POLICE: CAN HABIT MAKE A MONK?

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One proverb that I have come to embrace as truthful, realistic and factual is that which says that “habit do not make a monk”. My first romance with the above stated idiomatic expression started in the late eighties to early nineties when I had enrolled and indeed spent five or so years in a Catholic major Seminary to be trained for ordination as a Catholic Priest. Deep within me at that time, I knew that there are things I as well a few of my class mates admired like exotic cars and ladies that are not in sync or conformity with the vows sworn to by those of us in the seminary.

Few of my school mates who shared the same likeness and appreciation for the seemingly irresistible sexual appeal embedded in beautiful women still continued in the path of the training and were therefore ordained Priests even as I made a dignified exit. If some of them lose self control and abuse their vow of chastity/celibacy, it therefore follows that the Habit/robe or articles of church clothings that they wear do not make them good priests if they fail to follow the precepts of the church.

The precepts and will of the Catholic Church is that the men and women who devote their life, energy and talents to enroll into the seminary and are ordained priests or take the perpetual vows of chastity and obedience ought to be able to conquer the human failings and sexual attractions which will lead them to sin.

There are abundance of evidence to show that in as much as there are some bad eggs among the ordained people of God who desecrate their priestly vow of chastity/celibacy, there are also many, indeed the majority of these ordained men and women of God obey their individual vows faithfully.

But obedience to religious vows of chastity, fidelity and celibacy does not happen because of the clothes/Habit/robe worn for the purposes of leading the people of God. This brings us back to the indubitable universal fact that “Habit do not make the Monk”, as the wise aphorism states.

Why did I traverse this philosophically extensive and expansive path of existential experiences if one may ask especially given the fact that the Nigeria police force remains the topic or focus of discussion in this piece?

The newly appointed minister of Police Affairs Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade recently unveiled his blueprints for transforming the severely ailing Nigeria police force and an aspect of this transformation agenda for the Nigeria police that has become a ‘spent force’ is the contemplation of a change of uniform for men and officers of the Nigeria police. The question for this Ekiti state- born minister of Police Affairs is whether he thinks that change of uniform for the police operatives holds the key for transforming the gravely endangered and self-destroyed image of the Nigeria police as an institution that has become notoriously untrustworthy by Nigerians?

The minister does not need or have to reflect deeply to uncover the best answer to the above poser because all that any thinker reflecting on the situation of the Nigeria police in our contemporary times need to do is to look at the state of insecurity and the unprecedented dimension that violent crimes have assumed to draw a very accurate and articulate conclusion that the Nigeria police as presently constituted has collapsed and therefore needs immediate, comprehensive, result-oriented, fundamental and radical overhaul, reform and transformation if Nigeria is to avoid the ever present threat of anarchy and eventual drift swiftly to the abyss of state of nature whereby life will become short, brutish and devilish.

Just take a look at the incessant armed robbery attacks, gruesome mass murder of innocent citizens by armed hoodlums and the general breakdown of law and order all across the country and tell me whether it will be preposterous to canvass the immediate dissolution of the current set of Nigeria Police force and the setting up of a new, well trained and equipped new Nigeria Police force capable of addressing these security nightmares.

Only on Tuesday August 2nd 2011 that over 50 bus passengers traveling along the Abuja/Okene Federal Highway were gruesomely killed in a robbery related incident.

The fact that such large scale slaughtering of human beings through the actions of some depraved men of the underworld took and do take place with frightening regularity successfully without prompt police intervention to rescue the citizenry in any part of the country shows clearly that the current set of Nigeria Police Force has failed abysmally to perform its statutory function of protecting lives and property of the citizenry and the maintenance of law and order.

The Government is surely guilty of paying mere lips’ service to the urgent necessity for immediate, comprehensive, result-oriented and effective reforms of the entire Nigeria Police Force. Huge public funds have over the years been misappropriated by government officials in the name of implementation of police reforms.

We do also need to reflect on the several cases of collapsed of the policing system in Nigeria which are signposted by the indiscriminate bomb attacks on innocent citizens by splinter groups in North East Nigeria, the targeted killings, kidnapping for ransoms and numerous bank robberies in all parts of the country and the intermittent breakdown of law and order characterized by incessant inter and intra-gangs’ warfare by cultists in all parts of Nigeria. These violent crimes happen in our country without the police ever finding and successfully prosecuting the culprits and this failure is a good sign that it is high time that a radical transformation and reforms are implemented in the Nigeria Police Force.

Not a few persons will tell you that the reforms must include mass disarming of the current crop of police operatives and officers, mass sack with benefits for them to reintegrate into the larger society and for a new set of police operatives and officers made up of young graduates whose criminal backgrounds must be cross checked and for some good and quality police officers among the current set of Nigeria Police Force to be retained to pilot the New Nigeria Police Force.

From my findings, most Nigerians are canvassing constitutional amendments to include the suggested reform measures and for state police to be created by law as a way of restoring the rule of law.

There are abundances of evidence to convince us that the present police force has failed to carry out the statutory functions stated in the extant police Act. The police is obliged by law to be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within or without Nigeria as may be required by them by, or under the authority of, this or any other Act.

The danger we will run into if we do not immediately, pragmatically, realistically, practically and effectively overhaul the institution of the Nigeria police is that soon violent crimes may become acceptable among our youths who over time have learnt and seen from their elders that impunity in small and high places are allowed which is why operatives and officers of the Nigeria police keep enjoying promotions even when violent crimes keep expanding in leaps and bonds.

Emmanuel Onwubiko heads the Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria; and can be reached on [email protected]

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