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Friday, 9 September 2011


Not too long ago, Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria took a random survey in twelve different high schools in the nation’s capital of Abuja in an attempt to find out how many students would wish to join the Nigeria police force on completion of their academic career may be as university graduates and the responses were revealing. The simple question put to more than one hundred students drawn from both public and private schools was “would you like to join the Nigeria police when you leave school? Over ninety percent of the respondents answered in the negative.”

We then decided to move to the next stage by interviewing more than one hundred newly recruited police operatives in Abuja and Kaduna and the simple question we put to them was “why did you join the Nigeria police force”? The responses of our respondents were shocking because about seventy five percent (75%) of them said ‘unemployment’ was responsible for their joining the Nigeria police force.

We were yet to do a final analysis on our findings when we ran into a damming story carried in Daily Trust of Wednesday, March 3rd 2010 that a senior police officer with the Federal Capital Territory police command, Chief Superintendent Bala Audu was on Tuesday 2nd March 2010 found dead in his office.

The report said Audu, who was the officer-in-charge of the command’s provost, had no accommodation and sleeps in his office at the headquarters of the police command in Garki Two, Abuja.

This sad story brings us to another litany of woes regarding the housing crisis that members of the Nigeria police force are daily confronting. The Guardian newspaper of February 26th 2010 carried a pathetic story that housing crisis persists in police commands all across Nigeria.

The Guardian reported that the most affected police operatives are those posted from their first state of service to another and remarkably the report identified the major challenge exacerbating the housing crisis in police formations all across Nigeria to the fact that posting of officers and men come through a signal without any allowance that enable the affected operatives to secure a new accommodation in the new state of posting.
These fundamental defects associated with the Nigeria police force are basically responsible for the total inability of the operatives to carry out their primary constitutional responsibility of prevention of the break down of law and order and the detection, prevention and to combat all criminal activities by some alleged criminals in the society.

Lack of trust has made most citizens refuse to pass meaningful information and intelligence on suspected activities of criminals to the police because the citizens suspect that the police operative is a mole who would immediately betray the trust reposed on him.

Two factors have been identified as being solely responsible for the sorry state that the Nigeria police of today find itself institutionally and the current Inspector General of Police Ogbonna Onovo has his job cut out for him and thankfully he has already hit the ground running. These factors are that housing crisis, lack of professional incentives from the government to the operatives of the Nigeria police coupled with poor training, poor remunerations and working conditions have all together become albatross to the efficient, effective and professional execution by the police of their primary constitutional duty of crime detection and prevention. Secondly, the total lack of the necessary professional competencies and the required facilities for the police has inevitably created or rather engendered the current atmosphere of break down of trust and confidence of the people in the police.

It is a fact that the recruiting processes used in enlisting the majority of the current work force in the Nigeria police force were fraught with irregularities so much so that the immediate past president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo once told a bewildered nation that many notorious criminals were recruited into the Nigeria police during his regime which was the only time in the history of Nigeria that tens- of- thousands of young men and women were recruited into the Nigeria police.

The immediate past police Affairs Minister Dr. Ibrahim Lame was quoted to have told Nigerians sometimes last year that because of insufficient professional training, a lot of police operatives are bad shooters. Could this be responsible for the high incidence of extralegal executions of innocent citizens by the police in Nigeria? Other violations of the fundamental human rights of Nigerians are committed daily by operatives of the Nigeria police.

One way out of this quagmire afflicting the nation’s police is for the operators of the system to ensure that fool proof strategies are activated to recruit quality and intellectually sound Nigerians into the Nigeria police and that good and commensurate salaries are paid to them even as the issue of housing crisis afflicting the police ought to be confronted vigorously. I believe in the ability of Ogbonna Onovo to achieve these lofty dreams within the period of his leadership of the Nigeria Police but he deserves our collective support.

In the United Kingdom, police officers are well paid, well trained and allowed to belong to trade unions to promote and protect their professional interests. Why are the operatives of the Nigeria police administratively prohibited from forming and belonging to professional trade unions to promote, protect and advance their professional interests even when Nigeria subscribes to the Universal Declaration of human rights and African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights?

All the administrative encumbrances that obstruct the professional growth and advancement of the operatives of the Nigeria police should be systematically dismantled  because it is a cardinal breach of the fundamental rights of the operatives that they will continue to suffer and smile even as Nigerians are not offered the benefits of receiving the most competent, professionally efficient and effective policing which explains why a majority of Nigerians are currently besieged by threats to their lives and property.

·                    Onwubiko heads Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria.


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