Monday, 9 November 2015

The Only Way The Police Can Be Our Friend Is...

Road law enforcing officers (police), in Nigeria who are supposed to be our friends have ironically been tagged as a menace to society. Words such as incompetent, angry and corrupt are most often used when describing them. They either harass or take petty bribes from road users and have lost public confidence. But in light their infamous reputation, i believe they are one of the most misunderstood people in Nigeria. Are they really the ones to blame for not being "your friend", or do we blame the government responsible for making them friendly?A lot of people are quick to judge them but fail to realize why they are the way they are in the first place. 

Here are a few key facts about the road law enforcing agencies and the average road law enforcer that you may or may not know:
-The average personnel earns between N20,000 and N30,000 every month  
- They family of the personnel have no life insurance claims if he dies in the line of duty
- No healthcare or welfare benefits for the either the personnel or his family 
- The personnel works 10-12 hours every day
Even without a family or prior commitments, anyone seeing these few facts will agree that they do not provide enough incentive to join the force or be friendly to civilians, especially when the job description involves putting his life in harm’s way on a daily basis.  

Apart from the unimpressive facts and figures, the bureaucracy that goes on within the helms of the forces makes it near impossible for the average personnel to be promoted and climb up the ladder. Which means he can be stuck being a traffic warden indefinitely, without reaching a fraction of his true potential...(would you be happy being stuck at a job position potentially all through your career?)

The officers live in squalor within and outside the barracks. They live and go to work for years from broken-down vehicles, uncompleted buildings and garages, lacking electricity and other basic amenities- all of which is capable of making one to lose his sanity and happiness
A police barracks in Lagos

We often wonder why the road officials are the way they are but i believe it is as a result of a natural predisposition- survival instinct- We are all born with the natural predisposition to do whatever it takes to survive, which includes making money in the most degrading and undignified manner. There is no doubt they know their actions are shameful and most of them acknowledge it by saying "i do not enjoy taking money from you", and mean it, when they pull innocent road users by.

I remember growing up. I always saw the very friendly and honest traffic warden who carried out his duties cheerfully and diligently everyday i was going to school. More than 17 years now, it is the same man who controls the traffic everyday when i go to the office. He stays and works from 7am to 9pm daily, enduring the stress of controlling the heavy traffic under the scorching sun and in the heavy rain,  with nothing but N25,000 to keep him happy through the month…could you blame him if he lost his smile along the way and became one of those who take petty bribes to survive?

For some who will be bold and insensitive enough to say "if they don't like their jobs, then they should leave", remember that if everyone chooses not to accept a job like this, then there will be the police force...What Im saying is, there is need for a police force in every city, more importantly in a country like Nigeria. Someone has to do the job regardless of its downsides. 

In order to curb the tension and distrust between Nigerian road law enforcers and road users they are to be protecting, It must be addressed decisively from the root cause- The government- It is the responsible of the government to uphold the road law enforcers to the highest standard and give them a sense of pride in their service. That is, higher pay, more benefits and better basic amenities.

I believe the police really wants to be our friends but because of the problems i have pointed out, it is an impossible task for many of them. Im not trying to justify the incompetence and corruption of  road officials, Im only trying to make meaning as to why they do what they do and proffer the obvious solution. 

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