Issues, challenges of policing in Nigeria
Another area of concern not openly canvassed is what I see as absolute contempt which government holds the Nigeria Police particularly since the inception of this Republic in 1999. The appointment of the Minister of Police Affairs has continue to draw not from persons with Police background and experience. Consider the Ministry of Defence, Health and Justice. No one has been appointed, at least since 1999 to the office of Minister outside the Army, Medical Doctors and Lawyers who are SAN, respectively. The nearest the Ministry of Police Affairs has had is a retired Prisons and Naval Officers at different times.
Why have successive government shun retired senior police officers from being appointed as Minister of Police Affairs? Only recently I watched the Minister of Police Affairs as he struggled to answer tricky questions put to him on strategies to enhance police performance on TV. His answers were apt and he showed brilliance, no doubt, but those questions and indeed the needed strategies would have been better served were he to be a retired police officer, who would not required anyone to decode any coded information with regards to policing and its strategies. Today the Police parade an array of dynamic, highly educated professionals who have retired but are yet fit and proper persons capable of holding the office of the Minister of Police Affairs. The President may even have to conduct standard aptitude tests and interview to make an informed choice. I dare say that such officers need not be a party man but a technocrat who has the capacity and all it takes to be a Minister of Police Affairs.
Sometimes in March this year, I personally took a letter addressed to the Minister of Police Affairs dealing with insecurity in Nigeria to his office. The letter was signed by DIG Fidelis E. Oyakhilome (rtd). He is the President of the Association of Retired Police Officers of Nigeria (ARPON). Over six months on, the Association of which I am the National Legal Adviser has not received even an acknowledgement not to talk of any actions taken furtherance to our suggestions. This seeming lethargy undoubtedly cannot be helpful in our quest for improvement in policing in Nigeria.
In Nigeria today, the rate at which vehicles are driven on a highways and in the township without registered Number Plates or with defaced Number Plates sometimes blaring sirens is alarming. In my humble opinion, this situation can facilitate the commission of crimes. Government should create adequate capacity for the Nigeria Police and other security agents to deal with the scourge.
Other strategies for lifting the capacity of the police include digitalizing the operations of the Central Criminal Registry that will compel the registration of persons with criminal records. In the past, all convictions for criminal cases entailed registering those convicted. Although I am not competent to comment on the present level of efficiency of the department, I dare say that government must appreciate the contributions of this section of the Force in its prevention and detection drive.
The forensic and Animals – Horses and Dogs should be further strengthened beyond the present level. The contribution of these departments to crime prevention and detection apart from their ceremonial use is enormous.
Let me conclude this piece by urging policemen, even in the face of apparent neglect by government and hostility by the citizens, to continue to respond to the call by the Inspector General of Police to handle the security needs of the nation. You must appreciate that as a policeman, your role in the society is a noble one albeit thankless. Although it may not make you a President, Senator, Governor, billionaire or even confer any special status, advantage or recognition on you, it will make you happy in retirement if you endeavor during your service years to stand with justice and fair play. You can then look back with contentment and joy at your modest and positive contribution to your country through the Nigeria Police. Therefore, in all your actions particularly in the cause of your duties, and particularly now in Nigeria, your focus must be to make crime less attractive and its commission more cumbersome for perpetrators.
Let me therefore leave you with the offer of the following five suggestions which you may find necessary to commit to your memory. They should be your compass and should be your guide. They will always help you tremendously as you navigate the rough and sometimes slippery terrain and tempestuous waters of policing in Nigeria. You must at all times passionately: hate crime in all its ramification, detest injustice, loathe indiscipline, respect the fundamental human right of others, and
most importantly fear God. In this regards, the fact of your religion is immaterial.
Adetuyi, a lawyer and retired Commissioner of Police, wrote from Akure.