Reforming the Nigeria Police Force

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Beyond the end SARS campaign, a comprehensive reform of the Nigeria police is long overdue, writes Olawale Olaleye

Addressing some of the ‘flaws and drawbacks’ of the Nigeria police, Michael Ositadinma Duru, a guest writer on a certain social media platform, gave some insightful review some three years ago and today, they are still as relevant as they were then.

“It is quite debilitating and annoying that the government institution established to foster peace and security; be the hope of the common man, downtrodden and victim of class abuse or harassment by the rich has turned to be a tormentor and enemy to Nigerian citizens. Most people prefer to relinquish their valuables and rights when molested or abused.

“Some prefer to swallow their pain, anger and pride, when their rights are being trampled upon by the influential ones than going to the police or court to seek redress. Many are jailed for the crime they know nothing about. Many are roasting in police cells today, because they don’t have money to bail themselves. Many cases are left untouched and untreated because the complainant has no resources to push their case files.

“Many debts are not recovered today just because seeking the help of Nigerian Police Force will eventually result to sharing that money if recovered from the debtor between the police and the owner. Many personnel of the Nigeria Police Force are seen today as monsters because of their negative behaviour and attitude to either the accused or the complainants.

“Many of our ladies are raped today while in police custody. What about the story and testimonies of our commercial motorists, drivers and commuters? They are singing and saying negative things about the Nigerian Police Force because they are mostly victims of police brutality and extortions.”

The reality as painted here by Mr. Duru isn’t far-fetched. Indeed, it could be identified as one of the factors responsible for a recent protest against the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) tagged #EndSARS on the social media and across the country.

Many Nigerians, a majority of them celebrities, had taken to their social media pages to protest and call for the scrapping of the Special Anti-robbery Squad. This, of course, followed series of complaints shared online by some of the youths over alleged harassment and assault by the SARS operatives.

Using the hashtag #EndSARS, the call was directed to the federal government to scrap the police unit. This was immediately followed with a petition to the National Assembly for prompt intervention.

Some of the experiences and comments shared included: @UncleAjala “SARS: Special anti-robbery squad are now doing the robbery in Nigeria. SARS that were created to stop robbery are now robbing people.

@Kingtyra “If by Monday nothing has been said or done, 10,000 women are going to march bare chested all the way to the biggest SARS station in Lagos to tell them to stop harassing and killing men

@Isimaodeh “Nigerian youths are scared to walk on the streets of their own country because they could be arrested or worse killed for having beards, cars, wearing nice clothes using iPhones by those, who are meant to protect them. Enough is enough #EndSARS

@simi “People are not supposed to be afraid of the people that are supposed to be looking after us. A couple (of) weeks ago at almost midnight my friends and I had a gun pointed at us for laughing. #EndSARS

@segalink “The fact that SARS use POS to rob shows how constitutionalized this nationwide racket is and how highly rooted it is. They cannot pretend now.#EndSARS

@olofofo “I’ve also been harassed by a head of SARS in Ibadan. He certainly used his powers on me. I’ve experienced both the good and ugly. #EndSARs

Expectedly, this attracted the attention of the Inspector General of Police, Idris Ibrahim, who immediately ordered the re-organisation of SARS across the country.

Idris, in a statement on Monday, signed by CSP Jimoh Moshood, Force Public Relations Officer Force Headquarters, said “The Nigeria Police Force has observed the recent trends of event on the Social Media on the #ENDSARSNOW and the controversy being generated by the innuendos from the allegations and other misconceptions as it concerns the operational roles and activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a detachment of the Nigeria Police Force.

He, however, said the police zonal commands, state commands and divisions would continue to operate anti-crime units/sections, crime prevention and control squads and teams imperative to prevent and detect crimes and criminalities in their Area of Responsibilities, and other crack squads necessary to sustain law and order and protection of life and properties in their Area of Responsibilities (AOR).

That the police leadership responded almost immediately to the nationwide social media protest is an indication of a distinguishing breakaway from the unsavoury leadership disposition of the past, at least. But the idea of what a police force should be is still a far cry from what presently obtains.

Therefore, the police leadership would do well by transcending the mere re-organisation of SARS or the investigation of the activities of the personnel of just a detachment of the force. The truth is that the entire police force requires a thorough reform for a rebirth of this all-important security arm.

From swirling allegations of corruption to palpable inefficiency and crass unprofessionalism as evidenced by their modus operandi, the Nigeria police are not anyone’s friend, let alone an institution that the people are proud of. The reform is no doubt timely and necessary, but importantly, it should cut across the board for a genuine rebirth of the police.