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Why Police Must Reform ~ by Olusegun Adeniyi

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After his degree in Accounting and Finance at Buckingham and a year studying Arabic in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Aminu was back to Nigeria for his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) primary assignment.

He had the option to proceed for his Masters and professional qualifications immediately or start work in a corporate environment. His father was therefore surprised when Aminu expressed interest in joining the police.

The father, by the way, was then on the throne as the 14th emir of Kano. When Muhammadu Sanusi II sought to know why his son would choose police of all the options available to him, the young man explained his mission to make a difference in a much-maligned institution that is critical to the enforcement of law and order in Nigeria.

The author, Olusegun Adeniyi
The author, Olusegun Adeniyi

“Besides, I also remember that my grandfather was a Native Authority police officer before he became a parliamentarian and then ambassador and later, Emir?” Aminu said, in obvious reference to the late 13th Emir, Ado Bayero (father of his mother).

That softened Sanusi who responded with a joke: “Then maybe it’s in the blood”. And with that, Aminu proceeded to Police College in Jos where he graduated as an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP).

He is currently at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the police in Panti, Yaba, Lagos. But given the experience of the past four weeks, Aminu has been reflecting on the career choice he made and asking himself serious questions. He is not alone.

I am on the Board of the Kashim Ibrahim Fellowship (KIF), an in-residence one-year programme.

Chaired by Mr Dele Olojede, it is an initiative of Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State. In 2018 when we selected the first cohorts of 16 fellows from a list of 31 accomplished young men and women, the guy who came tops happened to be a serving policeman!

Then 29, ASP Eyinnaya Chukwueke obtained a Bachelor in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from the University of Law, York, United Kingdom and LLM in International Law from the University of Law, London Moorgate.

He also attended the Nigerian Law School after which he was called to bar. As Eyinnaya stated in his application form, he joined the police because of his ‘interest in crime and future of criminal justice system in Nigeria.’ He is still a policeman.

I have cited the foregoing examples to debunk the erroneous impression about the police in Nigeria being peddled by some people just because of the notoriety of a few bad eggs.

Just last week, Chief Superintendent Catherine Ugorji serving with the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), was selected by the UN as one of two runners-up for the Woman Police Officer of the Year 2020 award.

She is a personnel of the Nigeria Police Force.

I know many brilliant young men and women in the police who went in with the same mentality to effect change from within whose morale has been dampened by events of the past four weeks.

While the police leadership may have mismanaged the handling of the EndSARS protests, we must feel sad about the brutalities visited on some of their personnel by hoodlums who took advantage of peaceful protests to unleash mayhem.

I am an ardent supporter of Amnesty International and the works it does in Nigeria. But there is a line in the statement released last week by the police that I find very instructive.

Wondering why Amnesty International report on refused to acknowledge the police personnel killed in the violence that followed the EndSARS protests, DCP Frank Mba stated: “One wonders if in the estimation of Amnesty International, police officers are not also human beings equally entitled to the protection of their fundamental rights to life and dignity of human person.”

In the course of the looting by hoodlums that followed the EndSARS protests, a story surfaced on WhatsApp of Rabiu Garba, said to be the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) at Onitsha, Anambra State.

According to the report, when the rampaging youths came to burn his Police Division, the DPO “walked out to meet the mob with the courage of a man who had nothing to fear. They recognized him and the angry chants were silenced!

“Most of the youths could vouch for him as a professional cop and a role model for many young men in the community. They even granted him audience to address and counsel them before the mob dispersed.

“It had nothing to do with his tribe. It had nothing to do with his religion. He was just a model cop.”

I have always stated that the majority of our police personnel are good professionals whose image are being smeared by a few bad eggs. Many of them are also victims of the Nigerian malaise. But for the police to regain public trust, there is need for a fundamental reform.

On 14th December 2017, following a social media campaign against SARS, I wrote what has turned out to be prophetic:

“While police brutality is a universal phenomenon, the authorities in Nigeria should be careful in the manner they handle the protest against SARS so that the people are not pushed to carry the campaign beyond Twitter posts to a street war.”

We must learn from the ugly experience by ensuring such never happens again. And the only way to do that is to reform the police.

You can follow me on my Twitter handle, @Olusegunverdict and on www.olusegunadeniyi.com.

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