Challenges to true democracy: Poor policing and insecurity

IN concluding this series, I will discuss the incidence of insecurity which has been a constant plague to Nigeria’s sustainable democracy. While it is indeed true that the provision and maintenance of public safety is one of the core functions of government, the standard is definitely higher in democracy because thepolitical office holders attained their respective offices through the mandate of the people. It is thereforeunconscionable that any democratic government will fail its core mandate of ensuring public security and safety.

 

The state of the nation’s insecurity

It is a regrettable irony that more Nigerians have lost their lives in democratic dispensation than under military dictatorship since the civil war.The incidence of insecurity in Nigeria has manifested itself in religious crises, inter-ethnic conflicts, herder-farmer clashes, border disputes, ethno-religious conflicts, ethnic militancy, cultism, among others. The most recent is the recurring incidence of kidnapping and banditry. Certainly, the rise in these occurrences is the by-product of a dysfunctional democratic governance, thereby making Nigeria a port of insecurity and violence. Amnesty International, in its 2018 report, noted that:

“…the Nigerian authorities’ failure to investigate communal clashes and bring perpetrators to justice has fueled a bloody escalation in the conflict between farmers and herders across the country, resulting in at least 3,641 deaths in the past three years and the displacement of thousands more. Security forces were often positioned close to the attacks, which lasted hours and sometimes days, yet were slow to act. In some cases, security forces had prior warning of an imminent raid but did nothing to stop or prevent the killings, looting and burning of homes”

Security and good governance are sine qua non to any democracy. In a true democracy, the existence of the citizenry must be devoid of fear and harm, as well asunwanted socio-political or economic change. Through good governance, constitutionalism, and the rule of law all which are consistent with the tenets of true democracy, a nation is able to secure the lives and properties of its citizenry. The security of lives and properties in a democracy is reposed in the executive arm and enforced through the instrumentality of the police and other law enforcement agencies. Being woven into the fabric of the security of the nation,the police and law enforcement agencies are critical pillars in any democracy.Recognizing the all-important role of the law enforcement agencies and the military in sustainable democratic governance, an author, Oyovbaire, noted that:

The foundation of the Nigeria Armed Forces is built uponthe philosophical basis that civil authority and the people’sgeneral will and sovereignty are supreme, and that legitimateforce as institutionalized in the Armed Forces is afundamental complement of the Nigerian state.

 

The police and law enforcement agencies cannot uphold the nation’s democracy

Unfortunately, however, the Nigerian police are either poorly or improperly equipped to adequately carry out their functions of the sustenance of the nation’s democratic structure through securing lives and property. The lack of modern tools and equipment in communication, transportation and weaponry has no doubt contributed to the situation. As rightly observed by a former Inspector-General of Police “the beauty of policing is in operations; at the heart of operations is communication”.A crime-combating organization that lacks basic functional communication gadgets in this twenty-first century is doomed.With obsolete, non-functional communication equipment both at state and federal levels, the police cannot but fail in the war against any challenge to the nation’s democracy. When one juxtaposes the highly sophisticated equipment being used or controlled by the architects of the nation’s insecuritywhich include communication gadgets, with those at the disposal of the Nigerian Policemen, it becomes evident that the comparison has no relevance at all. Therefore, one cannot but agree with the view that miracles credited to police forces in developed countries today are attributable substantially to computerization and techno-communication. It is an eye sore that today in Nigeria and in the 21st century for that matter, many Nigerian Police Divisions have no functional telephone lines.

Some divisions, area commands, state commands and zonal commands in this country cannot communicate effectively even within the organisation let alone with the public should give each and every one of us serious worries. Where then do we go from here? In other serious climesacross the globe (even nearby smaller Togo, Republic of Benin, South Africa, etc. not to talk of advanced countries) effective communication with the Police is a sine qua non. Here in Nigeria, it is common sight to see policemen stationed within short distance along the same route but unable to communicate with one another in cases of emergency like car theft or armed robbery. The effect is that the victim is permanently deprived either of his life or property and the society becomes the overall loser.

In addition to the foregoing, lack of adequate training and training facilities is a conspicuous problem militating against the effective performance of the police in this country. This, by extension, has led many, both within Nigeria and without, to regard our police officers as half-baked as a result of poor training. The basic training wherewithal, as in other instances, are just not there. It was remarkably noted by a former Inspector General of Police that

“our training institutes all over the country are however in deplorable conditions and can hardly cope with our proposed training needs. Buildings for offices and residence of instructors are in poor state of maintenance due to paucity of funds. Library facilities and teaching aids, all pre-requisites of effective learning, are virtually non-existent. There is also the need to resuscitate overseas training, courses and seminars to re-orient the police in their new roles”. It is most certainly hard to conceive a workable democracy when the law enforcement agencies are poorly remunerated, inadequately equipped and improperly trained.

 

The way forward

The relationship between democracy, security and effective policing should not be difficult for any government to understand.While democracy is the peoples’ rightto participatemeaningfully in the political process, including the right to vote and compete forpublic office, and for elected representatives to affect public policies, effective policing is theproduction and enforcement of security through the maintenance of a satisfactory environment of order,security, and trust.There is no gainsaying that there can be no true democracy in the absence of a safe haven for the people to express their freewill,

The only conceivable solution is a true Federal Constitution and parliamentary system of government similar to 1960/63 Constitutions.This will not only achieve a functional government but will effectively tackle and pre-emptthe spate of insecurity in the nation.

AARE AFE BABALOLA, OFR, CON, SAN, LLD. D.Litt.

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