Is it a sign of change sweeping through the Nigeria Police or just chance happenings? In recent months, the hierarchy of the police has carried out activities or pronouncements that suggest cracking at the much talked about institutional decay in the service. These may not be that fundamental in relation to the problems on the ground but they do send symbolic messages that can also not be ignored. Or, is it too early to say?
On December 6th, 2016, the News Agency of Nigeria, (NAN) reported Ibrahim Idris, Inspector-General of Police (I-G) himself as disclosing the arrest of a number of suspects in connection with sexual abuse of inmates of IDP camps in the north-east. And the list included three soldiers, an Air Force personnel, an official of the Prison Service, two of the Civilian JTF members, a staff of the Borno State Ministry for Agriculture and two of its own men. For once, sacred cows got touched and announced by the IGP himself, suggesting that this cannot be swept under the carpet if rape is established. Right! Could this be because the IG is acting on orders of the president?
But even then, there is still significance or symbolism there when linked to what follows. A November 23rd, 2016 report in ThisDay under the headline “Police Parade Nine Officers, 45 Others for Alleged Kidnapping, Armed Robbery” goes as follows: The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) yesterday paraded nine Police officers and 45 other suspected criminals for alleged kidnapping, stealing and conspiracy. Parading the 54 suspects at the Force Headquarters in Abuja, the Force Public Relations Officer, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Donald Awunah, said the suspected police officers included: ASP Yuguda Abbah, Sgt Habila Sarki, Diphen Nimmyel, Sgt Yasan Danda, Sgt Abbas Mailalle, Sgt Bwanason Tanko, Sgt Donan James, Corporal Idris Salisu and CPL Zakari Kofi. According to him, the nine suspects have been tried in house and sacked from the Force, adding that they were found guilty of unprofessional conduct, involvement in cattle rustling, robbery and kidnapping in the North-east. Awunah said interrogation and confessions of the dismissed policemen led to the arrest of principal suspects and recovery of many arms and ammunition from them.
And, in September, in the aftermath of an Amnesty International’s report that clobbered the Police Service for torture, the Inspector-General of Police (I-G) came up with the pronouncement to the effect that “You have to correct this impression .This is a new beginning to give the nation a new anti-robbery squad. You don’t have the right to take life of anybody or change civil offence to criminal offence”. Well, these are mere words but it is words that create reality
One temptation is to take a biopolitics view of Amnesty International and say that, along with other international governmental and non-governmental bodies, it audits the Nigerian State along neoliberal governance and refuse to co-operate or even be hostile to it. The other temptation is to say that this is the age of transnationalism and to risk uncritical engagement with Amnesty International’s reports and unintended consequences they might embody in certain circumstances. So far, it seems that the ‘new’ Police has overcome or might be overcoming the temptations if what, again, the IGP said also in the heat of the September Amnesty International’s report on torture: Mr. Idris said the human rights groups would be involved in the training of SARS operatives, adding that an intelligence unit would be created for the unit”.
As with international human rights bodies, so is it with the media in the sense that many want to shut it out or entice it, all of which have implications in terms of the production of security. Now, the IGP has been reported as urging “the media to request a visit to the various detention facilities and make their report”. This is in addition to a section of an Amnesty International’s report which recorded as follows: In November, the Inspector General of Police announced the creation of a Complaints Response Unit and a reform initiative for the SARS, in response to public concerns about alleged violations by police officers across the country”
The Test Case
The coming Xmas and New Year holidays might prove a test case of this rather sociologically sympathetic assessment. What the police do to road users will be about the most open testimonial for their acceptance or rejection of what the IGP is saying. As far as the season is concerned, what he has specifically said to his officers and men, (no women?) is “You should ensure that no hardship is created for citizens of Nigeria, try and ease movements on the roads” </br>