RIGHTSView: NPF: Same question of chicken and egg

Posted by Emmanuel Onwubiko | 13 August 2014 | 3,020 times

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President Goodluck Jonathan has no doubt brought to bear a lot of reforms. And his administration, in the last four years of his first tenure, has made impactful achievement in the area of paying some levels of decent respect to merit and competence in some of the high profile appointments into key national offices.

For the avoidance of doubts and to respond preemptively to skeptics, who may interpret my initial postulation in this piece as a public relations gambit; I will right away say, without any fear of contradiction, that the current administration has also made some mistakes and (taken some) missteps in the choices of some high profile public appointments which, in the thinking of many rationally oriented Nigerians and other global observers, were made purely based on political expediencies. 

In the first strand of my affirmation, in which I lauded the Jonathan administration for, at least, getting it right in some of the recent federal political appointments, I will say that the selection of the Anambra State-born technocrat, Mr. Ositadinma Chidoka, formerly of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), as the current Minister of Aviation, is one such good pick.

Debate is still raging regarding the merit and demerit of the current Acting Inspector-General of Police, given that the Nigerian Police Force as an institution has, over the years, failed abysmally in carrying out its stated constitutional duties of enforcement of the rule of law and prevention of crime and criminality. The failure of the Nigerian Police Force to competently and professionally adhere to its constitutional mandate is largely attributable to the failure of leadership, just in line with the prophetic observation of Prof Chinua Achebe who looked at Nigeria in the larger context and concluded that the key problem is, purely and squarely, the failure of leadership.

While awaiting his confirmation as the substantive Inspector-General of Police, the historian cum lawyer, Mr. Suleiman Abba, seems to be in a hurry to make some impacts, rightly or wrongly, depending on which side of the divide that individual analyst is. But, from an objective standpoint, it is safe to state that the new police chief is aware of the enormity of the challenges that confront the slumbering behemoth and/or sleeping giant known as the Nigerian Police Force.

Few days back, this new police boss was reported to have said that the major problem of the Nigerian Police Force is the ‘insufficiency’ of 'foot soldiers' or rather shortage of manpower, to put it in our Nigerian parlance. He told the Nigerian media that the police had got approval to recruit more personnel into the force.

Abba, who reportedly made this known when he received the United Arab Emirate Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Mohmud Mohammed, at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, said the recruitment would begin soon.

This statement by the police chief is a return to the frequently known strategies adopted by most of his predecessors, who also believed that recruiting more persons into the Nigerian Police Force is the solution to the disturbing challenges of law enforcement confronting the policing institution.

These cocktails of hurriedly packaged recruitment exercises in the past have largely been used to find jobs for the boys, as pay back for political patronage, which is why most police operatives have no capacity and skills to confront modern day terrorists and merchants of death that are all over Nigeria. During the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, he similarly gave his presidential approvals for massive recruitment of persons into the Force but sadly the hierarchy saw this as a commercial opportunity to generate revenue for themselves when they commercialised the entry forms for this recruitment exercise, which eventually ended up producing a crop of people who did not add any value to the police force that, at best, is believed to be sick and at the point of operational demise.

But I think this apparently “chicken and egg” scenario, that always often play itself out each time a new police chief is appointed in Nigeria, is very unproductive.

In 100 level logic class in most tertiary institutions, students are taken through the intellectual rigour of trying to resolve the thorny question of whether it is the egg or the chicken that comes first.

Similarly, this argument of whether the Nigeria Police Force is in need of quality staff and not quantity staffing is becoming a recurring decimal. But I sincerely feel that in addressing the fundamental problems afflicting the policing institution in Nigeria, the question of staff strength is at best puerile and pedestrian, since the underlying issue is not the number, but the lack of effectiveness and efficiency in the entire system to stem the tide of the rising cases of impunity and lawlessness that have characterised modern Nigeria.

Nigeria Police has a deep rooted systemic challenge which should be radically addressed; not this piecemeal approach to a very serious problem. We need to get it right regarding the type or model of policing that is desirable in Nigeria, in compliance with global policing best practices. Why will Nigeria not first establish effective local and state policing institutions (or best model)  before we begin to debate whether the number of personnel  is enough or not?

Moreover, it is a notorious fact that even the hundreds of thousands of police operatives that are currently on the nominal role of the Nigerian Police Force, nearly 35 per cent of these men and officers are attached to politically exposed persons and all kinds of characters who can pay the right fees to the powers that be.

Before I am accused of not adhering to the United Nations’ recommended ratio of police operatives per population, I will say right away that I am aware that the United Nations reported in 2006 that there existed an approximate median of 300 police officers per 100, 000 inhabitants world.

An internationally renowned writer on law enforcement issues, Mr. Thomas Wieczorec, stated that the use of officers per thousand for police or fire deployment is an ineffective performance measure. Instead, he said the determination should be made by what time is required to perform the given tasks on daily, monthly and seasonal basis; and deploying the appropriate resources to manage the workload.

From the above we can even see that there is no universal unanimity on the ratio of police operatives per population because, as in Nigeria: what is the essence of recruiting more police operatives that half of these persons will end up working their ways through bribery to juicy political postings in cities and townships?

Put differently, what is the guarantee that if the staff strength of the current Nigerian Police Force is reinforced and increased, as is being contemplated, the hierarchy will not still continue the practice of posting police operatives in their huge numbers to secure less than one per cent of the Nigerian population, that are classified as political and economic elites, who wield considerable influence in the different layers of political powers? I know of one big-time contractor whose Abuja home is secured by over 30 armed mobile police operatives. What kind of rascality is this?

The recent governorship election in Osun and Ekiti states have shown that what we need is not quantity but quality, because we saw a situation whereby an unusual large number of armed police operatives were deployed for these elections, whereas only very few well-armed police operatives would have secured the elections, since electoral contest is not synonymous with civil war.

What this means is that even if we recruit the 60 million unemployed Nigerian youthful school leavers and university graduates into the Nigerian Police Force, there is no guarantee that majority of them will still not be wrongly deployed to carry out politically motivated tasks.

Please, Mr Inspector General of Police, stop chasing shadows and start the real task of rebuilding the near moribund policing institution, which requires immediate but comprehensive moral and competency surgical overhaul. Simply put, Nigeria needs to have better and much more effective crime fighting police force, made up of the different segments of local, state and federal policing institutions.

RIGHTSVIEW appears twice a week on Wednesday and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).

Source: News Express

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