While announcing the commencement of the recruitment of personnel for community policing across the country last week, the Inspector General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, took the wind out of the sails of expectant citizens. He said that the recruits would be under 50 years of age, that traditional rulers would be involved in the recruitment process, and that the officers would be volunteers, earning no salaries. To be sure, this is a far cry from the expectations of Nigerians who live in apprehension on a daily basis. It is also definitely a departure from the desperate mood of members of the National Assembly when both chambers agitated over the security situation in the country recently. The level of insecurity in the country demands much more than the recruitment of ‘boy scouts’ as a last resort.
The IGP’s idea of volunteers as community policemen and women certainly made light of the security situation experienced by the vast majority of the Nigerians. It smacked of reluctance on the part of the police to do the needful by giving the country what is required to bail it out from the snares of pervasive atrocities committed by dangerous and dastardly elements increasingly emboldened by the limitations of the state security apparatus. The community police unit should be an integral part of the police force with the recruits having the opportunity to rise to the top echelon. The recruits must be very bright and intelligent individuals who are also members of the local community and who also enjoy the confidence and trust of their communities, to the extent that these communities can entrust the safety of their lives and properties to them. Anything short of these requirements will not serve the purpose of improving the security situation in the country. It is quite surprising that in articulating the concept and modus operandi of the proposed community policing, the IGP failed to appreciate the enormity of the country’s security challenges.
Nigeria being a society with many ethnic groups and sentiments, it is very clear that a unitary security architecture such as the one represented by the current police system cannot work. It, therefore, became imperative for the Muhammadu Buhari administration which has been staunchly opposed to decentralised policing to mute the idea of community policing as a way of staving off agitations for state police. But state police is inevitable. Certainly, community policing in the mould of the IGP’s design will be of very little use, especially if the members are only going to provide ancillary services to the regular police in terms of intelligence and information gathering. What IGP Mohammed Adamu has proposed as community policing has nothing to offer to the Nigerian people who obviously require more than glorified boy scouts to keep them safe. It is prudent to make a good assessment of the problems of the country before venturing into providing solutions to them. The IGP definitely has not assessed the complexity and enormity of the country’s security situation well enough to be able to offer the required solutions. A quick return to the drawing board is therefore highly necessary.
More fundamentally, if communities across the country are to be protected from criminals, there must be federal, regional and state police formations, with the personnel well paid and adequately motivated for the tasks assigned to them.