Policing 21st Century Nigeria, Police’s Daunting Challenge


Rising violent crimes, including Kidnapping for ransom, cattle rustling, herdsmen attacks on farmers, inter-ethnic and religious strife and armed robbery have combined to beam the searchlight on the police, raising the question of the capacity of the police to secure Nigerians, write Chiemelie Ezeobi and Kingsley Nweze

The argument has been that with the population of close to 200 million people policed by 371,800 policemen, Nigeria is under-policed. Policing in Nigeria is beset with many challenges. Presently, the crime statistics is frightening. At the last count, at least 10 people are kidnapped daily across Nigeria.

Going by police records, 685 kidnap cases occurred in the first quarter of this year, an average of seven per day. Kidnappers demand between $1,000 to $150,000 as ransom. These figures are, however, debatable as media reports of kidnapping on a daily basis indicate that the rate is higher. There are other criminal activities notably, armed robbery, murder and cybercrime.

But a recent report by Rita Abrahamsen and Michael Williams of the University of Wales argues that the staff strength of the Nigerian Police more than meets UN’s recommendation with a police-to-citizen ratio of 1 to 400. They contend that Nigeria is “over-policed and under-secured.”

The report says police officers are “often unable to enforce law and order.” It says Police are themselves the source of insecurity by engaging in “criminal activities, particularly corruption and extortion.”
But many watchers of policing in Nigeria believe that the police are beset with many problems that are hindering its efficiency.


The major challenge facing the law enforcement agency is funding. Generally, the police lack operations vehicles. Most times, state police commands access operational vehicles, other than the few ones provided by police authorities, through donations by state chief executives.


The core issue in crime detection and prevention is the use of forensics as it concerns data capture and finger print analysis without which crime fighting cannot be effective. Police is still far from accessing this all-important tool at its full functionality.


The issue of adequate fire arms and other related equipment is still a far cry. The situation recently led to a call by stakeholders for the implementation of the Police Trust Fund Act assented to by President Mohammadu Buhari six months ago.

In a chat with THISDAY, Police spokesman and Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Frank Mba, said: “From the word go, this trust fund is actually designed to advance the interest of the police and by extension the security and safety interest of the nation. When you have an effective and efficient police force, a motivated and well-equipped police force, you bequeath automatically a secured public space, a better placed environment, a more secured atmosphere and these are all the things we are expecting the coming into being of the trust fund to help us in achieving.”


Constitutionally, the primary reasons that the police exist are to serve and protect the citizens. But in Nigeria, decades of rot without deep reforms have turned the policing outfit into a bulldog for its master. As cliche as the saying ‘he that plays the piper, also dictates it’s tune’, might sound, it also holds true for the Nigeria Police.

For long, the police have been seen as a political tool for the taskmasters to unleash on their perceived enemies. Without gainsaying, the integrity of the Nigeria Police has been eroded by the ineffectiveness and inefficiency in their constitutional responsibilities to the society.

This has brought to the fore the danger inherent in centralising operational control of the police in the hands of the president.
As rightly pointed out by many security analysts, the only way out is to ensure a clear-cut separation of powers between the government, in this case the president and the police.
According to Ibrahim Jibrin, director, International Human Rights Law Group in Nigeria, and previously an Associate Professor of Political Science at Ahmadu Bello University, for law enforcement agencies to continue to play their constitutional role, however, it is imperative that they are not used in a partisan manner.

He said once they are pushed into partisanship, they lose their neutrality and can easily become actors in the political game. He went on to add that the Nigeria police face a political and constitutional dilemma because of the constitutional provisions, which place the control of the police on the shoulders of an elected executive president who is also the leader of his political party.

Quoting Section 215 of the 1999 Constitution, he said it gives powers to the president, acting on the advice of the Nigeria Police Council to appoint the Inspector General of Police.
On the flipside, he said under sub-section 3 of section 215 of the same Constitution, the president is also empowered to give lawful directives with respect to the maintenance of law and order to the IG and he shall comply or cause them to be complied with.

