Wednesday, July 17, 2013

We are our Police Force

There is a police officer that controls traffic on a road I drive. With his police hat on, he looks like he is in his thirties. Sometime ago, as I drove by, he removed the hat and I realized that he could not be more than 23 or 24 years old and I wondered why such a young lad would join the police force.The Nigerian Police is the most reviled organization in Nigeria. Everyone loves to hate the Police. The reason for this hatred lies at the feet of the Police. Yet, it is not their fault.The Nigerian Police is a microcosm of our society. Their corruption, failings, befuddled thinking, ineptitude and lack of direction is a reflection of what we are as a people.The Police Force states her  objectives as:
-       Protecting the lives and property of fellow citizens and impartially enforce the law
-      Fighting crime both by preventing it and by aggressively pursuing violators of the law
-      Maintaining a higher standard of integrity than is generally expected of others because so much is expected of us
-      Valuing human life, respect the dignity of each individual and render our services with courtesy and civility
Of course the Police has not met any of these objectives because the foundation of the Nigerian Police is flawed. In the First Republic, when regional police forces existed, they were used for political intimidation of opponents by the government in power. When the Military took over and unified the police force, the art  and science of policing was not developed. In fact, it deteriorated.  I would say that the military deliberately under developed the Police. Basic systems such as a comprehensive Police database, kitting, training and development of Police officers was (and is lacking). Our Police Force lacks proper intelligence and investigation skills; if you commit a crime in Epe and move to Badagry, you rest assured that you would never be caught but if you are innocent and are in the wrong place you may become a government ward. I recall the case of  a lady that was condemned to death because she befriended a cultist. If proper investigation was done, this lady had no reason to spend 12 years in Kirikiri Maximum Prison.  You can also walk into a Police Station and get a Police report for anything for N3000 ($20). 
The ease of recruitment into the Force is incredible. I recall the distant relative who joined the Force because there was nothing else. The unfortunate thing is that this guy may become a Commissioner of Police tomorrow with no interest and skills in the profession and a dangerous tool in the hands of a childish Executive. 
The failings of the Nigerian Police Force are endless. Nevertheless, things cannot remain the same. We need to recognize that the Police Force that we have is what we made them. This recognition should spur us to do better-better in rebuilding the foundation for a good police force. When the report on the appalling state of the police barracks ran, the government responded by censuring the officers who spoke to the press.That censure was the wrong message. The government should have used that opportunity to effect changes starting from the Police Barracks.
To solve our Police Problem, the government should have an intervention fund for the police. This fund should be for proper renovation (and not just painting) of Police stations and Barracks. The sign that welcomes you to a Police Station is “Police is your friend”. I don’t feel that friendship when I walk into a Police Station.
Apart from physical renovation, our Police officers have to re-trained. It may be difficult to straighten a bent crayfish but nothing is impossible. Our officers have to learn that 2+2 is not 5, that cases are not black and white and that the person who gets their story in first is not always right. If you think that the police scenes in movies are made for movies, wait until you engage a police officer.
After physical, systems and mental changes are made,economic and status motivations have to be put in place so that our police force attracts the “better” that may be developed to become the best.
Our Police Force would never be perfect- that is a tall order. However, they would no longer be toys for soldiers, errand boys for politicians and powerful and they would no longer brutalize we civilians for 20 naira or arrest us indiscriminately.
It is time to build the Police Force that we want.

Answers anyone?
Have you noticed the propaganda ads for Mrs Allison Madueke when you visit Nigeria sites? Forms of Oceania’s Ministry of Truth are springing up here

The Punch Newspapers has this story on the state of Nigeria's Police Force as at December, 2013. Sigh. 

Sunday, July 07, 2013

A "Problem" shared

I visited the Children Development Centre (CDC) and the Modupe Cole Memorial Child Care Centre (MDCMC) recently. At the CDC, I discovered great cookies, meat pies and affordable scented candles; at MDCMC I met a lady who painted with her legs.Teenagers and adults that suffer different stages of autism, mental retardation and learning disabilities made the cookies, pies and candles.
I left both centres impressed because in spite of their mental disabilities these students have found a purpose and are useful. However, that visit exposed me to an issue I did not know existed. As a people we hide under the everything-is-fine-banner. The Yoruba adage that “all lizards lie flat on their belly, you don’t know which one has an ache” is true. I learned that parents hid their children who suffered from these conditions from others because they are ashamed they birthed these children. At the center, I met a 38-year old who stepped outside her house for first time when she started at the Center. She was not the only one. That’s the story of most of the kids. At MDCMC, some of the kids have been abandoned there by their parents or guardians. Consequently, these kids are deprived of education and interactions outside their immediate family- who view them as a burden- or  emasculate them thereby increasing their dependency.
 The challenge with keeping up appearances is that it is emotionally, socially and financially draining. Conditions that may be ameliorated if parents and guardians spoke up and sought help are worsened. If therapy begins early, some children are able to catch up and live semi- normal lives. For instance, there is much hope for the year old baby at the center who has begun treatment. Even the 38 year old has been able to develop the mental abilities of a 4 year old.
 Coming out on these issues helps parents and guardians know that they are not alone and provides support from others who share the same conditions. Speaking up also helps  some of the kids with less severe cases while children that suffer more serious cases learn to become useful.
Parents and guardians should realize that they would not always be there for these kids and the kids may not get the kind of care they (parents) would give. Thus, it is in their best interests to plan for the financial and social future of these kids.  Exposing their kids would make others feel comfortable with them and would let the kids know that they are wanted and special.
There is no shame in having a child that has a developmental disability. You did not choose it, wish it or pray for it but like life's other challenges, rather than run or hide it is better to face it.
Kids who suffer disabilities may not live normal lives, nevertheless, they do not deserve to be hid. My visit to the two centers opened my eyes to the possibilities these children have. I am assured that when they close and go home at the end of the day, they go home with a sense of fulfillment. We all deserve to feel that way.