CENTRALIZED POLICE FORCE: AN OUTDATED RELIC OF COLONIAL AND MILITARY CONTROL.
The President, Goodluck Jonathan in his response to the rising crime problems in Nigeria, offered to reform the Nigeria Police Force. What the Nigerian Police Force needs is total and radical balkanization. Reforming the Nigerian Police without State and Local Government Police will be an exercise in window dressing. The most effective Police concept is Community based Police. You cannot have community based police force in a highly centralized and mobile police command structure.Can a Police Command Centered in Abuja be an effective crime fighting Command and control force in far away Ideato Local Government in Imo State. How effective are Police officers who are aliens to their designated crime fighting environment. Can officer Okoronkwo from Abakaliki effectively control crime in a village in Taraba state, that he had never been to before and whose language he cannot speak nor understand. Is mobile police concept an outdated instrumentality of dictatorial colonial and tyrannical control or a failed crime fighting force. Nigerian Police Force with its centralized structure and custom of transferring officers to communities they have minimal contact, if any, be effective in controlling the rising crime rate in the country. Crime fighting, like politics, is local. Nigerian police force as currently structured, with its rigid centralized command and control is an outfit designed to fail.
The single, one size fit all police structure, is the remnant of colonial police. The colonial Administration needed to setup a police force with the dominant objective of centralized control. The Alien colonial government was not familiar with the regions and very distrustful of the people under its colonial administration. It needed a police force with one identifiable commander that controls all units within the colony. The single central command and control force was designed for easier control of the force and not for effective law enforcement. The subsequent military governments we had, were also distrustful of decentralized police force. Regional Police Force was a threat to Military governments, who were paranoid about losing power and less interested with law enforcement and crime control.
This culture of a police force that the central government can control, has failed to fight the rising crime problems in Nigeria. The Nigeria Police Force is too big, too detached from local environments, lack knowledge of local communities and too transitory, to be an effective crime fighting organization.
Crime fighting is a local issue. Most crimes are committed by people within the community. It is logistically difficult for people not familiar with a locality to commit crime in that area successfully. Knowledge of the local environment is needed for successful criminal enterprise. Logic also detects that to fight crime in the same locality, you need law enforcement personnel familiar with the area. Using police officers from Abeokuta and Udi to fight crime in Owerri is illogical at best. The local criminals with good knowledge of the area will always outwit the stranger police officers. Too often, you read news reports that the criminals escaped thru the bush. The bush escape was possible because the criminals being locals, know the bush paths, while the alien law enforcement officers do not. You cannot effectively fight crime unless you have good knowledge of your crime fighting environment.
Intelligence gathering is an important and indispensable element in crime fighting. You cannot get good Intel, unless you know the people very well, and they trust you. The very mobile nature of Nigerian Police Force does not make for good intelligence gathering. People are very distrusted of strangers. It’s not possible to trust somebody you do not understand their language and do not share the same religious beliefs. Can you imagine how a commissioner of police of Igbo ethnicity in Gombe, will be effective in getting good intelligence report about the Boko Haram sect. The Moslems in that region will not trust him. His is an alien to their culture, their religion and their interest. He is as good as a potted plant as far as affective Intel is concerned.
The mobile and centralized police force does not breed the sufficient contacts and interests with a community needed for effective crime control. Most police personnel that I have come in contact with, are not in their posts with their families. They serve alone. If your family live in the same community and you are from the community, you have a vested interest in having that community crime free. The current practice where you send officers to communities they do not have any interest in, and no attachment, breeds ineffective law enforcement . The motivation to be a brave crime fighter is minimal. An Ijaw officer will not be as motivated fighting crime in Jos as he will be fighting crime in his town of residence. You have a better vested interest in defending your place of residence where you have friends and family, as against a strange place where your stay is very fleeting.
The Boko Haram crime problem is a test case. The criminal profile is entrenched on religion and ethnicity. The criminal elements are locals who view non locals as infidels. How can an igbo person be effective in controlling that crime problem. The community will not trust him and he is an attractive target for elimination. But a native law enforcement officer can infiltrate the criminal organization and can get intelligence about the criminals. The officer understands the environment and the people better, and that makes him a more effective crime fighter, than an officer with a transient contact with the community.
Any restructuring of the Nigeria police force that preserves the centralized and mobile nature of the force will fail. Effective restructuring will be to have local police force. The Federal Government can maintain a Federal police that deals with Federal crime enforcement. The Federal Police should use residents of that community as law enforcement officers.
The state should establish state police force. The state police should be responsible for law enforcement within the state. State police officers should be residents of the communities they serve. The state police command should be under the control of an independent police commission. The state police commander should be a tenured officer, who can only be removed for cause, by the legislature.
The local governments should also have a police force with limited authority within the local government. Progressive countries all over the world have National, State and Local Police Forces. Crime and criminals are not one size fit all. Crime and criminals have local peculiarities that can only be addressed by local law enforcement officers that understand the local peculiarities. A smaller and better trained state and local police force is more tailored to fight our current crime problem. It’s time we junk the unfocused, big Colonial police force that has been over whelmed by local based crime syndicates. Local crime problems calls for local law enforcement solution. Decentralized Police Force will be more efficient and better funded. The State and local governments will exercise better oversight powers over the Police Force. A smaller Police unit will be easier to train. Training is one of the problems of the huge and uncontrollable Police structure that we currently have. But if the Nigerian Police Force is broken into state and local government police forces, it will make for easier training.
A federal system of government without federal system of Police structure is doomed to fail. Nigeria needs to embrace a system that is the norm in most advanced countries. If we are serious about law enforcement , we must creat state and local government Police.
Nigeria needs to completely overhaul its police institute with a comprehensive reform that will usher in a seasoned and improved trained police men and women. Nigeria‘s reform of the police will not be a piecemeal, where many issues affecting the force will be relegated to the background for a quick fix. A comprehensive solution will be a panacea to the end of the deficiency associated with policing in Nigeria .
Nigeria cannot be a nation with a progressive economy without astute security apparatus. Capitalists and investors must perceive a sense of security in Nigeria . Security and peace will make investments attractive to Nigeria. There must be a strong law enforcement apparatus if Nigeria will make a head way in becoming one of the twenty largest economy by the year 2020.
Salaries and Wages
All things being equal, the police force can not rise to the occasion of protecting lives and properties on empty stomach. Both literally and figuratively the core men and women of the force are starving. Their penury situations cannot allow them to be all they can be. They are victims to corruption thereby debasing their profession of upholding law and order. When reasonable and livable salaries are paid, they become true professionals and the bad fruits in their midst can be detached and rid-off from the force. To enhance and dignify the police force, who are assigned the awesome job of fighting crimes in Nigeria they must be richly compensated and the perks must be made appealing.
Equipped police force
For Nigerian police force to become equal to the assigned responsibilities of fighting crimes and upholding justice, it must be equipped with the necessary materials including functioning communication system, efficient vehicles and reliable armaments to deter and destroy targets.
Educated police force
An enlightened police force must be realized by setting up institutions of higher learning dedicated to educating the police. The curriculum must be geared toward making a dedicated citizen whose civic duties comes first. They must be exposed to the history and politics of the country and must be educated on the inner workings of the governments. They must realized that the protection of lives and properties are supreme to a well manage and progressive state.