Aftermath of #EndSARS: Government neglect, poor welfare affecting police morale, efficiency
Almost eight months after the #EndSARS protest, which turned violent, resulting in massive destruction of police facilities across the federation, the rebuilding process of the burnt stations is yet to begin. The development has greatly hampered the operations of the police with ripple effects on their ability to fulfill their constitutional mandate of providing adequate security, as many of them have become demoralised.
In the aftermath, many of the affected states put in motion initiatives to repair and reconstruct affected public properties, compensate victims of the protest, and forestall a reoccurrence. Lagos State, which was the epicentre of the protest, also signed an executive order establishing the Lagos State Rebuilding Trust Fund. At the time, the governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the Trust Fund would drive the reconstruction in the state due to the immense destruction witnessed during the mayhem.
In Lagos alone, some of the stations affected included Orile, Igando, Okoko, Ijora-Badia, Agbara, Meiran, Cement, Amukoko, Layeni, Ilasamaja, Cele outpost under Ijesha Division, Ikotun, Ajah, Elemoro, Ebute-Ero, Onipanu, Pen Cinema, Makinde, Isokoko, Alade, Igbo-Elerin, Shibiri, Gbagada, Onilekere, Charly Boy Police post, Ojodu, Surulere, Makoko, Idimu, Denton, Ilemba-Hausa, Olosan, Aiyelegun police outpost under Ejigbo division, and Daleko police post.
Eight months on, however, the promised repairs are, largely, yet to come to fruition. And officers in some of the affected stations currently operate from makeshift structures, including canopies and rafts.
Aside from this, there has been less presence of police officers in the metropolis, which a few residents in Lagos and some others parts of the country have linked to the spike in general insecurity within communities and major roads.
With no offices and adequate equipment to carry out their assignments, sources said the situation has affected the morale of police officers, and by extension the effectiveness of policing within communities.
A police officer told The Guardian in confidence that, “with the look of things, and with the way things are going, it seems Nigerians don’t want the police anymore.”
Yet, another top police source confided in The Guardian that since the #EndSARS saga, hundreds of policemen may have tendered their resignations, going by the cold treatment received from authorities and the people.
Although Lagos State police spokesman, Muyiwa Adejobi, a few months ago, said that the rebuilding of the stations was in the pipeline, no work had commenced in any.
Adejobi, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) had said: “The police leadership and the Lagos State government are working assiduously on rebuilding affected police stations. We have a particular prototype for the new model stations that the state wants to adopt. So, we will have them back, even better, soon.”
When contacted, a source at the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (NPTF), which is mandated by the law to equip and retool the police, said a lot was underway to rebuild the stations and retool the police.
According to him, aside from the government, organisations and non-governmental bodies have also indicated interest in assisting to give the police a new face.
It was also gathered that the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF) has plans to turn around the burnt stations.
On Thursday, October 8, 2020, nationwide protests, tagged #EndSARS, had broken out demanding an end to police brutality, harassment, extortion and particularly, scrapping of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which was alleged to be in the habit of profiling young Nigerians, mostly males, based on their lifestyles with intent to extort rather than curb crime. Men of the defunct SARS were also known to mount illegal roadblocks, conduct unwarranted checks and searches, arrest and detain without warrant or trial and rape women.
Speaking on the abandoned police stations and the general well being of policemen, security expert, Christopher Oji, said: “It is quite unfortunate that the Federal Government has abdicated its duties and left the police at the mercy of state governors. Yet, it is opposed to state police. The state governments also have their problems. So, let the Federal Government be serious with the issue of security. It should come out to say that it has no financial capacity to fund the police.
Recently, I went round police stations burnt by #EndSARS protesters in Lagos and saw an instance where a philanthropist donated a house to the police, and the burnt station has been converted a toilet.
“Other stations and posts are still without repairs. The government should be serious with the Security Trust Fund that has been set up. Through the trust fund, business entities and private individuals can make donations to assist security agencies.
“As for the Lagos State Security Trust Fund, I think the COVID-19 pandemic affected the agency. Before now, it used to be active with issues like the #EndSARS protests and burning of stations. You know that the agency is not making money on its own, corporate agencies, businessmen and private individuals fund it.
“Everybody has been affected by COVID-19 palaver. So, people don’t give out anymore. The government should also investigate the police affairs and police authorities to know how they are utilising money given to them for police functions, welfare package, and equipment procurement. There is no how the police can perform with what is on the ground today.”
According to Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Taiwo Frederick Lakanu, who left impressive records in police operations, the police should embark on a serious reorientation for its officers and men, more so when their act of brutality had been recently, overwhelmingly condemned by mass action.
“It is time to engage human rights groups to harness their position with the police. Social reengineering of seemingly appalling situations is to drastically give way to Police with the right attitude.
“There should not be mentoring disconnect between the officers and rank and file. A hungry dog is an angry dog. This adage applies to the Nigeria Police Force. Their welfare is number one priority. You don’t arm a hungry man with a gun. So, emphasis should be placed on training and retraining with focus on the behavioral pattern of training. More courses, workshops, seminars and symposia must be organised for them to realise the consequences of negative actions. Community and policing relationship training must be upgraded and fine-tuned to suit our present circumstances.”
A criminologist, Prince Albert Uba said: “The Nigerian governance system is noted for its static model where the federating states would normally go cap in hand to the federal or central government to survive. This is sad and should not be so. What is happening to the Nigeria Police is a reflection of a failed state.”
“In saner climes, all the affected police formations during the infamous #EndSARS protest would have been fixed, but because our system is dependent on the Federal Government for everything and anything, we are where we are today. The Nigeria Police Trust Fund has just been resuscitated and it is not clear if (a) takeoff grant had been given.
“The Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF) was the harbinger of all other states security funds, and in fairness, has performed impressively well. LSSTF alone cannot provide all the logistics its police command needs because the Nigeria Police is a federal organisation.”