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Perspectives on The Nigeria Police Force

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Perspectives on The Nigeria Police Force

It must be clearly stated that I have not set out, in this piece and, in the several that will follow, to do an image laundering for the Nigeria Police Force. The Nigeria Police Force has enough trained hands at its disposal to do that.
In this piece, I may appear to hold contrary views and opinions about the Nigeria Police Force. My stands here are informed by personal objective assessment of the operations of the Nigeria police within the nation’s many complexities and challenges.
What is known as the Nigeria Police Force in Nigeria today was first established in 1820. It has, however, gone through many stages and years of restructuring, reformation and reorganization during and after the British Colonial administration in Nigeria. It is important to note here that during the colonial period, most police formations were associated with local governments which were then known as the Native Authorities.
Formally, an amalgamation of the defunct Northern Nigeria Police, (NNP) and the Southern Nigeria Police, (SNP), the current Nigeria Police Force, was actually formed in 1930.

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In strength, growth and character, the Nigeria Police Force as a security agency, had been greatly influenced and impacted by the various stages of Nigeria’s political trajectory; finally culminating in a national security outfit in the 1960s after the country gained her independence and republican status from the British Colonial Authorities.
The Nigeria Police Force, as the leading principal law enforcement agency in Nigeria, is the closest security agency to the people and is statutorily saddled with the responsibilities of maintenance of laws and order, internal security and protection of lives and properties within the shores of the nation.
In the 1999 Constitution, the Nigeria Police Force, like other security agencies, derives its powers, functions and responsibilities from the constitution. It operates under the operational and administrative control of the Inspector General of Police at the apex, appointed by the Nigerian President. He is assisted by the Deputy Inspectors General of Police, the DIGs, the Assistant Inspectors General of Police, the AIGs heading specific police formations across the federation and performing specific duties under the control and supervision of the Inspector General of Police. At the state level are the Commissioners of Police, the CPs assisted by their deputies, various Area Commanders and the District Police Officers. There are also various tactical and intelligence formations created across all police commands in the country performing special operations of crime detection, control and prevention.
The force operations are directly funded by the federal government through annual appropriations, corporate and special funding initiatives.
At the moment, the Nigerian population is approximated at 220 million with the personnel strength of the Nigeria Police Force at 370,000. This is grossly inadequate considering the United Nations projection of 100,000 population per police officer. Though there are efforts by the federal government to inject new recruits of about 280,000 the Nigeria Police Force to boost manpower needs and enhance operational efficiency. The new recruits will eventually increase police manpower to 650,000. It is important to note that, even with the proposed increase, Nigeria is still heavily under policed. In my opinion, there should be an average of 1.5 million police personnel in the country to ensure effective policing.
The Nigeria Police Force is an endangered species which, for many years, has been classified as the most corrupt and inefficient security agency in Nigeria. It is one security agency that has suffered many years of neglect in the hands of the various governments, military and civilian, in the country. A visit to army, naval, air-force barracks and formations in comparison with the police barracks and colleges will underscore and confirm my position here.

