Why the Nigerian Police Remains a Failure in our Democratic Settings
The Nigerian police are seen to serve the interests of the ruling elite, despite the passage of 54 years of independence and establishment of the republic, and despite the fact that the police leadership is carefully selected and groomed and enjoys high status in our country. Unfortunately, little is known about the police organization and the reasons for its poor image. Citizens remain ignorant of and aloof from the problems of Nigerian police that ultimately affect the functions of the organization. A widespread belief pins most of the ills to the 'politicization' of the service, in which politicians are dubbed the culprits, not letting the police play its rightful role in the society. However, the problems of the Nigerian police run deep, the design, structure, culture and leadership are all equally responsible for the present state of affairs. This remains hidden due to a lack of understanding about the nature and functions of the police in the country. Apart from the memoirs of many police officers and the occasional academic study of specific issues related to policing, knowledge about the police remains limited in the country and to most concerned citizens.
The following are the causes of dissatisfaction of the public with regard to the functioning of the police in Nigeria.
Police are the principal violators of the law and they get away with impunity.
Some sections of the police are in league with anti-social elements. Consequently they indulge in selective enforcement of the law.
Police exhibit rude behavior, abusive language and contempt towards courts and human rights; they indulge in all forms of corruption.
Depending on the socio-cultural status, economic power and political influences of people who approach them, police adopt differential attitudes, violating equality and human dignity.
Police are either ignorant of the precepts of human rights or they deliberately disregard them in the matters of arrest, interrogation, searching, detention and preventive policing.
Given the dismal record of prevention and successful investigation of crimes, the police lack accountability in protection of life and property.
While crimes are getting sophisticated, the police are becoming less professional. There is no evidence of a collective desire within the police organization to redeem its public image.
The police are insensitive towards victims of violent crimes. They sometimes behave rudely with victims, as if they are responsible for their fate.
At least a section of policemen think of human rights as antithetical to effective law enforcement. They blame the law, lawyers and courts for their own inefficiency.
Of late, some policemen have publicly shown leniency towards fundamentalists and terrorists, manifesting a dangerous threat to security and constitutional governance.
I guess no honest person within or outside the police could totally deny the charges. Of course, they can give alibis and explanations that may or may not be acceptable to the public. Well thinking person's should acknowledge the existence of such perceptions in a wide spectrum of the citizenry and must work out strategies to remove them progressively in the interests of public service and professionalism. Those who do not want the situation to change will continue to provide excuses and explanations accusing others in society or in the criminal justice system for the malady. The tragedy is that unlike other departments of the government, if policing tends to become lawless, the very foundations of democracy are in jeopardy, development subverted and the country's integrity compromised; hence the urgency to reform the police and their style of functioning
The governments, especially the politicians ruling state governments, want the police force to function like their private army. Enforcement of law, prevention of crimes, establishment of justice, etc, are not important to selfish politicians. So they do not want police establishment to become modernized and function impartially and efficiently. The Nigerian police are becoming notorious for rights abuse, corruption and lack of efficiency. The police personnel are poorly paid. They do not get proper training. The politicians treat them like private servants. If police force does not sub-serve their interests and 'somehow' implement their instructions, they would find it very difficult to carry on their corrupt practices. So in spite of directives from the Supreme Court, they drag on the subject of police reforms.
In the interest of democracy and good governance, there is an imperative need for urgent, full-fledged reforms of the police force in Nigeria. It is also true that unless the people realize the importance of these reforms and forcefully insist upon them, none of the political parties is likely to take initiative in this regard on its own.
Honestly, we all know the government of today is full of impunity, which has really no respect for the views and values of the Nigerian people, so we must collectively come out as concerned Nigerian to ensure the reforms of the Nigerian police force.
Comrade Ahmed Omeiza Lukman,
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