Nigeria Police is Operated with Wrong Strategies

02 Feb 2013

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Mr Fola Arthur-Worrey

Before his appointment as Executive Secretary of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF) in 2007, Mr. Fola Arthur-Worrey retired from the state public service as the Solicitor-General. In this interview with Gboyega Akinsanmi, he looks at the diverse crises undermining the capacity of the Nigeria Police and other security issues

Since the founding of the LSSTF in 2007, what have been the central problems undermining effective policing in Nigeria?
The key problem is funding. We find ourselves in a situation whereby citizens of each state and even Commissioner of Police now look up to the Governor for their needs. This is clearly one of the fault lines in the police institution. It is not the responsibility of a governor to fund police operation in his state. What we have today is a Federal Government that is increasingly less responsive to police needs, while the police increasingly turn towards the state government and individuals for their need.

That was why we have a police force that operates on donation in Lagos. This is totally wrong. There is need to beam the searchlight on the central government, and the question should be why the Federal Government of Nigeria is not effectively funding the law enforcement agencies in the country. When one engages any law enforcement agency, their complaint has always been underfunding.
We need to be clear on which arm of government that has the budgetary responsibility under the 1999 Constitution for funding the Nigeria Police. We cannot effectively police a country like Nigeria without ensuring that the police and other agencies are well supported in terms of welfare, working tools and other operational requirements among others.

The first rule of effective policing is human element as reflected in a code of conduct, which the Nigeria Police recently launched. Specifically, policing involves three key elements, which include preparedness, patrol capability and present. This is what is called visible policing. The second problem is mandate. During the military era, the country experienced a paradigm shift in national security towards regime security rather than public law enforcement. The main function of the police is law enforcement. In my view, it does not include escorting all VIPs. It is not an aspect of policing. Rather it is guarding. The Nigeria Police was not established for this purpose. This lack of clarity of mandate has led to distortion in the country’s police force.

At this instance, do you see the fault lines as lacuna in the country’s constitutional framework? 

We cannot put everything in the constitution. The inability to put everything in the constitution was the reason we have the legislature. This should have been addressed in the Police Act. In every country, a man may apply to the police for protection. But this would be based on whether he has a genuine reason for such demands. Maybe, his life is threatened due to his position, which exposed him to danger. But this belies a situation one personality will be going to his hometown; he has to go with police escort. That is why you see police officers hanging around. Or you see police officer serving as stewards to their boss.

We have to make up our mind on the type of police force that we want in Nigeria. Part of the problem is the challenge of mandate. This is the problem of the elites. They need to show some restraints on how we apply certain rules. If there is discretion to give people police protection under certain circumstances, such discretion must be exercised with restraints. Again, when one looks at the lack of clarity of mandate, it is also tied with the proliferation of the agencies that are doing the work of the police. These agencies have been established to effectively give higher focus of specialisation. But we all know that in no way has it improved the situation.

For example, before the establishment of the Federal Road Safety Corp (FRSC), the licensing regime of car was very clear. It was a function of local government. Getting a license was not a difficult situation. Then I used it in other countries because it was recognised. We all know 70 percent of car owners in the country are not licensed because the system has collapsed. When we had the old motor traffic division, there was more discipline on the road. We all remember the men and women of the white cap were in charge. They knew what to do.

Now you will find people driving alone with a learner plate and without an instructor. They will even drive through the FRSC checkpoint and will not be apprehended. The reason for this was that these new institutions do not have institutional memory again. When one is a law enforcement agent, he must have institutional memory. This must be inculcated while undergoing training and retraining programmes. This could be described as public order. But it is now lacking in our police.

Policing is not just about arresting armed robbers, kidnappers and other criminals. It also includes managing scenes of accident, fire disasters and other cases of emergency. The essence was to ensure that there were law and order. This is what Governor Babatunde Fashola described as broken glass theory. The theory postulates that if the window of a building breaks, it is important for the owner of the structure to replace it urgently. But if he fails, this may lead to conflagration and all sorts of things.

In the face of these challenges that are undermining the performance of the Nigeria Police, how can we get the Police we want? 

