So, it seems that Oshimohle and his cohorts wanted to bring the issue of state police back to the front burner, having lost out in the court of public opinion. And having failed in doing so, the opposition recently used the media to further tarnish the image of the police, a case of giving a dog a bad name in order to hang it.
We are talking here about the TV interview given to one of the murder suspects on a nation wide broadcast on one hand,and the expose' at the Police College, Ikeja, where the Academy's squalid conditions were beamed to viewers by the Channels Television. The import of that story is to portray the police in bad light, convey the message that federal government is incapable of national policing, in order to make a case for state police. That ploy is but a sponsored campaign against the Nigeria police despite the achievement it has been making under its new leadership.
From my own perspective, the report should have gone further to investigate why the Police College, and indeed the entire police, is as portrayed in such a bad state. Over the years, the police have been treated like an orphan, especially during successive military regimes. Past administrations did not only marginalise the police force, but also cannibalised it into tiny bits and pieces. For example, the Babangida administration created the Federal Roads Safety Commission(FRSC) in order to make our highways somewhat accident-free. This was a purely police function which the then administration seized and gave an autonomus commission.
Nigerians will recall that when the Abacha regime tried to merge FRSC with the police in 1997, all hell was let loose. Officers and men of the commission did not only protest the merger, most of them wanted to even resign.Significantly, the reason for the resistance was neither altruistic nor patriotic; it was purely selfish. At FRSC, the conditions of service and perks of office are far better than that of the police.
Similarly, the Obasanjo administration created the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission(ICPC) largely from the police. However, the officers of these agencies do not only enjoy much higher salaries than the police, their conditions of service are far better. The situation is such that regular policemen are jostling to be posted to these agencies. The Civil Defence Corps is another agency which is in charge of crowd control and management, a largely police function. The corps has not only been given all the paraphernalia of autonomy but it has become more attractive than the police.
At first glance it may seem that in the budget, the police receive a far higher allocation that the other bodies mentioned above. However, what is needed is to look at the fine print. The number of police whose salaries must be paid within that budget allocation far outnumbers those whose salaries are paid under other headings. And furthermore, if one examines the salaries of top officers of the other bodies as compared with that of police, it is easy to define which agency is being deprived in the budget.
The perpetrators should in addition know that the Nigeria police is under a ministry that controls its needs and expenditures to the last kobo. It is so strangulated by the ministry that it can not award its own contracts unless initiated and sanctioned by the Ministry.
Like many critics have argued, the police have the capacity to perform more than their present capacity. If the government had empowered them, gotten them more communication equipment and gadgets, as well as adequately trained the workforce both at home and abroad,the situation would have been better. Instead, the same government embarked on cannibalising the police into autonomous outfits.
Moreover, it has been argued in some quarters that government is doing this on purpose because a very professional and equipped police force is detrimental to the impunity of the ruling class. According to reports, the arming of the Civil Defence Corps is seen as a way of repositioning the para-military force in order to compromise the 2015 elections. The allegation may not be true but this is the perception in some quarters.
In conclusion, my advice to Oshiomole and his co-travellers is to allow due process to be followed in unraveling Oyerinde's murderers. And instead of disparaging the police or calling for a state police, he and his cohorts should seize the opportunity of the on going Constitution amendment to push their case. Making wild and unsubstantiated allegations are not only inimical to the investigation of the case and national security, it will also divert attention from the issues at stake.
-Gashash is the President, National Tranquility Movement (NTM)