#ENDSARS and Nigeria’s chaotic security system

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Comrade Abdulateef Usman Abiodun

 

SIR: The Nigerian Police is a baby product of the British colonial rule. That is the genesis of many of the problems that would later be confronting it. Just like many of our public institutions modelled after either US or UK, the Nigerian Police never evolved to take the identity of our own society. During the colonial era, the police was only used to make sure the citizens fall in line in order to make it easy to further the colonial exploitative rule.

In Britain and United States that we take pride in copying every of their models, policemen don’t carry big rifles like ours do here. Despite the fact that the police are well funded and men and women are well-trained, arms are not brandished like we do here. I do wonder if we can’t have smartly-dressed officers with their pistols neatly pinned to their waists and their walkie-talkie smartly resting on their shoulders. Not that long rifles are not used too in these places, but you only see them during emergencies and general operations.

Nigeria’s security is chaotic and highly unorganized. This is not to downplay the few successes recorded by many officers and men in our various security formations. The sad truth is that our security system still operate analogue in the era of digitalized security system. We operate 19th century’s system of policing in the 21st century. We are far left behind. In most nations now, crimes are fought with technology, tactics, advanced intelligence gathering systems and so on not by the number of road blocks on the roads. Here, it is through force and fire brigade approach.

When we were growing up, it is the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) men, in mufti, that carry out criminal investigations in police divisions. What role is the CID units of the police in massive intelligence gathering? How can a nation of 200 million people not have CCTV in major towns and cities of her nation in the 21st century! The fund meant for the CCTV of the capital city has since been embezzled and no is behind bar for it.

Now, scrapping the SARS unit will never stop the tales of abuse and torture. Until some fundamental things are corrected, nothing changes. We will just have another set of crooks with a different name and who may be worse than SARS. The team to replace SARS must be carefully selected and trained well. The idea of randomly picking rogues among rank and files and pushing them to go fight robbery and other violent crimes is not only archaic but counterproductive. That they will be facing criminals doesn’t mean they must be roguish in look and without any semblance of a law enforcement person.

Their terms of engagement must also be spelt out. In the Southwest, in recent years, many SARS officers have even forgotten what it means to be in a shoot-out with real robbers. Their prime targets are Yahoo-Yahoo boys. But that is a jurisdiction for the ICPC and EFCC. Theirs is to engage bank robbers, highway robbers and so on and not armless youths.

While the corruption in the police in Nigeria is endemic and generational, hence the difficulty in ending it in a day, the #ENDSARS protest should be an opportunity for a long-lasting reform of our rather muddled policing system.

Comrade Abdulateef Usman Abiodun, Ede, Osun State.


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