Complete overhaul of the Police Force in Nigeria in a few suggestions

I have a few suggestions for mopping up the Nigerian Police – perceived as the most corrupt institution in Nigeria according to research by the Institute for Development Research, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. A few days ago, spurred by protests across the country by young Nigerians who have been violently harassed and humiliated by unruly officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, the President had ordered the Inspector General to ‘reform’ the Unit but the President missed the point. Completely, and as expected. It should not be forgotten that the President was part of the government that set the Nigerian Police Force on the path of escalated unprofessionalism. It began in 1976.

The serving Inspector General of Police – regarded as the most brilliant in Africa, during his time – was Oxford University graduate; Mohammed Dikko Yussuf. “M. D. Yussuf” for short. General Murtala Mohammed had just been assassinated. The success of the assassination attempt on Murtala Mohammed was blamed on the Inspector General of Police who did not detect the plot. Indeed, it was an unfair judgement. (He was first the Commanding Officer of the Police Special Branch after the Nigerian military catastrophe of 1966. He detected the first coup despite being shrouded in airtight secrecy. He found out. The second coup, he knew about. His investigations were thorough. He was Mr Sherlock Holmes of Nigeria).

The Special Branch, well funded and notorious for a thorough investigation and accurate reports, was removed from underneath the Police Inspector General and passed to the military under the new name National Security Organization. It was the NSO that became the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the brutal State Security Service (SSS) or for optics, the ‘Directorate’ of State Security. The Police were punished rather brashly and without much thinking. It was a vituperative act. The actions led to the slash of the Police budget, permanently disabling its professional capabilities and reducing professionalism.

It is noteworthy that despite the humongous corruption that went on during the Gowon era, the Police were less infected than the politicised military. This is not to say that the Police were a hundred per cent friendly towards everyone. Globally, they are usually the first to reach the barricades in combative mode against peaceful demonstrators. Register that. However, society is locked in a situation of perpetual need for a response from an organised armed group when bad people come calling. Otherwise, one would have asked that we demand for the abolition of the Police departments like the slave trade. But that is not possible. Sometimes, the Police behave in surprising ways too.

It depends on how the brains of the commanders work. M.D. Yussuf (former IGP) was a leftist. He was even a follower of Nnamdi Azikiwe and Aminu Kano, officially a member of the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC) and Northern Element Progressive Union (NEPU) – a leftist political party. So you know what to expect from such an individual. I also know former Student Union leaders that went into the Police. Bola Longe, the Nassarawa State Police Commissioner and former secretary of Nigerian Police Force Headquarters in Abuja, was President of the University of Ibadan Students Union in 1983. During his stay on campus, the police station at Abadina was razed down by students.

Ever heard of a Police strike before? In February 2002, the Nigerian Police Force went on strike! I know of Police Divisions where the Commander fuels the patrol vans from his pocket. I doubt there are divisions that get more than fifty thousand nairas monthly as running costs. You will definitely be irritated when you call them and they respond that “there is no fuel in the vehicle.” At worst, they tell you to fuel the vehicle. The Police will never be perfect even with funding but that must be a demand as well. A strong Police is a threat to lawlessness among the elites. It is a policy in West Africa to underfund important institutions like education for two reasons: to keep them weak. A strong academic institution is a threat to misrule anywhere in the world. A strong military will take power and maintain it for a long.

The Nigerian example has taught West Africa the lessons. The military Administrations underfunded the Airforce and Navy because they attempted a military takeover. The Police would have been able to carry out proper investigations into scientific crimes with proper funding. Even corrupt politicians will be wary of a resourceful Police. I commend the courageous young people who have been calling the shots. I commend the organizers too. And I have a few suggestions – bearing in mind that after the body is disbanded, the corrupt and murderous officers might escape justice by simply being ‘redeployed’ to other Force units. Affliction might rise again. What then will be the demands?

I propose that we should bring down the entirety of the Police system and rebuild it with a wider list of demands:

  1. Immediate constituting of a Public Panel of Enquiry for the identification, arrest and prosecution of the erring cops like the ‘Oputa Panel’;
  2. Special intervention funds to be monitored by Civil Society Organisations (such as #EndSARS steering committees), Legal Practitioners, retired civil servants and religious leaders;
  3. Immediate prosecution of offenders under the law without long detentions;
  4. A review of illegally detained people who have not been taken to court and are being denied their rights to a fair hearing. The Ministry of Interior should also be placed under scrutiny;
  5. Military and paramilitary members with no identity tags should be arrested and prosecuted for illegal duties;
  6. Police officers without uniforms with insignias should have no right to make arrests;
  7. Non-uniform-wearing officers should lose the right to stop or search anyone;
  8. Legal cases should be pursued against the Police in the events of harassment and brutality. In addition:
  9. The procedure for enlistment into the Police Force should primarily be looked into as a matter of necessity. The quality of screening/verification, training and orientation given to cadet policemen and even recruits should be evaluated and judged against the standards of the United Kingdom and selected Police Departments of the United States;
  10. I also propose ‘periodic psychological evaluation’. Members of the Police Force the military and other paramilitary formations that are allowed to hold live ammunition should be checked for psychological complications.
  11. The adoption of the Abisoye Report of 1971; that live ammunition should never be used against protesters. The tragedy must end once and for all.

Ojo, Aderemi Ibadan, Nigeria. ojderemi@gmail.com


Ojo, Aderemi is a Historian, teacher, public speaker, writer, politician, and community organiser. He was trained at the University of Ibadan and was President of the Students Union.

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