The need for the reformation of the Nigerian police is long overdue. People have been asking the government to do something about the police but, as usual, the government is slow in responding. The poor welfare of these officers and the wrong management of the system have led to a lot of decay. What we face today is not just extortion and brutality, but also perpetuation of crime by these officers and their use by different Nigerians as private servants and personal security. It is actually time to call for a change.
If you ask twenty Nigerians what they think should be done to bring positive changes to the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), they will tell you twenty different things. But among the things they will say are salary increase, recruitment of graduates, training, psychological tests, dismissal of corrupt officials, and so on. All these are good but not all of them are necessary. For instance, I don’t think a person’s level of education should determine his ability to police well. Yes I know that we cherish degree certificates in Nigeria but not all men of integrity passed through the walls of higher institutions. Furthermore, we have seen PhD holders that lack integrity. So asking for university graduates to be the only police officers we have in Nigeria may not be necessary.
However, in addition to suggestions proffered by well-meaning Nigerians, I have the following to add:
- Duration of Assignment
I don’t know how the police force works but I know that being in a position or a location for a long time may cause more harm than good. For instance, if these SARS officials were transferred out of their locations of service, or transferred from one unit to another within a short frame of time, they will not have become this bad. When a person stays long in a position or location, he is bound to see himself as indispensable, or as a god. NPF should make it a point of duty not to leave officers in a location or unit for more than a year or even less. Let these officers know that their stay is temporary wherever they are.
- Background Check
Like I said earlier, I don’t know how the system truly works but I doubt if the background of our officers were truly checked before they entered service and even while they are on service. If it is done, well it needs to be intensified. The officers’ lives in the past, friends, family, hometown and what have you should be checked and deemed satisfactory.
- Supervision of Bank Accounts
This becomes necessary because of the way our officers extort money from people. These people’s accounts need to be checked regularly. There should be an independent unit that should take charge of this issue to avoid being compromised. Of course, when a certain amount of money is seen in an officer’s account(s), he will be asked to explain. Thank God BVN is there to make it easier to trace and monitor these people’s accounts.
- Provision of Police Barracks and Other Incentives
The least the government should do is build barracks for these officers. Even if they have to pay rent, let it be minimal. I know a lot of people will kick against police officers paying for rents in barracks. But rather than these officers living in those kinds of barracks that look like where pigs are reared, let them have good ones and then pay reduced rents.
- Ban from Serving Private Individuals and Organisations
Today, if you have money in Nigeria, police officers will be attached to you. They will follow you around and even be your chauffeur. They will run errands for you and do some house chores for you as well. And of course, if that man you are owing comes to ask for his money, your police minions will beat the living daylight out of him. And parents like this say they support youths in their #ENDSARS protest. That’s hypocrisy at its peak. Well, let ‘Big Men’ go and hire security personnel from private organisations. They don’t have to scare their ‘enemies’ away with men with guns. If they insist on their personal security details holding guns, they can arrange with the government to give license to some companies to provide people like that. But let our officers stop being house-helps for Big Men.
As for recruitment of officers by private organisations, I think the NPF needs to spell out which organisation is more likely to be attacked by armed bandits and robbers and which is not. Let it not be that even hospitals, filling stations, schools, supermarkets and what have you will have heavily armed MOPOL sent to them because they can afford to ‘pay for them’. The problem with our police force is actually enormous.
All the same, Rome wasn’t built in a day; and so our police force won’t be reformed all of a sudden. But like the ripple created by a drop of water, a little move in the right direction can bring the positive changes we all crave for.