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In Aid of Our Police, Our Friend By Benedict Oladipo Koledoye

The inscription ‘Police is your friend’ is copiously displayed at almost all the Police formations in Nigeria. However, in fairly large number of these formations, particularly the police stations, Police Posts, SARS Posts, etc, the environment and atmosphere is anything but friendly.  Most times, the environment is scaring and hostile.  The very raw encounters with some of the officers and men in these formations are better imagined than experienced. It could best be described as descent to the shadow of death. Flowing from these, many have had reason(s) to denounce such a declaration as empty propaganda, as a matter of fact many see the Police as their enemy. To some, the statement is not just ridiculous and far from the reality but annoying. On a good day, nobody wants to befriend policemen and women, talk less of visiting Police Stations. Many believe it is a place where your woes would be compounded-a bad place. Certainly friends don’t dwell in such an environment.

The inscription ‘Police is your friend’ is copiously displayed at almost all the Police formations in Nigeria. However, in fairly large number of these formations, particularly the police stations, Police Posts, SARS Posts, etc, the environment and atmosphere is anything but friendly.  Most times, the environment is scaring and hostile.  The very raw encounters with some of the officers and men in these formations are better imagined than experienced. It could best be described as descent to the shadow of death. Flowing from these, many have had reason(s) to denounce such a declaration as empty propaganda, as a matter of fact many see the Police as their enemy. To some, the statement is not just ridiculous and far from the reality but annoying. On a good day, nobody wants to befriend policemen and women, talk less of visiting Police Stations. Many believe it is a place where your woes would be compounded-a bad place. Certainly friends don’t dwell in such an environment.



Generally, encounters with Officers and Men of the Nigerian Police could best be summed up in the title of that epic film, the good, the bad and the ugly.  There are some of these experiences that would be extremely difficult to forget in life. Encounters with Police have left some people with deep appreciation for the Police Force, while it has left some with very bitter memory.   For the latter it would be absolutely difficult to see Police as a friend.  Certainly, some readers may want to argue that if the writer has ever experienced the wrath and brutality of Police, he would not dare advocate for their friendship. I have had my fill, the Police have made me cry and they have equally made me laugh.

It is also instructive to note that combination of condition, context and the activities of some officers and men of Nigeria Police has created the worst burden for the Police- the issue of image. Unfortunately, the Police are seen as the symbol of bribery and corruption, such that the police profession or vocation is never on the wish list of parents for their children. My choice of words ‘some officers and men’ is very deliberate, because there are many polished, humane, moral and complete gentlemen/women  and officers out there. It would be an unfair assessment to make a sweeping statement about the institution as being entirely corrupt. I have had opportunities of relating very well with very polished officers at the highest level, and men at the lowest level. However, the overall impression of Nigeria Police remains sordid.

The situation of the Nigerian Police is very complex and full of ambiguities; the bad and dented image of the Police notwithstanding, the worst critic of the institution turns to the Police for protection of lives and property in times of danger.  We earnestly seek effective police service delivery.  The abiding truth is that we need the Police, and this recognition of the sacred duty of protection of lives and property with which the institution is charged cannot be wished away. To this extent, there should be a paradigm shift, rather than Police begging the public to be their friend,  the public should rather turn to the Police and make them our friend and then match our words with action. We must stand up for the Police. we must come the aid of the Police.  

Exactly a month ago, one of the situations and contexts of Nigeria Police was presented to Nigerians through the documentary put together by the Channels TV. As it were, the documentary ‘embarrassed’ Mr. President and thankfully the documentary compelled his visit to Police Training College at Ikeja, Lagos.  No doubt the President was embarrassed and angry, his remarks were quite instructive. From the report of that visit, the President was not happy with what he saw and wondered why people were made to live like chickens, but I guess the President was more concerned about the image of his administration because he was apparently livid with whoever allowed Channels TV to have access to the College and took those horrendous footages. No wonder he claimed that the report was meant to embarrass his administration.

The situation was indeed deplorable and disgusting. In my considered opinion, the President should have declared the place a disaster zone and ordered for the immediate evacuation of the cadets.  However, the response to this disaster was the setting up of a committee by the Minister of Police Affairs to investigate the rot.  I know we might as well forget it. The composition of the committee is itself a joke. All the committee members were drawn from the Ministry of Police Affairs, those whom with every respect should be investigated. The Committee was supposed to turn out the report in one week.  We all know that there are many recommendations that have been made by different committees in the past that have not seen the light of day. The last of such a report was the Parry Osayande’s Police reform committee, the report was submitted in August 2012, less than a year ago. When another committee was set up, from hindsight, we should know that this was diversionary. I guess it is achieving its purpose.    One month is gone, nothing has been said, no report has been submitted, I guess nothing has happened in that College. If there is any positive development, we have the right to know.

What we fail to appreciate and emphasise from that documentary is that the rot at the Police College Ikeja is the microcosm of the rot in many police formations and barracks across the country. Visits to most of the Police Barracks across the cross will readily confirm that, and it may not be too difficult for one to understand the raw side of the Nigerian Police.  If people are trained under such undignified situations and contexts, live and work under such demeaning conditions, we don’t need to expect miracles. The thinking of such persons will be warped if that is what they experience daily. Without sounding fatalistic, those situations not only will produce equally fatal people, it clearly situates the police in an endangered context. It is not just about the Police College, Ikeja, it is about the entire Nigerian Police.

Since by law, the Police are not expected to protest and demand for a better deal, I think it is now time that Nigerians should form pressure groups that would demand a better for the Police, the Police needs us and we need the Police. Experiences have shown that we need to put sustained pressure on the leadership to do the right thing. We want a safe and secure environment, but those who will ensure safe society at the risk of their lives should certainly have a better deal. There is need for a better condition of living, qualitative training, up-to-date equipment for investigation and combating crime,   not the kind of what we see currently. I guess the civil society is not doing enough in this respect.  One very important area that we need to revisit in the process of constitutional amendments on the salient issues of state police and the security allowance received by the state governments. These two issues are key to having a Police who would deliver on its constitutional mandate.

Postscript:

About nine years ago, I was travelling from Akure, to Benin City with a colleague. A few kilometres to the Oluku junction there used to be a notorious Police Checkpoint. Once you approach that check point, you know you are in for some trouble, you can never get it right with those men,  you must  ‘settle’ them.  Of course I did not get it right that day!  To make matter worse for me I was not ready to ‘settle’ them. The Police officer was surprised at my effrontery, he asked for my identity again and I told him I am priest. He looked at me scornfully and declared that I cannot be a Christian, much more a priest. At this point I was livid, but I was wise enough not to argue with him, for I know these guys are capable of anything at that point, it may be a case of accidental discharge.

I politely asked him why he came to that conclusion even when all the papers I gave him pointed that out. He said to me “if you are a priest, you will not be standing here and wasting your time with me.” To confirm my identity he asked if I have a Bible in the car. My friend brought out a Bible from the car and he asked him to open Gospel of St. Matthew chapter 5:25, and read; “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the road, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.” He said to us why can’t you settle quickly on the road and go before we face more difficulties.  I could not help laughing, I shook hands with him, dashed him 100 Naira for a ‘good’ sermon!

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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