This IGP cannot reform Nigeria Police

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 It is delusional to imagine that the current Inspector-General of Police can reform the Nigeria Police!.

 

The IGP is a product of the rotten, depraved, psychopathic, corrupt and anti-people police force which the departed colonialists had purposely created for the subjugation of the people to the will of foreign predators, and was eventually bequeathed to independent Nigeria in all its pristine essence.

Unfortunately, independent Nigeria has done nothing for six decades to reform and refine it, to turn it into a force for the good of the society, for detecting and preventing crimes, for protecting and serving the people, as all modern and civilized police do. All that previous IGPs in the Fourth Republic have done is hoodwink Nigerians by the pretence that they would make the police conform to the tenor of democratic governance with its emphasis on rights guaranteed by the constitution by simply repackaging the same bad product.

I recall that IGP Sunday Ehindero introduced the slogan: “To protect and serve with integrity” or something to that effect.

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It was spreading gloss over a badly corroded object, and the rust soon began to shine through in no time. During his tenure, all police vehicles at roadblocks on the highways boldly carried that inscription, and yet the callous business of police extortion and brutalization of innocent road users went on unabated. Nobody was fooled by that balderdash of protecting and serving with integrity. It was all empty sloganeering.

Truth is, the Nigeria Police had no integrity right from its formation in Lagos in the early 1860s and throughout the colonial period and in the 60 years of our independence. It was established as an oppressive instrument in the hands of the managers of the colonial state and has remained so in the hands of their post-colonial successors.

n a piece I published in an online newspaper in April during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown when Ondo State government accused the police of deliberately frustrating the lockdown by collecting money at the supposedly closed state borders and letting travellers into the state, I asserted among other things that police corruption, criminality and reckless impunity, including penchant for extra-judicial killings of Nigerians, are not without the knowledge of the police hierarchy, but that for them it is “a culture, an institutionalized way of life” they have grown accustomed to. They have grown and matured in it, and have thus become desensitized to the evils the police perpetrate. I contended further in the same piece that the police was irreformable

. It is incapable of being reformed from within because it “is irredeemably corrupt and too far gone down the road to perdition to be reformed … its personnel are trained, indoctrinated, inducted and socialized into corruption as a normal way of life. The daily extortion and oppression of Nigerians are done with such arbitrariness and alarming impunity they could only have been sanctioned by the state.”

How can an IGP, who has served in that institutionally and spiritually corrupt organization for upward of three decades, has benefitted maximally from it and has risen to the highest rank, be expected to see his way to doing anything beyond mere tokenism? Which is exactly what previous IGPs under this democratic dispensation did: deodorized a rotten, stinky national police!

Putting it bluntly, the disbandment of SARS is not a function of this government’s or the IGP’s honest intent to reform the police; it is a consequence of force majeure, the massive street protests across the nation and supported by similar protests in major capitals of the world that embarrassed the government that compelled the disbanding of the toxic SARS. In the absence of genuine intention, no thorough and meaningful reforms can be carried out by the IGP, and not by this government that had for years gratuitously ignored popular aspirations and grievances until its hands were forced.

That is why the IGP’s announcement of the immediate replacement of SARS with SWAT is hasty, precipitate, impulsive, whimsical and designed to play to the gallery. Aside from copying it from America where such units exist, what is the rationale, planning and arrangements that have gone into that decision? His explanation that members of the disbanded SARS would not be absorbed into the new SWAT fails to address the institutionalized corruption and impunity that have characterized the Nigeria Police. As Femi Falana, SAN, observed recently in an interview on Channels Television (Lagos), police training remains colonial and primitive, bereft of human rights and human relations, and I also submit that the recruits are deliberately trained to dehumanize fellow Nigerians.

Merely replacing SARS with SWAT misses the crucial point that we need a thoroughly refurbished police, with new training, orientation and indoctrination that the IGP alone cannot accomplish by his tentative and presumptuous moves designed to assuage current anger. Extortion, intimidation and harassment of innocent citizens, impunity, extrajudicial murders are not limited to SARS alone but pervasive in the police force.

READ ALSO:IGP announces new squad “SWAT” to replace SARS

Other regular policemen also have POS for extorting Nigerians; in police stations across the nation, bail is not free, official declaration to the contrary notwithstanding; arbitrary arrests for extortionate purposes remain rife; illegal roadblocks are mounted not to provide security or check crimes. State police commissioners, Area Commanders and DPOs are in the know, and even police officers allege they make returns of their extortion to the appropriate quarters.

If not, why then has it remained difficult for IGs, state police commissioners, area commanders and DPOs to enforce discipline and compliance with official orders against illegal roadblocks and other criminal behaviour within the force?

My wish is that the entire police force could be disbanded, but I am old enough to know that wishes aren’t horses. In the absence of total disbandment, the thing to do would be a holistic, comprehensive, dispassionate, honest and transparent overhaul of the existing force; proper training and reorientation along established international best practices for its personnel.

This, I daresay, is beyond the ken of the IGP alone. It requires careful study and rewriting of the training manual and curriculum, training in human relations, law and human rights, periodic psychological and psychiatric evaluations, involvement of the relevant civil society organizations and human rights bodies in assessing and evaluating police behaviour and performance, setting up an impartial unit outside the force command structure for monitoring general police conduct and especially when actions involve shootings, injury and death to civilians, among others.

These are definitely not what the IGP, acting alone and using the tainted and compromised personnel of the force, can do. It is clearly more than an in-house job.

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If the government is honest enough and ready to do the needful, although I doubt the sincerity of a government with a rigidly unyielding president at the helm, it will set up a high level panel of well-meaning Nigerians, experts in policing and police studies, lawyers, civil society organizations, international experts and consultants, to redesign the force, its training, uniforms and types of equipment, procedures and practices. In the final analysis, all this will require commitment, adequate funding for barracks, offices, right equipment, and other necessary things. Unfortunately, this government can’t be trusted to do the needful unless its hands are forced.

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