Tag Archives: nigerian politics

AN URGENT CASE FOR REFORM OF POLICE AND STATE SECURITY OPERATIONS IN NIGERIA

Policing Nigeria seems to be getting harder for the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) due to the misguided agendas of the politicians who seem bent on destroying whatever is left of the operational effectiveness of the police. The NPF has been under attack since the mid-70s when the military administration, removed the Special Branch out of the Force and made it a separate independent organisation. The Special Branch later became the NSO during Shagari administration and then changed its name to the SSS of today.

Although its powers and operations are defined by laws, the practical operation of theNigerian-police-1 police is affected by the political and socio-economic interests of the governing elite and political groups in Nigeria.

The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in section 214 (1) states that:

“There shall be a Police Force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force and subject to the provisions of this section, no other Police Force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof”.

Section 214 (2)(a) empowers the National Assembly to produce an Act to organise and administer the details of police operations in Nigeria in ways that protects the constitutional rights of Nigerians. This is known as the Police Act. First enacted in 1943, it has been reviewed by the legislature in 1967 and 1979. A new review is being planned by the National Assembly.

This constitutional provision makes it unconstitutional for either the government of the states or even the federal government to establish a parallel police service in competition to the Nigeria police Force. This has however not stopped the Federal government from establishing additional investigatory and enforcement institutions, even though they have not called any of them ‘police’.

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Many in government agree that the Nigerian government seem to be in breach of the spirit of the constitution if not the letter of it. By not calling these parallel agencies “police” the government seem to say they have stayed within the provisions of the law. But with these agencies having powers similar to that of the police and taking over functions and duties performed by the police, it can be argued that if it looks like a dog, barks like a dog, walks like a dog, then it is a dog.

These agencies perform policing duties, hence it can be argued that they are police in practice if not in names. But nobody has yet litigated this fact by taking the government to a court of competent jurisdiction over it. Examples of these additional agencies are:

  • The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC)
  • The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC)
  • The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC)
  • The National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC)
  • The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB)
  • Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO)
  • State Security Service (SSS)
  • National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA)

For instance, the CCT has not led to accelerated hearings of misconduct cases, hence there is doubt as to its continued existence.

Most in the Police believe the plethora of agencies, many with overlapping powers, and duplicated duties have led to the weakening of the main police force as a result of talent flight to these new agencies and reduction in police funding, as funds are allocated to these additional agencies.

The main police force is then left to do the heavy lifting task of crime prevention and investigation with fewer resources to do the job. These policing related agencies consume a lot of resources and many believe overwhelmingly they are inefficient and incoherent in operational agility. These many policing agencies stretches the budget of the government to the detriment of the NPF. We are now in a situation where the Federal government only manages to pay the emoluments of the police officers and barely nothing else is available for equipment, training etc, thus the operational funding of the police now largely come from the goodwill of the respective state governments. As a result, a multi-tier police is emerging. With states like Lagos able to better support the police and others like Adamawa doing much less. If this trend continues; the federal government will lose its moral right to a federal police structure it cannot afford to fund.

From nowhere, President Obasanjo created the Civil Defence corps and put his sympathisers in it. Billions of naira were spent establishing this group to perform duties meant for the Nigeria Police constitutionally. Few people see any value this group brought to the nation. But in the meantime, Billions meant for the Police has now been diverted to another agency created by politicians.

Seal_of_the_Senate_of_Nigeria.svgGiven the foregoing, one will wonder why the National Assembly is now creating another paramilitary group called the Peace Corps. It does not make sense. That will make it the ninth agency to be created to perform a traditional police function. If this Peace Corps bill is finally passed by the National Assembly, Nigeria will now have TEN organisations performing policing duties; including the main NPF itself. This is madness.

