The acting Inspector General of Police has a duty to make the Nigeria Police a more effective crime fighting organ, writes Vincent Obia

After a frantic stretch of months underlined by sporadic violence and killings that shook the country to its very foundation, which the Nigeria Police had no answer to, Inspector General of Police, Mr Solomon Arase, bowed out on Tuesday at the mandatory retirement age of 60. He was succeeded by Mr. Ibrahim Kpotum Idris. Appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari, Idris will be heading the Nigeria Police in acting capacity until the ratification of his appointment by the Nigeria Police Council and the Senate.

Idris has a duty to make the Nigeria Police a more active crime fighting organ. He has a responsibility to correct the operational and systemic anomalies that have made the otherwise main internal security organisation a mere appendage in the domestic security equation.
The new IGP has promised to try. Upon assumption of duty on Wednesday, he said he would work to make the Nigeria Police more effective in the fight against corruption and criminality.

“In our efforts to give a boost to the current administration’s war on corruption, the police management team will strengthen the police C-Squad units in the police commands with the deployment of thoroughly vetted, selfless and patriotic officers to tackle corruption and abuse of office within the police organisation and among the federal, state and local government levels,” Idris said.

Idris also promised to reorganise the Special Anti-Robbery Squad to more effectively deal with violent crimes across the country. He said the Nigeria Police under him would establish forensic laboratories in the six geopolitical zones of the country to boost the force’s capacity for crime investigation and prosecution. He promised to establish joint operation centres in all police commands for effective coordination and synergy with other security agencies to ensure prompter response to violent crimes.

The Niger State-born police boss, certainly, has lofty ambitions for the Nigeria Police. But, like most government intentions in the country, the hard part is the implementation. The pleasant political and economic environment for the achievement of the IGP’s lofty intentions for his fatherland hardly exists. But he can strive to create the environment in which his ideals for the police would thrive. His capacity to do this would determine his success – or otherwise – at the end of the day.

Nigeria Police has lurched from one form of inefficiency to the other due often to some structural inconsistencies. Principal here is the issue of supervisory ministry. Experts, including the president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Augustine Alegeh, SAN, have suggested the categorisation of the Nigeria Police among justice sector institutions that should be permanently under the Ministry of Justice. But the Nigeria Police is currently supervised by the Ministry of Interior, as the 2016 Appropriation Act shows. Police formation and commands are captured as a subhead under the Ministry of Interior in this year’s budget. This follows the elimination of the Ministry of Police Affairs.

There is no gainsaying that the police would be more efficiently utilised in the administration of justice if it is under the Ministry of Justice – just like the prisons. But these two key justice sector organisations are separated from the justice ministry. The result has been avoidable and often ignominious delays in the court system, like the complications frequently experienced in bringing detainees to court. Reports abound about cases that were stalled simply because of the unavailability of the Black Maria to bring suspects to court. Situations like this would certainly be better handled if the police, which provides the vehicle, is under the same ministry that supervises the courts. This is one anomaly Idris should try to address in cooperation with the relevant executive and legislative institutions.

Funding is another issue. The Nigeria Police needs better funding, equipment, and welfare for optimal performance. The present situation where some police officers receive as low as N10, 000 in a month after sundry – overtly and covertly compulsory – deductions does not augur well for efficient policing.

Besides, the Nigeria Police budgets are almost completely spent on recurrent issues, leaving little or nothing for capital spending. In this year’s budget, N308.91 billion is budgeted for police formation and commands, out of which N292.81 billion is meant for recurrent expenditure and N16.10 billion is for capital expenditure. It has always been so. In 2015, out of a budget of N321.32 billion, recurrent expenditure took N303.82 billion and capital expenditure took N17.5 billion. Out of N302.9 billion budgeted for the Nigeria Police in 2014, N295.56 billion went to recurrent expenditure while only N7.34 billion was for capital expenditure.

Additionally, experience shows that the greater part of the Nigeria Police equipment are provided by the respective state government under some informal arrangements. Because the funding of the police, a purely federal organisation, is not the statutory duty of the states, the monetary receipts from the states and various organisations may expose the police to negative influences and tendencies.

Better equipment would also help to reduce police fatalities in the line of duty. Chairman of the Police Service Commission, Mr. Mike Okiro, said last year that the police lost more than 21, 000 between 2010 and 2015 due to death, dismissal, and retirement.
The new IGP should continue to apply the necessary pressure for better funding and equipment of the police.

With a police to people ratio of about 1 – 457 (based on the population figure of 170 million), Nigeria is quite within the United Nations recommended ratio of 1 – 450. The ratio is set to get even better with the on-going recruitment of 10, 000 officers by the Nigeria Police. But the high gaps in funding, equipment, and organisation need to be filled for the country to really get the best out of the available police personnel.