, it may be a deliberate choice or decision as in our case where our leaders, in their morbid desire to create and sustain an empire for themselves where their words always become an unchallengeable law may toy with security for various reasons. A truly efficient and effective Police will not fit their desires and aspirations. In my humble opinion, such leaders keep and maintain a Police that exist only in name, leaving them reeling on the floor, trampling upon them, and only allowing them access to the crump that fall off their table. They move on in their imperial status and exhibit unbridled, morbid and primitive acquisition of wealth without any fear that the laws or any law for that matter will or can catch up with them.

Today in Nigeria, several of our political elites and leaders are embroiled in controversies sometimes very putrid, bordering on crime about their educational qualifications and such simple things as their name and date of birth, the operation of bank accounts and bank balances, stealing of public funds, AKA embezzlement of funds, misappropriation of funds, misapplication of funds and brazen acts of corruption etc. Most of the time, this has led to a financial hemorrhage of our common wealth. The putrid smell that is released by the criminal tendencies exhibited by some of our political elites and leaders assails our sensibility daily.

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So, from what is read or seen from the print and electronic media and what our leaders exhibit are truly offensive. For example, reading recently about the NDDCgate, Covid palliatives and lots more of such malfeasances in government, I am convinced that indeed the government’s indifference and attitude to policing in Nigeria is deliberate. A rag-tag Police, poorly remunerated and equipped; and operating within a very hostile environment is what is required to maintain an unchallenged status quo. This view is reinforced by the fact that some of our leaders being the most widely travelled among their peers in the world, should have replicated what they regularly see in foreign lands here for the enhancement of security in Nigeria.

Is there any of our political leaders, presidents, vice presidents, governors (they prefer the appellation Executive Governors) and their deputies, national and state houses of assembly, ministers etc in this country, that has not travelled to USA, UK, France, Germany, Israel etc, either in the official or private capacities since the commencement of the Fourth Republic? Don’t they see policing – technology driven as it ought to be in the 21st Century? Do they see policemen in those climes with rifles hanging on their shoulders moving around on the streets and highways? And do they see the citizens of those countries faced with crimes and orgy of violence as we face in this country. I think that what they see abroad should have been the catalyst for putting policing in Nigeria on the front burner of government’s actions, decisions and spending. But the question is, how would any such person or group, neck-deep in malfeasance and criminal tendencies create capacity for the Police and make them effective and efficient? That would be a recipe for self imprisonment. Who wants to go to jail? Surely, nobody! So, what is there to do? Keep the cops firmly on the ground, pretend to be doing something for them while you widen the gulf between the people and the police and the sins are forever effectively covered. In my place our elders ask “who does not know from where a woman delivers a baby when after birth, they ask her to put her back near the fire?” Between the Police and the people there is thus created, entrenched and strengthened cracks so much that hatred and acrimony exist, in such a way that no synergy, imperative for any crime fighting, exists between the citizens and the Police.

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There is no gainsaying the fact that the EndSARS protest that took place recently are legitimate in a democracy because the unwholesome conduct of the SARS operatives deserves to be checked and stopped, but the intentional and brutal killing of policemen which no one has condemned has thrown up another dimension to the infringement of the Fundamental Human Rights of the policemen. This certainly was what the protesters were complaining against about the conduct of SARS operatives in the first instance. The policemen were killed, not for any other reason but that they were policemen going about their duties to protect citizens in the country. And the question to be asked now is “What has happened to the fundamental rights of the policemen humiliated, tortured and killed”? Some of them had their corpses butchered and roasted publicly. One was burnt alive possibly wearing his police uniform that marked him out for killing. They are Nigerians, they are human beings, they possibly were not the dreaded SARS policemen that the protesters targeted. Yet, even in death, they were dehumanized! The Human Rights Activists are here with us, but none has raised a finger in protest. They have suddenly found themselves dumb. Even the President during his address to the nation did not comment on it. What a nation! and Nigerians expect stellar performances from these same policemen. For a moment, let us compare and contrast this occurrence with the protest that took place in the USA following the alleged killing of Floyd, a black American. In Nigeria, instead of seeking collaboration between the citizens and the Police, we unwittingly widen the existing gulf and ultimately it is security provision that suffers.

At the end of this piece, objective Nigerians desiring for a truly improved Police service, will see that the problem of Policing in Nigeria is not about the Nigeria Police, its organization and operations, and policemen but about the absolute contempt and the criminal neglect of the Nigeria Police by successive governments in Nigeria particularly since we started this Fourth Republic in 1999. And of cause, the continuing widening gap between the Police and the citizens.

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Let me at this juncture and with the risk of being immodest, take you on a journey through the memory lane to sustain my claim of being a security expert on Policing in Nigeria. I enlisted into the Nigeria Police as a Cadet Sub-Inspector of Police on February 1, 1972 and passed out on schedule one year after. The training gave us all that we needed to be able to function effectively as a middle cadre officer in the Nigeria Police. I was posted to the defunct Mid-Western State and for eight years I was there.

I served in various other capacities thereafter and in several states of the Federation for 35 years and retired as Commissioner of Police on January 31, 2007.

Adetuyi, a lawyer and retired Commissioner of Police, wrote from Akure.

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