OF all reasons alluded by the Social Contract Theorists for man’s willingness to surrender his natural sovereignty to others, the security of his life and property was paramount. Therefore, every person in the society is willing to forego certain rights and privileges for the security that the State and its apparatus can give. However, when the apparatus of the State meant to secure the lives and property becomes an albatross, a money and life draining machinery, through the weapon of coercion bought by the collective contributions of the citizen, the need for worry escalates. One must therefore not forget in a hurry that the #EndSars movement was a call for police reforms and the imputation of the core knowledge of civil-uniformed relations on the members of the Police Force. While the incidence of extra judicial killings, though still in existence, is not as pronounced as before, the extortion at Police Check points is escalating on daily basis.
THE Hope therefore finds it soothing that the Acting Inspector General Of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, had ordered the immediate removal of all illegal checkpoints in Nigeria. This order reveals that his office, and experience in the Force had informed him of the extortion, harassment and unprofessional conduct of the rank and file at these checkpoints. While the innocent had been made to part with their hard-earned funds under legal, illegal and extra-legal concocted violations, many criminals had passed easily through the eye of the needle after parting with as little as N50 naira, and in certain cases, just N1,000 Checkpoints have therefore transformed over the years from being legal anti-insecurity points to being illegal armed toll gates and revenue generating units to Police officers. We are often dismayed by the impunity exhibited by men in uniforms as they brazenly collect these illegal charges, detain unwilling ‘taxed’ payers, and brazenly give change to motorists as if a legal transaction is in operation.
HOWEVER, the term ‘illegal’ in the signal reveals that there were so many arbitrary checkpoints in the country. So, checkpoints were initially set up for the purpose of revenue generation and not security. The question, however, arises as to why these illegal checkpoint operators had not been arrested and prosecuted over the years. Also, how would Nigerians recognize illegal checkpoints to inform the IGP of their existence? Furthermore, we observe that this would not be the first and the last time that such directives had emanated from the office of the IGPs in Nigeria. Partial obedience only lasts for two months at least before the status quo is revived, sustained, and utilised with much more vigor.
THEREFORE, beyond rhetorics and proclamations that are characteristic of new IGPs, there is the need to give actions to instructions, and ensure that ‘PoS’ checkpoints are truly removed. Instead of wood and blocks roadblocks, why not construct proper police posts, mounts and identifiable idiosyncratic structures (as the military) to show the authenticity of checkpoints (not roadblocks). In this vein, the onus is on the IGP and the Police Service Commission to work in unity, and also develop a funding system that would sustain the operations of the various Police Units that had hitherto depended on ‘roadblock funding’.
WE also wish that the IGP should realise that the rot in the Police is not restricted to roadblocks. The IGP would also need to beam his searchlight, develop executable policies in the areas of recruitment, training, transfers, provision of dignifying uniforms, accommodation, eradication of bribery, corruption and police brutality. The former Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had also warned that corruption would always fight back. So, the IGP and Nigerians should expect and prepare for reactions against this ‘revenue preventing’ policy of the IGP. In the past, there had been revolting resurgence of criminality at the removal of illegal exploitative police posts.
WE cannot dismiss with a wave of hand the allusions of conspiracy theorists who affirm that upsurge in criminality is traceable to the Police Force itself. The case of Iyamu during the days of Anini, and others readily come to mind. A force that is legally poised to fight criminality is expected to perform more efficiently with the removal of illegalities, and so resurgence in crime should be perceived by the IGP as ‘corruption fighting back’ rather than the justification for continual exploitative illegality.
WHILE we applaud the provision of Complaint Response Units (CRU) for complaints and information, we also reiterate that unless the Police remain friendly, and confidential in their relations with Nigerians, the gathering of local intelligence, information and spies may remain at low ebb. We therefore conclude that with diligence, truth and commitment, good civil relations, and political will, the Police Force may still metamorphose into a true security outfit for hapless and law abiding Nigerians.