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Protect The Protector. The Challenges of the Nigeria Police Force

A lecture presented at Asaba, on the 3rd of June, 2021, at the South-South Zone Conference of the Police Community Relations Committee.

Topic: PROTECT THE PROTECTOR. THE CHALLENGES OF THE NIGERIA POLICE FORCE

To protect is to prevent destruction, desecration, and annihilation of a person, thing, idea, system, or structure.

A protector plays the above roles.

How do we relate this to the Nigeria Police Force? Constitutionally, the Nigeria Police Force is expected to maintain law and order, maintain peace, prevent criminality, and maintain the security of lives and property.

The #EndSARS protests with the burning of police stations and the recent attack on police formations in the Eastern part of Nigeria and other parts of the country, makes this topic very relevant. It is a culmination of the deep-seated animosity between the Nigerian populace and the Nigeria Police Force.

The mantra of the police that is tagged, “The police is your friend”, has not been realised in Nigeria. I grew up hearing my uncles and adult males running into the rubber plantations and nearby bushes when tax policemen came to our village, Ofuoma, near Ughelli. I still noticed that anytime police officers come to any community, citizens flee because of indiscriminate arrests, even after armed robbers and criminals have left the scene.

Who is the protector protecting and why is there the need to protect the protector?

Dr Folake Adebisi, writing on January 8, 2018, said that there can be no significant reformation of the Nigeria Police Force without tracing the history of the formation of the Nigeria Police Force from colonial times. The police constabularies that were established in the North, especially Lokoja, and then-Lagos and Calabar were established by the Royal Niger Company to protect their interests. They needed African collaborators and a police force to establish law and order. According to her, before you colonize a people, you must first see their territory as a no-man’s land and the people as sub-humans, whose way of life must be replaced and their voices and resistance suppressed forcefully and brutally, by using these Africans in these constabularies. She mentioned the brutal suppression of the Egba riots of 1918, where several lives were lost, and the 1929 Women’s Tax Riots at Aba. Maintenance of law and order and the protection of lives and property was at the expense of the natives, who are now the people. At Independence, this culture continued, and is still prevalent to date.

Who and what is really being protected?

Is it the pastor like me, who sells stickers and handkerchiefs to his members, but moves around with armed policemen? Or is it the two young men, sons of a king, who were killed with their two mobile policemen still seated with their seat belts fastened at Warri? What are those two young men doing to buy GLK Mercedes Benz SUVs? Is it the corrupt politician that has refused to execute the contract for the health centre in his community, that the youths are angry with, that goes around with a Toyota Hilux filled with armed policemen, but there is no functional police van in his community?

In 1910, 27% of the expenditure in the Nigerian colony went to securing the colony against dissent.

There is the need to deliberately make the communities where the police commands are located, feel and realize that the police stations and commands exist to protect them. It is tragic and very annoying for the citizens to see a politician come with police escorts to carry away their ballot boxes, or stay away or look the other way when a criminal act is committed against them.

WE MUST REFORM THE POLICE TO FUNCTION AS THE FRIENDS OF THE PEOPLE. CSP RABIU GARBA, DIVISIONAL POLICE OFFICER, FEGGE POLICESTATION.

Friedman Jay, writing in his blog, during the peak of the #EndSARS protests, when many police stations were burnt, explained why Fegge Police Station was not burnt and the officers protected by protesters.

According to him, there are 10 things you need to know about CSP Rabiu Garba, DPO, Fegge Police Station.

  1. He is humble to the core
  2. He speaks Ibo very well
  3. He smiles like a woman
  4. He is not tribalistic
  5. He hates intimidation
  6. He is a good listener to everyone.
  7. He picks his calls anytime.
  8. He is accommodating.
  9. He is youth-friendly.
  10. The elderly men and women call him ‘my son’.

He drives only one car and the same car for the past four years that I knew him. He wrote about how the youths turned their chants of “We no go gree oh! We no go gree!” to “DPO Garba, you are a good man”. His concluding statement is very relevant at this conference. He wrote “Congratulations, Rabiu Garba. Maybe, by now, it would have been a different story, but your kind gesture spoke and defended you in the time of trial”. This is the perception we expect of every police officer and the rank and file. It is also the perception we expect from every public servant from my two primary constituencies as a clergyman and a medical doctor.

Pastors are under attack because the people don’t feel we have their interests and that of God uppermost.

As doctors, because of the way we treat patients, even when doctors go on strike for improvement of healthcare delivery, people feel they have an entitlement mentality.

