By Prince Charles Dickson
The Indians have a proverb that literally means “Your future does not depend on the lines of your hands, because people who do not have hands also have a future”
Often people ask me why I write on certain topics and issues all the time, like bashing governments at all levels and the band of ‘confusionists’ that run them, my take on the education, health and power sector, insecurity, the lack of or non-existent governance, arguments on ethnicity and the indigene question amongst others. My answer is that I do because I believe that such subjects are important for Nigeria and Nigerians as they are for other nations, but when it appears to me that Nigerians and our leaders particularly do not react to these topics the way they should, I repeat them in new essays to remind old readers and recruit new ones to participate in the continuing dialogue.
Between 1999 and today the police strength has grown from 112,000 to somewhere around 371,800 officers, a very poor figure, compared to our population, even if you recruit 10 million men into the police and with almost 100 million Nigerians hungry, unemployed, frustrated, crime would still be high, and if you add to the fact that many of the Policemen and few women out there are examples of everything bad and ugly about Nigeria need I rest my case, because in a system where a Police Recruit would earn barely N9,019.42 and N302,970.47 for a full Commissioner, there would be different versions of Abba Kyari.
Sadly the police itself is one of the worst culprits of poor remuneration and motivation, have you seen what the police barracks look like across the nation?
Despite the poor and degrading nature of our prisons, most police barracks are not different from rehabilitation homes for juveniles. The police have been reduced to an agency of ridicule and hatred amongst the populace. The only robbers they shoot are ordinary citizens who refuse to give them the N20 toll. When they conclude an investigation successfully, it must have been that of a landlord and tenant or two- fighting at a bus stop.
Right from the days of Anini the great robber, the police rather than be the combatants of crime, has been partners in progress to armed robbers, robberies and all manners of social vices. It is that bad, if you have an encounter with robbers, you have a 70% survival chance, but the same encounter with a policeman in possession of a pistol, you will have less than 30% chance of survival.
A security outfit without equipment, funding, without logistics, no communication facilities resorts to the very crimes they are supposed to protect us from. Divisional Police Offices are now banks; the Divisional Police Officers’ are branch managers waiting for daily ‘returns’ (bribe) from marketing executhiefs (Junior ranks).
When robbers and assassins attack with assault rifles and police come with Dane guns, it is obvious that a lot is wrong.
The edifice called the police is a case of epilepsy, from the change of uniform, to increased recruitment of illiterates that can barely spell their names. The problem is not necessarily just that of the Nigerian police but that of a nation whose leaders have thrown their responsibilities to the gutters.
So Abba Kyari, is part of the bigger problem, he and the war of words between the Police and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency NDLEA is like a Police crime scene unit; the story has holes everywhere, like the Nigeria Police has a settlement scene unit in every divisional police office. The entire scene is devoid of care and details that go into investigation. The same Nigeria Police without a Behavioral Unit, arresting you for having dreadlocks or beards, or carrying a laptop…you can understand why there is no collective in what Kyari has done wrong, or right and who he represents and what he truly is, in the bigger picture.
Have you ever seen a Nigerian policeman wear a protective glove at a crime scene? The closest has been at wedding ceremonies or ceremonial occasions.
I was at a local police station recently and watched as different activities went on, from the radio message alerting another station that Adam was about to eat the apple, to the old Olympia typewriter that brought back memories of my late uncle Atiku who was a teacher in the Congo.
I noticed the state of the uniforms of the rank, the frustration on the face of officers. I saw how men of the force collected N100 to buy plain sheets, file and biro for a complainant to put down his grouse. Officers that are more often than not dirty and unkempt…oh I hear it’s about being covert.
Talking about the police, it is interesting to look at the police from what it should be. Police are agents or agencies empowered to enforce the law and to affect public and social order through the legitimate use of force.
The term is most commonly associated with police departments of a state that are authorized to exercise the police power of that state within a defined legal or territorial area of responsibility. The word comes via French from the Latin politia (civil administration), which itself derives from the Ancient Greek πόλις, for polis (“city”).
In our experience the police have contributed negatively to an increasingly disjointed social order in the nation. The Nigeria Police has failed the nation in its primary function of providing safety, ensuring public order, enforcing criminal law, traffic regulations, crowd control, criminal investigation etc.
Once upon a time, a mad man was assumed to be admiring the police parade at a nearby police post, the Divisional Police Officer walked to him and asked if he wanted to join the police and the mad man retorted, ‘I dey mad?!’.
Like the teaching profession, these days’ people join the force as a last resort, so naturally they vent all the frustrations of life on the job. Bail is free on paper but in practice the price you pay all depends on the offense, your negotiation skills and the officer in charge.
I once narrated the tale of an officer who stopped the police commissioner in his state and asked for a bribe of N20 or else he was going to arrest him for driving at night alone when the roads were dangerous. How many times have we seen policemen disappear on occasion of an armed robbery, everyone wants to get to heaven, but none wants to die?
A visit to a police barracks tells you the story, poor welfare, houses without common sanitary facilities, falling buildings, electricity disconnected, breeding grounds for miscreants and even worse.
The frustration sips into the policeman’s wife, every nine months another baby, and the thick line of abject poverty, social deprivation moves and finds habitation in the vicious cycle. It is in these situations that officers also wreck havoc, from the pay office, all sorts of fraud occur, the usual illegal deductions, to the ghost officers.
With our police everything is wrong, nothing is right. The new uniforms are only for the Ogas, the material is in the open market and anybody can buy and wear and get a salute. There is a public apathy against the police so much that even if they wore white they would discrete the color.
Abba Kyari is not just about the police but equally an examination of our society, one that questions our core values. The fact being that we should be asking how we got here? Who created Kyari?
The Nigeria Police are not entirely bad, there are good ones amongst them, infact let me state categorically that there are gentlemen officers and women in the police, but they are sadly negligible…We are having the likes of Abba because our police lack 21st century policing skills that thrive more on intelligence gathering, tactical operations, which should bring about clinical execution of their assignments, in manners that are beyond stain and societally transparent. We lack security operatives that adopt modern techniques in fighting crimes. The Force is devoid of values like the larger Nigerian society, the reason some criminals are also celebrating Abba Kyari’s fall.
Between an endless hope and a hopeless end, let us see hope in the horizon, though this is difficult to see. The situation is bad, let it not be said that we did not talk, write, and even beg the government to do something. When will address the Kyaris, when will we face policemen that interrogate, arrest, and detain goats, hens and crates of beer as witnesses, accused and complainants—Only time will tell.