The recent suspension of the once-celebrated police officer, Abba Kyari, on suspicion of links to an international fraudster, has set off a tidal wave of socio-political debate. Lack of trust in the police was already a widely accepted consensus among Nigerians prior to this latest indictment, owing to many reports of corruption, ineptitude, and impunity. The country is still sour from the nationwide #EndSARS protests against police brutality; even more so from the grim Lekki tollgate shootings that followed. Nowadays, many citizens no longer look to the nation’s security apparatus for protection, but rather pray not to encounter them in their daily dealings.
A major issue with this disastrous Abba Kyari story is that its effects could carry over to the dutiful members of the police service, who are striving to perform their duties despite public backlash. Current officers in the lower cadre are already battling demoralization in the form of low pay, inadequate equipment, and poor working and living conditions. How are they expected to fight the good fight with looming threats of secessionism, terrorism, banditry, and political infighting? To get the full picture, a spotlight needs to be shone on the challenges these officers face as well.
Take for example CSP Francis Erhabor, an exceptional police officer who was awarded Accountability Lab’s Integrity Icon award in 2019 for his outstanding honesty and bravery in over 20 years of service. As a divisional head in Akwa Ibom, CSP Francis turned down numerous bribes amounting to over 25 million naira. Instead, he chose to work tirelessly with the community to ensure peace and security. In fact, his hard work led to him being awarded an ICPC award by President Muhammadu Buhari himself. One would expect that the good officer is given the opportunity to serve in a higher capacity; to translate his personal integrity to broader institutional integrity.
Nevertheless, CSP Francis has taken it upon himself to become a model to a new generation of police officers. He is currently working to improve the police by mentoring junior officers, encouraging them to take a stand for integrity, and foster cordial relationships with members of the public. He is using his influence to call for Nigerians to support integrity at all levels of service by showcasing and rewarding principled officers. He has said that he feels isolated by his perception and has been assigned more and more difficult tests of integrity because of it. This should not be the case in any progressive society.
Having realised that a major reason for the rot in the police service is a lack of motivation and support, Accountability Lab Nigeria is doing its part to encourage honest public servants like CSP Francis by naming, faming, and celebrating them as role models through the Integrity Icon campaign supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation and the Luminate group in partnership with the media. We enjoin the Nigerian public to support him and other outstanding public officers who have proven their worth. We must realise that no police officer enjoys being the subject of public mistrust, and work towards entrenching accountability in public systems.
Learn more about the Integrity Icon Nigeria campaign by visiting https://integrityicon.org/nigeria/
Obinna Ejiogu is a Communications Associate at Accountability Lab Nigeria.