Men's Roundtable: Is the Police really our friend?

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The Men's Roundtable

The mantra that the police is our friend has long been thrown overboard as the officers themselves do everything to show they are not our friends.

The mantra of the Nigeria Police Force is: 'The Police is your friend.' This notice is posted on every police formation, division, posts and commands while successive Inspector Generals of Police have tried all they can to launder the image of the police and make them have a human face.

However, try as much at the top hierarchy of the police has done, the simple truth is that the police have refused to be anyone's friend, at least those that interact with the general public on a regular basis.

Instead of being friends, they have constituted themselves into the enemies of the public with their actions, antics, aloofness and their attitude of intimidating members of the public.

The Nigerian police service as the law enforcement agency is primarily established to protect the lives and properties of the citizens but what we have in Nigeria is quite the opposite as they have taken it upon themselves to menaces in the society.

 

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A citizen is constitutionally entitled to the right to be protected by its police and are guaranteed by the highest law of the land but some of these officers make it a duty to deprive citizens of that right.

The police brazenly encroach and abuse the rights of the people with impunity while the rule of law is thrown to the dogs. They unleash injustice on innocent poor and law abiding citizens of this country without resistance and woe betide you if you dare challenge them.

Some officers of the Nigerian police, in their blatant disregard for the rule of law, often deny citizens of their rights, even the right to a free bail bond from their custody.

Like the late Afro-Beat maestro, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti said, police stations have long become bank where the Divisional Police Officer serves as the Manager and the other ranks are the tax collectors.

The rate at which policemen hit the street on their now famous raids and indiscriminately arrest innocent people is quite worrisome. And once you are arrested, you must pay to be released or you may rot in detention or jail as they will clamp some trumped up charges on you.

 

You will be lucky if they don't kill you and tag you an armed robber. Some inside sources say the officers on the streets have targets set by their DPOs and if they do not meet such targets, they will not be given lucrative beats.

Tell any Nigerian ‘the Nigeria Police is your friend’ and you will be bombarded with sighs, hisses, anger, laughter and in some cases, threats, as they reminisce and reflect upon their past experiences with their ‘friends’.

Almost everyone has one bad experience or the other to recount. The force has now become a dumping ground for frustrated individuals whose lack of credentials have blessed them a bleak future and thus, decide to enroll in the force with a view of making money from the citizens.

Most of them are so frustrated with the low salaries they get that they pour out their frustrations on the innocent citizens whom they are made to pay for their troubles.

 

Police officers have been known to have murdered motorists, Okada riders and even passengers over money as little as N20. Some of them are hopeless drunkards, gamblers, and womanizers and are always on the lookout for victims to extort money from to settle their bills.

This is why to most Nigerians, the Nigeria Police Force is the most corrupt and compromised security institution in the country. And given the opportunity, many will readily cite several reasons derived from bitter encounters with cops to buttress their belief in this regard.

This is why the public relations attempts or campaigns to sell the police as a friend to the public have always failed to achieve the desired objective.

As far as the average Nigerian is concerned, the police, based on the conduct of its men, can never be a friend. Rather, many feel they have very strong reasons to be wary or to fear the police even as much as they fear men of the underworld.

 

The despicable abyss of indiscipline exhibited by the officers and men goes to show the very low level of training devoid of sociology and psychology as basic knowledge for modern policing in a fast changing society.

From all corners of the country, the story is the same as innocent law abiding citizens are often made to bear the brunt of the law unjustly. Stories abound of people indiscriminately arrested after an alleged crime incidence, while the criminals might have fled the scene to safety.

And such people picked up could end up languishing in jails because they could not buy their ways out while the real criminals continue to have a field day.

Do we talk of bail? On the doors and walls of every police station, it is written clearly that bail is free but the signs are just what they are: signs. If you think you can walk into any police station in Nigeria and walk out without dropping something, you must have dropped from planet Mars.

Try and pretend that you know your rights and would not pay for bail and you could end up in detention for weeks.

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But do we wholesomely blame these officers who make it a point of duty to extort Nigerians? How do we expect these officers to meet their needs with the meager salaries they get?

Many of them are abandoned if they lose their lives in active duty and their families would be left to suffer as they would not be able to get their pensions and gratuities.

It would be unreasonable for us to expect these same men to be friendly with us when they are left to scavenge for their livelihoods in whatever forms they can get it.



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