As I looked at the television screen, the only image I could see was that of an over excited Acting Inspector General of the Police in his new combat uniform. He was espousing the benefits of the new uniform to the ill – protected security force. I waited desperately and strained my ear to hear how the outfit would help in combating the numerous challenges afflicting the vilified organization, I didn’t. Instead, the Acting Inspector General stressed that the public should come up with constructive criticism regarding the new police uniform.??Suddenly, I remembered one of the most enduring bills in the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly, a bill I strongly supported. The bill seeks to remove the term ‘Force’ from the nomenclature of the Nigerian Police.
The argument pushing forward the bill is that the best approach to effective policing is to create a semblance of a humanist organization that will not expend force on the populace. It will also promote a sense of community policing. After all, the most sung slogan in any police station in Nigeria is – the police as your friend.??Unfortunately, the new combat outfit of the police reeks of a military type state of war. To be fair to the newly appointed Head of the police, these are unusual times in Nigeria. His organization is confronted with an adversary (Boko Haram) that is destructive. On instances where it frontally tackled the Nigeria Police, our darling police were found wanting either by abandoning ship in a most cowardly fashion or being no match for the highly sophisticated insurgent groups. So, perhaps the motive behind the combat uniform is to announce the combat readiness of the Nigerian police. So that no matter the frightened state of mind of an officer, the public perception of a camouflage attired personnel is that of a fearless dare devil fighter.
Typically, Combat gear as a standard official clothing is against the conventional norms of security services; because the outfit signifies a period when the organization is combat ready to defend of adversarial attack. The apparel is usually not an all-time venture. As long as there are no adversaries, the police officers revert to the usage of the day to day working attire.
More so, except perhaps in the glamorous world of fashion, the apparel we wear is not a determining factor in assessing our competence nor does it enhance our capabilities in performing assigned tasks and duties. In the realm of providing effective national security, the most important requirement is to provide the security personnel the needed welfare package, either in terms of adequate emolument, proper shelter to the rank and file, an excellent working environment and modern fighting tools. It has become characteristic for every newly appointed Chief of Police to assume office with a first speech filled with challenges confronting the police and promises to tackle them.
However, like the past regimes, it seems the new head of police has begun his regime with no concrete solutions to defeat the trumpeted deficiencies. In fact, currently in the states where Boko Haram insurgency is in effect, the state governments that funds the Force, thus putting into jeopardy the general independence of the outfits. In Borno State for instance, the Boko Haram insurgence has mixed with the local politics. These would not have been if the police were adequately funded. Ironically, with the funds available to the police, the Acting Inspector General deems changing its uniform an important venture.
Since General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime of the early 1990’s, which has now been associated with widespread extravagance, any effort made to change the police uniform has been greeted with deep suspicions about the motive of the initiator. The populace mostly suspects that an attempt to change the police uniform is an opportunity for personal enrichment. After all, even the current Inspector General has a lot of the times stated times that the Nigerian police as an institution is afflicted by a debilitating corruption. ??An analysis of the previous change of police uniforms reveals a lack of improvement in the performance level of the Nigerian police (in fact, the institution seems to have deteriorated).Hence, it would not take a soothsayer to predict the outcome of the present attempt, which is already attracting similar accusations. Indeed, these accusations such as misplacement of priority, misapplication of funds and the costume having no probative value in the efficiency of a police officer are valid.