The people get the police they deserve

Nigerian-Police

By LakinbofaGoodluck

The recently publicised World Internal Security and Police Index, 2016,rank the Nigeria Police Force as the worst in the world. The index measures the ability of the police and other security providers to address internal security issues in their respective countries. It is predicated on four domains, which include capacity, process, legitimacy, and outcomes. Capacity focuses on the resources a nation allocates to its police to enable the force adequately address the internal security challenges of the nation. Process examines the administrative procedures of the police in carrying out its responsibilities. Legitimacy assesses the public perception of the police and their service in the immediate society. Finally, outcomes measure the actual impact of the police in the society.Based on thesefour domains, the Nigeria Police was adjudged the worst, not only in Africa, but in the world. The report also ranks Bostwana as the best in Africa.The Force Public Relations Officer, FPRO, JimohMoshood, a Chief Superintendent of Police, CSP,has released a statement condemning the report. The FPRO’s statement also ranks the Nigeria Police as the best in Africa and by extension refuting the assertion in the report that puts Bostwana’s police as the best in the continent.

Expectedly, no institution should be quick to accept a negative ranking especially when there could be some level of subjectivity and relativity; nonetheless the report provides the much needed mirror for us to see ourselves from another perspective. Reactions to the report especially on social media have seen many Nigerians castigating the police officers. Some individuals even went as far as releasing a barrage of curses on the officers. The prevailing dispositions seem to separate the police officers from the Nigerian environment. It appears many Nigerians are wallowingin a mental chimera that suggests our police officers originate from a separate planet and only came to Nigeria to serve. Many seem to have forgotten that the police officers are first of all Nigerians; then they are officers of a force domiciled and administered in Nigeria. The Nigerian system is designed in a way that ensures the near impracticability of a functional sub-system or institution. It is undeniably difficult to identify a working institution in Nigeria that is devoid of the corruption for which the police have become synonymous. In essence it is just about impossible to have a world class police force when the force is built around the worst possible standards in the world.

Let us begin with the police citizen ratio in Nigeria and compare with other nations, then consider the Nigeria Police in line with the four domains provided by WISPI. The United Nations ratio for effective policing is 1 police officer to 400 citizens. Although, this varies based on the security realities of a nation but the 1 to 400 ratio by the UN is believed to be the appropriate.The developed countries have consistently strived to maintain and exceed this ratio, which translates to 222 police officers to every 100,000 citizens. France has about 340 policemen to every 100, 000 citizens. The United States have about 284 to every 100, 000. This explains why citizens would place a distressed call and the police appear in the shortest possible time. But in Nigeria, with a population of 180million, the ratio is about 150 to every 100, 000. This is further accentuated by the political entanglement that characterise the administration of the police in Nigeria. There are more police officers protecting politicians than there are protecting the citizenry.

For instance, the police was recently accused of withdrawing the security personnel attached to the governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano. In response, theForce spokesman revealed that 221 policemen are currently attached to the governor. If this is the situation in other states of the federation, it simply connotes that about 8,000 police personnel are attached to protect state governors. This explains why the police are usually unable to arrive at a crime scene because there are limited personnel available. The actual number of police officers in the country is not very obtainable but according to Honourable UzomaNkem-Abonta quoting the former Minister of Police Affairs, Caleb Olukolade, there about 370, 000 police officers in Nigeria. A quick analysis reveals that about 2.1 percent of the total police population is attached to only 36 people, state governors, in a country of about 200million people.There may be no need extending this analysis to include other political office holders and the wealthy individuals in the country who are also well protected by the police. Yet, the poor man is left to count solely on the protection of God and the local vigilantes.This uneven distribution is happening at a time the Inspector General of Police has reiterated the need for the recruitment of more police officers. However, the current situation is not necessarily the fault of the Nigerian Police; it is a reflection of the type of nation we are and the structure we operate.

While South Africa spends $2billion annually on its police force, Nigeria allocated a paltry $100million to the Nigerian Police in the 2017 budget. The Force is expected to pay salaries and emoluments, equip the police colleges in the country, acquire firearms, power its offices and police posts, and acquire vehicles and other resources for effective policing in our society.We may better understand why a number of the police stationsare usually in thick darkness at night because there is no gasoline to power the generator. The deficiencies in our police are also replicated in the remuneration of the officers. While an average police officer in South Africa earns between R113,902 – R293,603, or  $8,000 – $20,000, his counterpart in Nigeria, earns between N264, 000 – N324, 000 annually depending on the years of service, which sums to a monthly paltry income of between N22, 000 – N27, 000. In dollar terms a police constable in Nigeria earns less than $800 annually and less than $70 monthly. The same officer with family is still expected to pay tax from this degrading salary. It is important to note that the current salary structure was actually instituted after the junior officers of the force embarked on a strike in 2002 for the first time in the history of our nation. A 2015 report by The Guardian ranks the Nigerian police as the worst paid in the world. Yet, the same country spends billions on acquiring vehicles for lawmakers and other politicians. It is the same country where we allocate hundreds of millions of naira to purchase kitchen utensils every year for the same unchanged kitchen in Aso Rock.

Naturally, when workers are not motivated, it becomes difficult for them to put their in their best at work. An ill-motivated employee is alienated from his job especially when the pressures of life are competing for attention. With the current incentives for policing in Nigeria, it is hopelessly difficult for the Force to attract the best minds around. As a result of the high unemployment rate in the country, many individuals join the police force in order to secure a means of livelihood not necessarily for the love of the profession. Consequently, a profession that should have attracted individuals of high moral standards, now parades some individuals with questionable character. To compound the situation, these individuals are trained a completely bankrupt police colleges across the nation. It is so bad that even a police chief in Nigeria was once jailed for corruption. In essence, what we see and interact with are police officers that hail the vehicle before hailing the owner all because it is assumed that “big men” drive big vehicles, and big men should do “big things” for the boys. We have police officers that take delight in harassing bus drivers and okada riders to extort money and arrest them for non-compliance. Our nation is now full of police officers who arrest motorists for all manner of mundane things. Some citizens even detest the uniform of the police based on terrible experiencesthey have had with some officers of the force. It is now difficult to boldly say “Police is the friend of the people” inour clime because of the negative image of the Force. Our situation is so appalling that we have a police force that takes the back seat while the military take over their job especially during elections. That is already a vote of no confidence in our police.

As sad as this reality may be, it is gladdening that there are still few officers in the Force who have successfully risen above the characteristic mediocrity. That our police force is ranked the worst in the world should not come as a surprise. We cannot have the best police force in the world when they are the worst paid in the world. Whatever a man sows, he shall reap. For our nation to boast of a highly respected police force, we urgently need to engineer lasting reforms that will completely change our perception of police and its importance to peace and security. In the end it is not only the police that should be reformed; every aspect of our national existence must be reformed starting with our leaders who have made the police what they are. 

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