The recent attack and destruction of police stations, instruments and killing of its men by hoodlums who hid under the cover of #EndSARSprotest stand condemned by all patriotic and peace-loving people of Nigeria. The attack on properties of the police and killing of its men is not new but the recent one by these hoodlums appears to be the worst in Nigeria’s history.
An attack that has, for more than a week kept the police off duty, demoralized and instilled fear into the body and soul of the police. A peaceful protest by Nigerian youths in major cities of the country to demand for immediate action by the authorities to the killing, torture, extortion, maiming, and rape of some female victims by the police was hijacked by some unscrupulous elements in the society. The police from media evidence played a very dirty role by sponsoring and ferrying thugs to the protest grounds of these peaceful protesters. The sole intention of the police cannot be far from dubbing these youths as disgruntled elements, enemies of the state with the aim of disturbing public peace. The police did not realize they were planting what could also consume them at the end, and it indeed boomeranged.
A peaceful protest to attract attention of the government is a legitimate right that the police as an institution with the license to maintain law and order must endeavour not only to allow but, provide protection for the protesters and disallow infiltrators. The usual approach of the police in civil disobedience is to suppress peaceful protests without respect to our laws. Nigeria is a country governed by rules, democratic rules that allows for decent ways of doing things. But every now and then, representatives of government, security agencies do not want the governed to air their views on social, economic and political matters affecting them.
Much as we condemn the hoodlums for havoc they wreaked in the last few days, we must not fail to also condemn the police for the role they played in attacking and sponsoring thugs to attack the peaceful protesters. We must also not forget the dastardly acts some members of the police have done in the name of fighting crime which ostensibly led to the #EndSARS campaign that snowballed into destruction of lives and property.
Let us not forget that the call for scrapping ofSARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) began in 2017 because of their numerous evils without any action taken by the government other than mere public statements and apologies. We cannot forget the heart-breaking tales of extrajudicial killing, extortion, torture and rape that angered our young people to come out in this recent street protests in the first instance. We remember Linda Nkechi Igwetu, who was reportedly shot at in 2018 by SARS operatives, a day before herNYSC passing out parade. What has happened to her case, any justice? How many of us are doing anything to bring her killer(s) to book? We cannot forget Stella Ifeoma Abugu, another NYSC member that was reportedly raped and murdered while being unlawfully detained by SARS officials in Abuja.
What about the case of Kolade Johnson, the young man who ran back to his fatherland for safety from South Africa only to be killed here by his own country’s police for doing no wrong. What about the Awkuzu SARS killings and dumping of corpses in a river? We can go on and on. The government and police hierarchy must do a thorough surgical operation on its men and officers, their mode of operation to curb this unnecessary brutalization and waste of lives.
When the police are fighting crime we are aware and commend them for the good work. But, we can quickly distinguish between the criminality of some of the bad eggs amongst them. They have committed heinous crimes over the years with nobody, no power, no institution called them to order until the youths took to the streets in protest. So, we are all culpable.
How many known and unknown souls have they killed since the coming of SARS in 1992? Are those souls not humans? What has the state or police authorities done to curb their excesses? How many of these men are under interrogation or punishment for the inhumanity?
In like manner, we also remember those unsung heroes of the Police, men and women who, despite being part of an institution that has the worst welfare package, work condition, treated like a pariah by government, reputation for corruption and ineptitude usually seen in our public system, yet they serve with bravery, not minding the dangers to their lives.
Right now, what is needed is building of confidence between the police and the people. The police, community relations introduced by the first pragmatic Lagos State Police spokesperson, Alozie Ogugbuaja, must be strongly re-organized for effectiveness and efficiency. This forum should be empowered by the Inspector -General of Police to be strong, functioning in all police formations and communities across the country. Community and Police relationship must be restored for effective policing.
The police must be well kitted with uniforms and gadgets. Their salaries and welfare, housing condition, health, retirement benefits should be adjusted upwards to bring out the best in their services.
The recruitment, training and re-training of men and officers must be seriously approached by the government. Police is a noble profession that requires humane, intelligent, honest people to be involved in. The government must invest in our security forces to serve the people better.
––Uzodinma Nwaogbe, email@example.com