By Kayode Ketefe
Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar
The recent report borne of a research coordinated by an international non-governmental organisation, Altus Global Alliance, which rates the Nigerian policing standards comparatively low, is not purveying any new information strictly so-called, but a notorious fact. Nonetheless, it brings to the mind the despair we have come to identify with our policing system. According to the report, the standards of policing in the country have further declined between 2011 and 2012.
The report was the outcome of the 2012 Police Station Visitors Week (PSVW) organised by an international non-governmental organisastion, Altus Global Alliance in collaboration with the United Kingdom’s Department For International Development (DFID); Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, as well as Nigeria’s governmental and non-governmental organisations, viz, National Human Rights Commission and the CLEEN Foundation.
The criteria used in the assessment included community orientation, physical condition of police stations, equal treatment of the public, transparency and accountability and detention conditions. While the research showed decline on the parameters of community orientation, transparency and accountability and detention conditions, marginal improvement was reported in the areas of physical condition of stations and equal treatment of the members of the public.
The said two areas of improvement (physical condition of police stations and equal treatment of members of the public) are, incidentally, such that are easily manipulable. For example an emergency physical and sanitary adjustment might be stage-managed to fetch favourable rating while witnesses might be planted to proclaim equal treatment.
Interestingly, it was also reported that the police authorities deliberately schemed to influence the outcome of the report by covering up the putrefying skeleton in their institutional cupboards. The Executive Director of the CLEEN Foundation, Kemi Okenyodo, lamented that some state Commissioners of Police and Divisional Police Officers denied the researchers access to some police stations. This was in defiance of the directive of the Inspector-General of police to states’ CPs and DPOs to allow the researches unrestricted access.
Over the years, organisations that have conducted more robust researches into the standards, systems and operational philosophy of the Nigeria Police, like the Industrial Advocacy Project, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have painted a more gory but true picture of our policing system.
The latter, (Human Rights Watch) gave this graphic and honest evaluation of the Nigerian policing system. “Widespread corruption in the Nigeria Police Force is fueling abuses against ordinary citizens and severely undermining the rule of law in Nigeria. On a daily basis, countless ordinary Nigerians are accosted by armed police officers who demand bribes and commit human rights abuses against them as a means of extorting money.
These abuses range from arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention to threats and acts of violence, including sexual assault, torture, and even extrajudicial killings. Police also routinely extort money from victims of crimes to initiate investigations and demand bribes from suspects to drop investigations.”
These are facts – facts which underscore the tragedy countless number of Nigerians experience daily. Under the section four of the Police Act, the Nigerian Police Force is charged with the responsibilities of “… prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are charged… “
But a legion of problems including deep-rooted corruption, lack of professionalism, incompetence, lack of adequate and standard equipment, poor funding, illiteracy, sadism et al have collectively combined to undermine the efficient performance of the above-mentioned statutory responsibilities.
Consequently, it is a notorious fact that the NPF has not been able to cope with the problems of insecurity in the land; this is evidenced by the countless numbers of unresolved killings, successful bank robberies, incidence of rape with impunity, trafficking in persons, kidnapping, looting of treasuries, destruction of properties, and terroristic acts like the recurrent onslaughts of Boko Haram sect etc.
Alas, the combined protective efforts of the NPF and other state-owned forces in Nigeria are yet to be equalled to the challenges of insecurity let alone overcome it.
Another saddening dimension to the policing problem is the unfathomable sadistic oppression of the masses as evinced in sizeable number of wanton killings. We are all too familiar with the “accident discharge” terminology; we have all read cases of killing of drivers who were too stubborn to part with N20 bribe.
The tragic case of late Ugochukwu Ozuah, who was brutally murdered in Lagos by the police five days after his wedding, on September 15, 2012, is still fresh in our memory. What about the case of a 35-year old Olusola Adebegha who was shot dead few days to his wedding in January this year, by a corporal attached to Mokola Police Station in Ibadan?
In the light of all the above, there is no gainsaying the fact that we need an urgent and wholesome criminal justice reform with emphasis on the Nigerian policing system. To be added to the often-mentioned panacea of adequate funding, constant training and professionalisation, is the imperative of state policing. The creation of state policing methodology will, of course, require constitutional amendment, but we are right in the process of another tinkering with the grundnorm and we can, therefore, use the opportunity.
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