SARS is a unit of the police that has terrorised Nigerians for many years. Their methods have led to instances of violence
and an abuse of power till date. However to expose the real issue, Jimoh Isiaq, Chibuike Daniel Ikeaguchi, and Chukwuebuka,
were not killed by sars operatives but ordinary police men. This posits that the Nigerian police has a
problem with its attitude towards its citizens. It has been opined that the lack of adequate
equipment, low paying salaries and corruption leads the police to pour out its frustration on its
citizens, however, the fact that some police officers feel that it is “okay” to do this, or act on orders
to harm the very citizens they have sworn to protect, highlights the importance of a much-needed focus on the mentality of the Nigerian Police. So, the next questions are: when did this problem start? and how can we solve it?
THE BEGINNING OF THE PROBLEM
“…my uncle lost two teeth” said an aggrieved petitioner. Apparently, he suffered this because he
didn’t help to impede a keke driver pursued by the police. These and many other accounts causes
one to wonder why do some policemen respond with violence? Historically, the Nigerian police has
never shied away from violence against Nigerian citizens.
The colonists established the Nigerian
police to further colonial interests and not at all for the safety of its citizens. According to Etannibi
E.O. Alemika and Innocent C. Chukwuma (in their piece – Police-community violence in Nigeria),
governor H.S Freeman in his letter to the Duke of Newcastle, stated that, he relied on the fact that
the police officers were disassociated from the land they were serving, which made it easier for the
police to act with unwavering cruelty. It is unclear as to whether this is the actual cause of their
violence towards citizens, however, the response of the police to the Aba women’s war where 54
women were killed by officers following orders raised some concerns. The military rule was no different, the initiation of
the Joint Task Forces (JTF) which comprised of a joint force of the military and the police caused the
police to act with greater impunity. It was a trying time for Nigerian citizens, with numerous
instances of Human Rights atrocities committed by the police and army alike. An example could be
seen in the several raids of the Kalakuta Republic which led to the death of Fela’s mother Funmilayo
Ransom Kuti. Fast-forward to today, and we see the same issues: police brutality, extortion, and
There is certainly a need for an extensive police reform. The Police act 2020 focuses on a few valid
points; and it seems to focus on accountability and transparency. This is certainly a step forward, but
a lot needs to be done to improve the mentality of the police. Firstly, it needs to be stressed that:
the primary duty of the police is to safeguard the lives and properties of its citizens. Secondly, the
mental health of the police officers must be taken very seriously. These are individuals that deal with
serious decisions occasionally, which would possibly affect their mental health. It is exigent that the
Nigerian police goes through extensive psychological evaluation due to the nature of their job and
the relationship with the public. Also, the recruitment process needs to employ a more stringent procedure
to ensure that only individuals with a genuine desire to protect and serve their communities are
honoured to dawn the uniform.
Coupled with this, the Nigerian police need to be assured of their basic amenities by the government
or the people. A group of officers were asked what they would like to see reformed and they
expressed that the police needs to be properly funded. A police officer stated, “You know what is
good for you as a human being”. The mentality of the police would also improve when they have less to worry about. The police need to be paid well, the government needs to come up
with pension plans and packages to protect their families for life, if officers are killed in the line of
duty. Average citizens can also help, by establishing NGOs to support the Nigerian Police, and real
estate companies can renovate a police barracks to make the environment more habitable for police
officers. The fact is, the Nigerian police needs a massive mental reform considering
the history it has had with its citizens. This could be due to the influence the colonists had on the Nigerian Police, as Khaldun says “The conquered always imitate the conqueror…”.
However, the Lekki toll gate massacre has rejuvenated the desire for a much-needed police reform.
This is an opportunity to focus on the mentality to prevent the police from slipping back into old habits.
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