‘’Whoever fights with monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster, and if you gaze long enough at the abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you’’ -Friedrich Nietzsche
About seven years ago, I got a call from a friend in the evening that armed robbers were raiding his next door neighbour and they could hear gunshots on the streets. In those days, there was no emergency number to call so he suggested I should run to the nearby police station to alert the law enforcement agency. I drove to Ikota police station which is a distance of about 1000 meters from VGC. The entrance to the police station was covered with over grown weeds so I parked on the Lekki-Epe express-way and gazed into the dark. From afar I could see two men sitting by a lantern in the open. The scene was a replica of a village setting yet this is a police station in the heart of the city on the highbrow Lekki-Epe express-way. On getting to the station, two out of the three policemen on duty were in boxer shorts sitting by the lantern. It was a sorry scene. After narrating my predicament two of them mercifully put on mufti and accepted to go to my friend’s house on one condition, that I drive them there in my car. My heart was in my mouth while I prayed all through the 10 minutes journey, this sounds like a home video script except for the fact that it happened to me. As we approached the final bend into the street where my friend resides in Ikota Estate, I politely gave the policemen a brief description and asked them to alight from my vehicle. As I turned I began to hear gun shots while I sped off like James Bond.
That experience left an indelible mark on me as regards to the working condition of our policemen. I drive past the dilapidated Falomo police barracks in Lagos on a daily basis and I shake my head with pity for the men and women who live in that barracks built by the colonial government over 50 years ago but left in ruins in the 21st century by our government. The surprise visit of the President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to the Nigerian Police College in Ikeja last year where he witnessed first hand the inhuman living condition of the police cadets is still fresh in our memories. You cannot train men in squalor and expect them to turn out to be saints upon commissioning. The story is not different across the countries, from Eleiyele Barracks in Ibadan to Abeokuta the working condition of the Nigeria Police Force is nothing to write home about. Salaries are never paid on time, no incentives and yet we the citizens expect these same people to risk their lives and become supermen in protecting our lives. You deprive them of the basic necessities and pay them meagre salaries, we now hand over a gun to them and expect service delivery and good public relations. When you pay a man peanut as salaries, you will have a monkey as workers. In the Nigerian Police Force a sergeant earns N54, 000 per month, an inspector earns N71, 000 while an ASP is paid roughly N120, 000 compared to their colleagues in the UK where a sergeant earns between £35,000 to £40,000 (N10 Million) per annum depending on the years of experience while an Inspector earns between £45,000 – £49,000 (13million) per annum, apart from having access to government’s home equity contribution of up to £50,000. The value you place on anything, anyone or any job is the value you will get out of it. The corruption that is prevalent in the Police Force today is government induced. It is not different with any government establishment where the pay is ridiculous and yet you place huge resources at the disposal of the same people with the exception of our legislators.
The primary duty of the Nigerian police force as a security arm of government is to protect the lives and properties of the citizens and see that laws governing the country are not ignored, are applied in the way they were intended to be. The police force in Nigeria is one that holds the mantle for providing for the citizens safety, and that culprits or law breakers are given the adequate punishment, their role is intended to ensure the reduction of crime, the reduction of corruption, to ensure a state of law and order. One wonders if these duties can ever be discharged accordingly
The once prestigious unit of government which was highly respected has been reduced to a body of demotivated and frustrated individuals. I cringe with shame when I see police officers in the midst of ‘’area boys’’ waiting at the bus-stops and some going as far as jumping in front of the vehicles to bring the driver to an abrupt stop, just to collect their paltry sum. Rumour has it that they make returns on those collections
Weeks back it was the video of a police man and woman at different times in a bribe bargain with motorists, ready to suspend justice in exchange to be settled financially, that was all over the social media, the Nations shame for all to watch, it is quite embarrassing and not at all funny because the thought of these men and women being our help against the loss of our property and lives is disheartening. Local vigilantes are of more help warding crime from the communities than the police force, in most countries, the emergency number of the police force is made available and is used by all, because they respond and in record time too, there is confidence and hope. In Nigeria most of its citizens do not even know that the emergency number is 767, they do not even bother because they are of the opinion that it is hopeless.
If we are to live in safe society there is an urgent need to completely rethink and restructure the Nigerian Police Force. To start with all the police stations must have Wi-Fi and on the spot access to database at the click of a mouse. Adequate health insurance in the case of death or permanent disability, access to decent accommodation, a good working environment across the nation and not just in a few Zonal offices. For those that are calling for a state police, it is an argument with obvious merits considering the size of our country and the population, again the question is often asked, “ can our politicians be matured enough to manage a state police without turning such into an instrument of oppression and repression of political opponents. Again you cannot throw away the baby with the bad water, something needs to be done urgently if these men and women will be able to discharge their duties.
Before we demand for global best practise we should first of all practise globally acceptable wages and working conditions for such a high risk job. It is not rocket science, it can be done and we can afford it if the political will is present. When next you meet a policeman on the road, please think twice before you crucify him, he is also a victim of the Nigerian System.