Nigerian Police: An Enemy of the People

Published on 25th September 2007

Nigeria is a country, in which there is no discernible and transcendent foundation for law and order, where individuals wantonly do as they wish in order to convey fear and intimidation. And unequivocally, is not ashamed. How can it be that the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) one of the oldest establishments and institutions in Nigeria, having emerged more than 145 years ago, is still an institution mired and marred in incompetence, lackadaisical attitude and irresponsibility? Show me a functioning democracy and I will show you a vibrant police force. This is not the case with NPF.


The NPF, has the sole responsibility and duty to protect and preserve life and property of every Nigerian regardless of their socio-political [ethno] and economic background. But many Nigerians will attest that the NPF has failed woefully. That members of the force are known to collude and conspire in some of the worst crimes is no news in Nigeria. And that one of its former Inspector Generals, the infamous Tafa Balogun, is sitting and hopefully rotting in jail for corruption and other despicable crimes has not helped to shore up confidence and credibility of the force. And as if that is not enough, it is an open exercise seeing 'rank and file' members of the force, take bribe from citizens, and still do nothing to advance the security of the populace.


The killing in Enugu of Inspector Ekoh, has all the DNA and fingerprints of planned and well executed crime. If a respected member and a ranking officer of the 'rank and file', could be so killed, what does that say of the average Nigerian who depends and expects the police to be the protector of life and property?


If Nigeria democracy is to gain any traction, the police must be an integral part of the efforts, and then emerge as a fierce defender and protector of life and property, no matter the circumstances of the Nigerian. But is that possible? What would it take for NPF to emerge as a reputable institution, independent, functioning and capable of carrying its duties to the satisfaction of Nigerians?


Reorganization and Restructuring


When Nigeria was in dark ages, the police was basically formed to serve the colonial administration, then expedient to have one institution handle police matters. Villages and towns had their own vigilante groups which handled crime fighting in manners suitable for their community. Fast forward to 2007, when the criminal has metamorphosed and gotten emboldened, does it still make sense to use the present format of NPF to deal with and fight crime in Nigeria? If successful crime fighting is a community cum police effort, and if rank and file of NPF are persons who have no allegiance to the community they are expected to protect/police, how possible is it that they will be effective in crime fighting? Crime exists in every society. However, the sort of crimes and the rate at which persons get away with them in Nigeria, goes to show that the nature of the organization that is supposed to deal with it, is probably a factor in its less effectiveness.


President Yar'Adua should give Nigeria a police force that is tailored, trained, trimmed, tamed and oriented to function well in its constitutional role. Nigeria cannot advance without an agile and efficient police accountable to Nigerians and held culpable in situations of abuse and deletion of duties.


The idea of a national police is irrelevant. In its place, a police that is community based whereby the locals have a hand in hiring and training those they deem fit and capable in doing the police duty, is the norm. The idea that Commissioners of Police [CP], the highest law enforcement officer in each state, is determined by the Inspector General [IG], often an anguish to the citizens of the state, should be done away with. Law enforcement takes more than just the police armed with a badge and gun. Law enforcement requires effective collaboration with the community, judiciary 'Attorney General', Justice Department, in each state and the rank and file of the police.

By the IG and his top cadre selecting who becomes the Commissioner of Police in each state without consultation with the state leadership, defeats the most important aspect of choosing persons who know the people and can police them properly. The present manner of appointing Commissioners of Police makes the CP, a very important person in each state. The CP do not take orders from the state governor nor from anyone else except from the IG. Policing is a proximity function and if a CP awaits orders from a higher command, valuable time is lost before action is taken. NPF should be a community based policing just like many progressive nations have done, and the hands of undue politics must be removed in choosing who polices a people/community. And as a support and additional boost, states should be allowed to have protective forces and security groups to work with NPF.


Human Capital and Operational Capacity


No organization is able to carry out its functions, without adequate and relevant human resources with operational capacity. NPF is refuted for harboring only those who do not have anything to do. The police should attract the 'best and brightest', and the 'best and brightest', must be persons with certain minimum education and training. In US, to join any police department, the preferred candidates are persons with college education but since it's hard, the minimum is at least 2 years of college credit hours.

When the police attract men and women who have sense of dignity and respect for their fellow individuals, which is what higher education is expected to help one have, some of the credibility and confidence question lacking and largely absent in NPF, will be addressed. It is not uncommon to come across members of NPF who can barely record a suspect's statement talk less of being a good witness were the suspect to stand trial. It is important that men and women who join are provided good working condition so that they do their job well. The human capital of NPF deludes its operational capacity because without adequate and well trained force, police functions, duties and responsibilities are compromised.

In US, there is a rule of thumb to have four police officers to a-1,000. This may be hard to achieve in Nigeria because of cost factor. Presently, NPF has about a-350,000 force for a country with population of 140 million. And considering the antiquated policing methods, Nigeria is largely under-policed since there is hardly the presence and availability of modern crime fighting resources. The goal should be to increase and enhance the force with at least one million men and women, in the next 5-10 years.

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