The police force and the masses
Some of the questions to which I have been seeking answers in the past few weeks are: do we really need the police force in Nigeria? How relevant are they to our daily leaving? How often do they stop crimes or apprehend criminals, and how often are they the perpetrators of the crimes themselves?
I believe these are necessary questions that need to be answered as the crisis rocking the country rages on. We are at a point in our nation where sectors are being brought under scrutiny and public debates held about the relevance of these sectors. It is important to discuss how vastly unpopular the police force continues to get.
As we discuss the importance of the police force, it is equally imperative to take a look at the proliferation of armed ‘security’ men on our roads and highways. Currently, we have over six security operatives mounting checkpoints all across the country: the police, the army, the FRSC, the NSCDC, the VIOs, and some other security operatives relative to each state. One would think that with this bombardment of our roads by security men, crime rate will reduce. However, that has not been the case as there has been an increase in crime rate.
The thing everybody in Nigeria –especially motorists –knows is that first and foremost you must be in mortal fear of all security operatives at a checkpoint on the road. The second is that you must dread police the most while the third and the last is that you must never forget to fear the police, ever. The officers and men of the Nigerian Police Force have lost all grace and prestige that accompany such line of national duty –at least as we see it in American films. If they are with their guns, just do as they say, and if they are at a checkpoint do as they say as well. If at a checkpoint, you refuse to pay the necessary ‘homage’ when they request for it, the fifty naira homage, then prepare to pay a much bigger homage. Same with the FRSC and other ‘checkpoint agencies’. If any checkpoint agency catches you in Nigeria, and their men demand for a thousand naira payment, just surrender that immediately, or else be prepared to see how intelligent they can get in making up offences, offences that will stick.
At the very least, the only recognised job of the police is to harass and extort money from innocent hardworking civilians, by standing on the road. Many have we heard of drivers who will carry four passengers for one thousand naira each, only for him to be stopped by the police and to have two thousand naira extorted from him. Though we are oblivious of it, things like these have effect on our economy and livelihood. The pang is felt by all; the man who has to pay gouged prices for his transportation, the market woman who will have to add prices to her goods because she paid so much for transportation, and on goes the vicious cycle.
We have members of the police force assaulting our people and our intelligence on a daily basis, wielding their assault rifles as they scare people into obedience. And now, they indulge in a somewhat more ludicrous act of parading with canes (pankere), beating erring citizens into conformity. What a shame! We have armed security men everywhere yet we have justice nowhere. Instead of curbing crimes, police and their cronies are the new criminals. If at any time they get too antsy, with the gun in their hands, they call it accidental discharge. You will be lucky if you were killed ‘accidentally’ and not left to writhe in pain for the rest of your life.
To say the very least, these security operatives are the most lawless bodies in the country. Well, they are second only to our politicians. The ignorance of Nigerians to their basic rights does not help issues either. More often than not, the jurisdictions of these security men clash; it is only in Nigeria that you will see a policeman checking the engine number, the tire expiration date and other such ludicrous things. While driving on the road, you will meet a policeman who will ask for your driver’s license only after you have refused to pay your ‘homage’, and if you dare question his jurisdiction and his right to ask for your license, you are on the road to trouble.
The only criminals that get arrested in Nigeria are those that do not have enough money to ‘settle’ or do not have godfathers that are strong enough. Basically, you can get out of any mess with the police in Nigeria. While you can easily get out of any mess easily, you can get into it as easily as you can get out too. With the police, it is all about doing what they want, never about doing the right thing.
These atrocities then take us back to the questions raised earlier. Isn’t Nigeria lawless enough for just one country? Don’t we have enough people oppressing us? Should we add the police force to this list? I think in this current state, we will do well without the police. Are they not the very forces that oppress us? Are they not the ones that always get sent by the politicians to open fire on hungry masses? Are they not the ones that kill the future?
• Oluwasogo is a member of the Democratic Socialist Movement.