Changing face of Panti, home of Nigeria’s foremost police CID

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Panti is a Yoruba word which means “dirt”. Incidentally, this is the original name of the
street where Nigeria’s foremost police formation is located in Yaba area of Lagos. The belief is that the street must have derived its name from the dirt and filth that used to
and have continued to litter the environment.
Its bad drainage system, spilling human waste on the streets and its many dilapidated buildings, the filthy environment as well as the seeming unrepentant attitude of its
inhabitants, are clear signs that the visage of the area may not change soon.
The carefree attitude of the residents  about hygiene and cleanliness is aggravated by the absence of effective environmental laws to punish violators of such laws. Years back, many people had expected a sudden change in the attitude of the residents, when the State Criminal Investigation Department of the Nigeria Police Force was built at the entrance to
the street, where we already had the Adekunle Police Station, making it two police formations located close to each other.
Perhaps, as a result of the “wheeling and dealing” traditionally associated with police work,
it did not take visitors long to conclude that nothing good could ever come out of filth except filth.
The Point was informed that in the early 80s, having one problem or the other to solve at the SCID, Panti, would naturally conjure fear in the mind of the would-be visitor as a result of the notoriety the police outfit had assumed.
A resident of the nearby Alago-Meji, Yaba, Mr. Abdulazeez Keiran, said, “The officers were rude, crude and rugged. Their approach was always devoid of any trace of courtesy. They reveled in brute means of interrogating suspects or callers that came for enquiries.
“It would appear as if the SCID had been bedeviled by the mythological gods. Little wonder, a lot of people believed that the cluster environment had shaped the minds
of the officers working there as they, more often than not, behave as humans from other planet. Perhaps, if the environment is dirty, the people around, too, would have a fair share.”
This general belief still torments the police outfit till date, in spite of the numerous changes that had taken place there in the recent past.
“But then, the police authorities were not caught unawares about the ‘filth’ moniker. They all recognised the fact that SCID, Panti and some of the officers working there
were not only anti-establishment, but also swim in unsurpassed corruption.
It was in this miasma that the leadership of the outfit decided to do something fast to change the look/perception about the outfit,” he said.
The headship of the police outfit, on which the ‘D’ Department of the force was built, renamed the location M.A.K Smith Street. MAK Smith is, of course, a retired inspector
general of police, who made his mark in that capacity before his glorious retirement.
But for obvious reasons, the rechristening of Panti has in no way changed the attitude of the people working inside the elite-like police station, that prides itself as the heart of forensic investigation in the country.
Curiously, 85 per cent of the paper work being done by men and officers working at the SCID bear Panti and not its new name, MAK Smith Street. Indeed, the characters working there, too, only changed a little as reflected in the officers manning the main entrance, who could chase callers away at the slightest provocation.
As notorious as Panti is, the police outfit indeed parades a chain of core professionals, who handle cases within the ambit of the law. A call at the Homicide Section of the SCID, for instance, was quite revealing as The Point overheard words like, “You decidedly decided
to kill your father. I know that you were not born like this. You must have been under one spell or the other. Now, tell me, why you killed your father,” The officer interrogating
the suspect was only using intellectual approach to the modern day act of interrogation,
unlike others who would resort to outright brutal means.
Another office visited by The Point was the counter, where people, who had no reason to
mill around, were politely asked to leave. Of course, no fewer than ten suspects were being detained for culpable homicide. According to an officer who craved anonymity, “As soon as investigation is concluded, we shall take them tocourt.”
Looking around other departments such as Administration, Anti-Robbery, Anti-Theft, Legal Department, Computer and others, officers were seen busy with load of files on
their desks, while few others were observed carousing at the nearby beer-parlours and pepper-soup joints that dotted the surroundings.