Ibrahim Idris will take the assignment to a familiar dead end

A recent meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (then in his capacity as acting president) resolved to constitute a committee to spearhead the decentralisation of the Nigeria Police. But as we have reiterated in the past, a cynical approach to a fundamental problem, taken essentially to buy time, will not do in an environment where impunity has for long been the order of the day. With Nigeria gradually descending to the Hobbesian state of nature where life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”, there is need for a more coherent strategy to deal with the challenge of insecurity in the country.

By the reasoning of the NEC, the proposed decentralisation would aid greater access to intelligence gathering and make policing work more efficient at all levels. Furthermore, the magnitude of the security challenge facing the nation necessitates collaboration between the states and federal governments in tackling the menace. Sadly, question remains as to how the NEC would seek to decentralise the Nigeria Police and opt to choose the current Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris to head the committee. It appears that the council merely wanted to play on the emotions of Nigerians.

That there is an urgent need to reform the police is not in doubt. The security challenge is overwhelming. Besides, while there are several stories of police officers collaborating with criminal gangs, not a few Nigerians have had experiences of extortions from some of the notorious officers and men who act in a manner unbecoming of a police force. Demanding bribes from motorists on the roads, collecting money before accused persons are bailed from their stations aside being deployed as muscle men for rich people, the image of the Nigeria Police is unedifying.

Therefore, assuming there is a genuine interest in the idea of decentralising the police for efficiency, the assignment ought to have been given to a neutral person, especially when the decision came at a time majority of Nigerians have lost confidence in the Nigeria police and its current leadership. This NEC move is not different from the so-called overhaul of the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) ordered by Osinbajo at about the same period. The presidential order came against the background of extortion, brutality and extrajudicial killings for which men and officers of SARS were notorious.

However, in a cynical move devoid of any rigour, all that Idris did was to rename SARS as FSARS as if that would change the mentality of the men renowned for all manner of misconduct ranging from harassment to extortion, assault and extra-judicial killings. Not surprisingly, the reign of impunity has continued in the squad. For instance, on 23rd August, an innocent undergraduate was shot dead in Iwo, Osun State by one of their operatives, prompting irate youths in the town to set the police station ablaze. It was also just a few days after the presidential order to overhaul SARS was given that its men, fully armed, engaged in ballot box snatching during a state house of assembly bye-election in Rivers State, thus forcing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to call off the election.

Given the foregoing, we agree with the NEC that there is an urgent need to reform not only the administration of justice in Nigeria but also the entire structure of the police if they must regain public confidence. But we do not believe that the current IGP possesses both the temperament and capacity for the task with which he has been saddled. We therefore demand that a more serious committee be established to review the several available reports on the reform of the police and come up with useful recommendations.