I recently lost a friend of mine. My friend was the president of Onitsha vigilante service; he was shot dead in an attempt to stop a kidnapping attempt in Onitsha. The kidnappers were engaged in an open fire confrontation for over 30 minutes, the aftermath left 2 people dead including my friend “Ideke” and so many others injured. Throughout the time of the shooting the police were nowhere to be found. They eventually made an
appearance after the encounter ended and commenced to falsely arresting and torturing innocent citizens.
The aforementioned incident is just one of the numerous disgraceful acts of the Nigerian police; this illicit fear constantly brings condemnation from Nigerians and the international community. The Nigerian Police Force (NPF) is a big source of national embarrassment and possesses a reputation that is much too repulsive to describe here. The NPF is disorderly and in complete disarray, to say the least.
According to a BBC report, police in Nigeria commit extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and extortion with relatively minimal consequences. The report claims NPF personnel routinely carry out summary executions of persons accused or suspected of crime. The police rely on torture as a principal means of investigation; commit rape of both sexes, with a particular focus on sex workers and engage in extortion at nearly every opportunity. It also describes prostitutes being arrested and raped.
One policeman is quoted saying: “This is one of the fringe benefits attached to night patrol.”
Sex workers on the streets of Lagos told the BBC “They pick us, some of them beat us, they will go to third mainland bridge, they will beat us, rape us… They will make love with us without a condom,” said one sex worker. “Sometimes they will search us and steal our money, and then drop us and run away.” There are also accounts of women being forced to use sex to barter their way out of police custody. In a country where bribes guarantee safety, those who cannot pay are at high risk.
What great discredit and ignominy these acts bring to our police force. The police use a slogan to try to soften their image: “Police is your friend.” But few Nigerians believe it. The hostility we encounter in the hands of people who claim to protect us with integrity clearly reveal that NPF has in fact become the quintessential,” villain” of the Nigerian people.
Equally responsible for the corruption that is NPF, the Nigerian government continually underfunded and personified the heinous acts of the police force. By the same token, the government is equally responsible for the tragedy a week ago that caused the fatal confrontation.
Although every person is responsible for his own actions, the police force is so poorly equipped and inadequately paid that it contributes to the defiant behaviours, disgraceful acts and uncivilized manner. Residents have ultimately lost faith and trust in Nigerian police instead, they have turned to their own local vigilante for protection.
As a result of being unprepared and underequipped, police officers have fallen victim to the superior fire power of bandits. Deaths that could have been avoided have occurred because our government has chosen not to provide the necessary tools and funds to help them function as capable police officers. Inspector General of Police Ogbonna Onovo said the police were “operating under unbearable conditions”, reports the Vanguard newspaper, adding that criminals were often better armed than the police
Our federal legislators have completely abandoned and left the lives and security of Nigerian citizens precarious. The federal government has refused to equip the nations police and position it as a modern police force instead they seek to raise their quarterly salary from N45m to N95m per senator. The only time our Abuja law makers wake up to challenge police incompetence is when a politician is assassinated, when a prominent party member is kidnapped, or when the police choose to withdraw their armed private guard (MOPOL).
Let me give an insight of the monthly salary of Nigerian police officers:
Constable = N22, 000 (£98) – N27, 000 (£120.27)
Corporal = N27, 000 (£120.27) – N28, 000 (£124.73)
Sergeant = N31, 000 (£138.09)
Inspector = N50, 000 (£222.72) – N52, 000 (£231.63)
Assistant Superintendent of Police = N80, 000 (£ 356.36) – N83, 000(£369.72) depending on whether he is a one-star ASP or two-star ASP.
A deputy Superintendent of Police = N90, 000 (£400.90)
A full superintendent = N100, 000 (£445.45)
Certainly our police force is suffering and has in turn shared their suffering with the community, but I ask this question, who will risk his life for such a poor and cheap salary? An individual who opts for a career choice in the police is seen as a misfit, as a complete failure! The Nigerian Police Force is widely regarded as a dumping ground for those who are either not so keen on making an impression in academics, or for those not intrigued with the classroom setting.
A review of the Police Act began in 2004, but the draft bill has been pending since 2006. Several panels on police reform have been set up in recent years and they have made detailed recommendations for improvement, but little has changed. In light of these facts, there is no wonder why a police officer will hurriedly shed his uniform, hide his rifle and disappear at the sound of enemy gun shots. While it is easy to blame the NPF, I encourage everyone to think of the barracks where they are housed, their entire welfare package, and remember the condition of the last police station you visited. Think of our selfish and spurious leaders and politicians in the various levels of government in Nigeria before condemning those appointed to risk their life for little to nothing.
Onyeka Emmanuel Abadom