Despite what is written inside, tension hangs outside like the decapitated head of a Scapegoat. Can you hear the weary step of the victim approaching the police station? Listen: it’s whispering to itself turn back !
Inside any Nigerian police station, conspicuously hanging on the wall, is the slogan “The Police is your friend”. To a foreigner (who hasn’t read about the Nigeria police on the internet) those words might seem warm and pleasant, and even reassuring, not been familiar with their modus operandi, it might seem efficacious of an ultimate responsibility to the civil world. To a typical Nigerian however, those words are the very beginning of your problems.
The Nigerian police is regarded by the public as been deeply corrupt, and grave abuser of the rule of law, which ironically is meant to be upheld by them. The media, court files and the public conscience are filled with experiences and stories that make “the police is your friend” slogan equivocal to the laughter of sociopath torturing you. But has the Nigerian police always been this way? Or rather has there been a period the Nigerian police wasn’t this way?
Prior to colonialism, the territories that made up Nigeria each had their own communal form of policing, which although primitive, was nonetheless effective. The British through colonial rule imposed a police system alien to pre-colonial territories. The first police force (Hausa guard) created in 1886, and all the other local police forces subsequently created until independence, were established to serve colonial interests, and suppress colonial resistance. These police forces were used to oppress and brutalize the indigenous people, at times used for conquering territories. After Nigeria attained independence, these forces were eventually collapsed into one coherent Nigerian Police Force in 1972.
It follows that, Nigeria’s first four decades after independence were dominated by a series of military coups and successive military dictatorships. The police force—which at independence numbered approximately 12,000—was larger than the military, and thus was perceived by military leaders as a threat. As a result, the NPF was chronically underfunded and marginalised by the military governments during this period.
According to the Human’s Right Watch: As the military government of General Olusegun Obasanjo prepared to return Nigeria to civilian rule in 1979, the government embarked on a massive police recruitment campaign while largely discarding recruitment and training standards. By 1979, the NPF had grown to “80,000 ill-trained, ill-motivated and ill-equipped men…[in 1991] In response to rising levels of crime that followed the end of military rule, then- President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered the inspector general of police to undertake yet another massive recruitment drive aimed at adding 40,000 police officers per year for five years. Similar to the recruitment drive of the late 1970s, police authorities made little effort to screen candidates for criminal backgrounds, and many recruits simply bribed their way into the force. Creating a composition of policemen who lacked professional training; criminals ; corrupt and largely ready to be used as tools by the political power.
Thus, the colonial police force and the Nigeria Police Force share the same ideology: a lack of respect for the community they police. This is Cleary seen in the oppression and brutalization of the masses and truncation of their human rights.
Therefore, the formation, recruitment, and management of the Nigerian police till the present moment has been below international best practices, with intentional organisations such as Amnesty International and The Human Rights Watch raising alarm over the corruption and Human Right’s abuse of the Nigerian Police. A corruption, which it seems every rank and file of the police force is steeped in.
The bigger picture becomes clearer, when it is observed that the Nigerian society hasn’t adjusted to the imposition of such a brute police force on the populace from the onset , as the social equilibrium remains maladjusted, thoroughly lacking a dynamic working balance, with the people largely unsatisfied and uncooperative with the police. Hence, the poor perception of the Nigerian Police by Nigerians.
This, however, doesn’t mean there are no patriotic policemen. There are Policemen who try their best for Nigeria; Policemen, who put their lives at risk to protect Nigerians. Last year, a certain Sergeant Chukwudi Iboko, sacrificed his life to prevent a robbery at a branch of Zenith bank in Owerri, Imo state. The video went viral, with the media agog with praise for his gallantry, but the sad and demotivating factor of such incidents is the poor welfare of the police force, where little attention is given to the family of policemen killed in the line of duty.
The problems therefore are myriad, with poor orientation, poor training, poor equipments, poor welfare, poor disciplinary department, poor recruitment standards, poor police leadership, all staying firm, rugged and solid, and unwilling to give in to development, in the face of torrents of research papers, articles and recommendations from both the domestic and international community. And we all can’t forget the gaping lack of political will.
So, how can the police say there are our friends when we have been victims of their violence and fraud. How can they say they are our friends when they extort us of our hard-earned money. How can they say they our friends when their guns and batons make pulp of our skins. They have guns, and batons. We have memory. How can we forget the pain. The tears. The stories of brutality are as many as bullets in their guns. The accidental discharge that happens so often has become a pattern. How about the innocents protesters, shot for standing up for something in a country we know very well needs more protesters. I could go on and on and on, for the Human Rights Abuses are legion.
This scourge of abusive policing will one day create a hostile and retaliatory populace, the patience of the people is not indefatigable but slowly burning like a cigarette. Unless checked the police will become as hated as terrorists themselves. Do they think they can keep acting arbitrary without consequences? Cause and effect is as absolute as gravity. With the social media and the internet the populace is getting more conscious and more aware.
So tell me a better lie other than the police is my friend. Tell me pigs fly or unicorns are ranched at Borno State or goats are protesting for animal rights and in activism they have shaved their goatee. Tell me any lie other than the police are my friends, cause frankly, that lie is killing us.