Weak Police Commission and Rudderless Police Force

Posted by News Express | 8 March 2017 | 1,905 times

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A fundamental cog in the wheel of democratic progress in Nigeria is the availability of a plethora of agencies and multiplication of Federal Government-funded commissions and institutions that exist only in the paper in which their enabling laws are written.

Most Federal Government-funded agencies are simply operating like money-guzzling machines, which explains why huge recurrent expenditures are spent annually, but without these agencies adding value to the living standards of Nigerians or even promote good governance. It is for the existence of too many agencies - that deplete the much-needed financial resources - that most critics have clamoured for comprehensive restructuring and reform to check the high cost of governance in Nigeria.

In the past, presidential committees have been set to restructure the over-bloated bureaucracy of the Federal Government. But till date, too many agencies still exist, even some of them with over-lapping functions. These are costing the tax-payers billions of cash appropriated to run these grossly inefficient agencies. A case in point is the Police Service Commission (PSC), which has existed over the years, but has not satisfactorily discharged the thematic mandates for which it was established.

To be fair to the founders of the Police Service Commission, this agency is strategic, given the poor records of discipline and unprofessionalism within the Nigeria Police force. But due to human and political factors, this commission has remained dormant, ineffective and inefficient. Nevertheless, billions of cash are funnelled yearly to run this lazy and weak agency. The Police Service Commission is such money-guzzling machine, to such a ridiculous extent that it has so far failed to instill discipline and professionalism across the rank and file of the Nigeria Police Force.

For many years that the Police Service Commission has existed, it has failed to check the excesses and the gross indiscipline of operatives and officers of the Nigeria Police Force, to an extent that in all known surveys carried out on transparency, accountability and professional discipline, the Police has consistently ranked the lowest.

The Police Force has come under increasing accusations of committing gross human rights breaches, including extra-legal executions. The recruitment mechanisms put in place by this body is at best corrupt and heavily compromised, just as the process of promotion is substantially influenced by bribes. Accusations of bribery have continued to mar the commission.

Established under the Police Service Commission (Establishment) Act of 2001 Number 1, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, the PSC is empowered to discipline and dismiss indicted police operatives and officers. The failure to discharge the functions as provided for by the law is fundamentally blamed on the lack of charisma on the persons picked to administer the Police Service Commission. Criticism over the unusual convention of appointment of retired senior police officers to head this body has not abated, and the inability of successive leadership to think out of the box and introduce innovative solutions to the malaise afflicting the Police as an institution has validated the call for a non-police, but vastly competent, Nigerians of high repute to be made chairmen of the Police Service Commission.

The current chairman, Mr Mike Okiro, is a retired Inspector-General of Police, but there is clear evidence that the PSC has yet to get it right. Those close to him blame poor funding for the lack of proactive approach in implementation of the mandates of the commission. Lack of sufficient fund is no justification for poor performance. If the leadership is willing to work and partner with like minds in the organised civil society community, it would have made better impact.

Few years back, the Nigeria Police was remarkably blamed for the extra-legal killings of over 5,000 detainees in different police detention centres. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial killings and torture even visited different Police detention facilities in Nigeria and returned extensively damaging allegations against the force.

Amnesty International has issued its 2016/2017 World Human Rights Report, and the Nigeria Police ranks top among the worst violators of human rights.

Amnesty International wrote thus: “On 9th February 2016, soldiers and police officers shot at about 200 members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPoB) who had gathered for a prayer meeting at the National High School, Aba, Abia State. Video footage showed soldiers shooting at peaceful and unarmed IPoB members; at least 17 people were killed and scores injured.”

This report is besides the hundreds of members of IPoB killed in the last one year by Police, for protesting peacefully. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture went as far as identifying PoliceDetention Centres, as killing fields.

Sadly, the Police Service Commission put in place to instill discipline among the Police is more interested in allegedly collecting bribes from lawless police operatives to set them free and to engage in bribes-for-promotion of police officers (allegedly). The Police Service Commission has failed to set up forensic laboratory to enable investigators carry out science-based investigations, when cases of police brutality and extra-legal executions are reported.

The above compromised mindset of the Police Service Commission has, understandably, made most Nigerians to wonder the essence of setting up such an ombudsman that consumes billions of financial resources of tax payers, but refuses to carry out its core mandate.

These questions are coming against the backdrop of the fact that the law establishing the Police Service Commission has clothed it with requisite functions and powers as follows: “Dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over Persons (other than the Inspector-General of Police) in the Nigeria Police Force; formulate polices and guidelines for the appointment, promotion, discipline and dismissal of officers of the Nigeria Police Force; identify factors inhibiting or undermining discipline in the Nigeria Police Force; formulate and implement policies aimed at the efficiency and discipline to the Nigeria Police Force; perform such other functions which in. the opinion of the Commission are required to ensure the optimal efficiency of the Nigeria Police Force ; and carry out such other functions as the President may, from time to time, direct.”

Why keep an agency that willfully refuses to carry out its core mandate, or is it that the President of Nigeria and National Assembly members benefit from the deliberate dis-functionality of the Police Service Commission?

The above fact is critical because of the political infighting that has played out recently when the Okiro-led Police Service Commission could not independently recruit the 10,000 police operatives, because both Presidency officials and the National Assembly members have their preferred candidates. There's no respect for merit and competence in the recruitment and promotion of police operatives. Only politics and bribes are alleged as key determinant factors. Let the commission prove me wrong, with facts and figures.

There are accusations that the Police Service Commission has perpetuated the dominance of a section of the country in the top echelon of the Police Force, to such an extent that most people from the South-east see the Nigeria Police Force as the Northern Police Force. Most worrying is the refusal of the Police Service Commission to carry out measures to ensure that the Police become professional and non-partisan.

The Police Service Commission is simply a toothless bulldog that can neither bite nor bark.

On the vexed issue of distorted practice of unfair promotion, which some blamed on the pecuniary pursuit of key officers - in a claim that is being investigated by the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) - the Police Service Commission not long ago engaged in media exchange with the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Assistant Commissioner of Police Ibrahim Magu, over the reported promotion of a particular officer of the anti-graft agency.

The Police Service Commission went to the press that it has promoted an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission operative, CSP Sulaiman Abdul, to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police, for recovering N42 billion for the Federal Government. But the EFCC acting chairman disputes the claim on which this promotion was anchored. Magu, who spoke in Abuja during the commission’s monthly Keep-fit Programme, clarified the information in a release by the Police Service Commission regarding the promotion of six policemen for outstanding performance, saying: “He may have made recovery in the past. But in the last six years, I am not aware of any recovery by the officer to warrant commendation by the Commission.”

Although Magu has some ethical challenges, but the doubts he raised on the promotion carried out recently by the PSC echoes the popular sentiments that there is no merit and competence in the criteria determining the promotion of police officers by the Police Service Commission. Why has the Police Service Commission failed to improve the public standing of the institution of the Police? Why is there too much professional incompetence among the police, even when Nigeria spends billions to run an inefficient Police Service Commission? Why are Police Commissioners colluding with criminals and collecting bribes to undermine the enforcement of law and order yet, Mr Okiro and his PSC remains in perpetual slumber operationally?

Someone should please tell the PSC to wake up.

RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). He can be reached via 08033327672 (sms only) or via doziebiko@yahoo.com

Source: News Express

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