The rank and file of the police in Nigeria are so under catered for, the author says. Picture Suggestion:
From the pictures I saw of President Jonathan at the Police College Ikeja, I think he came very close to freezing up with sadness. Whether that was genuine or contrived is another matter.
A week or so before Channels Television began airing its documentary on the Ikeja Police College, the Inspector General of Police proudly launched a new code of conduct for the police. Coincidentally, Governor Adams Oshiomole, one of the dignitaries that graced the occasion lambasted and indicted the police over the murder of his private secretary.
The IG responded with a classic police line, the Governor did not know what he was talking about and that the police would respond at an appropriate time. But we all know that an appropriate time will never come. It is just a trick to make things go away with time.
Nevertheless, I wondered what the IG’s new code of conduct for the police was all about and just how much the new code was expected to change the orientation of the police. Don’t the lawyers always say that you cannot build something on nothing? I have therefore classified the code under a new “sheriff is in town” syndrome which every new IG displays once they are confirmed. They give us the impression that they have come to reform the police when in fact they are there to “claim” their blessings.
A senior police officer once told me that it is only about 25% percent of funds meant for running rank and file operations that actually gets released by the “big men” of the Nigerian Police.
An anecdote from the book Paradise for Maggots confirms just how things are with the police. The story was that the Nuhu Ribadu, pioneer chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission went to Force Headquarters in Abuja for some business. There was light out in the area and the lift was therefore not working. But he knew that there was supposed to be a standby generator. He wondered why the generator was not put on to power the place. When he got to the office of one of the senior officer, the fellow was sweating so much that he pulled his shirt. Another officer did not only pull his shirt, he also pulled off his singlet. So, Ribadu asked, “Is the standby generator faulty.”
“No” said the senior police officer.
“Why is not on then?”
“There is no diesel to power it.”
“You mean no provision was made for the purchase of diesel?”
“You will have to ask IG that question.”
The story was that the office of Tafa Balogun, the IG then was powered by a small generator while the rest of the huge building was without power.
Ribadu’s experience at the force headquarter that day was part of what lead him to investigate and successfully prosecute Tafa Balogun who had stolen billions belonging to the Nigerian Police.
Now, take a good look at the lower rank policeman you meet on the street.
Compare his dressing to that of a senior officer at Force Headquarters. And then compare him to an equivalent rank at the Federal Road Safety Corps, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps.
You may also want to compare the average police officer to security officers of private security firms who are paid an average of eighteen thousand naira a month. In all, the police man on the street is at the bottom of the personal appearance ladder. Some police officers look like runway kids who spend their time under city bridges in big towns across Nigeria. Sometimes, you cannot but wonder whether the Nigerian Police Force is cursed.
Yet it is these “beasts of no nation” that are saddled with the enormous responsibility to protect us. When we heap blames on street police officers, we hardly think of them as people who have been stripped of any form of self worth and denied the basic tools of operation.
We hardly think of the fact that it is more dangerous to be in the police than to be in the army, navy or air force. When we accused the average police officer of lying, we forget that the police command programs every officer to be an expert in lying. And that any police officer who attempts to tell the truth does so at his own risk.
Now, I hear the Ministry of Police affairs will argue that the Police College is directly under the control of the Police Command. On the other hand, the Police Command will argue that the Police is not well funded. The Police Service Commission will press for the scrapping of the Ministry of Police Affairs. The National Assembly also wants a piece of the action with a planned probe of funds released to the police.
Meanwhile, the documentary by Channels and the President’s unscheduled visit to the place has led to some form of national outrage and mourning for the police. Nevertheless, when will the president pay an unscheduled visit to every police station in any part of the country so that he would know that police officers don’t have pens and papers to take statements from complainants and accused person; or to see that there are no ceiling fans or desks for police officers; or to see that our 21st century officers don’t know how to use computers nor have access to them; or to see how battered police patrol vehicles are? Until the President does all of these, I would like to be spared this sudden national crocodile tears about the rot at the Police College, Ikeja.
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