Considering the police brutality that triggered the EndSARS protests that rocked the nation last year, the Federal Government has made it mandatory for those aspiring to be enlisted into the Nigeria Police Force and other arms-bearing security agencies to undergo comprehensive psychiatric evaluations and drug tests before enlistment. In the same vein, those serving in the armed forces and other security agencies will periodically go through such tests.
The new policy was announced in Abuja on October 20, the first anniversary of the EndSARS protests, by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. It is unarguably one of the measures the government has taken since last year’s protests by Nigerian youths to address the grievances that led to the youths protest. Although the government’s response is a little belated, it is better late than never.
Undoubtedly, the brutality of policemen and other security agents that provoked the EndSARS protests must have informed the mandatory psychiatric evaluations and drug tests for those enlisting into these agencies. Moreover, it is likely that people of unquestionable character, including drug addicts and criminals might have, one way or the other, found themselves into the Nigeria Police and other security agencies because of lack of due diligence in recruitment and insufficient background checks by the authorities concerned.
At times, some uncultured and overzealous security agents treat other Nigerians as less human beings or what they derogatorily regard as “bloody civilians,” a hangover of years of military dictatorship and unwarranted intrusion into the polity. The recent dehumanisation of a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Miss Ezeiruaku Ifeyinwa Fidelia, serving in Calabar by a female soldier, Lt. Chika Viola Anele, is a glaring example of such brutality.
Up till now, it is sad that the Nigerian military authorities have not made public the punishment meted to Lt. Anele for her manhandling of the female corps member. The affected officer has not apologised to the victim and Nigerians for her unbecoming behaviour. It is also annoying that officers that humiliate civilians are often never punished by the security agencies concerned.
The presence of these undesirable elements in the police and other security agencies has worsened their relations with the civil populace and at times led to avoidable bloody clashes. Having them in the force might have been responsible for the reported extra-judicial killings across the country.
If duly implemented, the new recruitment policy will ensure that only those with sound mind will be enlisted in the police and other security agencies. We also believe that the initiative will go a long way in stamping out unbecoming behaviour among our security agents and also reduce their brutality on civilians and extra-judicial killings.
We hope that the usual fatigue that trailed good initiatives in the past does not affect this one. We call on the government to ensure that it works.
At the same time, we believe that it will be good if those aspiring for political offices in the country will be made to undergo such tests. This has become necessary in view of some unbecoming attitude of those elected into public office. The exercise must be conducted in such a way that no one gets enlisted into the security agencies without undergoing the tests. Also their should be periodic tests after recruitment.
While the government should monitor the exercise, we advise that only experienced and reputable officers in the security agencies will be in charge of such tests to avoid abuses. We urge those assigned with the exercise to do so with utmost sense of patriotism and ensure that only the best are recruited into the security agencies and retained thereafter.
Beyond the tests, the government should address other issues raised by the youths during the protest. Let the government prioritise the welfare of both serving police personnel and new recruits. The same should be applicable to other security agencies as well. All police personnel should be made to earn enhanced wages as well as being adequately equipped for the job. A situation where police officers kit themselves will not inspire patriotism.