The Nigerian Police was established as a small consular guard in the Lagos colony of 1861. The law enforcement units in the various British colonies of what is now Nigeria, like the Royal Niger company constabulary established in 1894, which eventually became the Northern Nigeria Police force and the Niger Coast Constabulary, which became the…
The Nigerian Police was established as a small consular guard in the Lagos colony of 1861. The law enforcement units in the various British colonies of what is now Nigeria, like the Royal Niger company constabulary established in 1894, which eventually became the Northern Nigeria Police force and the Niger Coast Constabulary, which became the Southern Nigeria Police force, merged to become the Nigerian Police force in 1930. Like most government institutions during the colonial era, the Police was a prestigious one – worthy of global envy.
But due to corrupt and repressive military governments and its civilian doppelgängers over the last 50 years, the Nigerian Police has become a shadow of what it once was. And feels like an abomination to the people it was chartered with protecting. Today the Nigerian Police conducts its operations utilizing the most brutal methods that would embarrass the Khmer Rouge.
It is common for the Police to torture, and sometimes end up killing suspects just to get a confession. The Police is still known to arrest and detain family members of known absconded suspects so as to bring them out of hiding. A Police man would fabricate evidence just to indict an innocent victim who refused to succumb to extortion. The vision statement of the Nigerian Police according to its website is “to make Nigeria safer and more secure for economic development and growth; to create a safe and secure environment for everyone living in Nigeria”. Practically every Nigerian today would scoff cynically at that statement.
Indeed the Police today is inherently corrupt and backward. So what steps do we take to eradicate – or at least mitigate to manageable levels – corruption within the Nigerian Police.
First, we need an independent police. The Nigerian Police force, currently, is very partisan and highly susceptible to the whims of an incumbent government or the highest bidder; many times ignoring the constitution and court orders all in the name of doing the bids of its overlords. It is common for a rich man to go to a precinct and hire police officers to intimidate his rivals; or for a politician to do the same, but this time harassing political rivals – mostly incumbents intimidating oppositions. This has to come to an end. But how do we achieve this?
The president should no longer have the right to appoint the Inspector General of Police. A Board should be set up to select the IG of police. This board would contain representatives of all political parties that have any elected seat anywhere. No matter how large or small the political parties are, all the representatives would have equal voting rights and powers within the board. This board would also be responsible for approving promotions to the AIG level.
Second, all police stations should have installed in every room, including holding cells, surveillance cameras. These cameras would be controlled remotely. Nobody in a local police station would be able to tamper with the operations of the camera. This would mitigate illicit activities like bribing and police brutality in the police stations, dramatically. The surveillance systems would also extend outdoors. At least 100 metres within the vicinity of every police station would be under surveillance. So police men who would want to be “smart-asses”, cannot to go out to conduct illicit activities.
The surveillance recordings would be audited by a separate body, establish under a separate Act of law or Charter. The Police would have no influence over it. This group could be called the Police and Judicial Crimes Commission. They would, in essence, be the police of the police and would only have the right to investigate and prosecute crimes within the Nigerian Police Force.
Finally, the methods and procedures used in the selection and training of police men would have to be changed. Using the police as a channel to create employment for the general population would be a thing of the past; only the best and brightest would be allowed chosen. A minimum education requirement of a Bachelor’s degree should be put in place. The remuneration of every police officer would be 30% more than his counterpart in any other line of work. Then the Police Academy should be world class – the model of the FBI Academy at Quantico could be a reference point. Police officers would be trained in pristine environments with the best facilities. The ramshackle and dilapidated facilities of the current Police Academies across the country would be a thing of the past.
A Police Officer who comes from a culture of excellence and understands the true meaning of Justice, is less likely to ask for a bribe, extort innocent citizens or offer him or herself up for hire to the highest bidder.