Harping on the balancing clause that the presidency often neglects, he said there is an equivalent provision in section 215 (4), which creates such relationship between a state governor and a commissioner of police. He noted that in today’s order, it’s often disregarded, at least for governors that are in the opposition.

As unattainable it might seem, the federal government should in the interest of democracy use the police constitutionally and within the ambits of the law. For policemen, their loyalty must first be to the country and not to the president, even though his appointment was sanctioned by the presidency. It’s only when these ethos play out that the unwanted and undue partisanship by the police in the political sphere will wane.

Low Morale

A poorly motivated force is a ticking time bomb that will explode one day. The police readily fit into this bill. Checks revealed that the low morale of the workforce stems from poor welfare, terrible living conditions (especially those that live in dilapidated police barracks), lack of meaningful insurance (given the risk they take on a daily basis), no provision for work tools ( except for their guns and ammunition, a typical policeman buys his uniforms, shoes, and even writing materials to take statements).

Another issue that has caused disaffection among the force is the issue of promotion. The uneven promotion of officers to the detriment of their course mates has been a fodder for low morale. THISDAY checks revealed that some promotions can skip an officer twice or even thrice, leaving them below as their course mates climb the ladder. Time and time again, the service has been riddled with allegations of selling the promotion to the highest bidder.


Corruption is another inherent vice that has eaten deep into the fabrics of the Nigeria Police. This has been characterised by lack of accountability as policemen even openly engage in the various forms of extortion and bribery and also demand money for one to secure bail at the police stations.


Arising from their frustration due to the effects of partisanship and corruption, indiscipline has become rife in the force, causing strong adverse effect on the efficiency of the police. This has affected dedication to duty and efficient service delivery so much so that investigation, a key part of fight against crime has become extremely shoddy and unhelpful to ground conviction of criminals.

Lack of Public Trust

An obvious consequence of the corruption and inefficiency of the force is the loss of public trust. Years of police brutality, human right abuse and extra-judicial killing are also to blame for this. Although they are generally feared, they are in fact despised. The public is miffed by the failure of the police to protect informants, exposing them to danger from criminals they provide information about.

Way Forward

Beyond paying lip service at reforms, for the Nigeria Police to be at par with global standards, there must be a genuine and holistic overhaul of the entire system from tackling corruption, to funding, welfare, training, equipment, manpower, and building public trust again.


Who Controls the Police Force?
In this analysis, Yemi Ajayi examines the structure of the Nigeria Police Force and concludes that it’s not in conformity with the requirements of policing in a federal state.

In the wake of the rising wave of banditry that had brought Zamfara State to its knees, forcing hundreds of thousands of its residents to flee their homes and farms, the then Governor, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, had out of frustration, announced his resignation as the state’s Chief Security Officer (CSO). He had hinged his decision on his inability, as the state’s CSO, to “direct security officers on what to do or sanction them when they erred.”

Ordinarily, Yari’s announcement was supposed to be dismissed as a distractive comedy given the fact that it sought to trivialise a serious security crisis in the state and to divert attention from his failure to tackle headlong the banditry, which according to him, led to the death of 3,526 persons in the state between 2014 and April 2019.
But his resignation then, which was of no effect, brought to the fore the controversy over who controls the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).

Statutorily, the police are under the supervision and control of three major governmental agencies: the Nigerian Police Council, Police Service Commission (PSC), and Ministry of Police Affairs. The PSC is responsible for the recruitment, promotion and discipline of officers and men below the rank of Inspector General of Police (IGP).

The constitution saddles the president, who chairs the Nigeria Police Council, with the task of appointing the IG in consultation with the council. The council, through the president, assigns responsibilities to the IG while the Ministry of Police Affairs oversees the welfare of personnel.
However, it is ironic that in a federal system of government, the central government has so much control of the policing system, leaving leaders at the subnational level at the mercy of the president and or his aides.

