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Police Recruitment 2011: Hire the right people not armed robbers!

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The Nigeria Police Service Commission recently commenced the recruitment exercise into the Nigeria Police Force. The exercise aim is to select the best among the numerous applicants into the officers and the inspector cadre of the Nigeria Police

 Force. So far, millions of Nigerian unemployed youth have applied for police jobs, not because they want to be  police officers but for the employment sake. For example, there were over five thousand applicants in Oyo State alone, whereas, only a handful of one hundred and fifty applicants were recommended to Abuja for recruitment.

Of course, for many years, the selection criteria into military and para-military agencies in Nigeria has always been on the basis 'who you know and not what you know' and this has led to the rot in all our law enforcement agencies. In view of the security challenges in Nigeria, the question flying from lips to lips among the security experts and the member of the public is whether President Goodluck Jonathan would do something different by deviating from known tradition where police jobs are doled out as compensation to thugs and 'area boys' that worked for politicians during the electioneering campaign. The answer should be NO.  

According to Kenney, the objective of police recruitment and selection is to find qualified candidates for a law enforcement position in terms of talents, ethics, and emotional stability. (Kenney 1996: v).  In modern policing, computers and human relations skills and the ability to deal with diverse cultures and perhaps speak multiple languages is very important. Also, with the advent of community and problem-oriented policing, personnel management issues have become increasingly complex as earlier homogeneous departments have given way to more modern departments reflective of the community population. Policing is a combination of tasks and responsibilities that are constantly changing. In the current era of terrorism, police agencies need men and competent officers who are well trained to confront the challenges.

Nigeria Police Force needs officers and managers who possess emotional intelligence and stability to perform a variety of difficult taxing duties. Considering the security challenges in Nigeria and the age limit of (21-25 for inspector and 21-30 ASP cadets) set by the PSC for applicants,  it might be difficult for the police department to recruit a talented professional police officer that possess skills and backgrounds that are needed in the 21st century police department.

On the alternative, the PSC should only set a minimum age requirement of 21 years. This will give police department flexibility to decide on what kind of experience and skill needed for various departments. Also, emphasis should be laid on the basic education requirement as against the academic grade. This is not an absolute assertion but the reality is that genuine first class students do not always apply for a Police job. Therefore, the Ordinary National Diploma, ND or NCE for Cadet Inspector and Bachelor degree or Higher National Diploma for cadet ASP irrespective of grade should be standard entry points. There are lots of people with questionable certificates with first class and a second class grade in the system of which those people have failed woefully to defend such grade during a job interview. Therefore, assessment for police recruitment should be based on the written examination, verbal screening and psychological testing. The successful completion of the three steps should be followed by comprehensive background check and physical examinations.

In Nigeria of today, police are mere pawns of the politicians. The Governors, Senators and political godfathers doled out police jobs as a form of patronage. They all have the list of their candidates to be recruited at the expense of good applicants. Alh. Ibrahim Commassie, former inspector-General of Police lamented recently that 'recruitment and training have been compromised as a result of conditions of service, which do not attract the right material as those with the right qualifications do not apply to join the force' (Punch 2011, July 20) due to political interference.

In addition, another former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Sunday Ehindero, also corroborated the fact that 'most of the persons recruited into the Nigeria Police between 2000 and 2004 were criminals'. (Ehindero, Daily Independent, 2009, January 22). I think we should ask if there have been any major changes between the year 2004 and 2011?

Furthermore, I recalled the security summit held on August 10, 2004 in Abuja, former President Olusegun Obasanjo asked rhetorically; "What do we do with law enforcement agents where a policeman will hire out his gun to armed robbers?" (Obasanjo, BBC online 2004, August 11). It is evidently clear that Nigeria is in trouble because of the type of organization we have. This assertion is not to deny the fact that there are not honest, committed and patriotic men and women in Nigeria Police Force but the reality is that the system has never allowed them to flourish. In fact, some of them are frustrated in terms of lack of promotion, emoluments, motivation and policies.

In conclusion, people have thrown this question to me several times on why our servicemen have always performed excellently while on the United Nations assignment outside Nigeria. My answer is three and simple; (1). It is because we always select the best to represent us, (2) also because they are motivated and, (3) properly equipped to do the job under the supervision of competent commanders. Therefore, to build a credible, effective and a 21st century Police organization that can face the security challenges of today in Nigeria, let us follow the three steps highlighted beginning from the present recruitment exercise and this is left to President Goodluck Jonathan to decide.

Oludare Ogunlana is an Intelligence Analyst and member of the International Association for Counterterrorism and Security Professionals.