20th July, 2010
President Goodluck should as a matter of urgency order investigations into the activities of the Nigerian police in the last 20 years if this rising wave of kidnapping, armed robbery, assassinations, drug trafficking, rigging of elections is to be reduced to the barest minimum. In the past 10 years, I have been screaming from the roof tops that Nigeria needs a brand new police to deal with the challenges of the 21st century.
In my several encounters with the Nigerian police in the past 20 years on the highways, at police stations and several engagements with ordinary policemen on the streets, I have found out that they see police work as business to enrich themselves and live big like businessmen, ordinary traders, oil workers, even bankers, etc. They get disappointed when â€˜small casesâ€™ come to them especially those at zonal commands.
I have heard police officers complaining that â€˜big casesâ€™ have eluded them for sometime and are consciously waiting for such opportunities to come as â€˜big casesâ€™ mean big money. Police officers want to own big cars, build fine houses in their villages, wear good clothes and have fat bank accounts like any other successful person in Nigeria. That is why police get involved in armed robbery, kidnapping, abduction, illegal debt recovery, blackmail, harassment and intimidation of helpless and hapless Nigerians.
The Nigerian police work for the highest bidder on anything in Nigeria . In Nigeria , big men buy the police and use it to rob and terrorise other Nigerians. A friend once told me that the police think their job is to protect Ogasâ€™ wives and Ogasâ€™ girlfriends. The moment a new IGP, AIGs, and Commissioners of Police are appointed, common criminals rush to buy their complimentary cards and relationships start. Some spend close to 50 million naira to get a complimentary card of the Inspector General of Police.
An encounter with armed robbers in Ogun State on Sunday June 20 2010 exposed me to the rot in the Nigerian police. My vehicle was snatched very close to Sango Otta zonal command. As the robbers drove me and my family to the bush near the border we saw no police check point on the way. On our way back, I saw two police check points. When I got to Otta zonal command to lodge a complaint on Monday June 21 2010, I noticed to my utmost dismay that they are common traders and extortionists waiting for people to exploit.
The officers in Otta are helpless, hopeless, ill-prepared, ill-equipped, uncoordinated, uncaring, down and out. Just like Otta is in ruins, police in Otta are also in ruins. The Otta zonal command is rotten! I remember I put a question to them at Otta zonal command, and I said, â€˜how can you be here and armed robbers are killing people and snatching their vehicles at Sabaina Taiwo Road off Lagos-Otta expressway, a distance of not more than 300 metres away?â€™ They could not answer the question; rather they demanded money to register the report, and to write the police report.Â Throughout my ordeal I saw the connect between the police and the robbers in Otta, Ogun State . My conclusion is that police aid and abet cross-border crimes in Ogun in what Igbo people call agbata eke e arrangement (whatever we make we share).
A foreign-based medical practitioner who was kidnapped in Imo State recently was asked to go pick his car in front of a police station and he did. A concerned citizen in Aba, Abia State said kidnappers do their acts on a daily basis in broad daylight and walk away only for the police to come one or two hours later to pretend as if they are doing their job.
In my own state, Anambra I have heard stories of how police officers connive with traditional rulers to release arrested kidnappers and the stories are true. Building a sophisticated and well-equipped police force is the first step to make Nigeria a destination. We cannot face the 21st century security challenges with 20th century solution. We just have to pay the price to get the police we all deserve. Serious investment in police force is the way forward and Lagos is a good example.
President Goodluck Jonathan and all the 35 state governors should come to Lagos to learn few things on how to make investment in security and the reward that goes with it.I do not mind if police officers earn more than bankers and oil workers in Nigeria. I do not mind if police stations look like banking halls in Nigeria. I do not mind if policemen live in the best apartments in Nigeria. I do not mind if police officers use the best cars and the electronic gadgets in Nigeria. I do not mind if the Nigeria Police Force becomes the most important and attractive job in Nigeria, if lives and property will be protected, and business environment made cool.
Nigeria Police Force has a historical knack for corruption, inconsistency, torture, blackmail, armed robbery, suppression, oppression, repression, extortion, intimidation, murder, etc. This is the time to clear the Augean stable. I remain fully persuaded that we have the capacity and capability to have the best police force in Africa.
I remain fully persuaded also borrowing from Haile Selassie that â€œThroughout history it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most, that has made it possible for evil to triumph.â€ To change things here in Nigeria, we need to confront history. If a writer is silent he is lying!
â€¢Joe Igbokwe wrote from Lagos.