Nigeria @ 58: The Nigerian Police from Independence


Chiemelie Ezeobi and Rebecca Ejifoma chronicle the history, growth, successes, ills and challenges of the Nigerian Police since Independence on October 1,1960

With a staff strength of 371, 800 in its 12 zones and its over 6,500 field formations, the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) has certainly come a long way from independence. Now, the staff strength has increased to 22,484 officers and 499,769 rank and file.

Change they say is constant and the same holds true for the NPF from its days of post-colonial era. This is because even when Nigeria amalgamated in 1914, it did not have a central police force up until 1930 when it was pronounced the Nigeria Police Force.

With the establishment of the NPF, it was charged to as stated in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979, 1989 and 1999, which was later reinforced in the Police Act and Regulations, to ensure the prevention and detection of crime, apprehension of offenders, preservation of law and order and protection of life and property.

Others include enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged and the performance of such military duties within or without Nigeria as may be required of them by, or under the authority of the Act or any other Act.

For the unititated, the NPF is divided into different sections to enhance operations. The different operations include- administration, anti-fraud section, central criminal registry, special anti-robbery squad, x-squad, general investigation, special fraud unit, legal section, forensic science laboratory, interpol liaison, homicide, anti-human trafficking, special branch (criminal and special investigation bureau) and the force CID investigation, Kaduna annex.

Present Staff Strength

According to statistics from Budgit, as at 2017, the strength of the police was one Inspector General, seven Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), 29 Assistant Inspector General of Police(AIG), 111 Commissioners of Police (CP), 236 Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) 577 Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), 980 Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), 2,690 Superintendent of Police (SP), 4,522 Deputy Superintendent of Police(DSP), 3,044 Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) 1 and 10, 287 ASP 11.

For the rank and file, the count begins with the Inspector with 49,026, then the Sergeant with 62,681, then corporal with 128, 656 and constable with 19,043.

The evolution of the NPF started in the then Lagos colony in1861 when the British Consul in Lagos obtained permission from his principal in London to establish a Consular Guard comprising of 30 men.

Two years later in 1863, this small body of men became known as the “Hausa Guard”. It was further regularised in 1879 by an Ordinance creating a Constabulary for the Colony of Lagos. An Inspector-General of Police commanded this force recruited mainly from Hausas and known as the “Hausa Constabulary.

Fastforward to 1891 in Calabar, an armed constabulary was formed. In 1893 the area was proclaimed the Niger Coast. Niger Coast constabulary was then formed in 1894 in Calabar under the Niger Coast Protectorate. On January 1, 1896, the Lagos Police Force was created and armed like the “Hausa Constabulary” and in 1906, the Lagos Police Force and part of the Niger Coast Constabulary became the southern Nigeria Police Force, while the bulk of the Niger Coast Constabulary formed the southern Nigeria Regiments.

After the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria in 1914 both police forces continued to operate separately until April 1, 1930 when they were merged to form the present Nigeria Police Force with Headquarters in Lagos.

Headed by an Inspector General of Police (IG), the NPF management team consists of the seven departmental heads, with the force secretary and the IG at its head.

The order of ranking thus starts from the IG to the DIG, then AIG, before the CP, then the DCP before the ACP. Others in the hierarchy include the CSP, the SP, the DSP and the ASP. For the rank and file, the hierarchy begins with the Inspector then the Sergeant Major before the Sergeant, and then corporal before the constable as guided by the regulation 273 of the Police Regulation, Cap 359 laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1990.

Chronicles of Inspector Generals of Police
From independence to date, the NPF has a had a total of 17 IGs, beginning with the first indigenous IG, Louis Edet who was there from 1964 to 1966 whilst briefly being the chairman of the Nigerian Football Association in the early 1960s.

Next in line was Kam Salem who was IG from 1966 to 1975, a post he held during the military rule of General Yakubu Gowon. The third IG from 1975 to 1979 was Muhammadu Dikko Yusufu who at one time was the acting IG when Edet was on leave during the January 66 coup led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, when the Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and others were found murdered.

Upon retirement, he was later appointed chairman of Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) in 1994 and in 2003, he delved into politics and ran as a presidential candidate against Olusegun Obasanjo and lost. Fourth in the line was Adamu Suleiman from 1979 to 1981 and then Sunday Adewusi took over from 1981 to 1983 before handing over to Etim Inyang who headed the force from 1985 to 1986.

The seventh IG was Muhammadu Gambo-Jimeta, who held the helm of affairs from 1986 to 1990 and then Aliyu Atta from 1990 to 1993. Atta then handed over to the ninth IG, Ibrahim Coomassie who was there from 1993 to 1999. Coomassie served under the military governments of Generals Sani Abacha and Abdulsalami Abubakar and was IG when MKO Abiola died in prison.

