Nigeria Police Reform:A Myth Or Reality? -David Adenekan
- 25 Oct, 2020
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It is pertinent to say that many successive governments have promised a better police service but these were empty promises that yielded no positive impacts.
The current realities of Nigeria police service can be highlighted as poor and deteriorating. It is an endless list of issues; from conditions of police barracks to poor conditions of the Nigeria Police colleges. Also to mention are: Poor living conditions, lack of good training and equipment, poor salary structure, poor mental healthcare delivery, poor nutritions, bribery and corruptions. These are the obvious realities that rubbished all of the many past reforms.
In view of the above realities, there are many mind boggling fundamental questions that every responsible citizen will need to answer. One, how can you trust a government that cannot make true of her promise? Two, what action do we expect from the Nigeria youths that have mostly been at the receiving end of police brutality and exta judicial killings? Three, how do you trust a government that just disbanded SAR and immediately replaced it with SWAT without any concrete actions to rectify the anomalies and pacify the many victims of police brutality? Four, is the sudden promising of a police reform by Buhari administration in view of many empty promises in the past not another myth?
Evidently and from historical perspective, methink the promise of another police reform by the current ruling party (All Progressives Congress) remains another myth until most of the current policy statements made by Buhari administration on police reform are implemented. It is on this note that nobody should condemn our resilient youths for sustaining the mass protest on the streets. In fact, it is only policy implementation through sincere engagement that the Buhari administration will be able to solve the dynamics of this mass protest on our streets and anything short of this, will be counter productive.
Firstly, for those asking for Police reform, if at all we are going to achieve a semblance of a real reform, there are two hard to fulfill requirements, the first is a political will on the part president Mohammed Buhari. He has already lost the steam to earn the support of many Nigerians.
How do you trust an ethnic chauvinist and religious bigot with issue of national security in a multi ethnic society like Nigeria? Yes, Buhari lacks the political will to give the Nigeria police service a new face and change the present ugly narrative.
Secondly, in a distress economy coupled with a pandemic that has plunged many economies into a comatose, where is the humongous fund for the reform that will be running into three to four trillions naira.?
Thirdly, to achieve an impactful reform, the Nigeria police service would have to be shaken to the bottom. It should start with the RETIREMENT of all top police officers with about 15 to 20 years into retirement. Having done their parts, the government would have to come up with a huge severance or retirement package for each and everyone of them. This package would even extend beyond their last day in service deep into their retirement.
In addition, a body to look into their lives after their retirements is set up to help and guide anyone who might be interested in investing their funds in stocks market, agriculture, setting up private security services and so on. This we need to do in order to ensure that they do not become danger to the society through nefarious activities after retirement like conniving with armed robbers, kidnappers, bandits and other social vices.
Also in line with the above and for the reform not to be another waste of time, energy and resources, the culture and air of corruption that is so pervasive at the top echelon of the Nigeria police service need to be tackled head on and brought to a zero tolerance level.This is because every corrupt acts like bribery and extortion carried out by the lower cadre Officer have the blessings of the Officers on top.They are always in cahoot in all of these acts as there is always a common bucket, drum or account where proceeds of bribery and corruption are always dropped before finally sharing to every member of a unit in line with seniority. It’s always a ring!
Therefore, disruption at the top of the echelon of power is MANDATORY, else it would just be an exercise in futility. A fresh breath of air of ethical and professional conduct has to be established by mid level officers that would be selected by independent body based on merits and excellence in service.
Furthermore, genuine effort should be made to retrain, retool and rehabilitate the minds of officers at the bottom any way that is possible, there you have lower cadre officers having served as foot soldiers for years for senior officers at the top in the corruption ring.
As we are all human, every right thinking individual should believe in redemption . As I have pointed out above in this piece, the welfare of these police officers like good salary structure, good housing, mental healthcare, good nutritions, good training facilities and equipment, and a reward system will determine the kind of quality output of service the masses would get. "As you lay your bed so you lie on it".
It is to this extent that having provided the enabling environment for these officers to achieve, there comes a calibrated disciplinary system to deal with erring police officers which in the spirit of courting redemption, a dismissal is the way to go after two infractions.
The lowest and bottom of a police career is the cadet, there is a need to make the career attractive with a well spent budget for prospective individuals venturing into the career.
At this critical juncture, the minimum requirement for massive recruitment should be NCE up to Bachelor’s degree until we are able to stabilize the NPF.
Moreover, the need for a new set of dedicated, educated and accomplished, mid level officers that are ambitious, self motivated and disciplined, who would be the face of a new branded Police service and will change the narratives of the present day Nigeria police service cannot be overemphasized.
There is no doubt that there is a trust deficit between the Police force and the populace; bridging the gap will require changing the narrative. The need to change the trajectory with new course of discipline and professionalism by well rounded officers is something the masses and most especially the youths would like to look up and cling to and appreciate as the main achievement of this protest.
In this you have a ray of hope and a sigh of relief for the masses which includes the majority of youths that are clamoring and protesting for change at this moment. This in essence goes to serve the country in the nearest future because the country needs a formidable federal police service in place in order to ensure a safe landing in case we restructure this present dysfunctional federal system.
However, the unfortunate reality is that a comprehensive reform is not possible in present day Nigeria, I doubt it with the present day regime . A four trillions naira budget for reform is not just what the present regime is ready to dive into. If I have the power and I could have my way, I would order the members of the family of Nigeria Police Service living in the never maintained horror buildings and the house of death called Police barracks out and level all the buildings throughout the country. This is part of where the huge budget needs to be expended, being part of the general welfare package. We will now turn the buildings after demolition into training and other befitting facilities for cadets and officers in general. Sadly, where is the fund, where is the money ?
This would have been one of the loftiest and institutional reforms that President Mohammed Buhari should have embarked on since 2015, that was when his body odor was mint and his body language was charming. Also then it would have been cheaper, instead, he was engaging in a rudderless anti graft drama.
Apart from the funding, his knowledge about modern government in this digital age is in question. It will not be a surprise If a body recommends to President Mohammed Buhari to set up an independent committee to work on bringing the most educated and brilliant, dedicated mid level officers to lead the charge in reforming the Nigeria police service after easing out those at the top at present, he would not hesitate to tell the body the next day that their recommendation papers are already gathering dust on his shelve.
Setting up an independent committee to select qualified officers means giving equal chance to Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa-Fulani and other minorities group officers. However, this is not a chance President Mohammed Buhari will ever take because he is only comfortable with those from his Hausa-Fulani clan.
Not even with a very special, critical security organization as the Nigeria Police Service.
In the final analysis, the highly centralized police command has already stretched the numerical strengths, abilities and performances of Nigeria Police officers far beyond their limits. It is very insane to think the current Nigeria police service has the personnel, equipment and training facilities to provide security and protection for population of more than two hundred millions people in the 21st century.
It should also be noted that Nigeria is the only country in the world that has a centralized police service in a supposedly federal system of government. Does commonsense not dictate that such a system will be ineffective, corruptible and compromised?
At this juncture, may I logically submit that the disbandment of SAR or SWAT will not fix the problem in Nigeria police service unless there is a real devolution of powers and functions among the federating units; and we allow every region or state to run and control their own police service without prejudice.
Suffice to say that the current protest against police brutality in Nigeria is just the beginning of the end of the contraption called Nigeria, if there is no urgent concerted efforts to revert to the 1963 constitution, when there was regional autonomy viz a viz resources control.
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- David Adenekan writes from Chicago, Illinois.