nigeria police force

[Opinion] Urgent Call for Action and Accountability: Combating Corruption in the Nigerian Police

It’s dawn on a regular day in Nigeria, and Prince Olumuyiwa Adejobi is back in his office tweeting all day long, responding to citizens’ concerns and relaying information to the general public in his continuous attempt to salvage whatever is left of the embarrassingly decaying image of the Nigerian police as part of his duties in his capacity as the Police Force Public Relations Officer, henceforth referred to as PPRO.

Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) said, “Without government, life would be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. Yes, without laws, man would be left with only the strength of his morality to define his actions and inactions. This is because the government is run by laws, and those laws must be enforced, in most cases by the police. It is believed that the police are a buffer of freedom, checking the excesses of man and ensuring freedom is not boundless and endless.

It is widely acknowledged that governing and organizing people is no easy task, as individuals often possess an exaggerated sense of freedom, which can lead them to commit crimes against humanity and divinity. Due to numerous compelling reasons, the relevance and importance of the police cannot be disputed. Nevertheless, when it comes to exercising authority over others, it is essential for law enforcement officers to be held accountable and guided by rules. Without being governed by rules themselves, what moral compass do they possess to effectively control and organize others?

The role of the PPRO (Public Relations Officer) is undoubtedly a highly delicate and sensitive one, considering the challenging task of redirecting and redefining the public perception of the Nigerian police among the Nigerian people. It is not a matter to be taken lightly.

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The Nigerian police force has unfortunately gained an embarrassing reputation over the years, characterized by vindictiveness, extrajudicial actions, a lack of compassion, unprofessionalism, corruption, and criminality, all of which are supported by the federal government. But how did the police force manage to acquire such a disparaging and disdainful reputation? The answer lies not too far back in history.

Taking a brief stroll down memory lane reveals distressing clues.

The Nigerian Police Force (NPF) faces significant challenges due to understaffing and inadequate funding, which are exacerbated by corruption within its own ranks. The force, with a workforce of just under 400,000, suffers from a lack of resources and is plagued by corrupt leaders. This mismanagement is evident in various aspects, such as undignified compensation, deplorable living conditions, and minimal or nonexistent welfare support for its officers. While training focuses on the use of firearms, little attention is given to professionalism, a code of conduct, appropriate attire, rules of citizen engagement, mental health awareness, and ethics and discipline in the face of hostilities. Essentially, officers are taught how to use guns but not how to avoid using them.

Despite decades of campaigns to cleanse the force of corruption and malicious elements, the police continue to be plagued by unprecedented levels of corruption, further complicating the job of individuals like Olumuyiwa Adejobi. Sadly, it has become a daily reality for Nigerians to encounter forceful extortion by police officers stationed at junctions and highways, where brutality is the only alternative, regardless of whether their vehicle documentation is up-to-date or not.

The #EndSARS protest in October 2020 serves as a vivid reminder of the prolonged impunity and lawlessness within the police force, which culminated in a tragic “genocide.” The murder of a young Nigerian in Delta State ignited the protest, with Lagos leading the way as the epicenter of the movement. The protest was a peaceful expression of anger, disgust, and a refusal to accept the brutal treatment meted out by the police. Ironically, what ended the protest was another brutal massacre, this time perpetrated by the military against young citizens.

Seeking justice through the police is often deemed prohibitively expensive. Should this be the case? Countless individuals choose to endure injustice rather than face the exorbitant charges imposed by the police, who exploit every reported case to extort money from victims. Is the police hierarchy unaware of this? Does the spokesperson for the police, Prince Olumuyiwa Adejobi, not acknowledge this? Is he unaware that his officers are reluctant to handle cases unless complainants pay for them? Money is extorted for various purposes, including effecting arrests, “registering the case” at the counter, approving petitions, mobilizing teams, providing transportation (if required), and managing logistics. This practice silently frustrates many people and unfortunately encourages criminal behavior, as victims are forced to forgo justice in tears.

What a bland, nauseous meal! Some say the silence of the police is because leading members of the police organization—the IG, the AIG, police commissioners, and DPOs—all benefit from the loot and spoil of their men. While it’s almost impossible to prove this, the big question is: are these high-ranking men not aware of these issues? They definitely are. And if they are, why the deafening silence? The only logical explanation is the ‘conspiracy theory’ that they are beneficiaries and enablers. Some statistical data says gigs from extortion pay way beyond their usual salaries, so why not?

There is the sad but common practice where the police arrest anybody and innocent souls they meet in the environs of a crime scene after the perpetuators must have all fled, only to release them after extorting thousands in bail.
The Nigerian police are so crafty that they would not take electronic transfers from complainants, as they have POS operators roaming about in police stations whose services they employ as a conduit for getting whatever money was levied.

It is as if the police uniform is a criminal shield of some sort, making ‘federal criminals’ invincible and invisible to justice.
Scores of brutal videos keep surfacing online, and when Prince Olumuyiwa Adejobi is confronted, he selectively and systematically responds to some of the cases with a clever half-circumspection. Or, why does it require thousands of retweets before he even gives his lackluster response? What happens to those who can’t get those numbers? They are known for being silent when it matters most—painfully.

Did the police not go dead silent during the just-completed 2023 elections? Were scores of police personnel not captured to be involved in and enable electoral malpractices? How many of these officers have been treated accordingly? Your guess is as good as mine. Are officers above arrest? Are they not citizens bound by the same laws they impose on citizens too? Should citizens not read and see pictures in the papers of officers being arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced like other citizens as a follow-up on cases of police abuse that surfaced online?
Why has Tola Azeez, the woman brutalized and dehumanized by the police in 2020, not been paid the N5 million compensation as mandated by the courts?

Why does Prince Olumuyiwa Adejobi choose to gaslight citizens to deny the reality of their horrible experiences with the police instead of opting for the easier path of rebranding and rebuilding the police? If the police were proactive in setting up investigative panels to hold their officers accountable, they could effortlessly begin to rebuild their deteriorating image. Shouldn’t all Nigerians be treated equally? It’s not fair to prioritize some over others.

We cannot underestimate the intelligence of the police force in devising solutions to these issues. If we truly want a sane society, action and sanity must go hand in hand.

Policing is already a challenging job, but it becomes even more difficult when its reputation is tarnished. Gaslighting does nothing to improve the police’s reputation; in fact, it only fuels resentment that will eventually lead to an explosive eruption with unpredictable consequences. The way forward is to build and fix the police. Our society is in desperate need of it!

Winston Adaete