Of Nigeria Police, protests and infrastructure failures
Distinguished folks, Nigeria Police deserves our attention not pity. I am most proud of police officers who stormed the streets of Maiduguri, capital of Borno state to show their grievances over poor welfare packages and infrastructural deficits. The story of Maiduguri, Borno state is not different from the sad tales of neglection of police commands across the country. It is expected that a country battling insecurity like Nigeria would never take the reformation and continued patronage of her security agencies with levity hands.
The current moribund state of our police stations does not commensurate with funds allocated to the force but it is quite unfortunate that the government and the leadership of the police service commission have no interest in the progress of the force. I am not a stranger to the agitations of police officers.
On the 13th of June, 2021, I was directed by my editor-in-chief to interview two mobile police officers in Maiduguri, Borno state. In the course of interview, these officers decried non-payment of allowances for months among others. One of the officers added that if the federal government or leadership of the force refuse to resolve this issue, they would be forced to storm streets, protest and kill any senior officer they see.
The story was published in the WITHIN NIGERIA on 18th June, 2021. The story went viral and the leadership of Nigeria Police Force vowed to look into the matter. When I watched the video of how hundreds of angry police officers stormed the streets of Maiduguri, Borno state to protest the continued negligence of the government and leadership of the force, I felt bad and pondered about the future of this country. I also watched how these aggrieved police officers were lamenting about poor welfare packages in the force, infrastructural deficits and how corruption has eaten so deep the lifewire of the force.
It is not really surprising that police officers came out to show their grievances but it is troubling that the lamentation started almost a year ago in such troubled and terrified zone and the leadership of the force did not care. Few days ago, I visited a friend who happens to be a police officer. We discussed ‘EndSARS scenario’ at length. My friend expressed his displeasure about the attacks on police station and decried the non-attention of the media to the secrets EndSARS uncovered. What are the secrets? I anxiously asked. He took a deep sigh, drew his chair closer and carefully tapped my shoulder. He told me about the sad events police officers passed through during the EndSARS protests. He decried shortage of arms or weapons to attack or arrest hoodlums when they attacked their station. He disclosed that there was a time police officers absconded the station due to non-availability of teargas and rubber bullets to scare hoodlums who invaded their station.
I listened with rapt attention and concluded that we as a people can not continue like this. It seems I understand Nigeria than my moody friend. He was very optimistic that the country will be better and Nigeria Police Force will definitely make it proud one day. He was carried away during the conversation and blamed the rising insecurity and attacks on negligence of the police force by its leadership and government. We circumnavigated the entire station and he stylishly showed me visible cracks on wall. I saw the deplorable state of officers’ mess and watched how officers strongly laboured to fetch water from well. Uniforms of some police officers have almost become rags. When I asked few police officers why they could not change their uniforms, they bitterly complained about finances, delay in allowances payment and corruption within the force.It was indeed a sad journey.
Besides the non-payment of allowances, the cries for massive renovation of infrastructural facilities should be greatly considered. I could remember the very first time I was locked up in a cell by the police. I was arrested and accused of inciting protest within the academic community. Owing to insufficient cells, I was transported to another police station and locked up with another 10 suspects. From the counter to the cell, there were visible cracks in some sections and the entire station was in a complete and absolute deplorable state.
I could remember that the iron bars stationed to serve as a gap between the cells and other rooms within the station were not strong and could fall down by a slight push. Some months ago, I visited the same police station and I observed that the state of infrastructural facilities has gone worse and the entire police station is in a moribund state. Every Nigerian state is now a hotbed for violent and criminal acts.
Few days ago, a group of terrors called bandits attacked Kaduna communities and killed 50 people mostly women and children. These innocent people were brutally murdered in cold blood because they are Nigerians. The situation in Kaduna is not different from other Nigerian states where there is no respect or value for human lives. It is very sad. When hundreds of Nigeria police officers stormed the streets of Maiduguri to protest over poor welfare and unpaid allowances, I shook my head and pitied Nigerians.
Luckily for us, no Nigerian is safe. Both the commoners and elites are not safe. No means of transportation is safe. Either air, land or water, there is no peace anywhere and everywhere. We must strengthen our security instititions and assist the police officers in driving their demands home. If at worst, there should be protest from the police, it should not be at this perilious time.
We must call on government to ensure that the demands of the police are met and the force must be strengthened. As we struggle to be alive, we must canvass for the reformation and direct growth of people responsible for our safety.
Sodiq Lawal is a Nigerian writer and journalist at WITHIN NIGERIA