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POLICE PROTESTS

By NBF News
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* Ilorin, last month, was the theatre of protests from husbands of police officers who contested the posting of their wives. They wanted them in Ilorin for simple marriage-related issues - they were pregnant, nursing mothers, newly married, or their husbands were based in Ilorin. None of these relates to the conditions of service of the police.

* The Ogun State end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway has been witnessing increased robberies since the new Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar ordered the dismantling of roadblocks nationwide. The solution being muted is a return of the roadblocks, another protest of legitimate orders.

* Abuja - the Police Service Commission, PSC, is having a tough time in its bid to make changes in the police. It has the equivalent of a mutiny in its hands with 40 senior police officers of the ranks of Assistant Inspectors General, Commissioners, and Deputy Commissioners, refusing voluntary retirement. Their protest letters, alleging favouritism and corruption, are at the National Assembly and the Office of the National Security Adviser.

These incidents say a lot for the organisation that the Constitution entrusts with internal security. The police have lost the discipline that was its hallmark and it shows in the extent of commitment and results Nigerians get from the organisation.

When did marital status become the sole criterion for posting police officers? What if this sentiment succeeds and other officers raise their own cogent reasons for refusing postings? What would become of a force where everyone decides where to serve, and possibly where not to serve?

The more trying one is roadblocks. The police made a point of their importance by insisting without them, policing was impossible. Mr. Abubakar should go beyond dismantling roadblocks by evolving more effective security measures in their place. In addition, he should punish police, locations that excuse increased crimes in their areas with the dismantling of roadblocks.

How will the police deal with the high attrition rate in its senior ranks that the appointment of a new leader causes?

There are many options, but none is foolproof. Early retirement plans should be available with generous benefits from certain ranks. A stop to further politicisation of the police - which now determines career progress rather than performance - is crucial.

The National Assembly, working with the PSC, should set standards that recognise service, merit, dedication, training, and experience in the promotion of officers. Some of the officers complaining about nepotism were beneficiaries of its arbitrariness.

Seniority has it merits, but over-emphasising it creates more challenges than the ones buffeting the police.