Nigerian Police Act Overdue for Review

Sanusi Muhammad

Sanusi Muhammad

The Nigerian Police Force was established by law as an enforcement agency to primarily protect lives and properties of the people. Therefore, a Nigerian citizen is constitutionally entitled to this right as guaranteed by the highest law of the land. However, the same law clearly underscores conditions that may deny a citizen the right.

The Nigerian police in their blatant disregard for the flourishing of the rule of law often deny citizens of their rights, even the right to a free bail bond from their custody during investigation for corrupt practices that has robbed the agency the desired respect and trust of the people.

The establishment has long ago systematically turned the police stations to extortion centres, ATM, PoS and, banks where the Divisional Police Officers (DPO) serves as ‘accredited’ managers. The glee with which the men and officers celebrate mass raids and indiscriminate arrests attest to the monetary value attached to the financial gains accruing from the oppressive arrest of mostly innocent citizens who either lack the legal backing to regain their freedom or are poor to settle the fixed price to regain freedom in illegal detention.

They are in most cases found wanting whenever it comes to the real business they are trained, equipped and paid monthly to do. We do acknowledge the poor remuneration and working environment of the Nigerian Police, especially in terms of modern facilities and capacity building, yet we have cause to fault their gross indiscipline and dereliction to their core responsibilities to Nigerians.

An entire new curriculum for police cadet and equipped training schools ought to be developed to encompass psychology, sociology and civic education. This will open their minds to understand the human nature, society and the rule of law for social justice and human rights. The most unfortunate part of the drama worth a mention is that 95 percent of members of the Nigerian Police Force are children of the poor. They are from poor homes but take pride in extorting the poor in or out of line of duty. Hardly the police carry raids at choice areas of cities for fear of the obvious. Raids are mostly carried out at ghettos and slums where some of them were born and brought up.

In the context of Nigeria, the police brazenly encroach and abuse the rights of the people with impunity while the rule of law is either mortgaged or thrown to the garbage. The maxim that says; a society begets the kind of journalists it deserves cannot be far from the kind of police it gets too. We have seen where police men act on orders from above to unleash injustice on the innocent poor and law abiding citizens without resistance. Such accumulated acts in most cases breed hatred to the police and create unpleasant situations that snowball to national crisis. #EndSARS protest is one of such cases for study.

The police have in the true sense of capitalist bourgeois state system uses its authority as part of the coercive apparatus of the state to intimidate instead of protecting the very people it was established to protect and defend. It has since abandoned its constitutional responsibilities to the people apart from protecting those in authority at a fee. Instead, it now resorts to indiscriminate harassment and unlawful detention of innocent people even if it’s a civil matter. The bottom line is extortion to regain freedom.

This arbitrary use of force and authority is common in poor neighborhoods where people barely eke a living for survival. Drivers plying the roads for sustenance are not spared. Street hawkers and laborers in manual jobs for survival are not spared. Prostitutes in hotels and brothels are not spared. Beer parlors and other relaxation spots in towns and villages are police targets for extortion. Commercial motorcycle riders are not exempted from police extortion and intimidation. Who is free from the police abuse of privilege? One can only be temporarily free while in opulence or in authority or ready to buy his freedom.

That is sheer anti-constitutional deprivations of the personal freedom guaranteed by the civil rights of the state that are the order of the day. The police in view of concerted efforts by concerned non-state actors and civil societies blatantly refuse or reluctant to reform its establishment. It was created to suit the colonial interest of the British masters who were running the colony. Since then, independence has come and we have self-rule for more than 60 years running, yet the Nigerian Police remain with the mindset of the colonial hangover. The men and officers of the police establishment are notorious for anti-people, oppressive and intimidating tendencies to coerce the people.

The Nigerian police establishment is today rated among the most corrupt government agencies in the world not just because of its anachronistic method of policing but its entrenched tradition of exploiting the very people it is meant to defend and protect and stealing, robbing and in few cases raping same hapless citizens. From all corners of the country, the story is the same as innocent law abiding citizens are often made to bear the brunt of the law unjustly. Stories abound of people indiscriminately arrested after an alleged crime incidence, while the criminals might have fled the scene to safety. In their shameless ineptitude, the men of the police force carry on in this air of impunity to cover up their incompetence and parade innocent persons as suspects for deceit and extortion.

What they know best is how to use their uniform and the station to obtain the people while the government own media mouth the cliché of ‘the police is your friend’. The despicable abyss of indiscipline exhibits by the officers and men goes to show the very low level of education, exposure and training devoid of sociology and psychology as basic knowledge for modern policing in a fast changing society. Here, recruitment and the service of the officers and men are up for purchase as the bourgeoisie pick the very best for their private use while the masses are under policed. This is true as one roams through the vast rural communities of this large country to see the disproportionate ratio of police men to numbers of people. This disproportionate resonates in virtually every other essential service areas like healthcare deliveries, education and clean water and feeder roads. While this lack of essential social provisions is a constant feature of our government at all tiers, the officials carry on in the air of superior citizens as civil servants or officers in uniform. The ignorant shameless arrogant detachment they exhibit towards the very tax payers they are hired to serve shows the latent vestiges of colonial heritage laced with greed and pomposity within government establishment in Nigeria.

The entire Criminal Justice System reeks of obsolete laws and statutes preserved from our colonial heritage until this dotcom age. This anachronism suits the state and its actor’s status quo as they manipulate the system and people through such obsolete and primitive laws. The law and its social agencies are designed and preserved to be punitive rather than reformative. Legal services are beyond the reach of the average and poor Nigerian as many innocent people languish in prison and unlawful detention courtesy of the police. It is a common knowledge how the men and officers of the Nigeria police deliberately haul innocent citizens into detention in the name of; late hour as early as 10pm in cities while as early as 7pm in rural areas even when there is no curfew imposed or convincing reason.

Other state officials in the name of oppressive arranged edicts like; vehicle particulars, street hawking, roadside trading and many other contrivances constitute abuse of the people’s rights.

The government is always culpable through its corrupt officials who subvert the system for their selfish gains, thereby making it difficult for a balance in the principle of rights and obligations. This principle as the extension of the so called; “social contract” is veritable for accountability in government responsibilities to the people, therefore it should be renegotiated.

Successive attempts to renegotiate the social contract between the people and the Nigerian government have failed. This is so, because the promoters of ethnic and religious agenda never wanted a change in the status quo as they stand to benefit from crises emanating from a defective social structure. As this shenanigan continues, the supposedly giant of the African Continent stands nude and weak before the very eyes of the world as a laughing and mockery stock.

In the final analysis, as Nigerians seem to have lost confidence and trust in the Nigeria Police operations, what then stops a total overhaul of the establishment or complete scrapping through legislation and replaced with a better outfit with standard operational guidelines for optimum result? The National Assembly should hasten to appoint a committee to review the Nigeria Police Act for the better of Nigeria before another protest erupts that may be deadly and bloody than those of the past.

If we can recall, it was from an act of over zealousness and abuse of the rule of law by the Nigeria Police that Boko Haram subscribed to terrorism that Nigeria is still battling to defeat. The same Nigeria Police caused the #EndSARS protest and several other crises nationwide yet to be controlled. A Stitch in Time Saves Nine!

Muhammad is a commentator on national issues

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