Why do Nigerians hate their own Police so much? As you’re grappling with that, it’s good to also ask – why do the Nigeria Police hate Nigerians so much?
Whether you’ve ever visited a Police station or any Police outpost before or not, you’re not likely to be unfamiliar with the slogan – Police is Your Friend – just as most of us are familiar with – Bail is Free. I think the mantra should have been – Police is Your Friend and Your Enemy.
Paradoxical, right? Yes, that’s more correct. The Police can’t afford to be everybody’s friend. The Police is a law enforcement agency. In fact, it’s Nigeria’s Number One law enforcement body.
The Nigeria Police should be a friend as long as you’re a law-abiding citizen but an enemy if you’re a law-breaker or an offender.
The Nigeria Police should be an institution that Nigerians can call upon when they feel unsafe or any danger threatens them just as Americans will call 911. Nigerians should be able to give information needed to unravel a crime or prevent its commission to the Police without any fear. Nigerians should be confident that the Police will never turn a complainant or a crime victim to a suspect when they make a report to them.
This is what the slogan should mean and if this is the case, the Nigeria Police will be widely loved and respected by Nigerians and perhaps, there may not be any basis for #EndSARS or #EndPolicebrutality. An overwhelming majority of Nigerians are law-abiding and those who breach the Law are a negligible number.
However, over the years, the Nigeria Police have turned themselves to enemies of the people they are meant to serve and protect. Now, when you see Nigerians, especially at the beginning of the #EndSARS campaign, coming together to speak with one voice, in spite oftheir age-old religious, ethnic or political differences, this is the build-up.
The truth is – Nigerians don’t like their own Police because it was the Police that first exhibited hatred and hostility towards them.
Why would the Police arrest people who only commit civil liabilities in the forms of indebtedness between persons or between persons and financial institutions, land dispute, landlord and tenant matter, husband and wife misunderstanding and so on? Why would the Police arrest a brother, a parent or a family relation for a crime allegedly committed by another? Why would the Police insist on collecting money for the bail of a citizen when the Constitution says bail is a human right and is free?
Why would the Police extort money from suspected law-breakers like yahoo-yahoo boys/girls, internet fraudsters, rapists, thieves, pick-pockets, armed robbers, kidnappers, and murderers instead of conducting thorough investigations and ensuring that they are prosecuted? Why should the Police see crimes as opportunities to make money and illegally enrich themselves?
Why would the Police extort money and intimidate young Nigerians, okada riders, motorists, artisans and so on who are struggling to earn a living?
Why would the Police extort and subject young Nigerians to needless and unlawful search of their phones, bags and other personal items when there is no report of crime against them? Why would the Police harass and intimidate Nigerians simply because they wear tattoos on their bodies, drive expensive cars and wear dreadlocks when the Nigerian Law hasn’t declared any of these a crime?
Why would the Nigeria Police allow the wealthy, influential and powerful in the society to use them to harass, intimidate and molest the less powerful and the poor?
Why would the Police harass, threaten and torture Nigerians so as to forcefully obtain confessional statements from them?
The list is endless but the Police never knew that Nigerians were watching them.
As what hitherto started as peaceful protests snowballed into violence, videos and images of Police officers being mobbed, lynched and their stations and facilities set on fire began to flood the cyberspace but there was no public outcry. It didn’t matter much to the public because the victims are the Police who have been their oppressors for too long.
Those isolated cases where people rise in defence of the Police to prevent attack on their officers or facilities are simply acts of thoughtfulness or patriotism of such Nigerians and not because the Police is our friend in reality. These Nigerians recognise the importance of the Police in the society and know that attacking Police officers or destroying their facilities can’t bring an end to Police brutalities or give us a reformed Police
For me, the events of past few days all over the country have shown to me beyond doubt that a vast majority of Nigerians harbour a deep-seated hatred against the Police just as the Police have subjected the people they ought to protect and see as friends to exploitation, victimization, brutality, and harassment for a long time.
While it’s conceded that there are still professional, competent, and honest Police officers, their number is drowned when compared to those who project the image of the Nigeria Police negatively.
© Kehinde Adegbite, Esq