TOWARDS REFORMING NIGERIA’S POLICING SYSTEM

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Monday letter1 

The primary institution of combating security challenges in our nation is the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) which according to the constitution has exclusive jurisdiction to protect lives and property by fighting crime and maintaining law and order. But regrettably, of all public institutions whose record of ineptitude is prominent across the country, the Nigeria Police Force remains a customary point of reference. There is no crime that is alien to the police force, from extortion to rape to murder to kidnapping, to conspiracy; they are never far away from any atrocities. An average police officer is perceived more as a merchant of oppression than the protector of law and order.

 

Sadly, all these unruly acts have witnessed an upward trajectory in recent years. According to Olusegun Adeniyi, what we have now are assassins in police uniform who are passionate to dispense bullets on innocent citizens. The quantum of impunity that exudes in the policing system is capable of instigating civil revolt as such dastardly experiences are becoming unbearable. 

However, we will be hallucinating not to admit that this perplexing situation is the product of the infirmity in our nation. The endemic maladministration in governance has been a springboard to the menace of this institution. Criminogenic problems like unemployment, poor education and ethnic tensions have significant implications for social disorder and crime as the force struggles to contend with the realities of the emerging security challenges. It is absurd that a 21st century police force is still battling with mundane challenges of improper training and skills, inadequate work force, lack of modern gadgets, political intrusion, poor working conditions, incompetence, poor remuneration, to mention a few.

 

Presently, the vast rate of armed muggings, burglaries, homicide, road-block robberies and armed break-ins, local and international swindles, kidnapping, terrorism, hooliganism, militancy, drug peddling and the likes are the outgrowth of our unconscious society. Lamentably, however, the police cannot really ensure effective security as it commands only about 371,800 official personnel out of which over 70 per cent are providing personal security for prominent individuals. In a nation of over 190 million people with its incumbent socio-economic and cultural problems, having an underfunded, ill-equipped and understaffed policing system is already an infatuation to lawless society.

 

 The potent parameters used to assess the proficiency and effectiveness of any police force is to consider its ability to fight crime, resources at its disposal, equipment and apparatus available to it in the discharge of its duties, fewest shots fired by them in a year and fewest persons beaten, shot and killed, strides taken in public protection and its efforts towards the protection of vulnerable persons.

 

The Nigerian Police Force is in dire need of fundamental reforms where its operational and intelligent structure will be engaged in contemporary discourse. Policing is today a multi-faceted phenomenon where the responsibility of the state and the right of citizenry are effectively managed. This has brought about an instigating shift from the traditional model of law enforcing to crime preventing and community safety in order to play a key part in the renewal of social democratic level.

 

Referencing the Police Reform Bill which has just passed second reading in the National Assembly, modernising the institution towards aligning with global practice is a logical step in the rebuilding process. But for it not to be a mere cosmetic proposition there is compelling need to address the organic disorder that is abetting the viscous abuse that has characterised the law enforcement agency. The police force is a service to humanity but the sordid reality in this part of the world is that many of those individuals in the force have taken up the responsibility by default, thereby lacking the right attitude and the needed character that dignifies the profession worldwide.

 Therefore, the nucleus of the proposed reforms should be on recharging the rectitude of policing system by calling to the fore the patriotic value and heroic human quality that must always secrete from donning the police uniform. In ensuring the system is amenable to 21st century codes of policing, officers must be trained to think beyond the gun-belt in their attempt to build a crime-free society. Building an affable and emblazon policing system requires ardent involvement of every sector of the society because public security is a symbiotic project that promotes socio-economic development. Hence, as individuals, organizations, groups, communities we must establish a participatory platform on social security through which we can hold the police force accountable for their action against the society.

 

Kehinde Akinfenwa, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja