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Reforming the Nigerian Police; a necessity

By: Funmilola Ajala
 Published November 1st, 2011

In the run-up to the last general elections in April, the Presidential standard bearer of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and also a former head of the fiery and revered anti-corruption agency; the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); Nuhu Ribadu, claimed during one of the numerous media Presidential debates among leading contenders, that about 70, 000 personnel of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) are attached as security guards to few Nigerians. In a very apparent melancholy tone, Ribadu, a former police officer, regretted this appalling development as he conjectured that this is a major hindrance against the fulfilment of the police core statutory responsibility of protecting lives and properties, within the Nigerian domain.

A gloomy reminder of the comatose and less than dignifying social status of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) was yet again brought to the fore recently by no other personality of relevance than the Chairman, Police Service Commission (PSC), DIG Parry Osayande (retd), while addressing the National Assembly’s Senate committee on Police affairs. Osayande submitted that the reality of having about 100, 000 police officers (out of its 330, 000 total force) running errands for political office holders and their spouses, all in the name of providing security for them, is totally condemnable and unacceptable. Although, Osayande scanned other reasons for police ineptitude, he was however adamant that the huge number of security attaché to scanty individuals should be re-examined.

Ordinarily, an average Nigerian has come to accept the cliché that the Nigerian Police Force is the most corrupt institution in the country; most probably in the last 3 decades. Nonetheless, has anyone ever bothered to ask the question of why?, I mean why would the same “corrupt” police personnel, who are considered as public enemy number one go outside the shores of Nigeria to participate in peace-keeping operations for either the African Union (AU) or the United Nations (UN), and often come back with medals of meritorious service, accompany with huge international accolade? For anyone who needs a recap, Nigerian police officers are among other troubled places, presently engaging in peace-keeping missions in Dafur (Sudan) and Haiti, for the past few years without incidence of any significant disciplinary indictments.

Surely, some issues have to be diagnosed and it is appropriate to start by looking at the effect of poor remuneration on the Nigerian police. The doleful problem facing the security agency is rooted in the meagre wage which policemen; basically in the rank and file have had to manage over the years. It is very important for periodic upward review of the police force wage structure, if indeed, the country is candid about stopping policemen from continuing to “subsidise” their paltry salary with bribes.

Furthermore, adequate welfare initiatives and packages must be put in place to motivate the officers and men of the Nigerian police. It is fast becoming an undesirable sight to see policemen and their family members live in bushy, mosquitoes-invested, messy, and dilapidated barracks structures, without the “luxury” of constant water supply; needless to talk of electricity. The negative psychological effects of living in such demeaning conditions go a long way in dampening the morale of an average policeman. One can easily find a virile link between the poor well-being of the policemen and such misdemeanours like the callous occurrence of frequent “accidental discharge” of firearms at the slightest provocation.

Moreover, the dearth of professionalism is a major impediment negating against having a proud police force in Nigeria. In any civilized society, the police are legally attached to the executive arm of government, purposely to help in enforcement of laws of the land. However, a careful reconnaissance into the make-up of the Nigerian Police will surely reveal a huge loop-sidedness in terms of the dichotomy in numerical difference between trained professionals and mere secondary school leavers. The country runs the risk of putting the task of law enforcement in the hands of mediocre who hardly understand simple legal terminologies and their true interpretations. Hence, the need for the government to consider looking at the necessity of engaging qualified unemployed graduates as police personnel.

In addition, the Nigerian Police is dallying behind in terms of favorable public rating due to the ineffective public relations mechanism when compared to other military and para-military outfits in the country. The hostile dispositions of many police officers toward ordinary civilian have done very little in boosting the perception of the force in the public glare. Also, the force will do itself a whole lot of benefits by maintaining a mutual healthy interaction with the general public, while embarking on corporate social responsibility ploy within their various host communities.

In addition, the hierarchy of the police force is required to turn a new leaf by jettison the ignominious toga of institutionalized corruption within its establishment. The frequent accusations of receipt of kickbacks and partiality in determining the promotions of men and officers are often too common from insiders in the force. The recent announcement of the indefinite suspension of the South African Police Chief by President Jacob Zuma, on the allegation of his involvement in corruption shows that corruption is not peculiar to the Nigerian State alone, hence the need not to shy away from confronting the socio-economic canker-worm.

Lastly, the Federal government should re-consider the possibility of allowing State-owned police force. It is an aberration of true Federalism that the Federal government has remained adamant in its uncooperative stance on the issue, yet the States have continually provided the same Federal government controlled police force with constant supply of operational and logistical supports such as patrol vehicles, communication gadgets, and bullet-proof vests, which run into millions of tax payers’ money. Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola recently donated about 150 vehicles, coming after the donation of another 100 vehicles in February, purposely to boost the operational effectiveness of the Police Force in the State.

Ajala, a recent graduate of Politics and International Relations from Lead City University, Ibadan; can be reached via

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