The Police Public Relations Officer, Lagos State Command, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, Ngozi Braide, speaks with PunchNG
Some people alleged that you didn’t get the PPRO job on merit, but through closeness to some men at the top hierarchy in the force. Is this true?
You know the irony is when people gossip about you, you are usually the last to hear it. The gossip must have gone round but I never heard about it. I can tell that I got to this position through hard work. I wasn’t just handpicked. There was an interview and I emerged the best. If people are saying that, it’s their problem. I am not saying that people are not talking about me, but I am saying that I do not care. I don’t even see this as the peak of my career. There is more for me to accomplish. I see this position as a normal police assignment just as I had worked in other departments before getting here – I worked in Interpol, Special Fraud unit, Intelligence Unit and IG monitoring Unit before I came to the Public Relations Unit.
What are your high points in service?
Before now, I was in the investigation unit. It usually gives me joy when I help people unravel their problems and get solutions. When people come to the office crying because of problems and I open a case file and eventually get to the heart of the matter, they are happy and I am happy too. I get really fulfilled seeing every case resolved through investigation. I have great passion for the job and I am so proud to be a police officer. In the Public Relations Department, it is a similar assignment; it is still about getting solutions to people’s problems. My telephones are always beeping with calls from Nigerians. I made my number open to the public when I came into office. I have discovered that many people don’t know the law and so I try to educate them on specific areas. My job entails a lot of enlightenment, not just reputation management. It is about regaining the dwindling confidence of members of the public in the police. My superiors are people that insist things must be done right. Do you know that in Lagos, divisional police officers have not been going home? That is because it is not easy policing Lagos, the city never sleeps. I receive calls at odd hours of the night and have to get in touch with the control room and our men go to crime scenes. I am enjoying every bit of my work right now.
In public relations, perception is critical. How has it been like marketing a perceived ‘bad product’ like the Police?
(Laughs) I don’t agree that the Police is a bad product. People have to understand that the Nigerian Police is a part of the larger society and a reflection of the same. Before I became a police officer, I am first and foremost, a member of the public, after I leave the police, I will be a member of the society. So, when people say we are bad, we are actually the same as the society where we live. Managing the image of the Police is the same as managing that of any other company in Nigeria. There is no organisation without its high and low points. It is a normal thing; I have to let people understand some things that they do not understand about the Police. They talk about the Police being corrupt, but corruption is everywhere in Nigeria. If a policeman demands bribe from you or tries to extort you, you are not supposed to give him. That is because the giver and the person requesting are both guilty. You are supposed to report him to the appropriate authorities. So my work is the same as those of my colleagues managing the image of other companies.
Has doing this reputation management job been challenging for you?
Yes it has been because people do not believe whatever I am telling them. They believe that I am lying to project the force in a positive light. I am here to inform the public. Rumours, for instance, are things you cannot control, so when people call me to confirm a matter, I ask for time to do my checks to ascertain what actually happened. In this era of active social media, evil-minded people sometimes originate messages that are untrue and circulate them and they go viral on the internet and cause panic. A case in point was the rumour that some Hausa had injected some fruits with harmful chemicals and that members of the public shouldn’t eat them; but our investigation found that it was untrue. Some rumours have travelled so widely that people do not believe anything I am saying to the contrary. That is why I usually intimate people when I have the opportunity about the latest crime patterns.
You said the bribe giver and taker are offenders, are you aware that people have been killed trying to prove a point with armed policemen?
I believe that most times there is more to such stories than people know. A lot of times, the giver has committed an offence and he is opting to part with money just to be released. It is not everybody that would be asked for a bribe. Is it possible that a person is killed just because he refused to give a policeman bribe? They are rumours. I don’t believe that. That is the challenge I have because you do not even believe me right now. People should not give bribe to policemen under whatever circumstances, whether on the road or at the police stations. The complaint bureau is available for the public to lodge reports. We will assist you. Where you are being pestered, we can even give you marked currency notes to go and give for us to apprehend the policeman in question.
