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By Law Mefor

This Friday, African Independent Television (AIT) aired two opposing press statements of the Nigeria Police and the Army regarding the Netizens’ 2024 slogan, “No Gree for Anybody.” The Police spokesman Olumuyiwa Adejobi issued a warning, stating that the slogan might cause the nation’s law and order to collapse.

He said, “We have been informed from our intelligence that this slogan is coming from a revolutionary sector that may likely cause problems across the country.”

On the other hand, the Army took up the slogan and used it to exhort Nigerians to rise against the banditry and terrorism that are destroying their nation. The Director of Defence Media Operations, Edward Buba, promised that the military would take action with citizens’ cooperation.

Hear him: “Make Nigerians no gree for terrorists this year. You see something, you say something and we assure them of doing something,” he said in pidgin.

To be quite honest, one had anticipated that the Police would be riding high on the slogan, much like the Army had, and encouraging the populace to use the term constructively, aid the Police in their efforts to rid the country of crime. Instead, it was the Army that seized the opportunity, and it was not surprising.

One perceives the slogan from a good standpoint. The slogan was created by the netizens to give them the courage to face the economic challenges head-on. Therefore, it is best seen as a motivational stunt by the young people of Nigeria to keep going despite crippling poverty, skyrocketing inflation, and rising unemployment.

There are moments when one questions why the Nigerian Police frequently view gatherings by Nigerians, particularly the younger generation, as dangerous. In civilised countries, the police are the most valuable social asset for the populace. Because of this, people in the West typically threaten to “call the police,” and when they do, the police show up to help them within minutes. Can Nigerians proudly do the same?

Due to their flawed policing philosophy, which has caused them to become estranged from Nigerian citizens, the Police have not yet attained that position in our country. For instance, the majority of Nigerians frequently lament that the country’s police force seldom answers their calls for help. The public complains that “Bail is free” is just for people who haven’t visited Nigerian police stations, and that our police typically show up long after armed robbery attacks. Numerous residents have complained that the police will occasionally just watch while people are robbed without taking any action. Money may influence the course of justice, as many claim that a person cannot even get their complaints investigated if they are unable to pay for the investigation.

So, not the slogan of the netizens, “No Gree for Anybody,” which they coined as a self-help, but the reason for the police’s indifference and officers’ bystander’s apathy should bother the police leadership, especially IGP Kayode Egbetokun. In the criminal justice system, Police dispassionate investigation and meticulous prosecution is a sine qua non.

The foundation of this flawed police mentality has its roots in the colonial past, which sowed the oppressive character of the Nigerian police. The Police were then employed by the colonial overlords as an instrument of repression to maintain the oppressive colonial rule over Nigerians. Very little has been done by Nigeria’s succeeding presidents to turn the Nigeria Police into a people’s force and civil organisation.

I’ve questioned several senior Nigerian law enforcement officials with whom I am acquainted why they are against renaming the Nigeria Police Force. My beef is with the name that ends in “Force,” and I want to know why. Just “Nigeria Police,” please. There isn’t a single civilised nation that I am aware of whose police department names itself “Force.”

Every name has a psychological connotation. People frequently live up to the connotations of their names, which is why some people decide to change their uninspiring or negatively charged names. Therefore, it seems to me that the Nigeria Police’s use of the word “Force” is the foundation of the oppressive mentality and attitude towards citizens, as well as how they handle their members.

The Police should cease acting as a “Force,” acting as though Nigeria were still under military rule or colonial rule. The police shouldn’t use force as a tactic making it compete with or emulate the military. A civilised society is mostly determined by the civility of its police, and using force to accomplish police tasks is not always necessary.

Additionally, policing under a democracy differs from policing during a dictatorship or military era. This gave rise to the idea of Democratic Policing, which has since gained traction and ought to be the main focus of the necessary reforms in the Nigeria Police, which IGP Kayode Egbetokun should also lead. The idea that public support and consensus underpin policing is the fundamental basis of democratic policing. Furthermore, police transparency and accountability are necessary for democratic policing. A democratic police is, in a major way, politically impartial. For instance, police are not supposed to take sides, or obstruct the course of justice. Equal law enforcement is the goal of a democratic society. Nigerians long for this kind of police and IGP Kayode Egbetokun should lead in providing it.

Eliminating the “Force” and sticking with the term “Nigeria Police”, as it is in Western countries, is a good place to start. The Nigeria Police Force will start the process of becoming a people’s police when the word “Force” is removed, which would also give greater credence to the adage “Police is your friend.” No one ever shakes hands with their fists clenched, as reformer Mahatma Gandhi once stated.

Every IGP before now has disagreed with the idea of community and state police. IGP Kayode Egbetokun sir: Will anything change?

It important to point out that Nigeria is a federation, and it is the only one of the 26 federalist nations in the world with a centralised police force. One always hears that Nigeria is not ready for state police and community police whenever the topic is brought up. According to this misguided reasoning, Nigeria is not yet ready for true federalism, of which state police are an essential component. Because of this mentality—a holdover from the lengthy military rule—Nigeria is a federated country with a unitary system.

More insecurity has resulted from forcing Nigeria to become a unitary state. Ungoverned areas in Nigeria are growing. Many areas of the nation have been overtaken by bandits and terrorists mostly as a result of the Nigeria Police’s shortcomings, which could have prevented them in their tracks and this is evident in the Nigeria Police structure, manpower, motivation and other factors. For example, Nigeria’s Police officers and men are only 371,800, who are expected to efficiently police 176,000 wards, 774 LGs, 36 states, and a federal capital territory. Since this is not feasible, the army is actively engaged in internal security operations, which are officially within the purview of the Nigeria Police.

A vast number of the Nigerian military has been diverted from their primary military responsibilities and assigned to domestic security operations due to the insufficiency of the country’s police force.

IGP Kayode Egbetokun only needs to accomplish these two things to write his name in gold: 1) Change the image and give the Nigerian Police a human face by treating the country’s young and populace as allies rather than as enemies, and 2) advocate for changes that would result in State Police and Community Police. Without democratic policing, civilianising Nigeria’s society and people will be impossible.

God bless Nigeria. God help the Nigerian Police. Say amen to that.

Dr. Mefor, an Abuja-based forensic and social psychologist, is a fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts; drlawmefor@gmail.com; Twitter: @Drlawsonmefor.

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