Nigeria’s Urgent Need for the Modern Police Force

It’s time to ‘think aloud’ and act urgently against Nigeria’s pervading insecurity that has nearly collapsed our social architecture.

As we prepare for a new presidential tenure in 2023 under either Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Mr Peter Obi, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwanso or any of the other presidential aspirants, the development of the Nigerian policing system should be scientifically planned and measured. At the end of the tenure of the next president, some of the indicators of a modern police force to be enabled include; i. how many personal policing kits… have been added…

It’s time to ‘think aloud’ and act urgently against Nigeria’s pervading insecurity that has nearly collapsed our social architecture. Check it out: Our children can no longer just socialise with other children in the neighbour’s house without parental anxiety over their safety. To even have them ride their bicycles within your well-fenced and gated compound makes you pray, fast, and keep extra vigil. It feels like the next person is either a kidnapper’s informant or the unknown captor, until proven otherwise. Sadly, armed robbers, ritual killers, bandits, insurgents and other non-state actors appear to have the ‘master key’ to lock or unlock, truncate or elongate, and wage or cage at will, our public peace and security under the watch of security agencies. Here’s an urgent brainstorming effort at security restoration and the implied “recovery of our social architecture”.

Of course, to fight insecurity, the 2023 presidential candidates in Nigeria need to think, talk and tackle population explosion, youth unemployment, the influx and use of hard drugs, and porosity of the country’s borders. Also, a over-centralised, poorly motivated and ill-equipped police; a lowly motivated and poorly equipped military, etc., during their electioneering campaigns. To have them each mount the campaign podium and loosely chant, “I’ll fix insecurity; we’ll strengthen the Nigerian Police; my administration will buy more ammunition for the Army” and so forth, like their ilk did in the past, would be another round of hollow, disconnected and mediocre talks. However, the compatriot in me offers to secure an intellectual deep-dive into the seemingly intractable security fiasco, with a prime focus on the institution that ought to man our internal security – the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). Apart from the NPF’s poor policing outcomes that unnecessarily stretch and shift the primary attention of our Armed Forces (Army, Navy and Airforce) from national protection against external aggression, I shall cite two recent instances that propelled my exigent scrutiny of our inefficient police formation.

First on the list is the bloodbath at a Catholic Church in Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State. We do not need another Owo-like bloodbath as a wake-up call to fix our sloppy policing. The second is a personal experience in Akure, Ondo State. A young man rammed into my parents’ perimeter fence recently and a team of fairly responsive policemen on patrol were notified. I met a cop assessing the damaged car and driver. Suspecting alcohol influence, I said: “the @PoliceNG needs to lead alcohol-free driving”. The office replied that, “We can’t go to beer parlours to stop road-users from drinking”. In other words, she just didn’t know what a standard and modern police outfit does in full. Without denigrating anyone, I won’t be surprised if many of the senior police officials in Nigeria are equally of the same mindset as that junior officer.

In seeking a way out, we must be careful where we look. Nigerians born within the last 35 to 40 years are largely ignorant of the norms and modern ways of doing virtually everything. The depressing part is that most of us don’t even know that we don’t know, save for some who have had the opportunity of crisscrossing the globe, either physically or via virtual connections. Thus, if one is not deliberately looking elsewhere for standards and rightful benchmarks, the tendency is very rife to wrongly assume that, for instance, a dirty-looking wooden stick, terrifying and rust-bearing AK-47 rifle, and uncouth commands of “hey, stop there” by Nigerian policemen are the standard policing tools and operational modalities everywhere across the world. Let’s therefore pontificate about a modern police institution under three subheads.

The huge disparity in the remuneration between the high-ranking police officers locked up in air-conditioned rooms and those under the sun along the highways needs to be urgently addressed to motivate the larger number on the lowest rung. Motivation also includes the provision of insurance cover (health and life).

Operational Policing Framework

i. Decentralised: The 50 states that make up the United States of America (U.S.A) – a democratic, federalism-practicing country with 334 million inhabitants – have their corresponding police forces/services (e.g., the New York Police Department, NYPD) formed and funded on the basis of state legislations and budgets respectively. State police ought to have begun operations in Nigeria years ago. Of what policing use is the bogus title and over-centralised (in Abuja) office of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) in a federation of about 206 million residents?

ii. Funded: According to the New York Times in its June 20, 2020 publication, “In its 2019 fiscal year, the [New York] Police Department spent nearly $6 billion, which amounted to about 6 percent of the city’s $95 billion total spending.” Both the current federal Police and recommended state police structures should have no less than 5 per cent of government budgets committed to funding the police.

