Reforming police for sustainable productivity

NIGERIA’s democracy has scored a notable point vis-à-vis the mantra, “power belongs to the people.”

Following intensive protests by youths, human rights activists and other concerned persons over excesses of the Nigeria Police particularly Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), federal government, through the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, announced proscription of SARS across the country. Without a doubt, the word ‘SARS’ usually put criminals to extreme fear, unfortunately, their excesses; extrajudicial killings and bullying of innocent citizens for pecuniary interests made it notorious.

Thus, a credit to Nigerian youths and masses for speaking out and standing against the vices; tyranny and terrorisation of SARS of the Nigeria Police Force attached to the Criminal Investigations Department. Equally, President Muhammadu Buhari deserves encomium for listening to the voices of the masses as a sensitive and proficient leader. Giving ears and listening to the governed is an essential attribute of leadership which the President has inarguably displayed.

By the concept of democracy, both the leaders and the led are stakeholders in decision-making. This concept created the legislative arm of government which consists of persons elected by the people from all the constituents as their representatives. By such arrangement, the masses are indirectly part of the decision-making albeit in representative capacity. But, by open protest, they make their voices to be heard directly with grievances made known to the relevant authorities. Thus, protests however exclusively peaceful in manner, remains a civil and robust tool to communicate to the government by the oppressed masses.

President Buhari immediately assured that disbanding the SARS is merely a first step that a holistic reform is on the way. Thus, the Police helmsman after announcing the ban of SARS, unveiled a new squad, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) as a replacement. The IGP also outlined measures to overhaul the Police for productivity and service-delivery. Amongst these measures is a constitution of special committee to comprise Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), and other relevant groups to monitor operations of the new outfit, SWAT. This is commendable.

However, an efficient SWAT that will make the needed difference requires a robust, critical measure that can administratively monitor their operations by default. Instructively, any police officer attached to SWAT must operate under a superior officer or team leader who must file a daily written report to Divisional Police Officers in designated areas for onward transmission to Area Commands. This will ensure that no SWAT officer operates outside his Division or without formal approval from office. Again, SWAT officers not on duty have no business with guns or firearms. In other words, any actions by Police officers that didn’t reflect in the daily written report on a particular day will be considered as illegal operations.

The Area Commanders at their ends as a duty should be able to translate these reports into digital information management system such that superiors including the Inspector-General of Police can assess the reports from his office to avoid fabricating reports to cover up illegal operations by any officer if the issues eventually are reported for investigation. This measure has put excesses of the armed forces to checks as Army, Air Force and Navy officers can only have access to firearms when authorized and with a defined approved mission, and above all, under a team leader who takes responsibility of actions of subordinates.

Now, the challenge is that to adopt digital information management system is capital-intensive. To migrate to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) requires megabucks. In fact, without adequate funding of the Police, moving from SARS to SWAT or whatever nomenclature may not bring any meaningful difference or dividends the masses target to see. Police whether SARS, SWAT or conventional Police provide for daily running or operations at their various divisions. This is a blunder and must be critically addressed.

In other words, maintenances at Police stations, operations vehicles and many other necessaries are provided from bribes and inducements to Police officers including SARS on duty posts, and their locations determine volumes to submit to superiors. Then, to secure their duty posts if ‘lucrative’, money will always have to exchange hands with superiors to avoid transfer. Suffice to say that many official tasks are being handled with funds generated from kickbacks, bribes and all manner of corrupt practices at the detriment of the helpless masses. This therefore suggests that police brutality and excesses may never end without dealing with the matter from the basis.

Thus, a robust and effective reform of the Police has huge financial implications. To fund all Police stations across the nation adequately and provide a good remuneration for its workforce demands that funds must be created. And one of ways to create the needed funds is to block the leakages in the country. A major leakage in the country that continues to drain the treasury is the National Assembly that is running a Bicameral legislature for a developing nation that still struggles to put basic infrastructure in place.

The Senate which is the upper chamber performs exactly same tasks as the lower chamber; House of the Representatives, and this demands critical review particularly now that the nation is facing Covid-19 lockdown resultant effects like that many other counties around the world. Besides, all the states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) run a Unicameral legislature; single legislative chamber unlike the National Assembly.

Those thirty-six (36) states in Nigeria that run unicameralism are operating without hitches, and therefore, there is no sensible justification for federal government to continue with bicameral legislature when the tasks can be performed by one chamber. No doubt, the founding fathers borrowed it from developed nations with good intentions, but at the moment, it is not practicable but counterproductive. Maybe, in future, it may be considered all things being equal.

If we conscientiously ponder on the volume of funds required to maintain and run the two chambers that perform same tasks, the results will show that the country is wearing oversized shoes imitating developed nations like USA, United Kingdom etc. We must not imitate developed nations in everything. Let’s look at the size of our treasury first prior to copying other nations’ policies. Despite the height of corruption that thrived during military juntas in Nigeria, many of them were able to put in place some edifying capital projects we use today due to absence of bicameral legislature that gulps extremely the nation’s treasury.

We must recall that during the tenure of Babatunde Fashola (SAN) as Governor of Lagos, the government created a Security Trust Fund and many observers can attest that with the improved funding, the Police performed above average in their tasks of protecting lives and property of citizens in the state. So, adequate funding of Police is fundamental. It is when the necessary things are put in place, we can actually know those that are bad eggs in the Force. But as Police officers are always given targets to provide illicit funds from their duty posts for administrative tasks in their Divisions by superiors, it may be difficult to fish out the bad eggs.

This is a hidden fact but a major challenge which must be addressed for a realistic and sustainable reform.

 

  • Umegboro, a public affairs analyst and Associate, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators sent this piece from the United Kingdom

 

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