Effective policing in most countries is made of a unified police body that has specialist units within it to focus on special areas of security interests, but all under the same command and control system and sharing unified databases for joined up intelligence-led policing. Instead of this, Nigeria seems to be creating more policing agencies and inevitable confusion of roles, duplicated responsibility; unclear hierarchy of power amongst them and financial dissipation that makes the NPF suffer under little or no funding.

With the Peace corps, we have Ten policing organisations, Ten Back-office departments and cost centres, Ten databases, ten operational procedures and intelligence systems and a massively confused citizenry who are now not sure who to call on amongst all these policing agencies. In all countries I know of if a civil servant steals; you call the police. In Nigeria, we created the ICPC. Why? With these kaleidoscope of policing organisations, you also have Ten prosecuting agencies for relatively similar crimes. This creates multiple prosecution standards and inconsistent prosecutorial decisions.

In the end, it seems the politicians are only interested in creating power bases for themselves in the security sector of the country. This is to aid their manipulation of our laws and impunity in political activities. The solution is to unify all these agencies under the NPF, strengthen our police, fund them better and demand better outcomes accordingly.

The trend globally in the security sector is to join-up activities of different agencies and reduce their number to the barest minimum. We seem to be going in the opposite direction. You can finish serving a jail sentence for robbery in Niger state and travel to Lagos the next day to join the Police. There is no national database of criminals in Nigeria. The system relies on the honesty of applicants to declare their own past convictions. In fact, there is no State-wide database of criminals in any state. All we have is a state-wide record of cases, not criminals. And this is mainly manual when it exists. So if there is no joined-up operation within the police as a result of a paucity of funds and historical neglect; how much more between the police of all these other policing organisations. It will not be a surprise if a good number of our police officers are ex-convicts and others unfit to hold such vital roles.

Historically, while the military invested and modernise themselves infrastructure wise when they were in power, the police was deliberately underfunded and neglected. So the continuing negative public perception of the role and capacity of the police is a major source of concern in a democracy. Hence the NPF remain the most misunderstood profession by the general public in Nigeria. Many expect them to work magic despite the limitations and massive constraints of their tools and service conditions. Their performance is weighed with misconception and ignorance, resulting in an out of context assessment of their activities.

Ignorance of the inner workings of the police and the penchant for secrecy by the Nigeria police had led to little public confidence in the service by Nigerians, plenty of misconception and depleted public support and cooperation with the police. These challenges are being exacerbated by the plethora of policing agencies created by the politicians. These other agencies create a capacity problem for the police and dilute the funding available to the NPF.  In my opinion; it is now time we create a unified security platform in Nigeria under the leadership of the NPF as the only constitutionally empowered civil security organisation. Train them, strengthen them, support them and see a new security landscape emerge that we all can be proud of.

The NPF as presently crafted and treated by the politicians is set up to fail. We need the leadership of the National Assembly to see the need for a joined-up security infrastructure and unified command and control. Creating the Peace Corps must be abandoned and the funds meant for it given to the NPF to strengthen its numbers and operational tools. God bless Nigeria.

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UNDERSTANDING NIGERIAN PECULIAR POLITICAL LANDSCAPE.

For a long time I have been critical of the Nigerian political landscape’s lack of ideological characterisation. I have complained that our political parties are all the same regardless of the name they are called. And the ease with which politician cross carpet to other parties is Nigeria_politicalevidence of the lack of ideological coherence in any of the parties. Implied in this critical thesis is that there is no point engaging with any of them as they are all same. But I have been thinking lately and I now believe the political ideological construct in Nigeria is actually not as much of the problem as I had believed. I now believe that it is impossible to have an ideologically-driven polity without an ideologically-driven or classified citizenry.

Nigerians are not ideologues in the main. Most want the basic essentials of life; Security, Jobs, Infrastructure, Economic development, good Education, and so on. But I found that Nigerians are not really fussed on how these goals are achieved. They just want them done. Nigerians are not yet at that level of political sophistication; where they will choose based on political ideology, who can better deliver the essentials of life they seek. They have been worn down, exhausted and frustrated by decades of bad and corrupt political reality, that they will be happy for anyone, any party to deliver the goods, regardless of its political ideology. It is therefore unrealistic to expect the political parties in Nigeria to be divided along ideological lines as that does not reflect the priorities and existential expectations of the people.