In October 1999, government investigations into abuses by the Abacha regime, including the assassination of Kudirat Abiola (wife of M.K.O. Abiola) in 1996 and the suspected murder of Shehu Musa Yar’Adua in detention in December 1997, resulted in the arrest of Ibrahim Coomassie and other leading figures, including Mohammed Abacha, the dictator’s son.

Coomassie who was placed under house arrest was reportedly scheduled to appear before the police’s Special Investigation Panel but later that month, Information Minister Dapo Sarumi denied reports that Coomassie was under arrest and so the matter fizzled out. The 10th IG was Musiliu Smith who was there from 1999 to 2002. Smith retired in March 2002 following a police strike on February 1 2002, after which the then President Olusegun Obasanjo asked him to retire.

The 11th and most popular IG was Mustafa Adebayo Balogun fondly called Tafa. He was IG from 2002 to 2005 and was forced to retire because of widespread charges of corruption in January 2005. On April 4, 2005, Balogun was arraigned at the Federal High Court, Abuja on charges involving about N13 billion obtained through money laundering, theft and other sources.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission under Nuhu Ribadu brought 70 charges against Tafa Balogun covering the period from 2002 to 2004 and he made a plea bargain with the court in exchange for returning much of the property and money. He was sentenced to six months in jail and was released on February 9, 2006 after serving his sentence, part of it in Abuja National Hospital.

The 12th IG from 2005 to 2007 was Sunday Ehindero and he garnered support when in 2006 they sent a bill to the National Assembly to amend police Act to remove gender bias. He was no stranger to corruption allegations. After his retirement in 2007, Ehindero faced a probe over N21 million fraud, N2.5 billion of police cooperative money, N300 million police funds and the source of money for allegedly building about eight magnificent houses.

Replacing him as the 13th IG was Mike Mbama Okiro from 2007 to 2009, before Enugu-born Ogbonna Okechukwu Onovo was saddled with the same responsibility from 2009 to 2010. The 15th IG was Hafiz Ringim who was there from 2010 to January 2012, after which Mohammed Abubakar made IG from that same 2012 to July 2014 and then handed over to Suleiman Abba. Abba held the helm of affairs to 2015 and handed over to Solomon Arase, who held sway from 2015 to 2016 and handed over to Ibrahim Idris Kpotum, who occupies the seat till date.

Although many would argue that the police represents the ill within the society, but without doubt, the force has recorded certain success stories especially in the area of funding and acquiring the much needed equipment to tackle insecurity. While the police may argue that such are never enough, it is still a far cry from what was obtainable in the past when mobilisation was at low ebb.

Another success story was the disbanding of checkpoints nationwide. The police had hitherto used such checkpoints to harass, intimidate and forceful obtain money from motorists.
In fact, many termed such checkpoints as money-spinning machines done with the knowledge and backing of the bosses.

Renumeration interms of increase in salary is another success story the police has in its kitty. The force has so evolved that the basic salary for a constable has risen from below minimum wage to N50,000 and recently, moves have been made to enhance it. Whether this will curb corruption amongst the rank and file remains to be seen though.

In peace keeping efforts, the NPF had over the last 50 years, deployed men and resources towards keeping the peace in Africa and so far, over 20, 000 have been deployed to various United Nations, African Union and ECOWAS peace support operations. Apart from that, other welfare packages like housing, montage policy and efficient cooperative society, have been restructured to ensure that every policeman benefits from the scheme which started with the 5000 housing unit in Abuja.

Under Abubakar’s administration, the new police hospital in Ibadan, Oyo state, the new Force Insurance building and transit quarters in Abuja were constructed and furnished like the police housing estate at Idimu, Lagos.
Also, the police have gone ahead to establish its own mortgage finance bank to carter for the loans of its officers. Although it later ended up in controversy. Also, thousands of policemen have been sent on training on intelligence gathering to enable them cope with contemporary times.

In the area of ICT, they have recorded speed marking changes as against past records when things were done manually and made investigations drag out ever slowly. Although the number of patrol vehicles can never be enough in the face of the growing population and its needs, the police have upped their game in terms of providing patrol vans, which when again compared to the past is a milestone.

Operationally, under this present administration, the police have saved many lives and restored peace and sanity through its new technic of investigating, foiling kidnapping plans and arresting notorious kidnap and robbery kingpins as well as strengthening security at black spots areas across the country.
One of the most profound arrests made by the police after Anini’s captures eons ago was the arrest of billionaire kidnap and robbery kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike also known as Evans in Lagos. They also arrested Justice Ogbenna popularly known as JJ, and Okechukwu Onwuamaegbu in Abia state six weeks after they robbed a bank and killed a customer after evading arrest.

