A Caveman’s Paradise: The Privatisation of the Nigerian Police, By ‘Tope Fasua
My concern is that we are sinking in this country. This is not how to run a country. All the problems we are having with insecurity is largely due to the privatisation and commercialisation of the police, and security in general in Nigeria.
One of my favourite feel-good movies is titled Year One. Featuring fat man Jack Black, it is a parody of what may have happened in the beginning of time; the age of the Early Man. In the movie, Jack Black’s character is the lazy guy who can’t hunt wild animals and always has this ‘stupid’ idea that there is something better on the other side of the world, than their idyllic village. At some point he satisfies his curiosity and eats the forbidden fruit, is found out and all hell breaks lose in the village. The event I intend to point out happens when he is being prepared for sacrifice to the gods, for committing an unimaginable taboo. As the celebrations towards the human sacrifice wears on, one hut in the village catches fire. Everyone sees that the hut is on fire but shrugs it off because it isn’t their hut. Of course since huts are built with sticks and straws, the whole village is razed down in a matter of minutes and they all become homeless.
That is the description of primitiveness. A telling tale for the way Nigerians reason today.
When I was in university, we learnt as much in Sociology 101. We compared primitive and modern societies. Apart from the inability to plan for collective living, or for the future, and to see the big picture, some of the distinctions between these two types of societies include the fact that primitive societies indulge in vagueness and ‘anyhow-ness’, while modern societies embrace precision and standards. Another is that modern societies document things (history, events etc), while primitive societies don’t botherwith such. Nigeria is resembling a primitive society more and more these days.
Look at the case of Dino Melaye, the guy who has vowed to set the most infamous records in Nigeria’s Senate. One day during his lucid intervals, he went with some of his colleagues to the Nigerian Customs headquarters and picked a big quarrel with the comptroller general for not coming down to the ground floor to receive them. They hadn’t gone for a courtesy call but for oversight, which is supposed to be their routine work. It’s like bank auditors asking that the MD should come and meet them as they alight from their cars. These senators are not satisfied with professionally doing their work but have to humiliate any and everyone who comes in contact with them in the process. This kind of behaviour only happens in a primitive society. Neanderthals and early men who lived in caves in primitive societies were more concerned with drawing rank. Again, the ‘do-you-know-who-I-am’ syndrome is the very death of Nigeria. I was even more shocked at how some of my friends supported Dino’s action and were talking of ‘protocol’ when I shared the story on Facebook. In Buhari’s Nigeria, simplicity is no longer a virtue. The discipline and orderliness we expected from him, we never got; instead we got government by impunity and mediocrity. My greatest fear is that after the demystification of Citizen Buhari, hardly will any leader be able to control the mess that Nigeria has become, and will still degenerate into – that is even if the country remains one. We shall see.
But back to the issue of primitive societies and the failure to understand collectivism.
So an assistant commissioner of police cannot walk alone anymore but must have a retinue of policemen in tow? So a DPO needs more than an ‘orderly’ just to go visit his concubine? This IG is particularly problematic. He it was who cavalierly justified his sexual access to officers under his command.
Just as some of my friends supported Dino’s immature arrogance, some others supported another absurd story from the stables of Nigeria’s social media. It was the case of a connected lady (I hear she is the wife of a MOPOL commander), who went to Poly Plaza – one of Abuja’s old, nondescript malls. She went there with at least five heavily-armed gun-toting mobile policemen. They shut down the plaza because ‘oga’s’ wife (or girlfriend or whoever she is) wanted to make her hair. Other incensed neighbours had to take a few pictures to share on social media. Some of the commenters on social media dismissed the hoopla and said they would purchase even more policemen to protect themselves from kidnappers. They justified why a single person needed a battalion of policemen, trained with Nigeria’s collective taxpayers’ money, with guns purchased with taxpayers’ funds, to protect themselves, while the rest of society goes to the dogs – all under a government that we thought would reset us, and which daily boasts of its profound achievements for Nigeria.
As I was putting this article together though, I came across a story that a mobile police chief was kidnapped in Katsina State. In another incidence where a DPO (divisional police officer)n was kidnapped in his home state, Niger, the inspector general of police, Ibrahim Idris had this to say:
“We must take the protection of our officers seriously. We have a problem; two days ago, one of our DPOs was kidnapped. How can you be a DPO, you have all the policemen under your Command and then you start driving as if you don’t have anybody… You allow the useless kidnappers to pick you and your orderly; it is very embarrassing. We had the same issue in Zamfara State where an ACP going on leave travelled alone. It is embarrassing… Utilise the men you have and you must protect yourself first. You can only protect others when you are protected because you are a target.”
