Disgrace Of The Beret

by Charles U. Ofoefule

The provision of security for lives and properties is an age long practice that has remained indelible for many centuries. In fact, it has become an integral part of human existence in every society irrespective of its culture, size or location.

There is so much panic among the people whenever there is a perception that the state cannot provide adequate security for its citizenry. This has resulted in every community developing a means of providing security for its citizenry.

In Nigeria, the body responsible for the security of lives and properties is the Nigerian Police Force (NPF). With its establishment in 1955 and as an executive arm of the government, the Nigerian Police Force gave its mission statement as “to deliver qualitative and effective security and law enforcement services to the citizens of Nigeria.”

Similarly, the Police Mobile Force, PMF (popularly referred to as Mobile Police or MOPOL), stated that its mission was: “the creation of a safer and more secure environment conducive for meaningful socio-economic development.”

Today, the level of insecurity, crime rate and social disorder clearly shows that there has been an excessive derailment on the part of the NPF and PMF in achieving their mission. Some might wonder if we still have a truly functional police force in Nigeria.

The extent of rot and institutional decay in the NPF is ineffable; the influences and consequences of corruption in our society have smitten Nigeria with many dysfunctions and anomalies. The Nigerian Police Force has been so characterized with bribery and corruption that it is now a ‘normal practice’ to give or collect bribes. With facial expressions devoid of any iota of shame or conviction, police men openly demand and accept bribes on the highway and metropolis.

We have heard of numerous cases of ‘ROB’: Returns of Bribery- where junior police officers pay certain percentages of all collected bribes to some of their superior officers. Sometimes I wonder the ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission) has not commenced a campaign against men of the NPF for their open display and practice of corruption.

According to international highway standards, in order to maintain the specified speed limits and for free flow of traffic, there ought not obstructions on the highways. However, in Nigeria, the reverse is the practice. In cases where such obstructions to traffic are not caused by bad roads, they are most times voluntarily caused by men and women of the NPF.

The Highway patrol and Mobile police units charged with the responsibility of keeping watch on our highways have inadvertently transformed these roads to an auxiliary source of earning.
It is not uncommon to observe two or three police road-blocks or check-points along every 15Km span on major Nigerian highways. Thus, for a typical journey from Lagos to Benin, a distance of about 320Km, one would expect not less than 20 different check-points. From Aba to Port Harcourt, a distance of 130Km, experiencing less than 7 check points is merely a day dream.

The road blocks have become police hotspots for collecting bribes, illegal tariffs and ultimately bringing disgrace to the beret. Many commercial bus drivers have tagged the money demanded by the ‘almighty’ policemen as the ‘compulsory offering’ they must pay.

Owing to the numerous encounters of road blocks on our express roads, many foreigners on visit have thought that Nigeria is undergoing some kind of war, riot or civil unrest whereas technically, Nigeria is in a time of peace. The barracks have become so uncomfortable, the metropolis and municipal areas for patrol have become unbearable for the policemen. Our highways have become a safe haven for their disgraceful acts. It might interest you o know that their unlawful mission on these roads are immune to time or adverse weather conditions. Come day, night, sun, rain, or wind, men of the Nigerian Police Force have demonstrated so much resilience and determination to succeed in their dirty and shameless practices on our highway. One might ponder – ‘where have they kept their dignity, self respect and sense of service?

In situations where men of the underworld surface to carry out nefarious deeds on these highways, one would expect that a swift and effective counter action would come from the NPF, at least considering the number of road block and check points. On the contrary, you would scarcely find men of the Nigerian Police Force, Mobile Police or Highway patrol moving into swift action. Once again, the victims of their inactions are the average Nigerians, who not being able to defend themselves, are left at the mercy of heartless and merciless criminals. Many Nigerians have paid dearly with their lives, others have lost irreplaceable sums and goods worth millions of Naira, and very many have sustained injuries of varying magnitudes in the hands of highway robbers, gangs, armed bandits and gunmen.

It would be total exaggeration if I say that ‘all’ men of the Nigerian Police Force, Highway patrol and Mobile Police are corrupt. I must point out here that not all the men in uniform and beret indulge in these disgraceful acts. There are still genuine Christians and Muslims among them. However, a truth that cannot be overlooked is that the light of goodness that projects from the honorable and incorrupt cops is largely insufficient to illuminate he thick darkness caused by the corrupt practices of numerous police men and women who constantly bring shame and disgrace o the beret. In the face of the general public, they are all corrupt, no exceptions whatsoever. Nigerians have lost confidence in the credibility of its Police Force. Sometimes, there is a weird look on people’s face when they realize that one has a parent or relative who is in the police force. As a result of how they have brought shame and disgrace to the uniform at large, there is little or no glory in being referred to as a policeman.

In a move to improve its public relations and gain back the confidence and trust of Nigerians, the Nigerian Police Force shortly after the turn of the new millennium, birthed the ‘Crime Fighter’– a weekly TV program which got wide air play on most TV stations across the nation.
Weekly, while suspects who have faulted the law in diverse ways and varying magnitudes were paraded on air, the rich rogues and political criminals remained unexposed, still freely perpetrating their evil deeds. In the end, the NPF succeeded in creating an illusion aimed at making Nigerians believe that they were living up to expectation. This was a falsehood that was so short-lived because barely few years, after its creation, the crime fighters program faded away.

Prevailing events across many states of the federation still paints the real but sad picture of their incompetence, illicit and illegal practices.

Daily reports by media houses and other news agencies clearly show that the level of Insecurity in Nigeria is alarming and crime rate is nothing to write home about. It is evident that the mission statement of the Nigerian Police Force and Police Mobile Force are far from being achieved. They have proven to be ‘Mission Impossible’. Imagine a police force with over 65% bad eggs hoping to achieve a good hatch.

Indeed, corruption has seriously eaten deep into the Nigerian cavity; corruption has become institutionalized. Most times I doubt if reforms and overhaul of the police force would achieve desired results. Going by the extent of institutional rot, it might be practically impossible to have a true rebirth of the Nigerian Police Force.

Constantly, Nigerians ply different metropolitan roads and highway across the nation; we still encounter an open display and practice of bribery, corruption and oppression by shameless and dishonorable men of the NPF.

Their unrepentant behavior overtime suggests that they have sworn and pledged faithfulness and loyalty in remaining in their pool of corruption. It is an absolute case of continued decay and disgrace of the beret.

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