By Ibrahim HassanWuyo
As SARS protests spread across the country, a case has been made for an immediate unionization of Police men and officers as part of the sustainable reform to make Nigeria Police force accountable and responsive.
Vice President, Industrial Global Union, Comrade Issa Aremu in a statement said it was time Police men and women were allowed to improve their conditions of work through free and independent associations and unions instead of the present regimented arrangement in which police unleashed pent of frustrations against the people they are paid to protect.
While praising the protesting youths for acknowledging the precarious conditions under which the police operate in the country, in their 5-point demands the labour leader however observed that “only free organized working police women and men can better freely speak for themselves”. “So far every body speaks for the police, often against them (due to the brutalities of the few in their ranks) but the police who do the work and wear the shoes can tell their stories better through free associations or trade unions”.
According to him police men and women face precarious working conditions which include, poor remuneration, forced postings, poor and lack of training among others.
He said the first move to “decolonize and reform” the police is to allow the ranks freedom of associations as contained in 1999 constitution (with a provision that they cannot go on strike, but they can channel their grievance through collective bargaining) as it is case in democratic countries like South Africa, United Kingdom and United States of America (USA).
Comrade Aremu disclosed that there are almost one million Police men in America, 75-80% of them organized in unions, while in South Africa all service men are members of the South African Policing Union (SAPU) established in November 1993 with workers in Correctional services as members. He said while the current protests “understandably were one-sided” against serial unilinear atrocities of some men in uniforms he said the country needed “wholistic bird view of the crisis of policing for an enduring police reform”.
He recalled that in 2002 under former President Obasanjo administration, the country’s police forces went on strike over a dispute over wages and unpaid benefits during which the government deployed the army to take up duties normally done by them. He said there was the need to appreciate that those who must protect us must also be protected first against want”
“It’s time Nigeria considered the British and South African models of allowing police to have a union with a provision that they would not go on strike as essential services. Certainly police men and women need a platform to articulate their concerns about the jobs and their welfare. He said while there are abundant data about list of police brutalities, there are also cases of police men and women who have fallen casualties due to the activities of the criminals “Only policemen and women can speak for themselves in a free association regulated by essential services law.” “If you deny police men and women open collective bargaining on their conditions of work and existence, they would do “collecting bargaining” and extortions at gunpoints at check points as we have seen over the years”. Every police man deserves Decent work like other workers”.
He commended Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu for retrenching the old Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) as a mark of Sensitivity to the mass protests, but warned that “recycled, untrained, under motivated new outfit might traverse same failed route”. He said the national narrative on policing must be upscaled beyond the law and order in which under funded, under paid women and women are expected to protect us even against ourselves. He called for “aggressive community policing”. “Police may very found out later that the communities that desire peace and security would be worthy allies of the police even in advocating for better working conditions for the police service” he said.
The labour leader who is also a Member of National Institute, Kuru Jos also advised the protesting youths to “diversify” their strategy from “the streets to negotiating table,” falling which they would lose public sympathy”.