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Decentralise Nigeria police operations now!

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It may not have come as a surprise when a recent survey by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), named the Nigeria Police Force, whose core duties include the prevention and detection of crime, apprehension of offenders and the preservation of law and order, as the most corrupt institution in the Country. This is a sad commentary on governance of the internal security operations in Africa’s most populous country.

The police have often come under intense criticism by members of the public, owing to its high-handedness in the performance of its functions. Not too long ago, there was a sustained clamour for the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Police Force, accused of corruption, torture, extortion and extra judicial killings of members of the public, particularly the restive youth. This insufferable development drew the attention of the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo upon whose intervention the unit was decentralised, with the then Inspector General of Police assuring Nigerian’s of a reformed unit of the Force.

However, Nigerians have again been greeted with the fatal shooting of a young man, Mr. Kolade Johnson, by members of the reformed SARS (now FSARS) in Lagos, thus calling to question the nature of the reported reform. This means the so-called reform has been meretricious and wasteful.

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Doubtless, the ignoble role often played by most of the nation’s security agencies in the discharge of their statutory duties should without question, be a cause for concern to any responsible government, particularly one whose mantra is the fight against corruption. These institutions should play a vital role in ensuring the development of strong public institutions.
In spite of the current government’s commitment to fighting corruption, Nigeria sits at 144 of 180 countries on the global corruption perception index. While alleged corrupt office holders are charged with multiple counts, only a few convictions have been secured. Observers have often attributed the low conviction rate of high profile corruption cases to poor investigation by the relevant security agencies either due to poor funding, unavailability of requisite forensic experts and or outright compromise by investigating officers. The resultant effect is a case of citizens with open disdain and lack of confidence in security agencies, whose officers in turn are ill-motivated to inspire the desired confidence and trust required for a smooth community policing.

Although the Nigeria Police boasts of highly trained officers who serve with a high level of professionalism, who get accolades whenever they are on peace keeping missions abroad, only few officers inspire confidence at home. A recent case in point being the Commissioner of Police in Kano State, Wakili Mohammed, recently celebrated by members of the public for his role in the just concluded gubernatorial elections in Kano State. However, the nefarious activities of rogue officers continue to cast a shadow on others, as indiscipline and corruption now appear to be the bane of the very organ of state entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the stability of law and order.

While the Acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, recently decried the poor funding, which he blamed for the Force’s inefficiencies, lack of adequate funding should not be the excuse for the extortive tendencies of most police officers, who now make themselves readily available to the highest bidders, particularly serial lawbreakers and desperate political office holders. The Police must be conscious of the fact that it represents the symbol of law and order in the society and must be above board in its interactions with members of the public. Therefore, the IGP must do more in the areas of discipline of erring members of the internal security force.

However, if the current administration is sincere about its stance on the fight against corruption and insecurity, due attention must then be accorded the Nigeria Police as well as other security agencies. According to the IGP, out of a capital budget estimate of N342.9 billion proposed for the 2018 fiscal year, the Force was given an appropriation of N25.2 billion, a sum grossly inadequate considering the nation’s security challenges. It will be recalled that the former IGP, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris called for the recruitment of 30, 000 police officers annually for the next five years for the nation to meet up the United Nations recommended police to citizen ratio of 1-400. Nigeria currently operates at 1-600, with the number of police personnel put at 334, 000, at the end of 2018.

The government must play its role by providing adequate funds to ensure the independence of these institutions; increase capacity, requisite periodic trainings and psychological analysis to enable these officers meet with the challenges of 21st century policing. The current operational structure should also be revisited.It has become obvious that adequate policing in a federal system requires the operation of decentralised units. And it is for this reason stakeholders have repeatedly advocated for the introduction of State Police – for operational efficiency. This expediency should not be treated as a partisan political project. It is in public interest. The United Kingdom of 66.5 million people have 43 police forces in England and Wales, along with British Transport Police and the separate police forces of Scotland and Northern Ireland. This is a desideratum in this country of more than 200 million people at the moment.

Meanwhile, Nigerians must equally be conscious of their role in the development of public institutions. In this regard, citizens who desire efficiency and integrity of the officers of the law should refrain from compromising such security agencies to achieve selfish interest. A nation deserves the kind of police it gets at any time.

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