More so, barely one month after the bloody Offa robbery in Kwara state, the Nigerian Police fished out the vicious robbers in May this year. Two of the culprits were arrested in connection with the daredevil act and Izuchukwu Chibundu Lawrence popularly known as “POLICE” among several others. True, in 2017, kidnapping became a lucrative job for many lazy citizens; the Epe and the Turkish school kidnap in Ikorodu area of Lagos. While the victims were rescued unharmed, the culprits got arrested with exhibits recovered.

Of course, the police recorded mind-blowing achievements in states like Lagos, Kwara, Abia, Bayela, Osun, Katsina, Anambra, Imo and Ogun among others. Also, the NPF has further spurred its personnel through public awards and promotions after their fruitful missions in foiling kidnapping and robbery attacks across board.

The Ills
To critics however, the ills far outweigh the the achievements recorded over the years and this is buttressed by the so many negative actions of the police.
The police have continually been riddled with complaints of extra-judicial killing, detention without trial, corruption, inefficiency regarding maintenance of law and order, excessive and recurrent waves of brutalities, abductions, unwarranted searches and violations of privacy and private family life, extra-bodily injury, intimidation and harassment.

With such negative records, it was therefore unsurprising cases of armed robbery involving the use of sophisticated weapon and high casualties increased. Another ill facing the police is corruption and it is believed that this is widespread. Although it is believed that corruption is endemic to the society, many however argue that the police should be above this seeing that they are expected to be moral as law enforcement agents.

But on the other hand, you often see indisciplined policemen involving themselves in crime by conspiring with criminals to perpetuate crime, thus exposing them for their lack of integrity.
Another ill is the perversion of the course of justice by either procuring and supplying false evidence, tampering with exhibit and false accusations to favour their camp.

The police have times without number been accused of sexual exploitations as was what happened in September 2005, when Nigeria withdrew 120 police officers serving in the UN Congo mission because of accusations that they had engaged in sexual abuses.
Meanwhile, their ills would not be complete without a mention of the brazen atrocities of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS), who although had been carrying out Illict oppression of civilians, recently went haywire on a killing and harrassment spree.

Whilst all would rather blame the police for failing in their various responsibilities as the watchdog of the society, it however is important to note that they face certain critical inadequacies which if not tackled would further damage the already battered image. It is therefore stating the obvious that one of the challenges facing the police is inadequate manpower, both in terms of quantity and quality. Also, the issue of inadequate funding comes to fore too.

Despite the landmark they have achieved in ICT so far, there is still room for improvement in managing crime, as well as bridging the operational information gap which interms of data collection which is often marred by inaccurate recording and collation, poor storage and retrieval, inadequate analysis and infrequent publication of criminal statistics.

Again, despite the boost in salary, the poor remuneration and general condition of service can be improved upon to ensure that the policemen who are always in the line of fire are taken care off. Another challenge is the issue of lack of maintenance structure as shown by the dilapidated housing units, equipment and rickety patrol vehicles seen on the roads. This has often been blamed on poor resource management.

One of the major challenge facing the NPF is that of inadequate logistics to procure the much needed arms and ammunition, uniform and other accoutrement, which you often see policemen buying for themselves as against international best practices.
Whilst the policemen are expected to be out there fighting our wars, they face the challenge of inadequate office and residential accommodation and some often live under inhumane conditions.

The police cells are not left out of this uninhabitable living conditions as shown by cells at different police stations, where suspects are subjected to the terrible state of the cells. Another challenge is the break in communication between the police and the public whom they are supposed to protect. While the public sees the police as their enemy, the police in turn see them as lower beings they can squash under their foot. The force is also saddled with endemic challenges like recruiting and training inefficient and indisciplined personnel who lack expertise in specialised fields and show a low commitment to duty.

The challenge of the poor knowledge of law and disregard for human rights can never be understated as it is one of the issues facing the police. Undoubtedly, the NPF had experienced a major regeneration since independence, even with the allegations of dishonesty and unwholesome practices.

Way Forward
Where there is a way, there is indeed a will. Thus, to ensure further progress especially in this current dispensation, the police can ensure effectiveness and efficiency in the prevention and control of crime, detection, apprehension and prosecution of offenders without recourse to unwholesome practices.

Security experts posit that such can be achieved by diligent observance of the rule of law, protection and recognition of individual’s dignity and rights, by acknowledging that they are accountable to the citizens whose tax money are used to fund them.

The police can also prove to be incorruptible in its actions by playing positive and significant roles in the promotion of positive values. But there are yet many who posit that the onus lies on the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Police Service Commission (PSC) to take the bull by the horns by initiating a comprehensive restructuring of the force to a force better positioned to tackle contemporary challenges.