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Who Will Save Police From Itself?

By Michael Onwukwe

Whether it is SWAT (SARS With Another Tactics) or Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) it is a clear case of DoA – Dead on Arrival. Here is why. SWAT was set up in Aug 1965 to counter the riots that sprang up in Los Angeles as a result of the arrest and detention of a drunk driver.

The accompanying uproar generated a lot of violence that the LA Police Chief Daryl Gates came up with a specialized team that will suppress riots and behold SWAT was born. More than 45 million dollars worth of property went up in flames and almost 1000 buildings were destroyed and about 34 lives were quenched in the afternoon of their life.

SWAT therefore is a specialized police unit intent on curtailing extreme and volatile demos. That is the SWAT they want to introduce to replace SARS. Is this not trading bees with wasps. If anything at all, the NPF has worsened the issue by introducing SWAT. Nigerians are getting sick and tired of being optimistic in the hope that things will change for better.

They branded them ‘Lazy Nigerian youths’ but they have risen up and taken up the challenge even though the IG is yet to grasp the problem.

When did the Police IG nurture this sudden brainwave of creating SWAT because he is yet to get a handle of the situation? Has this been on the table before, during or after the current ENDSARS uprisings? In any of these stages, who and who was consulted; was there a study that involved all stake holders and what is the course content of the proposed training; how long will the training endure; and will the duration be enough to completely wean them of their old ways?

Are they going to have new drafts, or will it be a simple regurgitation and remnants of old SARS personnel? Is there any need to reform SARS because we all know that behavior is inherent in humans and reformation is out of the question? Is there any safety valve that will ensure that old SARS personnel are not part of SWAT? We cannot exhaust the question for lack of space.

The solidity of a country is a true reflection of the leadership. Buhari’s country has turned into something else clearly because of dearth of ideas and prevarication. Nigeria is only an incubator of all that is wrong with a nation. This is happening under Buhari’s leadership. The world is clearly moving ahead but Nigeria is NOT.

Basic policing and common knowledge tell us that surge in criminality is coterminous with increased poverty and want in the land. So, why not address the root cause by providing jobs which will eventually reduce criminality instead of addressing the symptoms. Things are asymmetrical because politicians have ruined the country and that explains the emergence of Yahoo boys.

Going further, not all members of the public are criminals. The police have to cherry pick and identify the criminals and prosecute them but while there are clearly decent and respectable police cops, a few bad apples have tarred their collective image.

SARS has been reformed many times in the past and this time, it will not work. Youths have the right to wear dread locks and tattoos, carry laptops and clutch the latest iPhones unless you are telling that they are condemned to the live of misery and poverty.

The police methodology of crisis management is a lesson in failure partly because the organization is obsolete, nattered and battered. It is a broken-down and a debased outfit. Even so, their leadership do not fare better. The NPF should instead of using force to confront the youths, should by now doing damage control by assuaging the collective psyche of the population they have offended.

Payment of compensation to victims’ families though money cannot bring back lives; paying condolence visits to the victims’ families; immediately clear the streets of policemen; identify the culprits and ready them for prosecution and consider a wide range of consultation before jumping into the idea of SWAT.

Out of pent up anger ranging from poor renumeration, poor condition of service and the squalor and penury in the barracks, police cops pour out to the streets with disposition full of hatred and envy and any young fellow who is well dressed becomes an object of target practice. SARS has so de-marketed the NPF that people think that the unit’s main duty is to oppress the people it is paid to protect.

The change goes beyond nomenclature but a top bottom to top approach which will even sweep away the current leadership of the police. The police of 21st Century Nigeria should owe allegiance to the Nigerian people and not to the government in power. No Nigerian is alive because they are merely existing while some corrupt fat cats are living. Are they more Nigerians than anybody?

Mike Onwukwe is a certified security professional and can be reached via mikeonwukwe@gmail.com.

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