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Way forward beyond the Police ‘strike’

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Nigeria police station. Photo/ AFP


Nigeria police ‘strike’ which started few weeks ago not only has economic, social and political consequences but has also exposed the people to the danger of lawlessness and insecurity. The first police strike was declared in the early 2002 by the unrecognized police officer’s union as a result of their poor working condition and neglect by the successive governments. The on-going undeclared police strike is the outcome of the mass protest of the youth against the oppression and brutality of the Special Anti-Robbery Response Squad (SARS). The immediate cause of #EndSARS protest was the photograph of a police officer in the SARS unit shown in the social media who molested and killed an unarmed young man. The protest later turned to riots which led to massive destruction of lives and properties. The molestations, terrors and killings which the police faced during the protest forced them to go into hiding and eventually go on strike. Police in Lagos and some states have almost left most of their duty posts as spontaneous collective reactions of the police to protect their lives without informing the people and the government.

#EndSARS protest started with protesters displaying Nigerian flags and placards while singing and dancing on some of the major roads in Lagos but later resulted to bloodshed. The Lagos State governor appealed to the protesters to desist and embrace dialogue to solve the problem, but the protesters refused. He promised that government would look into their demands and act appropriately. The Federal government responded by disbanding SARS and announced the creation of another unit to replace it. But despite these government actions the protest continued. On October 20 the protest turned violent as a result of the shootings and killings of Lekki protesters. This led to the extension of the protest to many other states in the country and many people including the protesters and police officers were killed. The October EndSARS youth protest led to unprecedented mayhem in the country.

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Infiltrations of hoodlums later changed the trend. The hoodlums among the protesters started to destroy private and public properties, and attacked, killed and incapacitated them. The hoodlums burnt to ashes many police stations and vehicles, destroyed their documents and equipment and took away police guns and other ammunitions. Many private properties including departmental stores, shops and houses were also looted and burnt. Many government offices and properties including many government-owned public transportation vehicles (BRT) were burnt. It was estimated public and private properties worth more than one trillion were destroyed. This demonstrated the necessities for effective and efficient policing in the country.

Since then the police have ceased to be on the roads and many of their stations were empty. Police have gone into total undeclared strike from October 20. The present police strike has increased robbery, murder, rape and other dangerous crimes. It is the average Nigerian that are mostly bearing the brunt of the insecurity that follows the police strike presently going on in Lagos and some other states.

The Nigerian police have the primary responsibility for maintaining public order. They respond to the call of the public, the court and the government to enforce laws, prevent and investigate crimes and apprehend criminals. Police protect lives and properties of the public and government.

Since Nigeria independence police have been criticized for ineffective performance of the jobs and corruption. They are accused of serving only the interest of those in powers and helping them to perpetrate heinous crime to perpetuate their rule. They are charged with the abuse of authority and power as their investigations, arrests and other activities are often performed with unnecessary force and brutality. They are accused of usually invading people’s privacy and carrying out malicious prosecution and improper detention.

The police on the other hand blamed the people for their incessant refusal to report the activities of criminals, which makes the criminal more dangerous to apprehend and prosecute. The people’s neglect make police jobs difficult and exposed them to great danger. The police blame the public for harbouring and sometimes protecting criminals and for not providing supports that could enable them to perform their jobs effectively and efficiently. Governments were also blamed by the police for not providing equipment and vehicle which make it difficult for them to perform their duties.

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But despite these accusations and counter accusations the police and the people have to work together to create a just, secure and peaceful society. It is impossible for a community, people, states and nations to exist without active police participation. There are great connections between the police, the people and the government in all nations. Governance, security, political stability, economic progress, investment, employment and welfare of the people are connected and inseparable. The great distrusts between the government and the people make the latter to feel that police defend only the political and business elite at their expense. They are considered as agent of oppression.

Maintenance of law and order guarantees security of lives and properties and promotes good governance and economic growth. National political, social and economic objectives cannot be achieved in the absence of law and order. People will not be able to go on their lawful duties or to work and do businesses without molestation. Industries and business will not be able to produce and operate and commercial activities will be difficult. Buying and selling as well as trading will not take place and no investors will establish industry in an insecure environment and state. There will be total breakdown of law and order which will lead to anarchy or a war of all against all.

Most wars in many nations often start with police incapacitation to provide law and order, which often lead to anarchy and at best create opportunity for military adventurists to take advantage of it and engage in coup d’état. It could also lead to factions and crisis in the military and possibly war. It is imperative for the governments and all peace loving people to probe into the immediate and remote causes of the end-SARS protest and to find out its connections with the breakdown of law and order, and other national crisis and problems. The end-SARS protest was on police but the remote causes are closely connected with the increasing unemployment and poverty in the country as many able bodied unemployed youth and workers groan under the condition of extreme poverty. Increasing insecurity, inflation and ineffective social security worsened worker’s living conditions and wellbeing.

The enormity of the problems that were the results of the recent unrest and police strike are so much and it will take a long time to rebuild the damages the strike created between the people and the police. The EndSARS protest created crises and destruction of great proportion.

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It had further polarized the Nigerian societies and threatened the Nigeria fragile unity, democracy and co-existence. It has further endangered the lives of the people to great danger of insecurity and disorderliness. Democratic government cannot afford to distance itself from the people as they are accountable to them.

Nigerian elite have the duties to ensure that the people are united and prosperous. Governments have to promote the wellbeing of the people by promoting employment to reduce the inequality and increasing poverty. Lack of basic infrastructure, insecurity, increase in the price of foodstuff and other basic needs, poor health and educational facilities, bad roads and others have polarized the people into few’ haves’ and majority ‘have nots’. The dwindling wellbeing and insecurity among the lower echelon of the population have created great division and acrimony between the ruler and the ruled.

There is a greater need than ever before for governments to promote sustainable economic growth that could guarantee industrial development, generate employment and free resources to provide social service to reduce inequality and poverty. Government should also ensure that police are provided with improved wages and better working conditions. Police should also be trained to perform their operational, administration, communication and human relations aspects of their tasks for better performance and good public relations. The government should as a matter of urgency set up National Institute of Police and Security that will provide training for the police and all private and public security agencies such as the Police, Civil defense, DSS, Traffic Management officials, Private security agents and others to enable them serve the public better.

It is the responsibilities of people, police and government to create enabling environment for peaceful co-existence without which socio-economic and political development cannot take place. Nigeria could only be free of unrest, crisis, insecurity and war when the government, police and the public co-operate with each other and are ready to follow the democratic principle to promote good governance, peace, orderliness, security, justice and fairness,
Professor Dauda is of the Department of Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management, Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos.

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