Towards responsible policing

The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is statutorily saddled with the responsibility of the internal security of Nigeria. While, over the years, it has exhibited an appalling lack of forthrightness and professionalism, recent developments provide greater cause for alarm than previously expressed. The NPF has been functioning as a biased umpire in matters concerning Fulani herdsmen and other Nigerians. Last week, the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, had cause to admonish the police to be honest with the facts of the invasion of privacy which Fulani herdsmen committed on his Abeokuta, Ogun State, property. The police had initially dismissed the news of the invasion, saying that the property wasn’t trespassed on. The Nobel Laureate however issued a statement that confirmed that his property was indeed invaded by the herdsmen and their herd. He said: “I thoroughly resent the police version which suggests that the cows never invaded my home. Home is not just a building; it includes its grounds. And it was not a stray cow, or two or three. It was a herd. We have photos, so why the lie? It is so unnecessary, unprofessional and suspiciously compromised.” Why would the police go to such a pernicious extent to protect herdsmen in a state that has a law criminalizing open grazing? As the Ogun State government reiterated recently, the anti-land grabbing law of the state has taken care of the contemporary challenges involving herdsmen and farmers.

In Delta State, as in many other places, the police have been accused of regularly exhibiting favouritism when matters concerning herdsmen crop up. The complaints of citizens regarding the atrocities unleashed by the herdsmen, including rape and murder, are either handled with kid gloves or denounced outright. It is a fact that many of the felons end up being released. Usually, the victims of these unwarranted aggressions bottle up their resentment and outrage, waiting for an opportune time to exact vengeance. That is not the kind of situation that the police cultivate in a state that aspires to grow and develop. There is something odious and reprehensible in a national security agency like the police becoming biased to the point of condoning killers. Being the first port of call in civil matters, the police can, and do easily make a travesty of complaints. With that kind of attitude, the whole justice system is doomed to failure ultimately. If the NPF does its job shoddily, the whole society suffers from the untold repercussions of the shoddiness and, needless to say, the cost is bound to be inestimable. It is time the police awoke to righteousness.

A forthright and professional police system is sine qua non to an effective justice system. The NPF as an institution is critical to curtailing the abatement of the security and other problems afflicting the country right now. But it cannot afford to be seen as a biased entity. There is no doubt that if it had carried out its duties conscientiously and professionally, the reign of terror imposed by herdsmen would have been significantly curtailed. If the NPF intends to be taken seriously and trusted by Nigerians, it should carry out its duties conscientiously and without favouritism.

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