EMASCULATION OF THE COMBAT READINESS OF THE NIGERIAN POLICE
The Nigerian Police Force is created and designed by law as an institution with the arduous task of checking crimes, providing security, protection of lives and property, fighting internal insurrection and violence and generally ensuring that there is peace, law and order in the country.
In this wise, both the 1999 Constitution and the Police Act made copious provision and confer the police with enormous powers to enable them actualize their legal mandate. To a large extent, the law has enable the Nigerian Police Force performs optimally and without undue legal inhibitions.
The problem of the police, therefore has practically nothing to do with the law or legal empowerment. On the contrary, the Nigeria Police Force is where it is today because of human problem and other factors associated with sheer lack of the political will to give this nation a modern, effective, efficient, combat-ready, crime-bursting and proactive Police Force able, willing, ready and capable of check mating organized crimes and combating hire wire criminal actions prevalent in our polity today.
The police have failed to perform, for all the wrong reason. Chief among these reasons is the human angle. Just as the Sabbath is made for man and not man for Sabbath, the police is made for man and not man for the police. The police as an institution must work towards the actualization of its mandate. The Nations helmsmen, especially those in the Police Force need to bring their wisdom, intelligence, experience and knowledge to bear on the Police.
There have been so much posturing by our leaders on how to bequeath to this country a combat ready and efficient Police Force. Often, we are regaled with self-righteous pontifications and platitude on how to move the Nigeria Police Force forward. Sadly these declarations have hardly been translated into positive action. The declaration end up where and when they were made without any effort to put them into action.
The nation is presently confronted with a myriad of crimes threatening to tear it to pieces. Armed robbery, terrorism, kidnapping, unlawful possession of firearms, bombings, rape, cultism, arson, and cyber crimes are on the increase. The criminals are literally on rampage.
The police have not been able to prevent, control or check the crimes. There is palpable tension in the land. The terrorists are trying to succeeded in putting the country on a collision course with the international community most of whom have written off our country as unsafe.
Regular warnings and alarm are raised over plans to bomb some national institutions and public buildings. The citizens are in a state of fear. Foreigners are alarmed. The Government continues to give assurance of its readiness to control the situation. But no sooner does Government Issue a public statement that it is on top of the situation. Than another bomb blast occur with losses in human and material terms.
Yet, these are crimes the police ought to check and control. The police ought ideally to be on top of the situation. Unfortunately, this is not so. The police are not forthcoming with any credible and substantial solution to the problem.
It is unfortunate that despite many official statements and orders that policemen should not be assigned to certain categories of public officials, these statements have been observed more in the breach than in practice, politicians and highly placed businessmen take some policemen to birthday parties, naming ceremonies, house warning functions, burial ceremonies and the like and a retinue of policemen to boost their ego and for self-aggrandizement. Some businessmen also move about with policemen to show that they have arrived and as a status symbol.
These policemen are used as domestic staff by these Nigerians. Some of the policemen are seen washing cars or washing clothes or performing other domestic functions. Policemen are unleashed on innocent and defenseless citizens whom they molest and assault for no just cause, but at the command of their masters.
A good number of policemen attached to influential Nigerians are used by the latter to fight bitter wars, with perceived enemies. They are used to harass innocent citizens and to strike fear into their political opponents.
There are some Legislators who are always accompanied by a motley of policemen. Whether they are in the bear parlour, in night clubs, in the stadium, in the parks or in the banks, the policemen follow them, as Fela would put it, like zombies, doing their biddings and trying to impress them.
There is no gainsaying the fact that this habit of assigning policemen to politicians, office holders and brass businessmen has considerably depleted the Nigeria Police Force and whittled down its effectiveness and combat-readiness.
It is largely on account of this practice that the police have been wanting in the fulfillment and achievement of her mandate as laid down under extant laws. This is because the policemen who are supposed to be on the field ferreting out criminals and restoring peace, clam and rider are rather guarding big wigs and top shots in shopping walks, supermarkets, lawn tennis courts, Beer Parlous and Social Functions.
This is precisely how not to use the police. It is mind boggling that policemen are released to guard a few influential persons to the detriment of the generality of Nigeria. No wonder, poor Nigerians are at the mercy of criminals, cultists, armed robbers, kidnappers, terrorists, arsonists and murderers. The police cannot fulfill their mandate to protect lives and property of Nigerians because they are so enmeshed in the protection of the property and lives of well placed persons in the society.
Policemen are paid from our collective national chaste and the pool of taxpayers' money. There is no justification for the present selective policing prevalent in the country. There is the policing of the rich and influential, and of course, the policing of the poor and weak. This should not be so for the law establishing the Nigerian Police Force. All Nigerians are entitled to security provided by the police without any discrimination or segregation.
It is against this backdrop, that the police must revert to the old order. No public officer should be allowed to have more than the number of policemen which he is officially entitled to. The public officers, politicians and businessmen who are not entitled to police orderlies should not be attached with one.
The Inspector General of police should cause the immediate withdrawal of such police officers from them. Policemen should no longer be seen with politicians and others at social functions. The policemen withdrawn from the politicians should be posted to the field to beef up policemen on ground.
The practice of misusing our policemen should stop. These are indeed critical times. The nation cannot continue to be held down by the criminals simply because of the need to pander to the ego of a few Nigerians to the detriment of teeming Nigerians out there who are daily exposed to the danger posed by criminal elements. There should be sanity in the Nigerian Police Force.
Policemen should get to work on the field and rid this country of undesirable elements in our midst. The international community need more than official assurances that this land is safe. The transformation agenda of the Federal Government will be a mirage if the atmosphere of fear and trepidation prevails.
In the final analysis, an efficient Police Force is a sine qua non for a peaceful Nigeria.
• PRINCE OLIVER OKPALA,
A political analyst