From the above statement, the mindset of Nigeria’s police, and by extension our rulers (don’t call them leaders please), is very clear to see. Whereas self-preservation is a natural law, but when it is elevated to a national policy among those who have access to what belongs to all of us, and freely voiced out like this, such a society is in trouble. So an assistant commissioner of police cannot walk alone anymore but must have a retinue of policemen in tow? So a DPO needs more than an ‘orderly’ just to go visit his concubine? This IG is particularly problematic. He it was who cavalierly justified his sexual access to officers under his command.
The thorn in the flesh of the police is of course one of their own, Senator Misau. He has alleged that there is a certain N10 billion being pocketed monthly in the personal protection racket by the police top echelon, which has not been able to wash itself clean. Instead what we had was harassment. The question will always be asked: What becomes of all the billions paid by banks, oil companies, telecoms firms and other respectable companies, politicians, 419ers, and sundry people, who now benefit from the services of Nigerian police, while the people are totally deprived? Do we not now see how Nigeria has reversed into the Dark Ages, even at a time when other countries are powering into a glorious future? When our big men get up and go, at the drop of a hat, to foreign countries, have they ever wondered why they enjoy the ambience and tranquility of those countries? Do they think we here in Nigeria don’t deserve a bit of that? What is life when you go around with guns and live in fear? What is there to enjoy? Maybe I’m naive. I have been asked to go and look for ‘police protection’, and buy a bullet proof car (the person does not know that one costs at least N150 million!). By God’s grace, I would never live that kind of life. This country must change. We have had enough of non-leadership already. Our leaders should be stopped henceforth from further plunging us into darkness of the mind. Didn’t James Michener once say that an Age was Called Dark, not because the light refused to shine, but because people refused to see it? Nigerian rulers seem to have vehemently refused to see the light. They have signed a pact with darkness – physically and otherwise.
If all state governors have 221 policemen each dedicated to them, how much do others have, in this great caveman’s man’s nirvana? Recall that it is said that Nigerian Police has about 370,000 men but I have used 450,000 in my analysis just to be generous and to accommodate new recruitments.
The reason why I wrote this article is to find out just how many policemen are available to ordinary Nigerians in a country where we have carried capitalism too far; where money dictates how much police protection you have or if at all, irrespective of the kind of work you do; where it doesn’t matter if you are a criminal, your money dictates how much police protection you are availed.
I take my cue from the response by Mr. Jimoh Moshood, the Nigerian Police HQ spokesman; words he uttered in response to Governor Willie Obiano’s complaint that his police protection was withdrawn on the eve of Anambra’s last election. Hear Jimoh;
“Obviously, the total number of two hundred and twenty one (221) police personnel attached to His Excellency, Chief Willie Obiano, governor of Anambra State is more than the strength of some Police Area Commands in some states of the country.”
When I saw the above statement months ago, I realised that I would have to extrapolate or bootstrap the remaining figures. In the land of secrecy, when you get such a honest statement of fact, you hold on to it. If all state governors have 221 policemen each dedicated to them, how much do others have, in this great caveman’s man’s nirvana? Recall that it is said that Nigerian Police has about 370,000 men but I have used 450,000 in my analysis just to be generous and to accommodate new recruitments. A 2012 report has it that 107,000 Nigerian policemen are ghosts, and since every regime discovers hundreds of thousands of ghost workers but never seem to get rid of them permanently, I have retained the numbers for ghost policemen.
Below is my own humble estimation of the distribution of policemen in Nigeria. I believe I have been conservative. I had concluded when I realised I did not add the policemen attached to commissioners and board chairmen at state levels but I think readers should exercise their own imagination in critiquing my writeup. I could be wrong, but I doubt very much. My concern is that we are sinking in this country. This is not how to run a country. All the problems we are having with insecurity is largely due to the privatisation and commercialisation of the police, and security in general in Nigeria.
Police Discover 107,000 Ghost Officers (2012). Retrieved from; http://www.nairaland.com/569184/police-discover-107000-ghost-officers
370,000 Policemen to 170million Nigerians Grossly Insufficient – Lawmaker. Retrieved from: http://dailypost.ng/2015/08/11/370000-policemen-to-170-million-nigerians-grossly-insufficient-lawmaker/
Egba, J (2017). 221 Policemen for Governor Obiano is Sheer Madness. Pulse. Retrieved from; http://www.pulse.ng/news/local/handing-governor-obiano-221-police-officers-is-sheer-madness-id7613300.html
Ukpong, C (2017). Police Assigns 221 Policemen to Protect Gov Obiano. Premium Times. Retrieved from; https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/249621-police-assigns-221-officers-protect-gov-obiano.html