Have you ever told a lie to the public on a case to cover the police’s reputation?
(Laughs) Is there somebody that can say that he or she has never told a lie?
I mean as an exigency of your job …
I can’t remember lying to the public but I am human just like you. As humans, once in a while one might tell a lie but on this job I can’t remember telling the public a lie. I am always out to do it right.
Initially, were your family members in support of your decision to join the police?
Yes formerly, parents didn’t want their children to join the police. How would you have good people in the police if you don’t allow your children to join? Ironically, it was my mum who initially prompted me to join the police. My father didn’t like it at first, but as I progressed he became happy and became my greatest fan and mentor. He became proud of me, but it’s unfortunate that I lost him last month and he didn’t live long enough to see me get to the peak of my career. He was there last year when I was celebrated by Youth Achievers. I didn’t also want to join the force because I was in my second year in Abia State University. But my mother explained to me that I would get in as a cadet officer and not from the scratch. All I wanted was to finish school and be a lawyer. When I agreed to be a policewoman, I had to drop my university programme to attend the cadet courses. When I came to Lagos later on, I returned to the university afresh to study English. I still plan to study Law because I love that profession so much. Being a police officer has added a lot to the good qualities I had before. It has made me a highly disciplined and principled member of the society. The three steps in cadet training were very tedious. The basic, intermediate and advance courses groomed me to be a seasoned officer. I was trained at the Nigerian Police Academy, Kano – the only one in Nigeria. That was 16 years ago. I would encourage more women to join the force. My becoming the PPRO has been a positive influence to many young people and parents who now want their girls to be police officers. I currently mentor so many young girls.
Would you encourage your children to join the police?
Yes, even if all of them want to join the force, I will encourage them.
Has being a woman been an added advantage to your job?
Yes, it has been. When I was in the investigation unit, I didn’t wear uniforms so I could hardly be identified as a police officer. I was able to break into cases where my male counterparts met brick walls. Women are rarely ever suspected. I never failed.
Are you married to a policeman?
I don’t like discussing my family.
You wear uniforms daily. Hasn’t this affected the number and quality of clothes in your wardrobe?
Yes, but it was better when I was in the investigation unit since I didn’t have to wear my uniforms. But my wardrobe has now become really inactive. I wear uniforms from Monday to Friday. At times, I wear uniforms on Saturdays if an event demands it. It is not easy coping with that as a fashionable woman but I won’t be here forever. When I move around and I see fine outfits that I should be wearing I feel it temporarily. But my job first; I really don’t have a problem with that because of my love for the job.
Do you socialise?
I do especially on Saturdays but I can’t go everywhere I would have loved to go because I no longer have my privacy. I have to choose where I go to. Each time I get into a place, people come around to ask me one thing or the other. But it is important to socialise and identify with the public. When I really want to relax, I love to go to the beach with my family and feel nature.
Do you still go to the market to do shopping?
I still do. I do bulk purchasing because I don’t have the luxury of going to the market often. I also do my cooking myself; even if it means doing its at 11pm after returning from work. The market women usually don’t recognise me, but at times some other people still meet me in the market and ask if I am Ngozi Braide and ask for my telephone number. That is why the job teaches us to be properly composed at all times. I have lost my privacy but it’s okay.
Which fashion item can’t you resist?
Everything, I love clothes, I love wrist watches, I love rings, I love jewellery, I love shoes. Yes, I think I love shoes and bags more. I love to wear beautiful shoes. They are just there now, I rarely wear them, but I still keep buying more.
How do you cope with your numerous male admirers?
I am coping well. I don’t have to bother about the ones on Facebook for now because I don’t have an account right now. Some impostors were found to be running a parallel account with my original account and I had to close it. But on my phone I get so many calls, many of which come from men who just call for nasty reasons. In fact, I get 50 per cent reasonable calls and 50 per cent nasty calls. Then physically at functions, some men really make me feel shy because of their gestures. I have, however, chosen never to act snobbishly, so I handle them maturely.
Hope your husband isn’t getting uneasy of this trend?
No. He trusts me.