The Nigerian Police
The Nigerian government has found it necessary to launch what it calls “the police reform process”.Apparently,it has had enough of police turning it’s guns on Nigerians.Or so it claims.It is admonishing the police force to stop harassing Nigerians and to prioritize community policing.Tall order,this.The basic problem with the Nigerian police is it’s anti-people orientation.Conceived by the colonial authorities as an instrument for intimidating natives,the police force was not exactly people-friendly.But,at the least, it protected lives and properties and it had some integrity,reflecting the integrity of the colonial masters.
After independence,especially under the military,with the breakdown of our value-system,the police evolved into something worse:not only was it used to intimidate people,it was integrated into the process of corruption itself,as successive governments used it for a variety of illegal activities,from brutalizing opponents of the government,both politicians and students,to rigging elections.Any residual integrity it may have had,evaporated.It ceased to be a public institution dedicated to the cause of protecting lives and properties and became a mere lever of power at the disposal of powerful private interests.
This is not to suggest that the police is useless and that it should be disbanded.It still manages to suppress crime.But it’s interdiction of crime is incidental to it’s main business:extortion.In other words,in it’s contemporary role as a crime-taxing outfit,it suppresses crime where it is unprofitable,while facilitating it if the criminals are powerful and well-heeled.If it still manages to be useful under this dispensation,imagine how much more useful it would be,if it’s main business were fighting crime.The point here is that if the police is corrupt,it is so because the government made it so.It has been in government’ interest to have a police force that lends itself to malfeasance.
As the government made it,so can it unmake it.Government needs to boost funding for the force.It needs to improve conditions of service dramatically,not only to boost morale,but more importantly,to make the force more attractive to qualified and educated people.Having made it attractive,it needs to set an entry barrier,such that recruitment would be open to only highly qualified people.You cannot give what you do not have.It is only when the police is largely full of educated people,people with a sense of civic responsibility,will the force understand it’s responsibilities to society.But of course,such a force would be less willing to partner with the government to commit atocities against the people.Does the government really want this?
In any country,the reality is that,the state of the police reflects,to a great extent,the aspirations and ambitions of the government,for the government builds a police force to meet it’s needs.If the government and the people have identical needs,then the result will be a decent police force,one that serves the people.If the government,on the other hand,has anti-people aspirations,then will result a rogue police force,one that would be acquiscent,if not complicit,in executing this agenda.It is only when government agenda is no longer about siphoning public funds,keeping the people divided by engineering ethnic and sectarian hatred,trampling on human rights,muzzling political opposition,criminalizing dissent,stealing elections,e.t.c,that the emergence of a decent police force will be in the interest of government.Then government will build a decent police force.Not before.And Nigeria is no different.