Professional workplace hazards go often underappreciated, especially when you operate in a space where the difference between life and death is a split second. If after watching the video of the bank robbery which occurred at Wetheral Road, Owerri, Imo State and seeing how things have panned out following the unfortunate occurrence, and you still blame the Nigeria Police for taking to their heels when they hear the sound of gunshots, without even sighting the robbers, then you need to have a rethink. It is only an insane man who would chest out and wait for a hail of bullets, knowing that there is no reparation for the aftermath – family and loved ones left in a hopeless state.
It is common to castigate members of the Nigeria Police who decide to take to their heels when they see a criminal gang in action. At other times, they arrive late to the scene of crime long after the perpetrators had made away with their loot. They are often not spared of scathing remarks by the society because most times, they are not alive to their duties in combating crime which is what they signed up for.
Over the years, the police have been ranked as the most vilified public institution after the defunct National Electric Power Authority. But that anger has been redirected towards the police after the privatisation of the power ministry. The men and women whose responsibility it is to protect the lives and property of Nigerians and to combat crime have earned a reputation for being corrupt, exploitive and ineffective.
Mounting roadblocks and collecting money from passersby have become their cherished hobbies. The renewal of pronouncements by different Inspectors-General has done little or nothing to dissuade the men in black from this heinous act.
Sadly, the emolument of an average cop is a pittance. Their living spaces called police barracks are glorified slums, uninhabitable for people who are supposed to put their lives on the line to serve and protect. The complainant is often harassed to cater and provide the logistics for handling a case – criminal or civil. There is no dignity in the force as the officers are no better than errand boys and tools in the hands of the highest bidder to pervert the course of justice at times or harass innocent members of the public. The famous police raids and the attendant “crime” of wandering are very strong pointers to how low the force has sunk. The question then is, what is the life of a cop worth?
The CCTV footage and the commendable crowd funding initiative of The Punch showcase the fact that we still have a few gallant ones. Sergeant Chukwudi Iboko would have joined the long list of Nigeria’s unsung heroes, who have laid down their lives for the safety of others; and his wife would remain in perpetual debt with the children angry at the callousness of the state.
But for the lead by the newspaper and social activists, the police could not have done any remarkable thing for the families of the slain cops. Credit must however be given to the bank for the decision to grant scholarship to Iboko’s children, while also giving monthly allowances to the affected families.
But are these models sustainable? Iboko is neither the first and won’t be the last policeman to be fallen by the bullets of bandits. Would the media and other activists always raise funds for them? It is worrisome that such an occupation with the high level of hazard does not have any form of insurance. Yes, the Nigeria Police does not have life insurance for its members.
The police are a classic example of “monkey dey work, baboon dey chop”, as the junior officers are sent on those arduous and life-threatening tasks while the high ranking echelon, “who have paid their dues” take the glory with little or no credit to the “slaves of death”.
Little wonder, a majority of the men and women who are recruited into the force are not driven by the passion for the job nor are they motivated by the creed to protect lives and property. Unemployment has pushed many to apply for the role, while there are many others who are there to protect and line their own pockets or cover their past heinous acts.
In a bid to keep body and soul together and leave something for their families, bribery, extortion, mounting of illegal roadblocks, sale of arms to men of the night, robbery, among other vices have come to define the force. While this writer does not support these untoward acts, it is unseemly to expect excellence from rejected stones, bearing in mind the critical nature of their work.
We need to create a viable and sustainable plan to cater for these kinds of incidents. As it is currently, the police do not have a well-defined compensation plan for their officers who are brutalised or killed in the line of duty. We must make this line of our national anthem count: “The labours of our heroes (past) shall never be in vain.”
- Yinka Adeosun, Ondo, Ondo State
Contact: [email protected]