The Nigerian Police Force was established in 1930 and currently consists of 371,800 men and women, with 36 Commands across the country. That is one in each state. The 36 Commands are grouped into 12 zones but have only 7 different administrative organs. The Force has over 2000 stations spread across the country and its head is the Inspector General of Police. For a population of 206 million, the size of the Nigerian Police Force is hugely inadequate. That they are ill equipped and their welfare under successive governments has been appalling only adds to the country’s precarious security situation.
Nigeria’s current ratio of 180 policemen to every 100,000 citizens makes nonsense of the United Nations recommended ratio of 300:100,000 but that’s not all. For years, there has been a clamour for State Police forces to replace the unwieldy unitary system that we currently run; where instruction must first be sought from the Inspector General stationed in Abuja. The rationale for each state to have it’s own police force is hinged on several arguments but two of them are; first, for easy and better control as the State Governors can then be their state’s chief security officers not just in name but also in practice. Second, those recruited would predominantly be indigenes or residents of the state, which would automatically place them in the best position to gather Intelligence about crime.
Policing has far more to do with gathering timely and reliable intelligence which helps law enforcement agents to apprehend criminals and to nip planned criminal operations in the bud before they take place than about noisy braggadocio that doesn’t produce results. Evidence that this system of decentralization is more profitable than what Nigeria practices can be seen in the US, where they have so many layers of police – county police, state police and the Federal police, better known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In the UK too, there is no centralized police system as the country is policed by different territorial police services. As at 2013, there were 45 of them, serving in independent regions and with each headed by a Police Commissioner. However, there are certain territorial police service units that have a national role, such as the Specialist Operations directorate of the Metropolitan Police. Nigeria is urgently in need of a police system that will engender timely decisions.
Having indigenous policemen serve their locality is not an idea that’s entirely alien in Nigeria as this was the case until the Aba Women’s Riots of 1929. The change came when policemen, given orders by the colonial government to shoot defenseless women could not bring themselves to obey. They refused to kill their kinsmen in cold blood, so to break this impasse, the colonial masters drafted policemen from Lagos to come and do the dirty job. That marked the beginning of deliberately posting an Okon from Cross River State to serve in Gombe and sending an Ogunaike from Ogun State to serve in Anambra. The British had their own selfish reasons for employing this strategy which clearly doesn’t serve the nation’s security interest but like in the case of so many policies which blatantly don’t serve the public interest, the political will has been lacking to make the necessary change.
We hear regular tales of our policemen having to spend their own money to buy their uniforms and it is alleged that they also bear the cost of fueling the police vehicles that they are officially assigned to use. This cannot but sink further the morale of someone whose take home pay is already disgracefully low. It would be foolhardy of anyone to expect such a person to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in service of his country, if circumstances call on him to do so. Stories of policemen saying they cannot leave their station to help citizens in distress because they don’t have fuel in their vehicles abound. Faced with the unfair pressures of paying out of pocket for services the police force is meant to provide free for them, coupled with an abysmally low salary that is seldom paid on time, it is almost a fait accompli that they would resort to corrupt practices such as taking bribes and extorting from members of the public to survive and meet up with expectations. With these challenges and many more in mind, just how well should we realistically expect our policemen and women to secure the people?
A report published by Simona Varella for Statista on February 24, 2021, corroborates what most Nigerians already know, which is that political instability, citizen alienation, terrorism and violence define the Nigerian crime scene. Nigeria was also recently included in the list of countries with the least peace in the world, according to the Global Peace Index. It is now the 17th least peaceful state in the world. In addition, Nigeria now ranks as the third country most affected by terrorism, based on the Global Terrorism Index. The same report disturbingly rates Nigeria as the country with the second highest risk of genocide in Africa and sixth highest risk globally.
If our governments, both national and subnational, sincerely desire to secure the people and induce an atmosphere of genuine peace in the country, it behoves them to gain the trust of the populace by entrenching a culture of good governance. Nigerians of all tribe and creed need to come together to forge a national ideology. A community of people lacking a common ideology that binds them together and propels them towards a common goal, will move in opposing directions and no matter how often they sing the national anthem or recite the national pledge, a sense of togetherness and true progress will forever remain a pipe dream. The British have their liberal welfarism just as the Americans have their American Dream.
What is the Nigerian Dream? Once we’re able to formulate this and live by it’s creed, a newfound unity and sense of hope for the future, will evoke a far greater sense of patriotism amongst the people. A man committed to the ideals of his nation will never use his own hands to bring it down. He will protect it with everything he has. It was the insightful Lee Kuan Yew, father of modern day Singapore, who decided that the best way to arouse a deep sense of duty and patriotism in the hearts of the officers and men of the newly formed Armed Forces of Singapore, was to make them feel that they had a tangible stake in the nation. And he could not think of a better way to induce this sense of ownership in the national project than to make them landlords. The result of introducing highly innovative policies soon made it possible for these military men to own and live in their own house. He was proved right.
Changing the nation…one mind at a time
Dapo Akande, a Businessday weekly columnist is a University of Surrey (UK) graduate with a Masters in Professional Ethics. An alumnus of the Institute for National Transformation; with certification in Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence from Case Western Reserve College, USA and author of two books, The Last Flight and Shifting Anchors. Both books are used as course material in Babcock University’s Literature department. Dapo is a public speaker, a content creator and a highly sought after ghostwriter.