ON April 21, 2019, 25-year-old Akeem Akinsanya was killed by a bullet shot by an officer of the Zonal Intervention Squad of Zone 2 Police Command at Iyana Coker area of Ifo, Ogun State. Before Akinsanya, 20-year-old Ada Ifeanyi and her boyfriend were also shot dead by a police officer in the Ajegunle area of Lagos on April 13, 2019.
Still, another Nigerian youth, Kolade Johnson, was killed by an officer of the Special Anti-Cultism Squad, SACS, of the Lagos State Police Command on March 31, 2019. Other instances, too numerous to recount, abound.
How can it be that the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, which was established, equipped and paid with taxpayers’ money to maintain law and order and protect the citizens, could turn full circle and become agents of death and predators on the population, especially the youth? If the Police pose almost the same danger to the people as the criminals do, to whom do the common and defenceless people run to for protection?
The Nigeria Police remains one of the most lowly-rated in the world policing index. It is very demeaning watching on the social media countless videos of armed policemen on the beats extorting dirty naira notes from motorists and commercial motorcycle operators.
These policemen are forced to live in great squalor, work in decrepit offices, are poorly trained and ill-equipped to handle their assignments with distinction. Even the recruitment methods appear to lack basic concerns for quality and crime-free personnel.
The Police has also been badly wounded through ethnicity and sectionalism, and officers are forced to dance to the tune of favoured sections of the country in the discharge of their duties. Why else would armed herdsmen, bandits and freelance criminals be killing innocent farmers and kidnapping travellers at will with little response from the law-enforcement agencies, especially the Police?
The atmosphere around policing in Nigeria has become thoroughly polluted and requires urgent purification.
Much hope is being pinned on the recently-passed Police Reform Bill and Police Trust Fund Bill by the National Assembly.
These legal instruments will go a long way to reposition the Police in terms of orientation, training, welfare and respect for the human rights of those undergoing correctional procedures. Ideas for improved funding of the Police have also been proffered.
However, without expanding the platform of policing and taking it closer to the people the two Bills might end up taking us back to square one. We must break the monopoly of Federal control of the Police. The states should be allowed to have and operate their own Police.
It is heartwarming that this idea is now being given a positive thought by the Federal Government. We hope they find the courage to get it implemented.