A universal fact that has over time been acknowledged by even the die-hard supporters of the inefficient and corrupt status quo in Nigeria is that the Nigeria police has failed as a potent force for crime detection, prevention and combat. The raison d’être for establishing the Nigeria Police Force is for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of the law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within and without Nigeria as may be required by them, under the authority of, this or any other Act, [ see Police Act].
But the policing capacity and skills of the operatives and officers of the Nigeria Police has continued to nosedive so much so that few years ago, a serving Federal Attorney General and Minister of Justice Chief Bola Ige, [SAN] was murdered by suspected assasins in his Ibadan, Oyo State Country home at a time his team of armed Police security guards and the State Security Service [SSS] reportedly left their guns at the residential premises to go to near-by restaurant to eat. These killers of the then Justice Minister as well as many other innocent precious lives wasted have yet to be arrested and prosecuted.
Sadly, successive Federal administrations have adopted weak, inefficient, compromised and incompetent approach to solving this dangerous national malaise of a failed policing institution in Nigeria. These Federal administrations have used the formation of committees upon committees to find solution to the problems afflicting the Nigeria Police Force and suggest strategies for actualizing effective police reforms. But the formation of committees by successive Nigerian governments have failed to produce the desired results. Great thinkers believe that setting up committees is same as running away from facing the problems and solving them squarely. Charles F. Kettering once stated that; ” If you want to kill any idea in the World today, get a committee working on it”.
In Nigeria, to add salt to injury, most of these presidential police reforms committee were substantially composed by much of the same persons who worked at the highest echelon of the Nigeria Police Force and used their privileged positions to ruin the policing institution so much so that the Nigeria police is not only one of the most indisciplined police outfits in the World, but as currently constituted, the policing institution has witnessed systemic collapse compelling the current administration to draft in the operatives of the Nigerian Army to handle assignments of internal security that constitutionally ought to be handled by the police.
The involvement of the military in internal security and maintenance of law and order has brought international opprobrium to the image of the Nigerian military that has come under considerable condemnation for human rights violations. But violence and crime have continued unabated.
Nigerians endure daily cocktails of crime prevention errors by operatives and the hierarchy of the Nigeria police Force which usually result in casualties that end up as aspects of the larger picture of body counts and crime statistics.
Killings of innocent lives have become commonplace and people are sadly assuming that policing duty starts and end with body counts and meaningless official press statements by police public Relations officers confirming numbers of innocent persons gunned down, maimed or wantonly destroyed by armed members of the underworld who are increasingly becoming very daring, well trained, well armed with sophisticated weapons over and above those of the regular police. The climate of impunity which gives violent criminals the impression that you can commit any atrocity and get away with it in Nigeria has embolden and made these criminals very callous, heartless and vicious. The other day in Umuahia, Abia State, a baby just born was stolen from the labour room by kidnappers and the operatives of the Nigeria police are groping in the dark and unsure of how to deploy intelligence to uncover the gang responsible for this crime against humanity. The Nigeria Police does not have competent, efficient and functional intelligence gathering department even as the commonest law enforcement tool which are forensic laboratories are no where near any police station in Nigeria.
Sadly, the foot soldiers in the Nigeria police force who are deliberately poorly equipped, poorly trained and poorly remunerated by the over-fed political elite and the police hierarchy are often in the first line of fire when these criminals deploy their usually sophisticated fire power to the consternation of Nigerians who look up to the police to enforce law and order.
A careful observer would have noted that for many years now, the gross incompetence and absence of professionalism by the Nigeria police has put Nigeria in the world’s crime map of infamy as one of the most dangerous places to live. Only recently, a national daily reported that the United Kingdom border Agency has turned down several asylum requests by frightened Nigerians running away from the firing line of these armed terrorists in Northern Nigeria who have made several successful forays into Abuja, the nation’s political capital with devastating consequences to the precious lives and property of Nigerians and foreigners alike.