iii. Motivated, Trained, Disciplined and Intelligence-fortified: The huge disparity in the remuneration between the high-ranking police officers locked up in air-conditioned rooms and those under the sun along the highways needs to be urgently addressed to motivate the larger number on the lowest rung. Motivation also includes the provision of insurance cover (health and life). Furthermore, the average Nigerian policeman lacks courtesy in addressing people on the road or even at the Police Station and it takes regular training and the enforcement of sanctions to entrench the “Police is your friend” slogan as a culture and not a mere rhetoric. Lastly, security intelligence is the live wire of policing and the typical police stations in the 21st century Nigeria that are without ICT gadgets (hardware, software, internet connectivity, forensic gadgets, etc.) for the collection, storage, timely and scientific analysis of “Police reports” and other sensitive information, can never lay claim to the efficient gathering or use of intelligence.

iv. VIPs-starved: In the First World, save for presidents, vice presidents and a few other public officials, policemen meant for everybody’s protection are not reserved for Very Important Persons (VIPs). Rather, bigwigs spend fortunes to procure the services of licensed private security guards. However, at my last count, a whopping 10,950 police officers are attached to Nigeria’s president and his vice, members of the Federal Executive Council, governors and their deputies, and Federal and State legislators! Add this bogus figure to the thousands of policemen attached to Nigerian businessmen, contractors, captains of Industries, top-rated entertainers, rich clerics and other dignitaries and mull deeply over this irrational distribution of our already-inadequate police officers among less than, say, 100,000 Nigerian VIPs (about 0.05 per cent of the country’s population). How may policemen are left to safeguard Nigerians living in Owo and the over 200 million inhabiting various parts of the country? Can’t VIPs, except for a few high-ranking state actors, patronise licensed private security officials and bear the financial burden of their services?

… I encourage all well-meaning governors, like those of the South-West region, to consider kitting out in their respective States, the recent ‘children of necessity’ (like the Amotekun Corps) with the constitutionally-permissible professional policing kits out of the sixteen above-listed, in preparation for State Police.

2. Collective Policing Kits

The major functional kits expected to be in their best forms are: 1. police barracks; ii. police stations; iii. police cars; iv. police motorbikes; v. police bicycles; vi. police ambulance; vii. police phone lines, e-mails (permanent, customised, dedicated, institutional and not personal phone lines and e-mails), to be shared widely with the public; viii. police ICT trackers.

3. Personal Policing Kits

Police kits are inexhaustive because of the dynamics of crime. However, the regular 21st century policeman bears, on a daily basis, an average of 17 functional personal kits in the line of duty in developed nations, while his/her counterpart in Nigeria has paraded just about five of these since I was born. This is without mentioning the additional kits (helmets, shin guards, tear gas canisters, anti-bomb tools, special weapons, sniffer dogs etc.) of the various Special Forces units of police institutions in the modern era. According to numerous sources, these kits include; i. duty uniforms (cap, shirt, trouser, footwears); ii. duty belts (to hold many accessories); iii. bullet proof vests; iv. flashlights; v.batons; vi. handcuffs; vii. body cameras; viii. rubber gloves; ix. breath analysers (for alcohol detection); x. radios (for communication); xi. Internet-enabled electronic devices; xii. pepper sprays; xiii. taser guns (to deliver electric shock); xiv. knives; xv. ammunition (cartridges, bullets etc.); xvi. handgun/pistol holsters (gun-holders strapped to belts for safe-holding); xvii. handguns/pistols.

As we prepare for a new presidential tenure in 2023 under either Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Mr Peter Obi, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwanso or any of the other presidential aspirants, the development of the Nigerian policing system should be scientifically planned and measured. At the end of the tenure of the next president, some of the indicators of a modern police force to be enabled include; i. how many personal policing kits (out of the 17 mentioned earlier) have been added for the regular Nigerian police officer? ii. Are they still carrying AK-47 rifles (ordinarily used in war situations) as the regular firearm or the standard policing operation has been altered to pistols/handguns? iii. Has the constitution been revised (or a new constitution adopted) to legally recognise state police? iv. What percentage of the Federal Government’s budget is allocated to funding the federal Police Force in Nigeria? We shall take stock at the appropriate time.

Finally, I encourage all well-meaning governors, like those of the South-West region, to consider kitting out in their respective States, the recent ‘children of necessity’ (like the Amotekun Corps) with the constitutionally-permissible professional policing kits out of the sixteen above-listed, in preparation for State Police. That is how to build a modern and effective policing system for communal safety and forestall more contemporary calls like that made by Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State to agonising but ‘untrained’ citizens to bear firearms for self-protection.

Adetolu Ademujimi is a medical doctor, author, reformer, coach and public policy expert who wrote in from Akure, Nigeria. Email: ademujimi@yahoo.co.uk; Twitter: @toluademujimi; Instagram: @adetoluademujimi

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