Few days back I read a foreign newspaper from Japan as i randomly do on daily basis to get abreast with developments from around the World since it is presumed that we now co-habit in a global hall.
In reading this online version of one of the most prominent Japanese dailies, yours faithfully came across a very intriguing topic which tells the story that half of the entire police operatives are not fully occupied.
These Police operatives are not lazy or functionally redundant but can’t find enough criminals to occupy their times abdcommit government’s resources towards general law enforcement.
With the disappearance of criminals or rather rapid reduction in crime in Japan, it has become inevitable that the nation doesn’t need the number of law enforcement officers in their official nominal roll.
The news story further stated that it was looking increasingly possible that Japan may have to export her law enforcement officials to another country that needs such critical services given that the crime rate in Japan has radically dropped.
In that same week, I read a story of a certain central European nation whereby the government of that country has run out of options on what to do with the many unoccupied prison facilities simply because the crime rate in that European Nation has fundamentally dropped. Netherlands is also reported as witnessing massive reduction in crime rates.
Conversely, the situation of crime in Nigeria is said to be on a steady upswing and sadly the number of detention facilities are grossly insufficient and substandard giving that these prisons were built many years back. The number of trained and professionally competent operatives is in steady geometric decline.
Another unfortunate statistical fact about the crime rate in Nigeria is the near-absence of skilled, disciplined and professionally committed persons to engage in the arduous tasks of policing Nigeria.
The argument that with over 300,000 officially accredited Police operatives (not forgetting the ghost police operatives) are not near enough to police a population of over one hundred and sixty million Nigerians is plausible but debatable because of the lacuna that exists in the recruitment process. One time President Olusegun Obasanjo once disclosed that armed robbers and prostitutes have paid their way into the Nigeria police force. The process of commercializing and politicizing the entry points into the Police has eroded the capacity of government to attract the best hands unlike in civilised climes whereby potential recruits into the policing institutions are critically analysed and their biodata scrutinised forensically to eliminate the chances of recruiting criminal elements.
Even as we bemoan the dearth of professional police operatives to sufficiently enforce the laws in Nigeria, another worrying dimension is the widespread cases of bribery and corruption amongst the ranks and file of the Nigeria police. Police operatives who are not occupying higher positions aren’t commensurately remunerated and are tasked to work under a lot of stress. The facilities housing police training institutes and police baracks/stations are substandard and derelict to such dehumanizing level that even animals can’t survive under such conditions. The lack of facilities to house police operatives means that they are to make personal arrangements to secure houses for themselves and their families. The ordinary police are not compensated adequately should they suffer disabilities whilst working and the administration of Police pensions is shrouded in massive corruption meaning that police operatives who retire after working for 35 years won’t be paid their rightful post retirement benefits because these massive cash have been stolen by government officials and top police officers. The immediate consequence is that most police operatives who work under such conditions do resort to such self help measires like demanding and receiving bribes before enforcing the law. This distortion creates serious lack of integrity of the policing institution and loss of public confidence. Without public confidence the Police can’t carry out successful policing because information of actionable quality are needed for the prevention of crime and for combating crimes when they occur.
There is a universal consensus that corruption is the father of crime and if those who should maintain law and order are found wanting, it therefore means that anarchy would be triggered in the society. That is the state of policing in Nigeria and this has just been confirmed by a report done by the United Nations office on crime and drugs in conjunction with Nigeria Bureau of Statistics which found out the notorious fact that Police operatives are the highest bribe seekers. Ironically, the North East and North West ranks the highest in the occurrence of these bribery cases.
The broad implications of this report of high incidence of bribery in the Nigeria police force is that the apparatus of law enforcement is tainted meaning that Nigeria needs to reform and restructure the failed policing institution for proficiency and effectiveness because philosophically and legally, government has the primary duty to provide security and ensure the enforcement of the Rule of law.
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) in his book “The basis of sovereign authority” stated that: “The laws of nature are immutable and eternal: what they forbid, can never be lawful; what they command, can never be unlawful. For pride, ingratitude, breach of contracts (or injury),inhumanity, contumely, will never be lawful, nor the contrary virtues to these ever unlawful, as we take them for dispositions of the mind, that is, as they are considered in the court of conscience ,where only they oblige, and are laws. yet actions may be so diversified by circumstances, and the civil law, that what is done with equity at one time, is guilty of iniquity at another; and what suits with reason at one time, is contrary to it at another. …”
Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) offered us a broad perspectives as to why the strict and untainted enforcement of the law quickens the actualization of good governance. He made this points in his widely regarded “the moral dimension of Law”.
His words:”Law is a Rule and measure of Acts, whereby man is induced to act or is restrained from acting”.
The above observations by these founding fathers of philosophy and Theology are strategic to guide us in understanding the fundamental place of purity of actions by Men/Women clothed with the constitutional mandate to enforce the law.
This danming and extensively damaging report on the Nigeria police force vis a vis the involvement of the personnel in demanding for bribes as captured by the United Nations is not to say that the police in Nigeria is an organised crime gang. The report should serve as a tonic for Nigeria to practically reform and restructure the NPF.
Even in the United States of America the various departments of police are contending with one issue or the other.
A respected analyst captured the unique problems afflicting the US Police.
His words:”I am a trial lawyer. I make arguments. And I ask questions. I have defended the poor, the forgotten, the lost and the damned for over sixty years in the courtrooms of America. Over my career I have shut out a haunting question I wasn’t prepared to face; Are we safe from our own police?”
“Have our police become killers on the loose who cover up their crimes-and too often there’s no one to stop them?”
“Who could have stopped the long-standing police brutality in Baltimore that led to the death of Freddie Gray following his less than joyful joyride in a police van, hands cuffed behind him, and without the protection of a seat belt?”
“The medical examiner found that Gray’s “catastrophic injury”-his neck was snapped-happened when he was slammed into the back of the vans interior.”
“The examiner reported that “a head injury Gray sustained matched a bolt in the back of the van”-just another notorious “rough ride” awarded to citizens who dared be black and make eye contact with the cop.”
“Gray’s case brought to the forefront other cases of broken necks, paralysis, and death and attempted cover ups by the police in Baltimore”. (FROM POLICE STATE BY GERRY SPENCE).
What the above story tells us is that there’s no perfect police anywhere in te World. The difference however is that unlike in civilised climes, the nations are making frantic efforts to reform their police, the hierarchy of the police in Nigeria seems to be benefiting from the rots. This is because even the promotion of police operatives is now subjected to bribery by the prospective Police operatives meaning that if they wish to be promoted then they have to grease the palms of their superiors.
Nigeria police force needs major surgical and ethical overhaul. The denial by the Police hierarchy that there is no widespread corruption in the Police has further confirmed that the hierarchy benefits from the dysfunctionality afflicting the police. We must save Nigeria Police from self destruction now.
– Onwubiko is Head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA)