In the line of duty: who protects the “Protectors”?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

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The majority of us have our tales of woe, of our experiences at the hands of the Nigerian Police. Whether at their ‘checkpoints’, or at their stations, such experiences are all too similar.

“They asked me to ‘mobilise’ them, to find the boys who took my property”

“The black-eyed wife was told to go home and settle with her husband. It is a domestic affair”.

“I was kept in the cell overnight for walking late at night, because there was no one to ‘bail’ me for N5,000”.

“The Police came hours after the robbery was over, even though their checkpoint is just down the street… and my neighbours alerted them while it was ongoing”.

“They kept me at their check-point for over three hours, and when there was nothing else left to ‘check’ in my car, they just kept me there to observe me breathe in, and breathe out”.

Granted, some of these tales are slightly overstretched. Most of the stories however are true. Some, are mine.

This may be why I stiffen in instinctive defensiveness whenever I approach any of their checkpoints; easily on my guard even as I reluctantly roll down my windows. Ready to be inundated with robust chants of “Weh-don Ma!”, which could very easily - and in the blink of an eye – flip into an unfriendly and unwarranted “Go and park there!”, once the absence of “anything for the boys” is established.

“But they are not well paid by the government”, we may submit, to justify bad behavior.

Unfortunately, I am not paid well by ‘the government’ too. My roads are bad. My water is brown.  My electricity supply is poor. I am still a citizen of a third-world populace of whom the majority live below $1 per day, while its oligarchs host private-jet-laden competitions in the guise of lavish weddings, in the face of (selective) recession.

We are all in the ‘suffering’ together.  The only difference is that the rest of us do not have the privilege of uniforms, with which to strike fear into the hearts of our fellow sufferers… and aggravate the heaviness of their empty pockets.

Thus, “the Police is your friend” is an illusory utopia in these parts, resulting in disdain and (in extreme cases) hate for its members by the majority of the people whom they are supposed to protect. Often, we deride them, and make them the butt of our jokes, sprinkling facts over fiction in amused narrations of their ‘cowardice’.

But every now and then, we hear acts of bravery by some police-officer or the other, who genuinely live up to their oath to “serve and to protect” - even in the face of imminent death/grave harm; a subtle reminder that when rubber hits the road, they are more likely to face the smoking end of a loaded gun ten times over than the rest of us may ever do.

In recent times, we have been blessed to witness in living colour one of such brave police-officers, who single-handedly took on four armed-robbers (gunning one down) at a Bank robbery in Owerri, in the style of NCIS, 24 or some other high-pressure action movie.

The same prayer whispered by any viewer of the CCTV footage making rounda on social media would be that the brave Sgt. Chukwudi Iboko survives, even as he is seen backed into what seems like a corner and being shot at by the armed men as they retreat; yet, still shooting at them in their escape vehicle.

I hear he died from injuries. Official reports state two months later; other reports say a day later.

My initial joy at his bravery died too; my soul wept. Not just because of his death, but because of its needlessness.

I fantasise that not one, but three – or at the least, two - policemen were equally armed and as courageous as Sergeant Iboko, to cover him, while he chased away the robbers with his tireless and well-aimed shooting.

The pain of his death is worsened by the fact that his legacy was almost robbed. But for the surfacing of the CCTV footage, neither the name Chukwudi Iboko, nor his bravery may ever have been known to the general populace. A name, which in kinder climes, would be gracing the cover of every award list, with streets being paved to forever honour same.

His fate is not the fate of a sitting politician, or a top official in a government parastatal, either of whose demise would ensure a fund from their ‘life-salary’, or a sizeable gratuity – as the case may be.  The future of the ones this brave policeman has left behind is thus not assured; they would find their place in the suffering that the rest of us have been too used to.

Yet, he was our protector; this our disdained ‘friend’.

Chukwudi’s fate is similar to the fate of the soldiers expected to be at the fore-front of the battle against terrorism, with inadequate arms and equally inadequate assurances for the sustenance of their families, in the event that the fight gets the better of them.

Yes, we all may be co-occupants of a third-world brazenly-corrupt nation. And yes, they may have signed up to their jobs, just as the rest of us signed up to ours.

But surely, these protectors could not have signed-up to be subjected to carrying the handbags and umbrellas of their ogas, as we see them do; to be sent on errands to purchase suya and groceries for the ajebo side-chicks; to wake daily in the knowing that if they breathed their last in the line of duty, their spouses may be sentenced to a life of penury, and their children depend on a ‘gofundme’ for survival; to be in the direct line of fire, without the honour of the certainty of the day of their death – at the very least.

Surely, they could not have signed up for the absence of protection, by the government of the people they are to protect.

Yet, year in, year out, we have undisclosed amounts released annually as “Security Vote”, its secrecy touted as key to ensuring our doors remain fastened at night.

Perhaps, if they were better provided for… better protected - in life and in death - they may not devolve to people of whom the larger number of their society have come to disdain.

***

I still may continue to garb myself in my instinctive defensiveness, as I approach their checkpoints. And I still will not accept justification for bad behavior.

But if there is one thing I have resolved to do, I WILL try to smile at our policemen (and other uniformed personnel) that I may come across, when I can. Who knows?? I may be smiling at the next Chukwudi Iboko.

If he must leave this earth via his line of duty without the assurances of (his legacy) being protected, at the very least, he could die with the memory of a grateful smile etched in his fading mind.

Paz,

Meg.




Photo-Credits: www.channelstv.com


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4 comments

  1. We are in this together like you said. The frustration of the job shouldn't make them always harass the citizens they are meant to protect. The Nigerian police needs overhauling, they are untrained. A policeman that is meant to be at a porous place such as a bank should know he ought to be armoured and wear his vest at all times, the iboko policeman didn't have any protective vest on when the robbers striked but that's a story for another day. Plus after the whole robbery incident, I saw a picture of other top policemen contaminating a crime scene when they arw meant to be taking forensic evidence and that's part of not being properly oriented.God bless the brave Iboko guy but I feel the Nigerian government ought to train this guys properly and pay them well enough to that they can carry out their jobs as supposed.

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  2. I agree to the fact that smiling for our police friends is something nice.
    I believe it's a two-way thing...
    We need their protectiveness (so to say) and they need our encouragement. And in unison, we shall get things right...
    However, the government ought to play their own role by training these men properly, so that everything can synchronize.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, our Policemen need proper training. I'm hoping when we are in power, we can do properly the things that the ones before us failed to do.

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