As seen in the Yari case, governors are mere figure heads as chief security officers of their respective states. The 1999 Constitution(as amended) that ipso facto made them chief security officers of their respective states, however, took back the little powers bestowed on them in Section 214(4), which entered a caveat that their directives to Commissioner of Police in their respective state commands are subject to ratification by the president or “such Minister of the Government of the Federation as may be authorised in that behalf by the President for his directions.”

The caveat in Section 215(4) creates a lacuna that is being exploited over time by the federal government to undermine governors’ control of police apparatus in their domains.
But while governors have little or no control over the policing system in their domains, they have over the years emerged as the main financiers of police operations in their states due to underfunding by the federal government.

Some governors have set up trust funds to generate money to provide basic tools for the police to fight crimes in their states.
Lagos State provides a flagship example of such states with the passage into law by the state House of Assembly in 2007 of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF) to tackle logistics problems that impaired the ability of the state police command from tackling the peculiar security challenges in the state.

The federal government is replicating this effort at boosting funding of the police with the signing into law of the Police Trust Fund Act, which provides a legal framework for the management and control of the Police Trust Fund.

Governors’ lack of control over the police, largely seen as an aberration in a federal system of government, led to the campaign for the decentralisation of the NPF. The argument is that Nigeria should go the way of other modern nations such as Britain and the United States that have a decentralised police force.

For example, there are 43 geographic police forces in England and Wales plus the British Transport Police, Civil Nuclear Police and the Ministry of Defence Police. The Chief Constable/Commissioner of a force is responsible for delivering policing services.
On its part, the United States policing is being carried out by close to 18,000 federal, state, local and city departments, all with their own rules.

Each of the 50 states has its own nomenclature for its law enforcement agencies, and their powers, responsibilities and funding vary from state to state.
The central theme of the campaign is the creation of state police, an advocacy that the federal government has absolutely rejected.

Rather, the federal government is proposing the setting up a community police system to strengthen the security in the country. According to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, unlike the state police under which each state government would create, recruit, train and manage a policing system distinct from the centralised force, community policing involves each community in every policing initiative.

Adamu said the federal government would recruit 40,000 community policing officers for the new security architecture. The new personnel are to be sent to their local communities to complement the regular police personnel in performing enforcement functions and to carry out low-risk and non-sensitive duties.
Good as the intention may be, the flaw of the community police system lies in the command and control structure.

Questions are being raised on how effective such a system would be with the present posting system of the police whereby Commissioners of Police are posted outside their states of origin.
To remedy this flaw, there is a need to review the policy so that Commissioners of Police are posted to their states of origin where they are not only familiar with the people and culture, they could easily rally support to enhance the implementation of the community policing system.


10 Steps to Reforming the Police

Given the myriad of challenges facing the police force, Yemi Ajayi writes that steps have to be taken to reform the system in order to reposition the force for greater efficiency.

In the twilight of its tenure, the Eighth Senate passed the Police Reform Bill, 2019 that sought to reposition the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). Although the House of Representatives killed the bill by not giving the passage concurrence, it showed the concerns among stakeholders on the need to reform the NPF.

The bill had sought to give Nigeria, among others, service-oriented and modern police and set up guiding principles on efficiency and effectiveness; accountability, and transparency; protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms; and partnership with other security institutions to ensure effective policing in the country.

Notwithstanding the legal setback, the task of reforming the police, given the outcry against the abuse of power by the police personnel that led to the campaign for the abolition of the special anti-robbery squad (SARS) and dismantling of checkpoints, remains urgent.
Those pushing for reforms highlight nine areas that could help change the fortunes of policing in the country


Poor funding has severely hindered the effectiveness of the police and resulted in poor service delivery and bad behaviour by personnel. In most cases, police officers and men lack the basic tools to either fight or deter criminals. The nation, therefore, needs to find a creative way of funding the police beyond the budget. This is why the passage of the Police Trust Fund Bill, which levies the private sector and others to contribute to funding the NPF is a good decision.

