NETIZENS PERCEPTION OF NIGERIAN SECURITY AGENCIES’ REPRESENTATION IN THE NEW MEDIA
Abstract:The interaction between the Nigerian Security Forces and the civilian population has increased in recent years. This relationship has been characterized by conflicts, debates, accusations and counter-accusations. Asides other security forces, the military and police have about 223,000 and 370,000 active personnel respectively. The military alone is estimated to have between 250 and 330 bases that are dispersed across the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory, thereby increasing their contact with the public. In spite of many interventions to reposition their public reputation, some plausible voices still assert that the security forces have problematic image as they still follow the all-too-familiar path of perpetrating violence against the very people they have sworn to protect. Since 2002, more than 5000 police officers have been dismissed for misconduct following public complaints. Against this narrative, this study sought to examine the perception of civilians on Nigerian Security Forces. Anchored on Implicit Personality and Media Cultivation theories, the study utilized the quantitative research methodology, while the data collection instrument was survey questionnaire which was administered to 400 netizens who were purposively selected. Findings show that though cooperation between the forces and the public is a prerequisite for their success, many respondents have lost confidence on the security forces as they perceive them to be brutal, contemptuous of civilians, manipulative, lawless, propagandist and corrupt. Among other pragmatic means, the study recommends that the Nigerian government reform the forces, bring to book corrupt officers and change its approach of immediately responding to conflict with kinetic force. In addition, the security forces, especially the military and police should strive to understand the perception of the public beyond empty rhetoric, they should adopt international best practices in their engagements with the civilian population, while strategically striving to redeem and sustain a positive public image.