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The new police uniform

When next misfortune sends you to a police station, take a closer look. What you see is not enviable. It begins from the recruitment process.…

When next misfortune sends you to a police station, take a closer look. What you see is not enviable. It begins from the recruitment process. With estimated 60 per cent of recruitable Nigerians in the job market, those who make it into the force have no interest in service. Yet they scramble to get in because it helps them get off the ladder of misery. They pay for everything, from enlistment to the short pants, buckets and brooms. Less than forty percent of the physical and mental requirements for recruitments into the force is followed. The police colleges are a proper reflection of our public schools with curriculum that has not been reviewed in four decades and instructors with scant understanding of the human rights. When they graduate, it is into the structured cesspit of internal corruption.

They pay for everything from buttons to belts, boots to pips and the crest. The next time you see a cop looking raggedly beggarly or slovenly sloppy, he is decked in borrowed robes. If you see a daintily dressed officer, his wife or girlfriend is a smuggler or he or some one close patronises the famous Vespa tokunbo market on the Lagos-Badagry expressway where second-hand boots are cheap and affordable. Official mai-guard to politicians would be best kitted if their bosses are altruistic and remember them on their usual foreign junkets. I saw it practically working at the National Assembly in case someone is wondering.

The question is – beautiful as the their new camouflage is, is that what the police need? Would it change public perception of the police?  Absolutely not. Salaries were increased for a while under Obj and for a few weeks before the new pay was leveled by inflation, a large chunk of police officers tried to fit into contentment. For all the allegations of torture against the police, they are victims. A typical DPO lives, works, sleeps and wakes in his dingy office which has not been refurbished since it was built. A man who lives under that kind of system is traumatized and would naturally transfer his/her aggression to anyone he thinks is responsible for his situation. The DPO has to render returns to the elongated ladder of corruption. He sends his ‘boys’ on the errand.

Nothing goes for nothing in any police station. In Karu, after my ordeal with robbers, the police asked me to go and buy pen and paper to take my statement. I thanked them and stood up to leave, telling them the only reason I came was to incident it. They changed their mind. It still happens. So, the rut goes from top to bottom and walks from bottom up. The check-point diplomacy is part of the case. Every IG knows that Nigeria needs to erect them, yet they first play populism. Nigerians would rather pay the toll to the police for the occasional rumble with robbers than be subjected to the kind of treatment that 18 unfortunate women were subjected to just because they travelled at night. Some people said night travel should be outlawed. Someday soon, we should totally outlaw traveling because robberies take place in daytime too and daylight rapes are common.

Police are gallant men and women. They give us a semblance of law and order and a false sense of security. Above all, they are now objects of target practice for Boko Haram and men of the underworld. Police officers are human too. They have family who want them to return in peace. They may need new uniforms if it helps their psyche, but what they need is a country that cares, a hierarchy that truly eschews the ‘returns syndrome’. They are the people we expect to stay awake while we sleep; go and fight where death lurks and guarantee our safety generally. Yes, new uniforms are good, only if they are available and free. Only when they are replaced and supplied with the frequency with which we also change our own dresses. They help boost psyche only when the wearer is respected by his boss and his salary goes to his account instead of staying on the conveyor belt of the corrupt officers who first lodge them into fixed deposit accounts until it yields interest before paying them out.

The police need value re-orientation. It should be felt in their pockets, in the transformation of barracks where necessary; in the provision of modern equipments; in the refurbishment of their homes and stations. Its early days yet, to judge the new IG but is it the cynic in me that makes me agree with those who say, change the man and his uniform will shine through.

LAST WORD – Oluseyi Petinrin, the chief of defence staff was in saying that those who cause mayhem all over want to create an atmosphere of insecurity in the nation. Whao, does that guy live in Nigeria at all? Why can’t some people shut up when they have nothing to say?

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