Curbing Abuses

Despite concerted efforts by the NPF leadership, cases of human rights abuses, such as indiscriminate arrests, intimidation and extortion as well as misuse of firearms are still rife in the police force. Though bail is acclaimed to be free, police officers and men still demand payment from suspects and their families. There is a need for a code of conduct, to be effectively enforced, to make officers and men take responsibility for their actions, especially in the areas of arrest and detention of persons and searches.


Over the years, the police have relied on the old strategy of extracting confessions from suspects, among others, to solve crimes. This ancient strategy often makes it difficult to either solve criminal cases or get conviction of suspects in court. Therefore, a reform of the NPF should include provisioning for the adoption of forensic science such as physical matching, fingerprint matching, hair and fibre analysis, DNA analysis etc not only to speed up the conclusion of investigation into crimes but also to enhance the accuracy of outcomes.

Data Base of Criminals

Nigeria no doubt needs a data base of criminals to facilitate not only investigation of crimes, but also prevention. Such a data base stores information on suspects and their specialisations so that in case a particular crime is committed in a locality, an analysis of the modus operandi of the crime could provide a lead on possible suspects and enhance the arrest process and investigation.

Central Fingerprint Centre

The federal government has over the years launched an array of projects aimed at capturing the biometrics of Nigerians. Such projects such as the national identity card, BVN, voter’s card registration entail capturing the face recognition of each person as well as their fingerprints. If properly harnessed, this scheme could be turned into a veritable data base to fight crime. A reform of the police should therefore exploit the opportunity provided by such projects to push for the establishment of a central fingerprint centre were the fingerprints of all participating Nigerians and others to be captured through other means can be stored and retrieve to match fingerprints obtained at crime scenes as a crime-fighting tool.

Training and Promotion

There is need to institute a tradition of regular training and merit-based promotion in the force. Currently, one big issue is low morale because many officers and skipped during promotion exercises.

Welfare Matters

The poor funding of the NPF has resulted in creating financial crisis that has affected the ability of the police management to attend to the welfare of its personnel. Police personnel are poorly remunerated and many of them live in squalid conditions, especially in the barracks. This has resulted in the desperation to make money by all other means, largely illegal, to augment their earnings. Therefore, there is an urgent need to reform the system to improve welfare matters and reduce corruption in the police force.

Enlarging the Workforce

With a staff strength of about 371,800 to police a population of about 200 million people, the NPF is largely overstretched. Many of its officers and men work unduly long hours and this impair their ability in effective crime investigation. Although there are plans to add 280,000 new hands to the current workforce, thereby boosting the manpower to 650,000, this is still far below the generally accepted police to civilian ratio of about 225 police officers for every 100,000 people. Nigeria therefore needs a reform to sustain an accretion of recruitments that will significantly increase the police workforce.

Ethical Reorientation

Even with enough funding and right tools, the NPF might still remain ineffective without a reorientation campaign towards attitudinal change by its workforce. Many police officers and men, especially those on roadblock duty, often display nauseating beggarly attitude towards motorists, a conduct that undermines their authorities and ability to detect suspected criminals. In most cases, when they stop a motorist at a checkpoint, it is more for what monetary gifts they could extract from him than for crime prevention. As law enforcement agents, they need reorientation on how to conduct themselves in such a way that lends dignity and honour to their office.

Setting up an Ombudsman

There is a need, under the police reform, for the establishment of an independent complaint authority to receive and investigate and effectively deal with complaints against police officers’ misconduct from the public. This is so because in most cases, the police authorities, except under pressure from the public, tend to sweep under the carpet, allegations of misconducts against their personnel. In some cases where they are forced to probe such claims against their personnel, the investigation is shoddily conducted or dragged on for so long that victims never get justice.

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