In early January, newly appointed Acting Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu pledged to enhance professionalism in the Force. His pledge was both a promise and an apology: An apology because his predecessor, Ibrahim Idris, had foisted the image of indiscipline and incompetence on the Force through his contagious partisanship and unprofessional conduct.
A promise because in that same police force that had been tainted by such scandalous conduct of a few, there are gallant man and women whose professional conduct during peace missions abroad has earned laurels for the country; those who have conducted investigations into criminal cases with clinical proficiency and many others who guard and protect their beat with remarkable competence.
During the recently concluded general elections, the police were among some of the security forces that were irresponsibly deployed by dodgy politicians to kill and main Nigerians for the vote. But during those days of madness and darkness, the Kano Commissioner of Police Muhammed Wakili put up redeeming act. He led his men to ensure peaceful conduct in one of the most volatile states in the country and indeed, prevented large scale mayhem by briefly detaining the Deputy Governor and his hired thugs who, despite the police warning, were bent on unleashing mayhem on innocent voters. His rumoured posting from Kano elicited such huge outcry in the social media you would think his display of bravery in Kano was the epitome of the slogan’ Police is your Friend’.
When it comes to cracking hard criminal cases nationwide, ACP Abba Kyari, who heads the IGP Special Squad, Intelligence Response Team, is the man. He never fails no matter the hideouts or connections of the criminals and recidivists. Many Commissioners redeployed during the polls put up excellent jobs in their states.
Exemplary as the conduct of these officers are, it stands to reason that up and down the rank and file there are many policemen and policewomen who subscribe to the tenets and code of conduct of the Force, those who want to make a career out of it.
But of late, the conduct of policemen, are beginning to cast doubts in the minds of the average Nigerian about the integrity of the Force. In a space of one month, youths have been killed in cold blood or brutalized for no other reason than coincidence.
On Sunday, April 4, a youngster, Kolade Johnson was killed by a police inspector Ogunyemi Olalekan, while watching football in Lagos; on Tuesday April 9, a police sergeant, who claimed he had been able to buy a N15,000 worth of phone in his 13 years in service, seized and destroyed the phone of a Delta State University student which the youngster reportedly bought for N250 ,000. Yet the police have a standing order that no policemen have the right to check the phone of any Nigerian citizen. On Saturday, April 13, in Ajegunle, a Lagos suburb, Inspector Dania Ojo shot dead one Adaobi Ifeanyi and wounded another, Emmanuel Akomafuwa.
Extra-judicial killings by the policemen are just a tip of the indiscriminate killings and misconduct by policemen across the country, including shooting of taxi drivers and bus conductors almost on a daily basis for refusing to part with money and illegal detention of innocent Nigerians.
Even as we write there is a trending video on social media of a policemen threatening to shoot a 12-year-old girl somewhere in Abuja
Of all the military and para-military forces in the country, the police are closest to the people. When it begins to hunt and kill the people, then there is cause for alarm. When the people, for obvious reasons, begin to loose faith in the police force, as many are doing already, the foundation for intensive and extensive criminality is being laid.
A country where the sight of a policeman evokes pity instead of trust, hatred instead of respect and critical reactions from the populace, is doomed.
Nonetheless, it bears repetition to state that the professional misconduct by policemen have been with us for a long time. It is just expanding in proportion to the runaway decay in the system. In a situation where the police are poorly treated, underpaid, under staffed, poorly housed and ill-equipped to cope with the work of policing a ballooning population, you can only expect to get monkey work for paying peanuts. Yet, that is no excuse for bad behavior and unprofessional conduct.
Last year nationwide public condemnation of the State Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS for extra-judicial killings, warranting the order for its re-organisation by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, is a sad reminder of the ignominy the force had descended.
Condemnable as these injustices are, the sad fact is that they are, at large, the symptoms of a decadent system. But they are not without redemption for an institution that still has the caliber of refined and diligent officers in its ranks.
Hence the prompt action taken by the police authorities in reaction to the prevailing menace is commendable. After facing an orderly room trial, which found him culpable in the death of Johnson, Inspector Olalekan was dismissed from the force and handed over to the court for prosecution. Those in involved in the Delta and Ajegunle cases have been arrested, and on Thursday, April 18, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Zubairu Muazu, said Inspector Dania Ojo has been dismissed and declared wanted.
When trigger- happy policemen know their misconduct would be severely expeditiously punished, they would become more circumspect in their conduct. Equally commendable is the recent promotion exercise conducted by the Police Service Commission, which involved the demotion of some officers for misconduct.
That these administrative and professional exercises are been complemented by the shuttle diplomatic efforts of Acting IGP Adamu is praiseworthy.
In sharp contrast to ex-IGP Idris, he has been obviously non- partisan. He took office on the verge of electioneering and tried with some measure of professionalism to halt the slide into barbarism under Idris. Helping to calm frayed nerves in the course of implementing official directives is also a core management strategy that can help to rebrand the police: Notable is Adamu’s recent visit to the killing fields of Zamfara and Lagos State to oversee the enforcement of peace initiatives in those places. Such shuttle diplomacy can be more than soothing and reassuring to terrified citizens.
For equal measure, we hope that policy and law making must begin to translate into concrete actions: The police trust fund bill recently passed by the Senate with all its implications for police welfare and institutionalisation, must become concrete reality on the lives of men and women of the Force.
Nigeria Police Force needs serious rebranding. Adamu has shown he can do it. He must do it.