THE Inspector General of Police, Mr Solomon Arase, has directed that hard drug tests should be conducted on urine samples of policemen before they are allowed to handle firearms and lethal weapons. This decision is timely.
Over the decades, the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) had assumed notoriety for extra-judicial killings. Most of the incidents arose from the unprofessional handling of firearms. Some of the instances are linked to the mental and psychological states of the officers and men. A lot of people have died in these circumstances, especially at check-points and other public places.
A few days to Christmas last year, a drunken gun-toting policeman guarding a hotel killed two brothers (twins) and their cousin in Ketu, Lagos, for turning down his request for alcoholic drink. He subsequently shot and killed himself.
The IGP’s order should ensure that policemen who are under the influence of alcohol, marijuana and other psychotropic substances are excluded from arms-bearing.
The rampant consumption of cheap alcoholic drinks and hard drugs by police personnel had earlier caused the police boss to order compulsory, routine psychological tests for the rank and file of the force. This is to ensure that such policemen are mentally and emotionally fit to perform their duties.
The nation cannot afford to continue to lose its innocent and defenceless citizens to officers rendered trigger-happy by alcohol and drugs while on duty. In every democracy, the Police are empowered to maintain law and order and not to terrorise the populace.
We hope the Police IGP, with the backing of the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the Federal Government will go beyond merely giving orders and take steps to boost the psychology and morale of the police workforce. The overall health and welfare of these guardian angels of our society must no longer be toyed with. If we want the Police to serve us better, we must invest adequately towards their overall wellbeing.
We are not doing this well enough. The typical Nigerian police barracks where the officers and men/women live with their families as well as the police stations where they work are decrepit and unfit afor a force that can serve the rest of society with distinction and courtesy.
The high amount of frustration that a typical police officer exhibits in his or her duty post is a reflection of our neglect of their welfare.
As we embark on the recruitment of a new batch of 10,000 officers and men into the Force, greater care must be taken to ensure we keep out people of questionable character. We must employ only physically and mentally-fit candidates, and acclimatise them to a training course that accords great value to human lives and human rights.