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It is one security agency that is often being exploited by some unscrupulous Nigerian politicians to fan the ember of political crisis in the country. This is largely due to the fact that, of all the security agencies in Nigeria, it is the Nigeria Police Force that is the closest to the civil populace. It was the view of some Nigerian social analysts that, as a creation of the constitution, subject to the supervision and control of the executive arm of government, the Nigeria Police Force is often exposed to the whims and caprices of the government in power. The many political crises in Nigeria in the First and Second Republics are pointers here.
Despite the numerous challenges confronting the Nigeria Police Force, the men and officers of the force are often treated with disdain and ignominy by same Nigerians they strive day and night to protect. Among all the security outfits in Nigeria, the Nigeria Police Force is the most vilified, the most chastised and the only security network that easily draws the ire and indignation of many Nigerians.
To an average Nigerian, the Nigeria Police Force is the most corrupt among the security agencies in Nigeria. Corruption is not an exclusive reserve of the Nigeria Police Force. Is there any security, military or paramilitary agency in Nigeria that is completely devoid of corruption? While not trying to justify corruption under any guise, it must be stressed here that it is a national malaise, a pandemic that cuts across all strata of the Nigerian society. The men and officers of the Nigeria Police Force are not aliens from another planet or continent. In character and disposition, they are a reflection of the Nigerian society and its many anomalies. The Nigeria Police Force, therefore, is not a bastion of corruption in the country.
It must be borne in mind that many of the men and officers of the Nigeria Police Force are men and women of integrity and great valor who, in spite of the various challenges inhibiting their operational efficiency and capacity, are driven by patriotic zeal in the discharge of their duties and responsibilities.
A deep reflection and an objective view of the Nigeria Police will reveal that, public perception notwithstanding, the agency still parades many officers of high moral and ethical standards who strive to uphold the code of conduct of the force. These are men and officers of the force that must be celebrated and admired for choosing to be different among the pack. There are, of course, many officers and men in the Nigeria Police Force whose conducts are inimical to the image and character of the security agency. It may interest us to know that these bad elements are in a minority, so negligible that it will be a grave disservice if their despicable acts are used as a benchmark for assessing the entire rank and file of the Nigeria Police Force.
To rid the force of a few bad eggs is a collective responsibility that must begin with our attitudinal change towards the rank and file of the security agency. We must appreciate and applaud the giant strides of the men and officers of the police force with the same passion as we castigate the few bad ones among them.
In the early 70s and 80s, Nigeria paraded one of the best police establishments in Africa and beyond. The force, then, apart from the military, was highly professional, prompt and tactical in crime detection and prevention. In operational proficiency demonstrated within and outside the shores of the country, the Nigeria Police Force then commanded a lot of respect, even from the international community. For honour and prestige, every Nigerian family was proud to have, at least, a police officer as a family member. In many of the peacekeeping and enforcement missions in some African countries and beyond, the men and officers of the Nigeria Police Force have brought honour and prestige to the country more than any other security agency in Nigeria. Through professional and moral conducts, many of them were Nigeria’s good ambassadors having demonstrated the highest degree of professionalism and competence which ranked above their peers from other nations.
Regrettably, the case of the Nigeria Police Force is like a prophet that is never honored by his own people at home. With all the accolades, honour and international acclaim accorded the Nigeria Police Force, many Nigerians have failed to appreciate the numerous sacrifices make as well as occupational hazards these men and officers go through on a daily basis to protect their lives and properties. Many Nigerians are quick to compare the standards of operations of the Nigeria Police Force with their peers in advanced countries of the world without taking into cognisance the peculiarities and situational differences. They are often quick to disparage and condemn acts of infractions by a few elements within the rank and file and jettison gallant performance and patriotic zeal of the many officers of the force.
It is therefore my intention to do a critical and objective assessment of the Nigeria Police Force with a view to drawing the attention of discerning Nigerians to the numerous challenges and occupational hazards inhibiting operational efficiency and competence of the police as a security agency. It is my candid opinion that a careful, unbiased, objective, deep reflection and analytical conversation around the Nigeria Police Force will set the pace for a deep public awareness, understanding and appreciation of gallant performance of the rank and file of the force in providing security and protection to all Nigerians.
It is a sad reality that the Nigeria Police Force operates under the most harrowing human and logistical experience in the world. Apart from poor remuneration and inadequate welfare package, the Nigeria Police Force lacks the required modern equipment, technology and hardware to combat crime and criminality in the country.
In Nigeria, at the moment, crime detection, control and prevention by the police are still analog-based at this tech age. Police intelligence gathering network, regarded as the most important and critical element of crime prevention, is poor and that accounts for reactive rather than proactive strategies and measures made by the police at combating crime in the country.
The decision of the Federal Government to inject additional 280,000 fresh recruits into the Police Force is a welcome development, particularly with the daily upsurge in banditry, kidnappings and other forms of crimes in the country. It is equally important to note that such an increase in the personnel of the Nigeria Police Force should be matched with the procurement of modern crime fighting gadgets that will complement and improve operational efficiency and competence of the Nigeria Police Force.
Since it is the responsibility of the government to protect the lives and properties of the citizens, it must invest heavily in the provision of sophisticated weaponry to combat crime and criminality in the country. To enhance professional efficiency, regular training and retraining of officers and men of the force must be a top priority. Improved welfare package, enhanced capacity building, attractive reward system and appreciation will boost the morale and operations of the men and officers of the Nigeria Police Force.
Many advanced nations of the world attach high premium and priority to the safety and protection of their citizens and therefore heavily fund and equip their police for maximum and efficient service delivery.
While appealing to the federal and state governments, relevant agencies, corporate bodies and organizations in Nigeria to support the Nigeria Police Force, in all areas required, to improve its operational capacities and efficiency, we as a people must begin to appreciate the efforts and sacrifices made by the officers and men of the force to protect our lives and properties in the country. A little sense of appreciation, even in thoughts, will go a long way in boosting the morale of the rank and file and galvanize their operational efficiency. Negative perception, ceaseless condemnation and incriminations will continue to dampen and inhibit the morale of the police force which in turn could impact negatively on its operations.
The national assembly, through appropriation, must ensure that the Nigeria Police Force is adequately funded to perform its statutory duty in the country.
Security is everybody’s business. Therefore we must endeavor to assist the Nigeria Police in the task of ridding our various communities of criminal elements. Through vigilance and effective intelligence gathering, we would aid the police in crime detection and prevention. If we all play our parts well and with adequate logistics support from the government and corporate bodies, I am very convinced that the men and officers of the Nigeria Police Force will perform their security roles more efficiently.

NB:
My next article shall endeavor to document some of the achievements of the Nigeria Police in areas of crime detection and prevention.

-Bola Bakare
bolabakare.tbtnet@gmail.com

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