By Promise Adiele
Police is a noble profession. In countries founded on the principles of the rule of law, equity, and justice, police officers are venerated and accorded the honour which the profession duly deserves.
They are usually seen as quintessential citizens without any blemish, combining integrity and dignity. In those countries, it is an honour for a family to have a member as a police officer.
They love the citizens, protect them and practically exist to ensure that they live in a violencefree society.
In many such countries, police officers promote a culture of patriotism and nationalism.
The sight of a police officer restores hope, rekindles assurance, and instils a feeling of safety.
It is based on the above narrative that the expression “the police is your friend” finds relevance.
However, can the Nigerian police fit into the above description of the noble profession?
It is difficult these days to turn to any aspect of the Nigerian polity without confronting aberrant conditions.
There seems to be an unheralded contest for multiple inanities in our country. All the pitfalls that characterize an abnormal society have gradually relocated their habitation to Nigeria.
You name it, all of them are here. Economic illiteracy which has conferred poverty status on Nigerians, embezzlement of public funds, political and religious bigotry, creeping nepotism, indolence on the part of the populace, corruption of all dimensions, and overwhelming executive incompetence.
Annoyingly, and regrettably so, many Nigerians are always quick to align and support such deviousness on the grounds of ethnicity, religion, political affiliation or just sheer mischief.
We are quick to justify a clear case of apparent malaise, yet we all hope and pray for a new social order.
In the face of all the incongruities bedevilling our country, the Nigerian police have continued to further acquire a despicable reputation among the people.
The case of the Nigerian police has almost become intractable.
There seems to be no solution to the problem posed by the Nigerian Police to Nigerians. All the complaints, public outcry, and petitions seem not to cut any ice with the echelon of the Nigerian Police Force.
Therefore, our police continue to grow in leaps and bounds in every complexion of unprofessionalism.
When the World International Security and Police Index (WISPI) through the International Police Science Association and the Institute for Economics and Peace ranked the Nigerian Police as the worst in the world, I wrote an essay published in the Sun Newspaper defending the Nigerian Police.
I knew I was playing the devil’s advocate as I tried to argue what was a lost cause. These days, although the practice has been on clandestinely, many officers of the Nigerian Police now move about with POS machines. Nothing can be more obscene.
The POS (Point-of-sale) machines are used to effect payments for a transaction between a customer and a retailer using the customer’s debit card. POS machines are commonly found in shops, malls, restaurants, hotels, and many other commercial outlets where customers visit to purchase one thing or another.
You would then ask, what is the business of many officers of the Nigerian Police with POS machines?
What do they sell which requires Nigerians to patronize them and make payments? In almost every part of Nigeria, many police officers carry POS on them to effect a quick transfer of funds from members of the public who may have either run afoul of the law or are simply being robbed.
Nowadays, many officers of the Nigerian Police Force are in serious business especially those of them on the highway.
If you are travelling outside Lagos, you will encounter many police roadblocks between short intervals which make the journey slow and tedious.
Their targets are private cars. God help you if your car is flashy by their cruel estimation. If after prolonged interrogation, nothing incriminating is found on you, they will find a way to obtain money from you.
If you plead that you do not have cash, then you must have your ATM card and shockingly, a POS machine will be brandished.
You will be required to pay a specified sum of money through the machine. Protest of any kind will fall on deaf ears.
Speak grammar for hours and protest as much as you can, they will only laugh at you. Showing your identity card as a responsible citizen does not matter to them.
When you are faced with wasting the whole day at the middle of nowhere or when there is a possible risk to your life, you will be forced to bring out your ATM and pay for what you didn’t purchase.
Disturbingly, these acts continue throughout the journey from one checkpoint to another. Customs and FRSC officers are not left out.
They are all bound together by a criminal resolve to rob fellow Nigerians. In the days gone by, police officers had some degree of shame.
But these days, they shamelessly carry out their dastardly act in public glare. They threaten to kill, assuring the unfortunate citizen that nothing will happen. Of course, they kill and nothing happens.
Apart from the criminality that goes on every day on our highways, many police officers in the inner cities across Nigeria practically hunt for Nigerians to rob and dispossess of their belongings.
Once a young man drives an exotic car, the police are not interested to investigate him, to know what he does for a living or the source of his income.
The young man is marched to a cash dispensing machine and his ATM is used to withdraw cash of various sums at gunpoint. Many times, the young man’s bank account is wiped out. Other times too, his belongings like jewellery, phones, and laptops are all taken from him.
I am sure many Nigerians have fallen victim at one time or another to the obnoxious activities of many officers of the Nigerian Police and their culture of impunity.
Of course, there are some professional, efficient officers in the force but unfortunately, their number is dwarfed by the number of the deviant officers.
POS machine is a regular sight on most highways in Nigeria. Our highways are gradually turning into semi-banking outlets with the way money exchanges hands either by cash or by POS machine.
The decay in the Nigerian Police Force requires urgent attention. It is reprehensible that one cannot travel from one part of the country to another in peace of mind. It is either one is wary of bandits or police officers on the highway.
While we are battling for survival in our country, living in constant trepidation about government policies, Nigerians deserve better treatment from the Police Force.
The Inspector-General of Police and all the senior police officers of good conscience should intervene to restore order in the noble profession.
For Nigerians, it is more apt to say that “the police is your enemy”.
Ultimately, the decentralization of the Nigerian police seems to be the only way out.
But even when states have their police forces in a true federal system, there must be an ideological shift in terms of orientation, otherwise, the old order will continue to manifest in the new state police.