OPINION: THE NIGERIAN POLICE AND THE NIGERIAN SOCIETY

Before we commence, I would like to take time out to appreciate the efforts of the “true” Nigerian Policeman. That understands what it really means to really protect and serve with integrity. It is a thing of pride, to be called upon to “police” the actions of the citizens of this country. It means the government finds you worthy in character and very much above board…Or do they? This leads us to our first topic.

To an extent, it is true that the Nigerian police doesn’t have a favorable opinion, in the eyes of most of the citizens. Some people associate them as, people you see at checkpoints requesting bribes. I wish to try and bring out the big picture, lets look at them objectively.

What is the criteria, set by the government before joining the force? It isn’t easy “policing” in a nation like Nigeria. We have all kinds of wild stuff going on in the background. Some people join the force because they NEED a job, while others join because they WANT THE job.

I would like to quickly bring up an event that once occurred during my University days. One day, 2 students in a hostel were fighting, then the Landlord, who happened to be around had to invite a policeman from the nearby police station to help stop the fight, or possibly make an arrest. When the policeman came, in the process of separating both parties (they were both girls actually), his loaded gun went off, and an unsuspecting passerby was killed, a student.

The point here is that, how many of these policemen are actually “professionals”. There was a period when someone was shot, “accidentally” by the police, an average of 1 incident per month in this country. We are just happy that these days, they rarely occur.

Before you give a man, an assault rifle with so much ammunition to kill a dozen men, the least you can do is being very well aware of his state of mind. How sane are some of these guys? I have encountered some policemen, that we have actually sat down to discuss, and when they speak, you would know that he is well aware of his duties and your rights as a citizen, and I appreciate them. Then there are others, who simply give the force a bad name. There was a viral video once, of a policeman, possibly drunk, beating up a woman, in a pond, with A LOADED GUN and he even threatened to shoot her. Those kind of people have no business, whatsoever, in the force.

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One day, I was walking home from work, and I saw a black hilux vehicle (very shabby looking), pull a car over, about 5 men alighted from the hilux, with assault rifles and they were all dressed in black. They ordered the occupants (2 young men and a girl, they looked like they were just coming back from a party), out of the car and when they refused to come out, they shot into the air (let me state that there was a school nearby), eventually when the occupants of the car came out, they started beating them up and told them to produce their handsets (even if they were under arrest, how would they call their lawyers if their handsets were seized). Then they told them to drive behind them and one of their men sat with them, inside their car. Now, it took me a while to understand that those guys were actually policemen and if I were the driver of the car, I won’t stop if I truly valued my life. Then, shooting into the air in front of a school!

Now, I would tell you another story. One day, I was travelling and suddenly had a flat, so I packed to change it, this was around 6.30 pm. Suddenly, a police pick up pulled over and they asked me what I was doing there, I explained and they packed and sat with me while I changed my spare. I had some yams in the car, we shared it when I was done and when I turned to go one of them told me something I won’t forget in a hurry. He told me, that the actual reason they stopped was because a lot of people keep getting robbed where I packed, and they stopped to really know if I was trying to lay an ambush, and when they saw I wasn’t they stayed with me to make sure I was safe! Those guys showed me that we shouldn’t be quick to judge the police force based on the bad eggs in the system. After that event, I started to look at the Police Force critically, some people are just in the system to give them a bad name.

They say “Absolute power, corrupts absolutely”, in a country like Nigeria, it would be very wise to have a system where citizens can “check” the excesses of the police, in the case of negativity and commend the good ones, when they do something laudable. Also, in my opinion, the idea of having policemen transferred very far from their place of origin doesn’t seem to be a bright one. Certainly, a topic for another day.

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