By Benjamin Ajah
One day after work, a friend invited me to his office at Asokoro Abuja to help him with some visual design tasks. When we were done, he offered to drive me home, we left his office at around 10:30 pm.
A few minutes away from his office, we got pulled over by a police officer.
He requested to see my friend’s driving licence, asked us where we are coming from and made us open the car trunk. When the police officer saw our laptops, he requested to see a proof of ownership we unsuccessfully tried to convince him that our laptops belong to us. We identified ourselves, showing him our ID cards and what-not.
Then my friend realised that it’s hopeless to debate property ownership with the police officer, he mentioned a name and asked the police officer if the name sounds familiar? The police officer made a gesture and released us.
Now, this is what I call a narrow escape because the conversation was driving towards extortion or brutality. We were just lucky to have known a magic name.
Many young Nigerians go through situations like this on day to day basis, these series of an awful experience eventually led to the public mistrust of the Police, the phrase “I don’t trust the Police.” is now a slogan among young people.
Some people will argue that “not all police are corrupt” and they are right. Wicked deeds stick more to people’s subconscious than good deeds. So people will tend to remember the evil deeds more. On one hand, we have police officers protecting lives and properties, while on the other hand, we have police officers killing and brutalizing people they have sworn to protect. It is said that one bad egg corrupts the others. But the problem with the Nigerian Police Force is that there are too many bad eggs. So it is not just that wicked deeds stick more to people’s subconscious than good deeds, the problem is that there have been too many wicked deeds. The frequency of occurrence; too many.
Based on my observation police officers can be classified into four distinct groups.
Group-one: these police officers joined the police force because it was the only available job at the time, they have no passion for the job or whatsoever they are just there to make money and mind their business. You will often find such officers browsing through their mobile phones and reading a newspaper during working hours completely uninterested in arresting or shooting anyone.
Group-two: these are the funky ones doing all the public relations. They sometimes criticized their colleagues in an attempt to earn the trust of the public, they greet you with a smile, dance for you, play spot betting, creating solidarity vibes with the public. Every police-lover has only met cops from this group. The police officers in this group are not really on our side, they are just trying to create an illusion of solidarity, their slogan is “police is your friend”.
Group-three: these are cops that joined the police to fight crime and uncompromisingly do their job. I doubt they exist in Nigeria, the ideal police force should only contain this group of police officers.
Group-Four: now this is the most dominant group in the Nigerian police force, they are power-drunk and are very happy that they can rape, cheat, kill, extort and virtually do whatever they please without retributions and will not hesitate to prove superiority to their victims. These guys are the ones unleashing mayhem, shooting protesters with live rounds, the special anti-robbery squad falls in this category. This is where all the evil takes place, unfortunately, the public gets to meet too many cops from this group, these kind of cops are why people hate the police. Every Nigerian knows at least one person who has been a victim of police brutality. Most of the time, the victims don’t report these abuses to relevant authorities because petitions regarding police brutality are dead on arrival since the members of the police force would prefer to defend their evil colleagues at the detriment of the victim. Sometimes the victim could get into serious trouble for even attempting to get justice,
Police reform is the way forward. We need to retrain and restructure the Nigerian Police Force. This will go a long way in ensuring that the members of the Nigerian Police Force are well-trained individuals. However, I still do not think this will solve the Nigerian police problem since the issue we are dealing with right here is more of a psychological issue. Somehow, we will always have people who will beg to differ. Still, I suggest that moving forward after the reformation of the police force, the police should only deploy the group-three police officers to the public and try as much as possible to keep the group-four officers away from the streets of civil society. I am by no means encouraging the induction of bad police officers into the Nigerian Police Force, this is just a piece of management advice.
Benjamin Ajah is an IT officer with Yiaga Africa, Abuja
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily