The recent announcement by the federal government to recruit 10,000 police officers has elicited reactions about the state of the Nigeria Police Force, writes SAMUEL ODAUDU
The presidential directive to the authorities of the Nigeria Police to recruit additional 10,000 police officers in order to boost the internal security of the country has stirred up the age-long issue of reforming the police for efficiency.
President Muhammadu Buhari gave this directive during his speech at the National Security Summit on Community Partnership Approach to Internal Security and Crime Management organised by the police in Abuja. The federal government, he said, was poised to establish a well-trained and equipped anti-terrorism and multi-agency based task force to address the challenge of insurgency in a sustainable manner throughout the country.
This plan includes expansion of the Closed Circuit Television across major cities and towns in the country.
According to the president, “It is in acknowledgement of this that I have identified youth empowerment as one of the cardinal objectives of our administration. In furtherance to this, the Federal Government is planning to employ at least an extra 10, 000 police officers and establish a properly trained and equipped federal anti-terrorism multi-agency task force that will effectively address the challenge of future insurgency in a sustainable manner.
“In the meantime, efforts are being made to enhance the operational capacity of officers of the Nigeria Police through a tailor made training programme that will give them the right civil orientation in their roles as guardians of the constitution.
“In order to further strengthen security of the public space, consideration is being given to the expansion of the CCTV monitoring system across major cities and towns in the country, while the police accountability mechanism will be strengthened”, he said.
It would be recalled that the last time the Nigeria Police recruited new officers into the Force was in 2013. Since then, no other recruitment exercise has been carried out as result of what was described as paucity of funds, equipment, training facilities and accommodation, among others.
Currently, the numerical strength of the Nigeria Police is slightly above 300,000. The Force has commands in all the 36 states of the federation, including the Federal Capital territory, FCT, Abuja. For administrative convenience, the structure of the Force was further decentralised into 12 Zones.
With the population of the country put at 170million, the country is still said to be under policed based on the above account. For instance, the United Nations requirement for effective policing is reportedly put at the ratio of 1:400. Arithmetically, the Nigeria police strength vis-à-vis the population of the country stands at 1:500+, which is a far cry from the world body’s prescription.
Some analysts think that the above calculation is still conservative and does not add up. Confronted with all these facts, a livid police officer who did not want his name in print retorted when he was asked by our correspondent to respond to questions relating to the issues raised above thus: “How many police officers are combatant or in operation? How many are women that are largely unproductive officers lazying around the office sleeping and snoring and doing virtually nothing?
“What is the percentage of police officers working in administrative department? How many expectant female police are in the service? What is the percentage of officers attached to VIPs such as ministers, governors, senior special assistants, special assistants, permanent secretaries, commissioners, local government council chairmen and their deputies?
“What is the percentage of the total number of police officers who are incapacitated as a result of one injury or the other? These are the issues that should be urgently addressed”, he said.
The officer also added that when these issues are added to the fact Nigeria police officers are grossly under remunerated and motivated, the situation is better imagined. He also called on the present to urgent probe the hierarchy of the Force saying that the disparities of salaries and remunerations of the police are questionable.
“If there must be any meaningful recruitment exercise, there must be proper probe of the top echelon of the police. Contracts for equipment and other welfare packages have been awarded in the past. Were the items delivered? Where is the money?” he asked.
The Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, has therefore called for funding of the Nigeria Police. According to him, “Through effective funding, the welfare needs of police personnel will be met and the challenge of corruption that has eroded professionalism and public respect for police will be addressed,” he said.
Since the announcement, the process for recruitment has not yet been made public. For instance, what are the minimum qualifications for this recruitment? Is it going to be based on quota system across the six geopolitical zones? Will it be an online registration or forms must be in hard copies? Observers said this is necessary in order to avoid recruiting bad elements into the Force as the case was a few years back.
Experts are of the view that it is dangerous to recruit new police officers when the Force is unfunded. For instance, there are contentions that the police does not have sufficient budget, equipment, training facilities, professional personnel among others to handle a large scale recruitment exercise. This is said to be responsible for the controversial nature of the last recruitment exercise carried out by the Force.
In October last year, former President Goodluck Jonathan sent a bill to the National Assembly on the need to reform the police. Senate President, David Mark, confirmed the receipt of a bill entitled “An Act to provide for financial contribution by the Federal Government of Nigeria to Police Reform Programme and for Matters connected thereto.”
The letter read in part: “Further to my letter dated 16th June 2014, I forward herewith for your kind consideration and passage into law, the above mentioned Bill. The state of our Police Force calls for immediate intervention if Nigeria is to achieve the desired result of operating an effective Police Force in tune with international best practice.
“The Bill as presented seeks to provide financial contribution by the Federal Government to the Police Reform Programme which is a deliberate government policy aimed at equipping and repositioning the Nigeria Police to more effectively and efficiently meet its constitutional obligations.” But since then, not much was heard about it after that period.
A public affairs commentator, Okey U reacted to this development by saying that “It is a very good idea but unfortunately, the Nigerian Police is the real enemy of herself. Where are all the vehicles and other equipments donated to them by various corporate organizations, state governors and even the LG? The FG should audit NPF first before giving them another equipment and stop wasting tax payers money”, he said.
A BBC analyst, Bashir Sa’ad Abdullahi, had observed that, “Nigeria needs much more than an additional 10,000 policemen to rein in crime. The number of police officers compared to the country’s population is below the UN’s recommended benchmark of one police officer per 400 citizens.
“The existing police officers lack adequate equipment and training, leaving the force with a very large number of under-trained, ill-equipped and poorly motivated personnel. The decision to assign some of the existing police officers to provide security for VIPs and their families further depletes the capacity of the force to provide security for all. But some Nigerians believe the president’s decision to recruit more officers could be a beginning of a total reform of the police force as the president also promised more training and focused on human rights”, he said.
Will the present efforts indeed defy the odds and come out clean and proof pessimists wrong?