Let me quickly say this, “How will doctors feel when a policeman or woman is rushed to a hospital where policemen on patrol fractured the hand of their colleague, with an ambulance responding to an emergency during the #EndSARS protest?”

BEING ON THE SAME PAGE WITH THE COMMUNITY: THE CSP RABIU GARBA POLICE TRAINING AND APPROACH.

David Chyddy Eleke, on Nov 9, 2020, writing on Thisday Live, revealed some things about the kind of training the CSP Rabiu Garba received from his superiors.

1. As the crowd surged towards the station, he told his men to drop their guns and he stepped out to speak to them.

He said from our training, I know we must try to calm them down, instead of using force on them. It is the duty of the police to try and calm protesters down and not to start shooting them, so I told my men not to shoot anyone. This is the protective mentality that our citizens earnestly seek from the protectors, not the mentality of the colonial police force.

2. “I must tell you the truth that I was disturbed when they were coming but I told myself, nothing like shooting of the people must happen. It would be like shooting my own people”.

He is a Muslim from Bauchi State, and the mob coming are all, most-likely, Christians and are predominantly Ibos. He called them, ‘My own people’. This is the Nigerian Police we seek as our protectors, not the Nigeria Police Force. We don’t want a ‘force’; we want our brothers and sisters in uniform as friends.

Though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand. That’s our old National Anthem.

3. He cultivated a relationship with the community.

I have very many people in Fegge, who are my friends, and some of them I saw among the protesters. I came out and addressed the people instead of hostility, and they started to support me.

4. He identified with their rights to protest and refused to intimidate them or initiate the violence.

Violence only begets violence. Action and reaction are equal and opposite. What we are seeing in Nigeria, in so many cases, is bottled-up anger exploding.

NIGERIANS ARE EAGER TO REWARD GREAT POLICE OFFICERS. ASP SUNDAY ERHABOR AS A CASE STUDY.

On April 21, 2021, Kunle Daramola wrote about ASP Sunday Erhabor, who was assaulted by Victor Ebhomenyen, a motorist who drove against traffic in Lagos. Ironically, they are all from Edo State. Despite the assault, and with his rifle on his shoulder, he refused to retaliate.

Nigerians raised One Million Naira to appreciate him for his exemplary self-restraint. The Lagos State Governor honoured him for his show of decorum and what is expected of a police officer.

CHRIS ARGYRIS PRINCIPLE AND THE CHALLENGES OF THE NIGERIA POLICE FORCE.

Chris Argyris Principle states that for any psychologically mature adult, a time comes when his personal goals come in conflict with organisational goals.

We must condemn the invasion and destruction of police stations and the brutal murder of our policemen and women. No matter the inadequacies of our police force, it is extremely wrong and unreasonable to kill law enforcement agents.

If we expect policemen with calm temperaments like Sunday Erhabor, we need to protect their mental health.

  1. Their training can be strenuous, but should not be dehumanizing.
  2. Our police barracks need to meet, at least, comfortable standards. You don’t expect police officers that sleep inside vehicles in police stations, when they are transferred, not to be hostile.
  3. Their shifts are usually too stressful and long, with very little effort made to keep them comfortable.
  4. A poorly-paid police officer, who is owed a salary, will most likely be desperate and aggressive.
  5. Armed bandits and robbers are using AK-49 rifles and our police officers are using very old AK-47 guns. Some come to roadblocks with only sticks or tear gas launchers.
  6. Many of our police officers do not have bulletproof vests. Every officer on guard duty or arrests should be well-kitted with protective gear.
  7. Our police vans are, most times, old and cranky. There are very few armoured personnel carriers compared to the risks our men and women face.
  8. Our military men and women must respect our policemen and not treat them as a second-rate organisation. We have had several times when military policemen have had fights with policemen. The killing of police detectives that went to arrest an alleged kidnapper is still fresh in our minds and nothing has been done about that heinous crime to the best of my knowledge.
  9. We must protect the future of our police force by providing insurance policies for them, in case of injuries or death, in the course of their duties.
  10. A policeman or woman that has served this nation in very risky and difficult circumstances should receive his/her retirement benefits promptly and would not need to risk going to the place of the last posting. Several have died without getting their benefits.
  11. Traditional rulers, religious leaders, youth leaders must, within their abilities, protect policemen and women in their domains by making the Police Community Relations Committees very functional and proactive.
  12. Our governors should use part of their security votes to enhance the activities and safety of our policemen and women.

God bless the Nigerian police and God bless Nigeria

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