My thoughts have been focused on this issue in recent weeks with the mergers of political parties going on in Nigeria and high profile defections from one party to another. Some have criticized the mergers and defections as showing lack of “principle” by the political players. But what principle are people talking about? When all the parties lack any coherent principles, then it is safe to conclude that you can only clone a pig out of a pig.  It is true when people say all the parties are more or less the same. A confluence of power seekers who will do anything, say anything and join anything that will give them power or allow them to retain the power they already have.

Nigerians in diaspora are particularly guilty as I was, of expecting the Western level sophistication in out polity. They expect to see parties forming based on ideological divide that will give people clear options. But for now, Nigerian are not really ideological people. They know what they want from government, but are not really prescriptive on how it is done by the government. If you have been starved for weeks; you will not be in the mood to dictate how your food is cooked. You just want food period. Nigerian just want a government that will deliver, period. Whatever political label or ideology a party espouse will not matter as long as it delivers on the people’s priorities.

So our political collage will continue to be bland, colourless and ideology-free for some time to come. And that may not be a bad idea. Democracy, like capitalism is self-adaptive and can mean different things in different places. Even the old Greeks that created the concept of democracy initially believed that leaders were born not made. The ancient Greeks had set characteristics that if you are born with, then you are a leader. Pointed nose, Blue eyes, Light skin etc are for them at that time pointers to a born leader. But we all know how racist and discriminatory such narrow definition now is in a modern society. My point is that even the creators of the democratic model did not expect a uniform look and feel. They had to adapt and change too.

So let us stop obsessing or viewing our political parties and its actors from an ideological prism. Let us adopt a simple test: What have they done (or will do) to improve the lives of the people and develop the nation. Ideological cohesion will come later. We are pragmatists in Nigeria and many do not believe there is only one way to do things in the political sphere. In fact many do not have the passion to pursue a single political ideologue, if their interest is not fully protected. 

Illiteracy and Poverty has made political ideology a luxury for most Nigerians. Ideological pursuit requires you to do what you believe is right, even if you don’t personally benefit from it. It requires working for the collective good even if that means subordinating your personal interest. Nigerian are not at that junction yet. Personal/tribal Interest seems to trump all other considerations. And people will move to any political invention that seems to advance that personal interest regardless of ideology or worldview of the party.

Political parties in any nation cannot develop more than its people’s ability to engage with it. So let us all focus on a set of simple tests for our political parties that reflects the priorities of the people and not be distracted that they lack coherent ideology or seem doctrinally indistinguishable from each other. That will allow us to focus on what matters and put pressure on the politicians to deliver; rather than engaging in futile debates about ideology.

Lagos NigeriaFinally, there was a piece in Vanguard newspaper this past week on an interview with the former South African President, Mbeki on his views about Nigeria. A portion of the article stated: “Making democracy work… requires informed and active citizens who understand how to voice their interests, act collectively and hold public officials accountable. Democracy’s credibility and sustainability depends, to an important degree, on how it works in practice, and on what it delivers.  Bad governments thrive in Nigeria, or elsewhere for that matter, because “the leadership does not feel pressure from the people. It therefore follows that if Nigerians desire the dividends of democracy, they will have to fight for it. They must decide whether to continue with the way they are being governed or become active in demanding transparency and accountability from government. Democracy’s efficacy and legitimacy are predicated on an informed citizenry; without active and knowledgeable citizens, democratic representation remains empty; without vigilant, informed citizens, there is no check on potential tyranny”.

So it is the people that will dictate when the nation is ready for ideologically driven polity. Right now, we should all focus more on intent and actions of our leaders; and demand result, regardless of ideology. At least we hope we can start from there.

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