Painfully, decent members of the civilized World are daily insulted by the unintelligent and totally illogical media releases/statements that have emanated from the highest quarters of the Nigeria Police Force in their clever by half effort to conceal and explain away this monumental policing incompetence and fatal blunders that have collectively cost Nigeria high tolls in terms of the dimension of the bloody violence on precious lives by these depraved armed members of the underworld. Family members are wiped out intermittently in violence- prone flash points by armed bandits and the police primarily charged with the constitutional duty of maintenance of law and order are usually always caught napping. What a big shame?
The climax of all these policing blunders was the year 2011 June 16th terrorist attack of the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters in Abuja, few days after the then Inspector General of Police Mr. Hafiz Ringim had threatened to declare war on the Islamic insurgency group in the North. The bombing last year also of the United Nations House in Abuja is another show of shame that clearly demonstrated that the nation’s policing institution has systematically collapsed. Nigerian Government has now set aside a whoopin N5 billion from the scarce public fund to rebuild this edifice which was wantonly destroyed because Nigeria has no proactive policing institution to nip crimes in the bud.
It took public outrage for President Goodluck Jonathan to wield the big stick and sack the immediate past Inspector General of police Mr. Hafix Ringim for these overwhelming collapse of the crime fighting mechanism of the Nigeria police Force.
If you think the change of guard at the highest echelon of the Nigeria police Force that brought in Mr. Mohammed Abubakar as the Inspector General of police would translate into change in crime prevention strategy then you must be among those who live in the high streets of ‘fools paradise’.
Do you ask why? Then consider the fact that only few weeks ago when four promising young Nigerian undergraduates of the University of Port Harcourt were slaughtered in the most primitive savagery by members of the Aluu Community of Ikwerre local government Area of River State, few distance away from the police, the current Inspector General of police insulted our collective intelligence when he explained that his men were ‘chased away’ by stones wielding villagers of Aluu Community before these four young Nigerians met their untimely, painful and gruesome end and further violated with reckless abandon when the abominable dastardly criminal acts were recorded by video and uploaded on the internet for the World to watch.
Again the nation’s current Inspector General of police has insulted our collective intelligence when he was quoted as saying that the Nigeria Police Force cannot prosecute terrorists in police detention because the anti-terrorism law has not been signed. Oh what a country?
Is the Inspector General of police not aware of section 36, subsection (8) of the 1999 Constitution as amended?
This constitutional provision states that; “No person shall be held to be guilty of a criminal offence on account of any act or omission that did not, at the time it took place, constitute such an offence, and no penalty shall be imposed for any criminal offence heavier than the penalty in force at the time the offence was committed”.
Assuming without conceding that Nigeria does not have extant anti-terrorism laws, is the police Inspector General saying that persons arrested for suspected grave offence of mass killings of innocent Nigerians cannot validly be prosecuted in the competent courts of law under extant laws that forbids murder which are clearly enshrined in our common laws and other legal statutes?
However, since the senate Committee on Information Chairman Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe has corrected the erring police boss and pointed out that Nigeria has extant anti-terrorism laws, the Federal government through the office of the Federal Attorney General must take over the prosecution of all cases of terrorism so as to bring effective justice to these suspects that have now being held for several months without trial and deliver effective closures to the pains of all those who have lost their bread winners in the hands of these suspected terrorists.
The public show of ignorance of the existence of the anti-terrorism laws as displayed by the Inspector General of police is a clear demonstration of the fact that the policing institution is incompetent and cannot professionally handle serious criminal matters connected with terrorism.
Nigeria must get her acts together and practically reform the Nigeria police to give Nigerians effective and efficient policing institutions at the local, municipal, state and national levels. The National Assembly will do us a whole lot of good if they use the opportunity of the ongoing constitutional alteration process to wholistically introduce provisions that would bring about effective, independent and well funded Local, Community, and state police similar to what btains in virtually all developed climes.
It is only insane people that can keep experimenting with a dead policing institution that the current Nigeria police Force has become and still expect a different result from the systemic failures that have occured.
* Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS’ ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA,firstname.lastname@example.org.