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Towards A More Friendly Nigerian Police

Posted: Apr 8, 2016 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Paul Okolo


Within a few hours of opening the websites of the Nigeria Police for applicants to start applying for the 10,000 vacancies ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari, at least 8,000 people had logged in, crashing the portals. You don’t have to be a soothsayer to know that by the end of the exercise; no less than 100,000 job seekers will have applied. This people are rushing to join, not because they have any interest in promoting law and order, but because they want to do any available job to earn a living. This has security implications. As in previous times, all kinds of characters will join in the rush for employment.


Some sceptics are already badmouthing the latest exercise for that reason. There’s the pervading belief that the usual man-know-man syndrome will come to play and edge out qualified people with a passion to serve, short-changing the country once more.


But irrespective of the argument for or against previous recruitments, the police clearly needs to increase its workforce. With current staff strength of less than 400,000 men and women, Nigerian Police could do with a lot more hands to effectively ensure law and order and secure people and their property.


The last police recruitment was about five years ago. Between then and now, hundreds of police officers have died, while some have been dismissed or made to face other disciplinary measures that have taken them out of the system. The resultant shortage puts extra burden on an already overburdened workforce. They deserve our sympathy. New blood must constantly be injected to make it more relevant and alive to its responsibility.


Beyond recruitment, public perception of the police needs to be improved. In recent years, the police have become adept at engaging the public through a number of avenues that have helped to polish their image. Police spokespersons appear regularly on radio and television programmes and answer questions posed by members of the public. They use these fora to deal with complaints and to enlighten people on security matters. They’ve also deployed social media effectively, resulting in a better public perception.


This is not to say, however, that police performances are satisfactory. Overzealous officers are still roaming the streets, extorting the public and mistreating the people they are paid to protect. Often, drunken and crazy police men shoot and kill people for no justifiable reasons. Some people have been extra-judicially killed in detention facilities. The cases are too many to be repeated here. Response time to distress calls needs to be quicker, people lodging complaints at police stations need to feel welcomed and not be made to pay for things we’re told are free.


The police clearly have a long way to go in cleaning up its image and start to earn the confidence of Nigerians. After experiencing the squalor, gloom and hopelessness at a regular police station, most people loath to go back for any reason. Save for the beautiful Louis Edet House, the Police headquarters in Abuja, and a few state police headquarters, no reasonable investment has been made in police residences and offices over several decades. Let us not touch the provision of modern equipment necessary in contemporary policing. Billions of naira, no doubt, must have been budgeted for these purposes. Regarding where the money might have gone, your guess is as good as mine. Some business organizations, in fulfilment of their corporate social responsibility, have stepped in to provide some of the needed infrastructure. But their effort, laudable as they are, is like a drop in the ocean.


For the police to be up to being at par with their global peers, the authorities need to prioritise training, equipping and motivating the officers. The minimum educational requirement for the lowest cadre under the current recruitment exercise is five credits at the school certificate examination, including English language and mathematics. Hopefully, this will put an end to the influx of people who can’t read and write. Training will in addition ensure proper handling and use of firearms, thus reducing cases of accidental discharge by officers, nicknamed “kill-and-go” because of the frequent wastage of lives they’ve come to be noted for.


“The issue of force and firearms is one of the important issues that the Nigeria Police has to deal with particularly in relation to human rights abuses which occur as a result of excessive force and misuse of weapons,” one western diplomat said recently. He’s right. The human rights record of the police reflects badly on our country and it must be checked to raise our stature as a nation. It will encourage some of our international partners to help us improve the police. Also, it’s a big dent on our image that the police record in investigating and resolving crimes is poor. If not, why don’t we still know the killers of Bola Ige up till now?


Okolo writes from Lagos