The Nigeria Police has many problems and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Abubakar deserves to know the true picture of things. I will give just three illustrations to demonstrate this fact and leave the IGP to decide or act. First, some general comments. The increasing rate of crime in the country should send a message that some people are not doing their job well. The inflow, proliferation and multiplication of small and large and sophisticated arms as well as use of such indicate that there are lapses in the security system, and more particularly in the policing system of the country. It demonstrates comprises or weaknesses of the police. The show of power and reports or defences put up by the police public relations machinery after every failure is mere smokescreens that will do the country no good.
Aside these inadequacies are brutality and excessive use of force on those who should be protected. The OccupyNigeria killing by a police officer in Lagos three years ago will always be fresh in mind. The Apo killings in Abuja several years back is another case in point. We cannot also forget the graphic images on YouTube in which police officers and men were shooting unarmed suspected Boko Haram insurgents in 2009 at a very close range, with specific instructions from the officers-in-charge to “target their hearts; that is how to ensure they are dead”.
The Nigeria Police is far from being professional or committed to the task of policing. Extortion of money from motorists, motorbike riders and pedestrians are their stock-in-trade. They have been banned from mounting roadblocks; but they still do this, in defiance to their boss. There are illegal roadblocks everywhere in the country. The policeman stops you for no reason, wielding sticks like common touts or brandishing rifles which he corks all in the name of threatening you to stop the vehicle and park off the road. All sorts of incomprehensible questions are asked while demands are also made with the aim of boxing you to a corner and demanding, in the end, money from you. Vehicles on top speed halted at times are not able to stop immediately or stop suddenly and other vehicles behind crash into them and these culminate in fatalities. Sometime ago, a policeman stopped a car along Abeokuta-Ibadan road and in the process of applying the brakes, the car swerved to the other lane and crashed into an articulated truck. It was a fatality that is better not graphically illustrated. Another vehicle was stopped somewhere around Idiroko road in Ogun State and the driver, after ‘settling’ the team of policemen mounting the roadblock, could not start the car any longer. That was the end of his journey that day. Police greed and illegality cost him his peace for the day.
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I was driving along the Ilorin-Ogbomoso expressway recently and a team of mobile policemen stopped me. In my usual way, I stopped, greeted the men warmly mentioning their names one after the other, which disarmed all of them. So, I asked, “officer, for you to have stopped me, it means you have something for me. Anything for your boy?” The policemen burst into laughter and said it is a relationship between “father and son” and that I should know what to do. So, I jokingly said, “you are the father who provides guardianship” to all and as such I would require ‘something from you”. It all ended in jokes: “Okay Oga, anytime, sir. Go well”. I drove off and continued my journey with a thought in my mind that worried me. What if I were a criminal with ammunition in my car? What if I were a Boko Haram member driving on a mission to the Southwest? What if I had human heads in that car? So long as I could settle the policemen with N200 or N500, I would have a seamless move?
This is how criminals pass through the eye of the needle! This is why the security system is so fraught that the country is no longer safe. This is why criminality and crime are on the increase in Nigeria. No one is policing the nation any longer. The IG says no roadblocks. But his boys say “you are on your own, Sir!” and mount roadblocks everywhere. The PPRO claims the police are well equipped and motivated to monitor the security situation at one place or the other; but the story is different the next hour as the security system has collapsed and a criminal act has just been successful.
Recently along Idiroko road- where the police roadblocks cannot be counted- a criminal act took place at about 7.30pm. a colleague had just been robbed in from of a popular food shop. His money and handsets were collected at gunpoint. The restaurant is less than 100 metres from the spot of the crime. The moment he called me by public phone to alert me to help call the policemen in front of May and Baker junction, I sped to do so. A team of mobile policemen, regular policemen and SARS were there that night. There were also about three Hilux vans parked by the roadside and I could see them-particularly the SARS- with sophisticated guns. After telling them and pointing at the few blocks away where the crime just took place, they hurriedly entered into their vans and made to speed off to action. But as I drove away, I noticed that the vehicle engine had not even started. So, I drove further away, came down from my car, and walked back to where the policemen were. They did not recognize me. They had all alighted from the van and gone back to their business of extorting money from travelers and smugglers from neighbouring Benin Republic. I mingled with them for a while without being recognized, with the hope that would have a change of mind and still head for the scene of the incident. They did not.
The next day, another colleague- a female colleague- was robbed in a hair saloon by the same gang of robbers 20 meters away from the spot of the incident the previous night. The police had done nothing previously, and had not thought it necessary to do a security check of that area. The reported crime meant nothing to them. We had no option but to conclude that there was a collusion or understanding between those criminals and the police.
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This is part of what goes on again and again in Nigeria. This is why robbers and kidnappers are on the prowl. This is why Boko Haram cannot be stopped. If you think it is the police alone that is guilty, then you are grossly mistaking. Check the Customs. Check the Immigration Services. Check the NDLEA. Check the Prisons. Check everywhere. There are compromises and sellouts. The IG and other security chiefs must check their boys and do it properly. We are in a fools’ paradise in the country and we indeed do not have policing, in whatever area. People resort to self-help in all situations. The proliferation of vigilance groups is not a compliment to the constitutional security agencies. It is an indictment that the regular security agencies have failed the people, the nation.
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An inflection on these numerous shortcomings will show that the police as an institution is not well-funded. The men are ill-treated and are made to live in most unpleasant circumstances. The Ikeja police college was a talking point for most of two years ago when a TV station did an expose on the poor welfare conditions in that school. Police barracks are in a horrific state. Police stations and offices are not better than mangers. When I see these things and remember when I was growing up, partly in my Police Commissioner grandfather’s house and seeing what my Deputy Police Commissioner aunt’s houses in Jos and Ibadan were, I see an abysmal level of deterioration today in the welfare of the police. The Federal Government and police authorities have to do something about these things to motivate the men of the Nigeria Police.
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