The rank and file of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) have a long history of engaging in unprofessional and sometimes criminal acts. Unfortunately, those police officers who conduct themselves in an exemplary manner are tarred with the same brush as the bad eggs who regularly perpetrate crimes. Upon assuming office, every Inspector-General of Police (IGP) initially rails against illegal checkpoints and misuse of force personnel, then after settling into the job, he does nothing. There is no doubt that the NPF is experiencing problems in areas of personnel, funding, equipment, antiquated penal codes, public relations and grievance procedures but those charged with police oversight, discipline and reform have failed to take effective remedial action.
Police checkpoints ostensibly set up to combat crime are the most common venue for extortion. Even as confrontations between armed police and motorists often escalate into loss of life, it’s been severally alleged that a large portion of the monies extorted at checkpoints is remitted for distribution.
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With respect to manpower levels, legislators and political office holders know that violent crime is on the increase and the nation doesn’t have enough policemen, yet they refuse to legislate or spend money to build an efficient well-equipped force. They know that there are millions of jobless qualified youths ready willing and able to perform the job, but they refuse to massively recruit and solve the two problems of youth unemployment and an undermanned feeble police force simultaneously. Their only solution to the problem of ineffective law enforcement is to assign several policemen to themselves. Condemnably, nowadays anybody with sufficient money can be assigned police escorts simply by paying a monthly sign-on fee for each policeman required. All that needs to be done is to write to the police “in good faith” about “threat to life”, grease the necessary palms and hey presto any number of policemen the applicant can afford will be attached to him, after which they can be used as virtual house-helps. Shamefully, armed police escorts have evolved into uniformed errand boys. The social media is replete with photographs of them doing everything from cleaning their paymaster’s shoes, to washing cars and engaging in all forms of domestic chores. It’s common to see them armed and in uniform carrying handbags or umbrellas of those they are supposed to be protecting! At social functions, it’s normal to see dozens of escorts lounging around the car park and struggling for food or give-aways. Genuflecting for their paymasters and exhibiting no self-respect is habitual with so called “security escorts”. However, their servile attitude is hardly surprising because they collect far more from their “oga” than they are paid as salary. In addition, they sometimes get special accommodation when their “oga” travels, go to big parties, fly on planes with them and some of them are known to have been rewarded with cars or even houses as gifts! These days, an entourage of police officers has become a status symbol for those who have the money to pay. Even pastors use policemen to enhance their flamboyance and guard themselves while selling “special anointing oil for protection” to their congregations!
Hiring police and moving about in a convoy with all vehicles painted black, the number plates covered, and Hilux vans loaded with armed police at the front and back threateningly disobeying traffic regulations is all the rage, and it seemingly doesn’t matter how the person makes the money. It has become routine for escorts to discharge their firearms for no reason other than to let people know that their paymaster is around! On many occasions when many “big men” are travelling by air, there will be more bag carrying police escorts at the airport than passengers! Often, these escorts get carried away when trying to please their benefactors. Recently, Burna Boy, a successful internationally known Nigerian singer who has five police personnel assigned to him, was involved in a shooting incident in a nightclub. According to reports, the singer got carried away by his ego and lusted after a married woman. When her enraged husband tried to confront him, one of the escorts allegedly discharged his service weapon wounding the man in the process. The escorts didn’t inform their superiors about the incident, but unfortunately for them, it was reported by eyewitnesses. As a result, all five have been apprehended pending a full investigation. The incident isn’t unprecedented. In the past, the NPF arrested detained and tried two officers attached to singer Davido for alleged reckless shooting. To understand why the police hierarchy have not effectively banned these commercial assignments as announced severally and fully concentrated their manpower on combating crime, cognisance must be taken of the fact that several orderlies have complained to their friends that only between 30 to 40 per cent of the fee is given to them while the rest is unaccounted for. The lamentable commercialisation of the NPF was highlighted by a Travel Agency’s offer in which anybody could “rent” two police escorts and a Hilux van with a driver to escort them from Lagos to anywhere in the East! In the interests of the general public, urgent actions must be taken to put an end to commercialising our police. The nation cannot afford to continue allowing a few rich people to personalise and monopolise the police force and turn law enforcement officers into uniformed errand boys.
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