The current police leadership is working to restore the institutional memory of the police officers through the frequent publication of the police code. This will serve as reference point. We want a force that will be capable of performing their duties. There will not be question about their functions. When you multiply agencies, you create an abstract situation where no one knows who is responsible for certain functions. Let us be clear about the mandate of the police. Mandate of the police is not about regime security. The mandate of the police is the protection of life and property. In an institutional process, one must hold someone politically accountable for the failure of the Nigeria Police. But what we did in Nigeria was to shift the responsibility of police funding.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo started shifting the responsibility of the police to the state governors. But there is only one statutory political head of the police and that is the country’s Chief Security officer. We all know that the President is the Commander-in-Chief of Armed forces. But we also know that section 9 of the Police Act talks about the operational commander of the Nigerian Police Force, which is the statutory power.

Therefore, if there were failures in the police, the Inspector General is not responsible because an institution cannot investigate itself. Rather it is the political leadership that will use its power to embark on such investigation. With this, it shows that we must look more to the Goodluck Jonathan in spite of the many challenges. At least, he is still the president of the country. At the core of every viable truth is effective policing. Today, officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces are in 29 states involving themselves in civil law enforcement.

A security summit was held recently in Abuja. Did the summit provide strategic solutions to the country’s police crises?
At the summit, many issues concerning policing were addressed. In my view, the issues of funding and political accountability were not addressed. So, we tend to be speaking in a vacuum. The participants raised divergent views on what should happen. But the question as to who should be held accountable for police failing was not raised. The essence of democracy is to hold someone accountable for the failure of any institutional process. The summit did not do this critical aspect of holding someone accountable. The reason was that the police do not create their own budget or generate revenue. Who should then be held accountable? Is it the Minister of Police Affairs? The police should not have a political head because anyone appointed will belong to a party. The fact is that the president or governor rises above partisan issues when exercising political power.

At the summit, we did not focus on the main aspect as to who should be held accountable for police failing. We gave the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) N87 billion to conduct the 2011 elections alone. Why can we not give the police such fund? We need to understand that if we do not have an effective police, we cannot have a good electoral reform. That is the reason we need to invest more in the police. Another issue that calls for attention is the hierarchical structure of the police. It is too top down. Just like the military, there is a little room for any police officer to use his initiative in dealing with certain situation. We need to free up the command structure to allow some independence. There is hardly any up flow of ideas into management. The man on the street is hardly considered when critical decisions are taken.

How does the police central command structure affect effective policing in the country?
This centralised hierarchical system always impose one side fit all solution to policing issues. For example, the strategy that would work effectively in Lagos may not be applicable to Adamawa. Lagos is densely populated, while Adamawa is not. And the policing strategy one adopts in a densely populated area must be different from states not heavily populated. There is an urgent need to design strategy that would suit each situation. When you keep moving police commissioners frequently, how much local knowledge do they have before they are moved to another state? When another person assumes office, he will have to learn the entire process and environment again before he can really perform.

During the period, it consumes our vital time and the criminals have their ear on the ground. There will be a period of interregnum. With this, there will always be distraction. In other countries, they do not move their security chief within short period. In the United States, for example, you cannot move commissioner who is a political appointee of the mayor within short period. The reason was that chief of police is the repertoire of knowledge. He knows all the officers, their strength and weakness. So, policing requires that we must be managerial than administrative. An administrator keeps the system kicking, while a manager exact pressure to get the maximum level of positive outcomes. This was what led to the desire for state police. The reason for state police is that there will be more local accountability. 

But there is a provision for the Nigeria Police Council in the 1999 Constitution. Why can it not handle some of the challenges in the Nigeria Police?

There is a police council already in existence. But it does not meet. It comprises President, Inspector-General and others. The key to management success is input. If one allows three or four people to manage, one is not likely to achieve a broad solution. This was why the world is moving from dictatorship to collectivism. The first role of the police council is to approve the appointment of the Inspector-General. The president appoints, but the appointment is based on the recommendation of the council. I am not sure if such process was adopted in the appointment of the last four Inspectors-Generals we had in the country.

The second issue is to develop a clear mandate for the function of the police. Each governor comes forward with his own idea of how the police should function, while the police council after receiving all the suggestions will design a plan for police operation. If we embark on this, it would broaden the ideas and input into the police. Thus, it will make the police more accountable. It will also democratise the process of decision making in the Nigerian Police. That was why it was stated in the constitution. The President should constitute the council and let them hold their meetings. Let us give the constitution effect in that regard.

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