Nigerians have for so long craved for police protection; this is because public safety, law and order are becoming a big challenge to the citizens. Government of nations the world over are saddled with the responsibility of internal security. In any nation state, the role of the Police cannot be under emphasized. The Police embodies body of officers and men representing the civil authority of government. They are to enforce law, prevent, detect and investigate criminal activities. These functions are called policing. Nigeria as a country is facing the challenges of effective policing more so under the present regime. Criminals, bandits, deviants and all forms of perverts have found Nigeria to be a fertile ground. The consequences of these is that virtually every Nigerians citizen today feels grossly in secured because they are unsecured.
There’s no gain saying that in Nigeria, most people sleep with their eyes wide opened. You will be at greater risk should you sleep with one eye. Before you know it, dare devils have unleased the most gruesome violation of your rights, right in front of your family. Nigeria is therefore a nation experiencing great insecurity. This is because governance had partly collapsed. Our security architecture as exemplified by the present policing system is weakened by a number of reasons, politics, greed, a voracious culture of misappropriation, underfunding, lack of training and a sense of prebendalism being fueled by a rapacious mode of capitalist form of social organization.
It is axiomatic that a country’s political culture helps to determine the nature of its policing and in Nigeria, the centralization of the Police Department and its attendant command structure gives it a kind of repressive outlook. And the question is why has the nation continue to be under siege by bandits and all other criminal elements, when we have a police force that permeates the entire gamut of the nation? Why is there a huge challenge in fighting crimes and also in the maintenance of law and order in Nigeria. Domestic terrorism, gangs, illegal narcotics gun violence, cybercrimes have all constituted into making Nigeria unsafe place.
We all know and agree that the Nigerian Police is empowered to defend the state by protecting and preserving the interest of the people. And there is also no gain saying the fact that, whenever the society becomes vulnerable to insecurity and other vices, like act of lawlessness, social disorder, then the Police becomes culpable because it is an indictment on them for having failed to protect the people.
The basis of policing in Nigeria is a fallout of colonial vestiges, when the “force” was adopted into its nomenclature to act as an organ of repression against the colonized people. The element of Police as an organ of oppression and misuse of power was adopted into the very political fabric of our country and ever since, this orientation has continued to militate against effective performance of the police as an institution that should protect all under the regime of the rule of law. In Nigeria, there are more policemen defending the political establishment and their comprador entrepreneurial business elites, than the people and this continues to deepen the entire culture of the capitalist structure of the Nigerian State. This also reinforced the belief that right from inception, the Nigerian Police was built on a wrong foundation. With a population of about 200 million people and 370,000 policemen, it is very clear, that the nation is under policed. The police department is also chronically underfunded and under trained. They are too unequipped to deal with security issues. As said earlier, it is unable to perform its basic function to safeguard lives and properties, because the Police got enmeshed in VIP protection more often than not. Nigeria has blatantly refused to meet the UN recommended ratio of one policeman for 400 residence, with these kind of challenges, little wonder that the Nigerian Police is unable to reach its potentials and added to the crisis of lack of training is also the issue of poor remuneration which does not inspire confidence and patriotic zeal on the officers and men of the service. Most of their appearances in public space evokes disgust and scorn. The refusal of government and police authorities to deploy enough funds on the service, technology, and policing infrastructure continue to dampen the moral of its officers and men which in turns ignites corrupt tendencies and its endless propensities.
The average Nigerian Policeman is therefore an endangered specie being deliberately oppressed by a capitalist system that has refused to take care of him. Despite stringent calls for reform of the police to at least make it more functional, government has consistently pay lips service to their conditions. You can’t give a man a gun and ask him to sacrifice his life without standard emoluments and life insurance. What if they die in active service? The Nigerian police therefore suffers public deficit in terms of its image and legitimation. There is a total lack of support by the public and its sense of accountability is dismal.
The crises of Policing in Nigeria therefore is one that is being promoted by the leadership class. For not paying attention to details and its refusal for a total overhaul of the system, promotes the above thinking. The character of the Nigerian Police today as being it promoted and condoned by the leadership class is all about godfatherism, nepotism, ethnicity, corruption and politics. This is the kind of police structure that the elites wants, a structure that will allow the elites gets protection, while the population is in turmoil due to the distortions occasioned by insecurity. The integrity of the Police Department has also eroded its ineffectiveness and Government is to be blamed.
The country as at today is virtually at war with itself. This is also aggravated by the decade long brutal Boko Haram Insurgency in the North East, the banditry in the North West and other flashpoint of crisis all over the country resulting indiscriminate maiming and killings of many law abiding citizens and the displacement of millions of others. There is also the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers. All these have turned Nigeria as a whole into an epicenter of crisis within the West African Sub-Region. To reduce all the above crisis, there is a need for a holistic reform of the Police so that Nigeria can be secured and revert back to its former status quo, as a nation internally protected by its own institutions. This administration must therefore hearken to reasons and immediately adopt the following towards effective policing of the Nation, because security of life and property is the bedrock of social, economic and political stability of any nation.
The Police need to re-orient itself. It must be able to do this by improving its image and enhance its public cordial relationship. Workshops, symposia, and seminars should be organized by the police authorities to change the negative psyche of both its personnel and the public. Government must support this initiative.
Manpower training is also key. Training is an invaluable tool for the effective policing of any society. An untrained or ill trained police officer lacks the requisite knowledge, skill and attitude for effective crime control and also a threat to the society. Regular training program should be organized to enhance professionalism and productivity. Government should also key in.
Provision of modern firearms by government is also critical. Accommodation of men and officers of the police should also be looked into. The slums they live in, place them as subhuman and this will never instill hope nor commitment to officers and men. Motivation too is essential. Prompt and regular payment of salaries and emolument should be a fait accompli. These salaries must be above the meagre ones being payed to them. Police Pension Scheme and Insurance Programs should be expanded to cover the families of those who died in active service.
State commands must also be made to be accountable to the headquarters. State governors have been generous in terms of financial and infrastructural support to state governments. Cars and equipment are regularly been donated to state commands and it is important that a monitoring team gets established by the police leadership from the headquarters to make sure that all these are well utilized especially at the divisional police levels.
The major governmental agencies that oversee the control and supervision of the Nigerian Police, like the Police Service Commission, the Nigerian police council and the ministry of police affairs needs to be totally overhauled and allow men of proven integrity and professionalism to man them as opposed to politicians.
Also any call for the reform of the Police as an institution of protection must also involve the issue of human rights violations which the police is notoriously known for. In this respect, human rights lawyers need to devise ways to assist litigants’ access justice and sanctions meted out to any erring officer.
Sanction would no doubt serve as deterrent. The issue of community policing should also be looked into. All hands must be on deck in bringing in traditional leaders and other leaders of thought in joining the battle for enthronement of a secured society. The issue of State Police is also an agenda that should be considered provided it can be insulated against politics. These agenda for reforms should catch the fancy or intent of our policy makers. Without functional Police, we are doomed. The answers is not in the creation of parallel security services, the answer is in developing the most important of all the security institutions, the Nigerian Police.
By Yusuf Dankofa, a Professor of Law, in Ahmadu Bello University Zaria