There is urgent need to reform the police for the difficult task at hand

From fighting militancy and oil theft in the Niger Delta to containing Boko Haram insurgents in the North-east to dealing with armed robbery and kidnappings, it is as if we have taken the responsibility of internal security from the police and outsourced it to the army. And while the soldiers do the heavy lifting in the efforts to keep the nation safe and secure, many police officers are doing what are no more than guard duties, some of them even carrying bags for political office holders and their spouses.

Yet, to the extent that there is no way we can successfully tackle the current internal security challenge without factoring in the police, there is also the need for a reorientation if they are ever going to be able to fulfill their constitutional mandate.

For sure, the surest way to fight crimes remains equipping the police for the discharge of their onerous responsibility. But to do so effectively, the authorities must sit up to the challenges of a global security system where high-tech fighting techniques as well as intelligence sourcing of information provide a basket of reliable and result oriented strategies. What that means in effect is that there is an urgent need to reform our police for the difficult task at hand. As the situation is, what the polity can boast of at present is a police force that is easy game for a more sophisticated world of crime. This is not good enough for the nation.

At the risk of sounding repetitive, we state that the best approach to fighting crimes remains effective intelligence gathering that not only helps in pre-empting and disrupting criminal activity but is also indispensable for the investigations of crimes. But only a well-equipped and professional police can gather the close-to-the-ground information that is necessary for such exercise and where this crucial intelligence does not flow, as it is the case today in Nigeria, the system is endangered. What compounds the current problem is that the police have lost the trust of the people. That has led to a situation in which they do not get the necessary information they need from members of the public. For them to be effective in fighting crimes, they must begin to rebuild that trust.

In the attempts at reforming the police in Nigeria, various committees have been established by successive governments to facilitate such exercise but they have mostly been dominated by people with security background who viewed such assignments as their exclusive preserve. It is therefore no surprise that most of their reports have often focused on increasing policing capacity in the areas of personnel strength, materials for work and welfare; as though once these are right, the NPF will be super effective and efficient.

While not belittling the significant difference a properly resourced NPF can make in addressing the safety and security challenges currently confronting Nigeria, experience from other jurisdictions has shown that much more is required for the police to be more efficient and effective at performing their core functions.

Indeed, the factors affecting police performance in Nigeria have been identified by many of the panels that have been set up by government in recent years. They include inadequate articulation of the NPF’s mission, legal framework, specialisation of functions, performance appraisal system, duplications of policing agencies, weak oversight agencies and corruption. More importantly, the need to improve the bartered image and public perception of the police is very crucial to the success of any reforms and recommendation. Besides, a modern police, able and equipped to tackle the emerging security challenges, must consider active community participation.