One will wonder why a nation as large as my country Nigeria with an estimated population of one hundred and seventy million right now does not have state or community police! The last few years especially since we got our democracy back have been very horrifying for a lot of people. Until recently, there is hardly any Nigerian on the street who knew the meaning of a bomb. It suddenly became a common thing in our country. Unfortunately, the basis for the incessant bombing now happens to be about religious fundamentalism from some extremists in the Northern part of the country who are obviously being funded by some rich men and politicians. Some of the people who are supposed to protect us because they are in the force cannot even protect themselves since the weapons they have are not as sophisticated as that of the thieves or terrorists they have to face. Some of them are also the ones supplying weapons to the thieves who are robbing in people’s houses or on the high way.
I recently heard a story about how some police men went to a place which was a major high way. They stood there for a while and then left a bag on that spot. A few minutes later another vehicle moved close to that very spot and picked up the bag. Early in the morning the vehicle that picked up the bag was back to return it to the same spot and the same police vehicle came back to pick the bag. The person who had observed this was someone whose car had broken down so late in the night that he could not get any help. He was forced to sleep in the car since nothing could be done at the time his car became stuck. The police that was supposed to defend us is not well paid and not well equipped. Unfortunately those of them who are supposed to be collecting their pensions are being cheated because some individuals are looting their pension funds. What that means is that those currently serving know that they probably do not have any future except for those who have risen to the top and are well paid. Since the underpaid or low ranking officers know there is no future for them, they take this frustration out on the citizens that they are meant to protect.
A few days ago on national television, a video was played and it showed a police officer demanding bribe from a motorist. He obviously did not know that the motorist was recording the scenario and did not also know how far the video would go. We have had countless cases of police officers shooting at citizens for refusing to pay the demanded bribe. Some of the people gently protesting their rights on the streets have been shot at. A few of those cases are probably still in court and many of them have been buried never to see the light of another day. In the 2007 elections I think, a gubernatorial aspirant in a state like Lagos, Mr. Funsho Williams, was killed and nobody can say a word about what happened till date or who killed him. A similar thing happened in Ogun state just beside Lagos where Dipo Dina, another gubernatorial aspirant in the state was killed and as we speak the case has died down. There were more high profile cases like that of Chief Bola Ige who was a serving minister and still got assassinated amidst the tight security assigned to protect him.
When I moved into a new area which is a border town between Ogun and Lagos state, my nieghbours recounted how armed bandits had stormed their house at least three times. On one of the occasions, one of the robbers was killed in their compound. By the time the police got there after the incidence, the police officers still demanded bribe saying, ‘he died in your compound and there is no way you can prove that he was a thief.’ Currently my neighbour and I along with other residents are expected to pay security dues to some vigilantes in at least two different places. This is despite the fact that we have a police station that is less than 5 minutes drive away from us.
Against all hope, I still hope in the seemingly hopeless situation and look forward to having a country with very proud police officers who are courteous and diligent. Officers who will not take bribes and still do everything they are supposed to do the right way. I am looking forward to a time when thieves will never go scot free and assassins will also be brought to book. For this to happen I know that the welfare package of the police needs to increase and the need better training with more equipments and ammunitions to work with. I see this happening in the not too far distance. And we will have a better country where everyone is free to walk around. Without security, no nation can grow as it should because of constant apprehension and the tourism sector will not grow because of scared investors or other foreigners.
Fola Daniel Adelesi
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