Many patriots concerned about our rapid dip in morality and the abandonment of the rule of law believe the British are gone too soon. Some theorize that maybe if our independence, achieved on a gold platter, had been delayed for another 20 years, we would still have been on the right track. If we had gained independence in 1980, roughly three generations of Nigerians would have come under the tutelage of the primitive and appropriate Britons rather than a single generation.
And maybe respect for the rule of law could have been so engraved in our national psyche, they reason.
Now, our plight has passed the level of lamentation. What we should aim for, after identifying the cause (s) of our problems, is to come up with a way out.
Most importantly, our capacity to fight crime and enforce justice is strengthened.
At the height of the EndSARS protest, I wrote that the Nigerian Police, with the motto: “The Police Are Your Friend”, whose mission is “to make Nigeria safer and more secure for economic development and growth ; create a safe environment for all who live in Nigeria and build a friendly police force that will respect and defend the basic rights of all citizens. But is the Force friendly? Do its agents care about our rights?
The Nigerian police have done their best to be accepted by Nigerians as a selfless institution. He created a great motto and at one point even changed his name by force of circumcision, but apparently he stuck. Happy to use force, he often never pretends to be a friend, even earning himself the nickname “Kill and Go”, especially when the Police Mobile Force (PMF) was in vogue.
Even though many innocent citizens have died at his hands, the Nigerian police have been wonderfully successful in solving crimes that at times one wonders if they are using magic. In addition to excelling in international missions, they have resolved many seemingly hopeless cases at home.
This despite the known fact that police in Nigeria are underpaid, under-trained, under-equipped and underestimated. The welfare of the average police officer is appalling as the big guns of the force convert the funds provided for personal use, urging their juniors to “bide your time.”
But the rot in the police force is beyond SARS. It is fundamental, historical, institutional, traditional as well as cultural that only education (training is part of education) can improve them and save our country from their atrocities. In the first place, the main reason the colonialists established the police was to protect British economic and political interests and the police did this by brutally subjugating indigenous communities through the use of violence, repression and use excessive force.
Nigerian rulers who succeeded the colonialists continued to use the police in the same way. Thus, all ministers, legislators, entrepreneurs, their wives, children, girlfriends, businesses, residences, etc., all have adequate police protection while our communities and our streets do not have enough.
Although it is a Nigerian phenomenon for anyone wearing a uniform of any shade to be a tyrant, the police officer must be educated to know that the personal safety and well-being of every Nigerian is his or her first duty. , and not the other way around as has been the case most times. His loyalty is above all to the Nigerian constitution, not to an individual. He must be humane, law-abiding, conscientious and respectful of people. But their bosses (of course there are excellent ones) must be fair to the institution and their subordinates by dropping the mantra: “Beware your time.”
Again, it’s not just a question of salary. A poor mind will always want more, regardless of the amount of their take home pay. Coupled with education, the welfare of the police must also be considered. What comes out now, from the training school, can only produce frustrated individuals. He should not be allowed to risk his life for us while the state treats him with contempt.
Next, we need to improve our intelligence gathering methods. There was a time when our police’s criminal investigation department was famous for its many successful feats. Likewise, the State Service Department always does a tremendous job. I know this because the DSS played a major role in the decimation of Boko Haram members living in the cities.
Maybe what remains is to resurrect our information gathering abilities because apart from technology human intelligence (HUMINT) collecting via saddle pigeons etc cannot be overstated.
Our judicial system and its ability to render timely, fair and equitable judgments in cases involving the strong and the weak must be improved. Timely judgment delivery takes care of case deadlocks. Cases that demand attention overwhelm the courts because of their laborious nature. Some cases may take years or even decades before they can be excluded.
There must also be the slightest interference in the administration of justice. When the executive stops a case by prosequi or outright tells the judge not to deal with a case, or even deliberately refuses to attend the proceedings, must stop.
We have seen how criminals who break the laws of the land are given a soft landing. There are cases where governments “forgive” those who have taken up arms against the state. They are insurgents who massacred, mutilated, and burnt down public and private property. Forgiving them when nothing is done to alleviate the pain of those they have injured, or their families in civilian populations and in uniform, sends the wrong signal.
Next, which may be the last part of this treatise, we will look at the role of leadership in entrenching the rule of law in a country. We will also try to suggest what kind of leadership is right for us as a diverse nation and perhaps a leader who may be capable.