On the 9th of October, 2020, two radio presenters of the popular radio station in Lagos, Nigeria Info, were doing their normal job of discussing trending events across Nigeria. This time around, they touched on the massive #EndSARS protest which is targeted at the proscribed rogue unit of the Nigeria Police Force named the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS. A unit that grew unmonitored over the years, until it became worse than the problem it was created to solve.
The talk show recorded one of its biggest hits when a brave policewoman broke all protocols, to make explosive revelations about the poor salaries and living conditions of her colleagues.
The policewoman on the condition of anonymity revealed the bitter truth about the NPF which politicians are running away from, due to the huge sacrifices of solving it. Our quick solutions are synonymous with a case of giving just paracetamol to a patient who is dying of malaria. She centred the major problem of the NPF around poor remuneration. According to her, she joined the NPF 17 years ago on merit, while some of her mates spent over N100,000 as the year 2003 to get the job. She swore never to collect bribes, but she appears to be regretting that decision today.
She is a Lagos-based sergeant and earns a monthly salary of N53,000. She can't send her children to a good school and she stands the risk of being homeless, due to her inability to pay house rent. She has been owing her landlord for the past two years. She added that she struggles to feed her children well and also wear good clothes.
"I live in Ikotun and I work in Ikeja. If I am going to transport myself down every day, how much will remain within a week?" the unnamed woman asked.
"And these are the people you give guns to, they will misuse it" she added.
The woman emphasized that the meagre salary has become the albatross of the police force. According to the woman's postulation, the system was corrupting the security operatives. She stated that improved salaries for police officers as well as severe penalties for the erring officials would help fix the police force. The woman was bold enough to demand a debate of sort with Frank Mba, the Public Relations Officer of the NPF.
She painted the police job as a duty of pains, hardship and gnashing of teeth. In her words:
"None of us is enjoying. None of us is happy. We are only managing. A lot of people will say there are people that are not collecting up to that salary, and yet they are still living, they are still surviving, but do they have guns with them? They don't have guns. They don't have iron in their hands. One on one, you can beat them (police) without guns. But when they have guns with themselves, they can do anything. You can't live in the barracks, you can't raise your children in the barracks. I don't want to raise my children in the barracks. That was why I rented an apartment outside but unfortunately, now, I can't even pay. Since 17 years in the service, no vehicle, no land, no house of my own and I have 18 years more to go. The organization is created to make Nigerians poor" she lamented on air.
The woman concluded that she wants to join SARS as that is the cash-cow of the NPF. She is even ready to pay for a slot. SARS officials who have turned the oppressors of the common man are the top achievers within the police force. And where do they make their monies from? The answer isn't farfetched. It is from the incessant harassment of innocent citizens and collaboration with criminals. This is the mentality of citizens of a failing state where citizens now parasitically rely on their neighbours for survival. Even in the animal kingdom, animals do eat up themselves in the event of famine. These are natural behaviours exhibited by living things to survive certain circumstances.
Every man is selfish. A man will naturally seek self-preservation first before considering others. The needs of man are insatiable and he loves to acquire properties even to the detriment of those around him. But when a state monopolizes the use of force, the excesses of man are checked.
According to the renowned English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, man in the state of nature was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” In the state of nature, security is impossible for anyone, and the fear of death dominates every aspect of life. The state of nature is a "war of all against all," in which human beings constantly seek to destroy each other in an incessant pursuit for power, Hobbes explained.
Even though our powers have been submitted to the Leviathan (government) through a social contract, man still retains those natural attributes. The state which comprises of laws and constituted authorities only contain those excesses of men to the barest minimum. Since the structure of the NPF is lax, coupled with a leadership vacuum in the entire country, good men were turned into monsters. SARS isn't the problem as I have always said. SARS is just one of the symptoms of a major ailment that has turned Nigeria into a sleeping giant.
The Nigeria Police Force can't be reformed that easily. At least, not in our lifetime. The President knows this. The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu also knows this. Positive change is incremental and we can't skip the processes. But what do you do in the face of intense public pressure? As a smart man, you have to pretend to work to calm the nerves of the people. The Special Anti Robbery Squad, SARS was dissolved and just a few days after, the IGP announced the formation of the Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT), to replace the rogue unit. Same old wine in a new bottle! This seems like a story we have heard before. NEPA also became PHCN before the exploitative DISCOs took over and supplied more darkness than light.
The protesters are in high spirits and it looks as if the youth are awake for the anticipated revolution. But wait a minute, what can be achieved at the end of the day? My eyes are focused on the bigger picture. Like I have always told those that care to listen, this is a cul-de-sac. It is a problem you wish could go away naturally because you have no answer to it. There is no hope. Like the maverick entertainer, Charles 'Charly Boy' Oputa said, 'criminals can't reform criminals'
The SARS operatives and other bad eggs in the police force are mere victims of a failed system. They are human beings fighting for survival too but doing it the worst way possible. While they inflict undue pains and make people cry, the police also cry.
Writen by Osayimwen Osahon George
Email: [email protected]