Nigeria Police and Civil Society
By Abba Mohammed Bashir Shuwa
Recently the Nigeria Police organised a conference on how to improve its performance in policing the nation which was attended by a wide spectrum of the Nigerian populace. To follow up the outcome of the recommendations of the talk shop a delegation of the police performance improvement committee led by Alhaji Dan Madami also visited the United Kingdom with a view to understanding how the British Police system works and apply it in Nigeria whose Police was patterned after that of United Kingdom. But the performance and conduct of members of the Nigeria Police has of recent generated the interest of not only Nigerians but foreigners who have interest in Nigeria and therefore even though it may be worthy for the Nigeria Police to emulate their British counterpart the task ahead is enormous and monumental. First the Nigeria Police needs to look at themself and find out what went wrong with them. Are the police actually performing their main duties of reducing crime and bringing offenders to justice, what steps are they taking to improve public confidence and satisfaction and how are they making use of their assets in their policing duties and a lot more questions on how they can maintain a non partisan posture in the event of ensuring public peace, law and order. To begin with therefore one intends to look at the calibre of persons that are recruited in the Police because the reflection of their perfomance will definitely have a bearing on their individual attitudes and past behaviours. The Police has been known to be the haven for school dropouts or people with fake school qualifications who cannot find job elsewhere. Apart from faking their school qualifications they usually also fake their local government of origin and in some cases state of origin to gain enterance into Police College. Not only that but some may have dozens of past criminal records before joining the Force. This is in addition to the fact that most of them have paid their way by offering bribe sometimes amounting to thirty thousand naira ( N30,000.00) before being considered for admission into Police College. For seniour oficers you have to have a prominent person to stand for you to gain admission into the Police Academy. The ex-convict that now becomes a Policeman is provided with the means of carrying out his past nefarious activities with the protection of the uniform and for those who bribed their way the first task is to recover their investment which the public in turn takes responsibility by paying at check points and night and day patrols. It is only in Nigeria you can find a police arresting a citizen for idleness and allowing him to go after parting with some few notes.
As for the officer cadre it is now a matter of man know man and the connections you have will ensure that you have lucrative postings, speedy promotion etc. The Nigeria Police as it is currently constituted cannot function effectively because it lacks the confidence of the wider citizens who view it as a tool of oppression and injustice. The distrust of the Police stems from the attitude of its members especially whenever they are called upon to perform their duty. They often abuse their power by arbitrarily arresting citizens without due regard to the law. The level of lawlessness by the Police in Nigeria has earned them so bad a refutation that people call the anti riot police ‘kill and go’. That means that the Mobile Police in Nigeria have the license to kill anyone without question. Hardly a day goes by in Nigeria without losing a citizens life to the Police and in most cases they get away with the numerous murders they commit. The most ominuous thing is that the Police especially the Mobile Police are now not only used to serve as bodyguards of politicians but are also hired by politicians to scare and bully their opponents. A politicised and partisan police will therefore be a problem to a nascent democracy such as in Nigeria. In a democracy the politician who holds public office is there because the people gave him the mandate and if that is true does he need any protection against those people who brought him to power? The Police that Alhaji Dan Madami came to visit in Britain do not escort politicians in truck loads nor intefere with politics. Instead of protecting the general public the Nigeria Police is only interested in escorting politicians because they not only get free meals while on such duties but also extra allowances and recommendation for promotion in doing so. Another disheartening discovery is that Mobile Police barracks are said to be known for the open sale and comsumption of illicit gins and indian hemp which it was said are distributed to them so they can perform their job of killing and destroying without thinking about the consequences of their action. Without any sense of reasoning these armed men continue to unleash terror on innocent Nigerians at all times. You quiet often find Policemen drunk while on duty in Nigeria and you can wonder the sense of their judgement under such condition. So here too Alhaji Madami should have a lot to take home to Nigeria. Drinking while on duty is an automatic case for dismissal and taking some highly graded drugs as Indian hemp would lead to prosecution too. That is just about the politicised police but also examining the way and manner police in Nigeria conduct their investigation gives little room for trust. Most often suspects are interrogated in a most dehuminising manner to extract a forced confession for crimes they may not have committed. Most Criminal Investigations Departments have some interrogation chambers where suspects are beaten white and blue just to extract confessions from them. Thus if those who faced such brutal interrogation from the police eventually gain freedom they become dare devil criminals and the larger society is left to bear the brunt of those CID interrogation chamber graduates. The level of lack of trust of the Police is so much that sometimes they are looked at as the criminals instead of apprehenders of crime. There are several instances where members of the police force were found collaborating with armed robbers and some high ranking officers too. One can vividly recall the confessions of Lawrence Anenih which led to the arrest and prosecution of some policemen. So there still can be a lot of such elements operating from within the police who use their trusted position to give information and ammunitions to armed robbers who continually make life difficult for ordinary Nigerians. The Police also aid thugs especially political thugs who do the bidding of their benefactors. They encourage political thugs to perform the wanton distruction of lives and properties of their opponents with their tacit approval. The Kalares in Gombe are reigning havoc with the support of PC Kafur, so also are the ‘ECOMOG’ in Borno state and all over Nigeria you have thugs run by politicians with police support. Basically that is a clear indication of failure on the part of the Police in providing security to peace loving citicizens who are left at the mercy of political thugs. Thugs brutalise and make it difficult for people to exercise their civic duties and robbers,burglars etc threaten their life and deprive them of their hard earned resources. All these happen before the glaring eyes of the Police who seem to be more interested in protecting the thugs and criminals instead of the victims of crime. Today in Nigeria victims of crime will rather stomach it and keep quiet than reporting crime incidents to the Police. That is because the police normally demand too much from the victim before they carry out their investigation and where he fails to offer them he may likely end up in their cell. And reporting any crime to the police is considered as a waste of time and resources. Therefore for the Nigeria Police to redeem its image it must change its recruitment method. The Police should encourage educational institutions to run lessons on policing and identify students with interest in making career in the Force and follow their performance. Recruitment drive should be introduced at Secondary Schools for recruits and Universities for officers. The membership of the Force must reflect the composition of all the ethnic groups in Nigeria.
Also the Police needs to change its focus. It has to be neutral on partisan matters and always steer clear from politics. The recent incidents where the Police used force to disrupt the launching of ACD in Jigawa, the locking out of General Buhari’s office in Katsina and that of the Ladi Kwali Hall of Sheraton Hotel in Abuja does not reflect the neutrality of the police on political matters. In addition the recent questioning of a clergy over summons against third term further exposes how politicised the police is. They must be above board and seek to protect all Nigerians against criminals and all kinds of anti social behaviour. They should have to improve on their speed at responding to crimes and apprehending criminals. Making Nigeria safe at day and night should be their priority. Else the Police will leave to regret the situation when they turn Nigeria to become ungovernable by their non challant attitude toward effectively policing the country.
Abba Mohammed Bashir Shuwa
Holbeck Leeds UK