The additional 10,000 policemen
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to the Nigeria Police Force to recruit an additional 10,000 policemen to boost the current work force and enhance policing could not have come at a better time for exasperated Nigerians. The order has expectedly received widespread public approval because the people have been denied enough security cover over the years by the law enforcement agency on account of its own enormous challenges of inadequate funding and training, poor equipment, manpower shortage and many others, amid the oft-criticised constitutional provision of a central command structure. The expectation is, therefore, high on a revamped agency and, in the long-term, a recourse to a truly federal system in which each state and even community would be able to form and run its own police service.
Indeed, a proper federation with a decentralised command structure where the country is better secured by different and appropriate layers of policing would be more appropriate and desirable too. But in the meantime, the authorities must ensure a re-engineered police institution that performs its role optimally and to the best international standards.
The country has indeed witnessed years of neglect and rot in the Force, exacerbated by the insensitivity of different governments and leaders. The United Nations (UN) recommends a minimum police strength of 222 per 100,000 people but the Nigerian reality is not the ideal, with a current population estimate of 178 million. The National Population Census Commission put the figure at 140.4 million in 2006. The World Population Review says, with data collected in 2012 by the National Bureau of Statistics, the total population figure was about 166.2 million people. Also, according to a report on ‘Worldometer’, Nigeria’s population is equivalent to 2.46 per cent of total world population and ranks seventh in the list of countries by population. Density in Nigeria is 193 people per square kilometre.
By implication, Nigeria’s population has been increasing without a corresponding increase in police personnel. The additional 10,000 men and women being contemplated is a good shot at the problem but it may still be inadequate for effective law enforcement in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). On a positive note, however, the engagement plan translates to creating additional 10,000 jobs and the multiplier effect on as many families.
It is bad enough that even from the current police strength, many officers and men have ended up serving powerful personalities in business, and politics and lately religion in which case many people of power and influence use policemen for selfish ends, making them do demeaning jobs as personal escorts and bag carriers thereby compromising professionalism and dignity. The directive from the Inspector-General the other day to police commissioners to withdraw such personnel in their commands for core police duties is, therefore, laudable.
It is reassuring that the current effort to raise the number of available personnel by 10,000 is aimed at fighting a systemic rot, so degrading it has almost turned the officers and men into objects of ridicule in public.
According to the president, a properly trained and equipped federal anti-terrorism multi-agency task force would also be established to effectively tackle future insurgency challenges. This is a brilliant idea as effective policing is dependent on the level of public security consciousness and the strength of understanding between policing agencies and the communities.
Also, the government is already tacitly giving vent to a proper federally organised policing which has long been advocated but is yet to find official seal in the constitution. For now, the president’s advocacy of community policing may come in the form of community interaction at the state level under a model that would integrate the community with policing functions at the grassroots.
Very offensive among the ills afflicting the police force is corruption, so entrenched among officers and men that it has virtually become a herculean task to eradicate by mere orders. The president could not have put it any better when he observed that the challenge of corruption has eroded professionalism and public respect in the Force. Regrettably, the scourge has eaten too deep, having consumed even the top echelon of the police.
So much work on re-orientation of the personnel would, therefore, be involved and perhaps the cultivation of a new set of moral values and work ethics for the in-coming set of officers and men. Setting about this should not pose any difficulty for the leadership of the police if they have the focus and right attitude.
Thankfully, President Buhari has expressed his position on zero tolerance for corruption in the recruitment activities. So, only the best from across the country should be good enough and that of course would also demand fairness and merit.
The doctrine of the police institution must change. Officers and men have to always be in shape to address and tackle whatever nature of insecurity the country is faced with in future even before it becomes full-blown. Moreover, the police should establish a new means of communication with the public through a citizen-driven police model. This would assist in availing the Force vital information for operations.
In this technologically advanced age, the Police can depend more on intelligence and data to fight crime by statistically analysing crime for efficient allocation of resources. All else considered, the authorities should be able to match the proposed number of recruits with infrastructural development. The goal should be to address insecurity with sound investment in a police that will be a pride to the people of Nigeria.