The Nigerian police is a product of British colonial rule. That is the genesis of many of the problems that would later be confronting it. Just like many of our public institutions, modeled after either US or UK, the Nigerian Police never evolved to take the identity of our own society. During the colonial era, the police were only used to ensure the citizens fell in line in order to make it easy to further the colonialist exploitative rule.
The first thing that explains the psyche of an average Nigerian policeman or woman is the word “force” added to its name. All over the advanced world, you can hardly see the word “force” added to the police name. Many commentators have called the attention of the authorities to it, yet nothing is done to correct it. The question is, what are they forcing and upon whom will they be using their force?
In Britain and United States that we take pride in copying, policemen don’t carry big rifles like ours do here. Despite the fact that the police are well funded and men and women are well-trained, arms are not brandished like we do here. I do wonder if we can’t have smartly-dressed officers with their pistols neatly pinned to their waists and their walkie-talkie smartly resting on their shoulders. Not that long rifles are not used too in these places, but only during emergencies.
Nigeria’s security is chaotic and highly unorganized. This is not to downplay the few successes recorded by many officers and men in our various security formations. The sad truth is that our security system still operates in analogue in the era of digitalized security system. We operate 19th Century’s system of policing in the 21st century. We are far behind. In most nations now, crimes are fought with technology, tactics, advanced intelligence gathering systems and so on, not by the number of road blocks on the roads. Here, it is through force and fire brigade approach.
The celebrated cop, ACP Abba Kyari was able to get to the notorious kidnapper, Evans, because he deployed technology in tailing and subsequently arresting him. If it were to be the Nigerian Police way of fire brigade approach, Evans would still be out there plying his trade. That is how crimes are fought. That shows we might not even need units like SARS at all and even if we will ever need it, very minimal. After the completion of intelligence gathering by the unit in charge of criminal investigation, they can take over and do the real action. But here, without any investigation, by mere looking at a youth, they conclude he must be a criminal.
When we were growing up, it is the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) men, in mufti, that do carry out criminal investigations in police divisions. What role is the CID unit of the police in massive intelligence gathering? How can a nation of 200 million people not have CCTV cameras in major towns and cities of her nation in the 21st century? The fund meant for the CCTV of the capital city has since been embezzled and no one is behind bar for it.
Now, scrapping the SARS unit will never stop the tales of abuse and torture. Until some fundamental things are corrected, nothing changes. We will just have another set of crooks with a different name and who may be worse than SARS. The team to replace SARS must be carefully selected and trained. The idea of randomly picking rogues among rank and file and pushing them to go fight robbery and other violent crimes is not only archaic but counterproductive. That they will be facing criminals doesn’t mean they must be roguish in outlook.
Comrade Abdulateef Usman Abiodun, Ede, Osun State