The Igbos will say that “ife onye na-acho n’uko elu di n’uko ala”, meaning that what you struggle to get from afar is actually easier to achieve because it is within your reach. Sometimes the solutions to our problems are right there before us but we fail to see them because, deep down our minds, we believe the problems are too enormous to be easily solved. As a result, we struggle through thick and thin as we seek solutions. This is exactly what is happening today as Nigerians cry for the end of SARS.
For some days now, Nigerians, especially the youths, have been protesting against the brutality of the special police taskforce known as SARS. The protesters no longer called for the reformation of SARS but demanded that the operation should be shut down entirely. This call may put the government in a dilemma considering that SARS still solves a major security problem in the country. Scraping it off will expose everyone, including the protesters, to the more intense attacks from armed robbers, kidnappers, fraudsters and what have you. Truth is that SARS officials have been brutal in their ways of handling suspects and have been accused of several extrajudicial killings. Their excesses are actually getting out of hand.
But, have you noticed that there is something extraordinary about these SARS officials? Apart from knowing them through their physical qualities, have you noticed that they are all members of a gender? I stand to be corrected anyway, but if you take time to study these SARS officers, and even the mobile police officers (MOPOL), you will agree with me that they are all male officers.
I am not trying to cry foul for the discrimination in recruitment of female officers neither am I trying to bring feminism into the discourse. Rather, I am trying to state the fact that the reason behind the excesses of our police these days is because there are few policewomen to tune down the extravagance of their male counterparts.
Several researches have shown that female police officers are less likely to use violence in their line of duty than their male counterparts. In fact, it has been discovered that female officers avoid any duty, such as arrests, that will become aggressive because it is a major stressor for them. Somehow, female officers have the ability to bring down tensions and prevent violence. Somehow, they have been able to do their jobs without hitting or killing suspects. Somehow, there has been no news of female officers “mistakenly” shooting a person down. I don’t even know if I have seen a female officer with a gun. But then, female officers are not MOPOL or SARS officers; so they actually have no business with guns.
Apart from working without aggression, female police officers also do better jobs at handling rapists and wife-beaters. They are known for protecting women and children better than their male counterparts. A lot of women that were rescued from their abusive homes owe their gratitude to female officers. But we have a lesser number of female officers because of hindrances put in place by the recruitment processes.
Among the things that discourage and disqualify women from joining the police is the physical tests conducted during the recruitment process. The type of physical test applicants are put through in order to ascertain their strengths is enough to discourage any woman from applying for the job. Those that did are likely going to fail because those physical tests were designed for masculine gender.
Other attributes such as minimum physical size required for policing, may prevent many women from joining the force. For instance, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) requires that women in the force should not be shorter than 1.64m (5.5 feet); meanwhile we know that many women in Nigeria are not up to that height. A requirement such as this will deny people that have the zeal the opportunity of joining NPF. Trust me, a little bend in the figure will flood in women into the force. However, it is uncertain if this requirement was actually placed there to reduce the number of women in NPF.
But the main problem here is that the absence of women in special forces in Nigeria is having a negative impact on policing. There will be nothing out of place if we start seeing women as MOPOL and SARS. The women in paramilitary, such as Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and Nigeria Federal Road Safety Commission, are doing well. They do not engage in excesses their male counterparts do, even though they face the challenge of people undermining their authorities. But then, women in uniform rarely brutalise citizens. Their presence always ensures that their male partners do not get out hand. They have been known to stop attempts to collect bribes or manhandle citizens. So, why won’t they be allowed fully into the police system? Or is there something else we needed to know?