By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
Nigeria Police, indeed, is the proverbial leopard that had refused to shade its spots. The colonial policing mindset the present force inherited, like the cat with nine lives, has refused to fade and die. That mindset equipped the police as an instrument of oppression and suppression. Unfortunately, the colonialists have ceased to exists, but the mindset is retained- setting the police in a collusion course with the public. The most glaring example is the EndSars protests that ravaged the country recently. Despite all these, the police have refused to learn- and this is their greatest undoing.
Incoming Inspectors- General of Police(IGPs) know too well that they inherited a force with a very negative public image and the first thing they do is to reel out some reform agendas to enhance the Force’s image. But this honeymoon, if it at all existed, is short-lived. The life span is even shorter than the legendary Solomon Grundie.
The reforms range from the dressing codes of the police, the usual bail is free campaign, say no to police extortion, dismantling of illegal roads-which up to date, the public are expecting a clearer definitions of legal and illegal road blocks- to clampdown to sundry extortions. But all these to no avail- they are as good as their pronouncements. Indeed, they are mere stunts flaunted by the IGPs to attract public appeal. But remains a mystery is how long these borrowed sympathies last.
The more you pronounce that bail is free, the more exorbitant they become. Does this mean that the force lacks internal mechanisms to effectively monitor its administrative policies. The more you try to clampdown on police extortion, the more daring it becomes. Infact, the level of impunity extortion assumes is beyond the geometric level. The more you direct policemen on stop and search and operations not to appear on ragtag dresses, the more they intensify the dressing to compound one’s ability distingushing them from undergraduates of the country’s higher instutions on rag day. Sometimes it becomes very difficult to distinguish these policemen from the other men who carry arms for nefarious purposes. How would one,in all ramifications, place a policeman appearing in wat would be qualified as”dirty jeans” -dottedwuth tiny holes- and very indecent tops. It can only happen in our clime because police is not accountable to the public they police. Here, it is anything goes.
Here, tell them to vacate the road blocks, and before you could spell Jack, the roadblocks have proliferated in multiples. It is always alleged that the ogas at the top know the dealings going on on those roadblocks. The allegations stretch to the point that the ogas enjoy fair shares of the loot. But let us rest this at the realm of speculation until the ogas would come out bold to deny or debunk.But if they allow the allegations to persist, the public may have no other choice, like the ” hypodermic needle effect of the media” to believe that ogas are partakers of the loot. The irony of this is that if it sticks it sticks. It becomes the indelible ink. So for the best interest of the force, the earlier the appropriate quarters of the force disabused the minds of this and delete this negative memory from the minds of the public, by presenting concrete, verifiable, and empirical evidence, that can upturn any doubt on this, the better for the force.
Yes, we have received very encouraging and impressive reforms from our dear IGP, Alkali Usman Baba, which tend to turn a new leaf in the force, but let’s watch and see if those policemen appearing in ragtags on our major roads will disappear. Let us equally watch if those nefarious activities on stop and search locations will cease henceforth. If they refuse to abate, there reforms will usually pass as one of those, and our dear IGP, Alkali Usman Baba, will be remembered as one of those IGPs that reeled very novel and beautiful reforms designed to give policing in Nigeria a facelift.
We have seen many reforms by IGPs. Our dear Alkali Usman Baba, if I were you, I would try the other knob!
Uche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.