The police are increasingly diminished by some roles assigned them
Going by the United Nations estimation, the police force of any country should have no fewer than three personnel for every one thousand citizens. With a total strength of less than 400,000 serving policemen, it is obvious that Nigeria falls far short of this requirement.
But the real challenge is not in the number but rather that many of the existing force strength serve just a few people more or less as guardsmen. When this is juxtaposed with inadequate remunerations and low morale which pervade the police force and other agencies that are saddled with keeping the nation safe and secure, it is easy to understand why Nigeria is currently in a security bind.
On assuming office in January last year, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed Adamu raised particular concerns about discipline and professional conduct within the rank and file. While he may have placed emphasis on such issues as extortion of innocent Nigerian road users, extra judicial killings, etc., the deployment of policemen as guards by private individuals and corporate bodies across the country is just as deplorable. From carrying bags for some political office holders or businessmen to shining their shoes, it is almost as if many of these law enforcement agents have become errand boys.
We therefore reiterate our call on the authorities to streamline the list of public officials entitled to such police/security protection as well as come up with a code of conduct for those personnel when at their duty posts. While the Nigeria Police Force is constitutionally charged with the responsibility for internal security, the country has in recent past had to resort to the deployment of soldiers to restore law and order in majority of the states.
But the failure of the police is evident in all ramifications. It is not only that they cannot protect lives and property of citizens, they also lack the capacity to protect themselves. In recent times, for instance, some police officers had been kidnapped and ransom had to be paid for their release. Also, a recent report by a national daily revealed that a total of 101 police officers were killed by gunmen in the course of discharging their responsibilities in 2019.
To the extent that the very idea of using our security and police personnel as private army undermines their integrity, we need to put an end to the current abuse while restoring some measure of respect and dignity to the institutions concerned. Besides, at a period of national security emergency, such as we have in Nigeria today, this misuse of men and officers of the police and other security outfits should not be allowed to continue. Our policemen—who in the past used to quell civil disturbances while managing emergency situations—should not be reduced to mere personal guards. Statutorily, only the president, vice-president, governors, local council chairmen, legislative principal officers in the states and at federal level, magistrates and judges are entitled to police protection.
But for some curious reasons, this privilege has over the years been abused by senior officers in charge of police commands and formations, who assign most of their men to undeserving politicians and businessmen, leaving ever fewer numbers of personnel for real police work.
The level of degeneration is such that all manner of characters now goes about with policemen who carry bags and umbrella for them. The Inspector-General of Police must put an end to this glaring abuse that continues to cause image problem for the police and undermines the capacity to perform their constitutional responsibility of maintaining law and order.