The report is a wake-up call that the police could do more

Following a damning report by the 2016 World Internal Security and Police Index (WISPI) that ranked it as the worst in the world, the Nigeria Police Force has reacted rather angrily. However, while we do not vouch for its accuracy, we nonetheless believe that it will be much more productive for the police authorities to use the content of the report as a basis for improving on their performance.

Coordinated by the International Police Science Association and the Institute for Economics and Peace which assessed police in 127 countries across four key areas (capacity, process, legitimacy and outcomes), the Nigeria Police were adjudged to have underperformed on all four domains, with a score of 0.255. “There are 219 police officers for every 100,000 Nigerians, well below both the Index median of 300, and the sub-Saharan Africa region average of 268,” said the report adding, this limited “the capacity of the force to measure up to its law and order mandate.”

The report further stated that in terms of process, legitimacy and outcomes,” the story is not different which makes the force fall short of the required standard. High levels of political terror have been an issue for Nigeria since 1993, with the country scoring a four on the Political Terror Scale every year since then.” But in disputing the report, the police authorities argued that “in checking excesses within the force, a lot has been done in that regard. So we want Nigerians to disregard the report in its entirety because it doesn’t reflect the achievements of the force.”

This newspaper has always stood for the men and officers of the Nigeria Police because we believe what they do is a herculean and dangerous job as they confront the brutalities that the rest of society only imagine or watch on television from the comfort of their homes. We also sympathise with the fact that most often, all they get for their efforts are criticisms from the same people they are expected to serve. But nobody can deny that there is a growing lack of confidence in the capability of the police to prevent and contain insecurity in the country.

The police authorities must therefore 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. To readdress the threat posed by the swelling militarisation of the country and the long-term effects, we need to strengthen the Nigeria police to be effective and efficient–both in terms of its professionalism and structure, so that it sustains the capacity to carry out its constitutional responsibility of maintaining law and order.

Even if the authorities dispute the WISPI ranking, it is our hope reports like this will help to contain the culture of brutality, especially when it comes to dealing with the civil populace. It is important to let the police know that treating people with contempt, hostility, or excessive force does not in any way advance the cause of law enforcement. It actually hinders it. Besides, there are parts of the WISPI report that are beyond the remit of the police authorities and they speak to the challenge of our federal structure. That a nation of more than 170 million people would rely on a police force of about 300,000 men and officers does not indicate any seriousness.

Given the foregoing, it is imperative for both the police and those who superintend the security apparatus of state to examine the WISPI report with a view to seeing which areas need improvement. It should be taken as yet another wake-up call in the efforts to make Nigeria safe for all.