I picked up playing basketball late in my secondary school years and usually practiced at the nearest court to my house. It was the Police College basketball court on Independence Way, Kaduna. It was about two kilometers from my house and sometimes, I would task myself to jog non-stop from our doorway to the court. Other times, I’d take a bike or walk in the company of my friends. Because I was obsessed with the game at that time, I often went there twice daily, morning and evening. This afforded me the opportunity to interact with potential cops, and see their learning environment.
Before I proceed, I should tell you that I attended a public boarding secondary school for three years and graduated from a federal university. The facilities were bad and inadequate. For the two years I lived on campus, I never slept in my bunk bed alone and we were often closer to 30 than 20 in rooms made for eight. The water was often brown and we did most of our bowel-movement business in the bushes. Every Unilorite knows this as “Attack!” As a computer science student, I never saw the computer lab as it was always under lock. My result slips always had spaces as one or two exam papers would have gone “missing.” Graduation could not come soon enough.
Now, the situation at this Police College, Kaduan, far outweighed what I have described above. Their bathrooms were super-filthy and so were the kitchens. When cadets went to get their food, they always took small flasks, the kind that wouldn’t fill a five-year-old. I couldn’t even look at their food most of the time. They didn’t have a dining area, so everyone took his/her food back to their rooms. And you don’t even want to get me started on those. Let’s just say they had more bed bugs than beddings!
Many may not know but a significant number of police cadets got in by sports scholarships. These cadets would have to participate in sports through-out their tuition, as they had to win medals for their respective colleges at sports meets. Back then, one of the ladies I interacted with told me she and her friends had to travel to these meets on their own most times. She said the lecturers were not sympathetic to them and their special arrangements and she had to sleep with one just to move ahead. And the classes themselves, unbelievably atrocious! There were no good boards in the over-crowded classes and not once did I notice a Forensics Class in session. I never saw a shooting range either.
While these issues used to give me grief, I never connected what I saw in the Police College with the conditions of the Constitution Road Police Barracks, which I used to pass through on my daily runs to the court. Most of the houses were at varying grades of disrepair and sewage gushed from their broken septic tanks. The walls all needed painting, some mending. It was an eye-sore. Looking back, I now see how crazy it must have been for a cadet to see how bad his present situation was and how miserable his future promised to be. Tragic.
Three separate occurrences have pushed me to write this piece. First is the funny cop, who washed the scene (with water and broom, no less) after The Guardian reporter, Bayo Ohu’s murder in 2010. The poor chap was thinking he needed to clean the place before sympathizers’ arrival. He had probably never heard the word “Forensics” before… or since.
Second is the armed robbery incident I barely survived last year. It happened in Zuba, on the outskirts of Abuja, at about 10 pm. That they collected everything from me, excluding the laptop on which I am typing this, is not the story. The gist is that I am 110 per cent sure those robbers were police officers! They had on green combat trousers, black vests and black boots. Which career robber wears boots to an operation? The leader was called “Sergeant” twice. It was other cops shooting in the air from a distance that saved us. And those ones did not even allow us to file a report. Cowards!
Lastly, and most tragically, is the case of Sergeant Sunday Badang. That is the guy who got himself blown up while trying to defuse a bomb in Kawo, Kaduna. I still find it hard to fathom why a man, with all his faculties intact, would knowingly attempt to unwrap a possible explosive right in the middle of a war with a terrorist group. What was fueling this guy’s confidence? Alcohol? He didn’t stagger to the bomb, did he? His faith? Didn’t see charms, crosses or rosaries either. What was on this mad man’s mind?
We will never know why this man made this fatal move but one thing is sure; Sergeant Sunday was not trained for the job. But how many Nigerian cops are trained for anything? They can’t disperse a mob without force, effect an arrest without being rude nor be polite when they want to stop and search you. Most of them dress worse than touts, drink and smoke while in uniform and on duty. They shoot citizens and colleagues alike over the smallest disagreements. The case of the officer that was burnt to death after killing a driver in Abeokuta is fresh in my mind. They wield their AK47s in your face at every excuse. They are mostly crass, classless and hopeless.
And yet, the government has a big security budget. What I would love to know is, how much of this money is going into the training and retraining of the rank and file of the police? When will they get better weapons training? Better uniforms? Better pay? Prompt benefits payment? I know a family whose willowed father died at the hands of robbers while on duty at a bank in Ibadan. Four year on and not a kobo paid to the family. The two orphans have been living with a petty trader with four kids of his own in a one bedroom apartment. Will this one trillion ensure that this sad sight does not happen to another family?
I just think Sergeant Sunday’s death, which is raking up views on YouTube, is a water-shed moment. If the whole world didn’t know how clueless the Nigerian police is, they know now. The time has come for the government to stop burying their heads in the sand and make moves to solve this problem. A policy to add quality people to the force needs to go into effect today! 300, 000 policing 160 million is suicide.
I am glad the new Police IG is making the right noises but we have heard that before. Oga Police, you have run out of excuses. Or do you need to see your poor subordinate blown up on YouTube once more?