IGP’s special constables

THE acting Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed Adamu, has reportedly said that community policing in the country would now involve the recruitment of traditional rulers, pastors and imams as special constables. According to him, the special constables would be part of the police structure in communities but would neither be paid nor armed. The police envisage that the special constables would help to carry out administrative duties while the regular policemen would focus on the regular police job of law enforcement and protection of life and property which is their core mandate. Indeed, the police authorities recently proposed to shorten the length of hours police personnel work daily from 12 hours to eight hours. The objective was to avoid overworking the operatives, a situation which they believed was the cause of the rising cases of extrajudicial killings by police personnel. For the police, this would appear to be a season of resort to desperate measures to address worsening internal security and their patent inability to deliver on their mandate of protection of life and property.

Unfortunately, desperate measures are seldom rational and they are hardly products of a robust intellectual foundation, and so their efficacy is suspect.  Yes, the song on the lips of the average Nigerian is suffering while insecurity has even become a hit track, yet it is unlikely that these seemingly intractable challenges will be resolved by policy options chosen by the authorities when they appear to be at the end of their tether. It is axiomatic that the amount and quality of thought process involved in taking official decisions and actions will significantly impact their outcomes. In this connection, it is difficult to believe that the idea of special constables was thoroughly considered and reviewed by the police authorities before making the plan public.

Indeed, not a few Nigerians believe that the scheme is another distraction that the police are engaging in in order to be seen as working assiduously to crack the hard nut of escalating insecurity that has continued to put the force on the spot lately. It is difficult to see how the special constables would add any value to the security situation in the country. There is even the veritable fear that the special constables would become another line of oppressors that members of their communities may have to contend with. Again, even though the special constables would not be paid, there would be deadly struggles for the positions given the gravity of the unemployment and underemployment situations in the land. A new absurdity would thus be created. There is also the question of how the regular police would relate with pastors, imams and traditional rulers as special constables that will carry out police administrative duties in the community.

Would the largely undisciplined regular police not regard the special constables as busybodies and interlopers foisted on them by their superiors? And would that misconception bode well for the effective community policing that the new plan envisages? The idea of community policing and the proposed participation of some unarmed and unremunerated  influencers and legitimizers in the local communities appears to be well-meaning but it falls short of what is needed to tackle the menace of insecurity head-on. The contraption of the regular police, traditional rulers and clergymen and women working together on security matters in communities merely begs the question: the real issue is state police which would necessarily be about community policing.

Truth be told, the plan trivialises issues of security. Nigeria does not deserve this kind of facile approach to addressing what has virtually snowballed into an existential challenge. If the IGP truly believes in the efficacy of community policing and wishes to prioritise same, he should demonstrate that by canvassing for the institution of state police without minding the fact that his official powers and influence may be whittled down as a consequence. This rigmarole about recruiting special constables to help in community policing is unnecessary and it is not a luxury the country can afford given the grave security situation on the ground.

After all, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo pointed in the direction of state police when he admitted, and rightly so, that a country of Nigeria’s size cannot be policed centrally. There are precedents in many federal democracies in the world from which to draw operational lessons. What is more, historically, Nigeria is not entirely alien to the devolution of police duties and powers to the lower levels of government. It is clear that the current arrangement is grossly deficient and unworkable. What is required is a surgical operation that would culminate in the institution of state police and not the cosmetic and ineffective solution that the special constables plan promises to offer.

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