THE CHALLENGE OF POLICING NIGERIA

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The police must be properly equipped for optimal performance

The pervading bitterness following the bungling of last week’s governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States, no doubt, will further chip away at the image of the country’s foremost internal security organisation – the Nigeria Police Force. The conduct of the police during the elections was so flawed and dishonest, a serious dent on their professionalism.

Indeed, the Forum of Chairmen of Nigeria Political Parties condemned the role of security agencies, particularly the police, as reprehensible. “Men in police uniforms were seen aiding thugs to carry ballot boxes and other materials from the centres and abducting polling staff”, the Forum said. “The Collation Centres were made inaccessible to duly accredited observers and agents of other political parties except those that were allowed by the thugs; while over 35,000 policemen watched helplessly.”

However, the challenge of policing Nigeria is beyond their periodic roles during elections. Since after the civil war, never had the security of the nation degenerated to the present level. From armed robberies, kidnappings to ritual killings, general banditry and other cocktail of criminal activities, Nigeria is a country virtually at war with itself. The situation is aggravated by the decade-long brutal Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east resulting in widespread and indiscriminate maiming and killings of many law abiding citizens and the displacement of millions of others. Besides, the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers over grazing areas, particularly in the North-central of the country, have further stretched the law enforcement agency.

Yet the police whose officers and men are supposed to be at the epicenter of restoring law and order across the country are seriously handicapped and almost incapable of performing its onerous constitutional responsibility. The police are not only ill-trained and ill-equipped for their onerous duty of fighting crimes and criminality, but are undermanned and indeed, underpaid. The general appearance of the average policeman says much about his welfare.

They are not well provided for, a serious handicap which aids corruption. Thus the security of the nation is more or less entrusted in the hands of hungry men. They are easily overwhelmed and outgunned by sophisticated criminals as they lacked modern gadgets and equipment needed to meet the challenge of the present day policing, in addition to conducting diligent investigations that would lead to diligent prosecution and eventual convictions of criminals.

Indeed the present recruitment drive in the police is but a feeble attempt to strengthen the capacity of the 370,000 officers and men, many of whom are seconded to perform household duties for the rich and powerful in society. At recent public lecture titled, “Perspectives on Security Challenges in Nigeria from 1999 to 2019: The Way Forward,” in Lagos, Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi said that the police, as the traditional and age-long security outfit, were being relegated to the background for lack of necessary tools needed to effectively carry out its duties while the military was being elevated with provision of the state-of- the- art facilities and equipment.

“From a strategic point of view,” said Fayemi, “it is necessary that the military’s role as an elite specialist weapon of last resort be fastidiously preserved while we leverage other resources and tools that are part of the security sector’s arsenal. This means re-tooling, re-training and re-arming the police force –much neglected in the scheme of security planning and recognising their premier role in the field of law enforcement and the first line in national security management.”

The decentralisation of the police structure will further enhance its effectiveness in performing its constitutional duty of protecting lives and property. The ineffectiveness of the present structure is attributed partly to the long wait for Abuja for clearance on some issues demanding immediate attention. This has prompted many agitations across board for community policing for effective handling of internal security challenges. For now, it seems the best bet as effective policing demands trust and intelligence.