Opinion: Nigeria Police – creating a tenable environment for change agenda

by Adewole Kehinde

“He Who Saves A Nation Breaks No Law” – Napoleon 

The Nigeria Police is the principal law enforcement agency in Nigeria with a staff strength of about 371,800. There are currently plans to increase the force to 650,000, adding 280,000 new recruits to the existing 371,800. The Nigeria Police is a very large organization consisting of 36 Commands grouped into 12 Zones and 7 Administrative organs. The Nigeria Police is currently headed by IGP Ibrahim Kpotun Idris. (Wikipedia)

The vision of the Nigeria Police is to make Nigeria safer and more secured for economic development and growth; to create a safe and secured environment for everyone living in Nigeria. While its mission includes but is not limited to partnering with other relevant Security Agencies and the public in gathering, collating and sharing of information and intelligence with the intention of ensuring the safety and security of the country; participate in efforts to address the root causes of crime while ensuring that any criminal act is investigated so as to bring the criminals to justice in a fair and professional manner.

The values of the Nigeria Police include: Working together with people irrespective of religious, political, social or economic affiliations to deliver quality Police service that is accessible to the generality of the people; build a lasting trust in the Police by members of the public; protect and uphold the rights of persons, to be impartial and respectful in the performance of Police duties; continuously evaluate and improve Police Services; provide equal opportunities for career developments for all members of the Force; cooperate with all relevant government agencies and other stakeholders and liaise with the Ministry of Police Affairs and the Police Service Commission to formulate and implement policies for the effective policing of Nigeria.

Section 214 (1) of the 1999 Nigerian constitution provides 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.

(a) The Nigeria Police Force shall be organised and administered in accordance with such provisions as may be prescribed by an act of the National Assembly;

(b) The members of the Nigeria Police shall have such powers and duties as maybe conferred upon them by law;

(c) The National Assembly may make provisions for branches of the Nigeria Police Force forming part of the Armed Forces of the Federation or for the protection of harbours, waterways, railways and air fields.

The Police Act makes provision for the organisation, discipline, powers and duties of the Police, the Special Constabulary and the Traffic Wardens. According to the Police Act, the duties of the Police shall be the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within or outside Nigeria as may be required of them by, or under the authority of this or any other Act.

When it concerns public safety and public order as provided for in Section 215 of the 1999 Constitution, the President may give the Inspector General of Police such directions with respect to the maintaining and securing of public safety and public order as he may consider necessary and the Inspector General of Police shall comply with those directions or cause them to be complied with. Similarly, the Commissioner of Police in a State shall comply with the directions of the Governor of the State with respect to the maintaining and securing of public safety and public order within the State, or cause them to be complied with (Provided that before carrying out any such direction the Commissioner may request that the matter should be referred to the President for his directions. The officer’s powers and duties are conferred by statute).

What powers does a Police Officer have under the Law? A Police officer has the power to conduct in person all prosecutions before any court, whether or not the information or complaint is laid in his name. A Police officer has the power to arrest with or without warrant. (Section 24 of Police Act). Power to search; power to detain and search suspected persons; power to take fingerprints; grant Bail of a person arrested without warrant, with or without sureties, for a reasonable amount to appear before a magistrate at the day, time and place mentioned in the recognizance.

The primary responsibility of a Police officer is to act as an official representative of government who is required and trusted to work within the law. The fundamental duties of a Police Officer include serving the community, safeguarding lives and property, protecting the innocent, keeping the peace and ensuring the rights of all to liberty, equality and justice. In performing her duties, a Police officer should perform all duties impartially, without favour of affection or ill will and without regard to status, sex, race, religion, political belief or aspiration. All citizens should be treated equally with courtesy, consideration and dignity. They should conduct themselves both in appearance and composure, in such a manner as to inspire confidence and respect for the position of public trust they hold.

A Police Officer should use responsibly, the discretion vested in his position and exercise it within the law; A Police Officer should never employ unnecessary force or violence in discharge of duty, as is reasonable in all circumstances.

Whatever a Police Officer sees, hears or learns which is of a confidential nature, should be kept secret unless the performance of duty or legal provision requires otherwise; A Police Officer should not engage in acts of corruption or bribery, nor will an Officer condone such acts by other Police Officers. The public demands that the integrity of Police Officers should be above criticism.

Police Officers should be responsible for their own Standard of Professional Performance and should take every reasonable opportunity to enhance and improve their level or knowledge and competence.

You cannot have a viable democracy without law and order. You cannot have strong institutions without law and order. And at the heart of democracy and institutions are the Police who are there to keep the peace, enforce law and order, investigate crimes and arrest criminals, enforce Judges and Attorney General’s decisions and also help keep general peace and stability.

In as much as the Nigeria Police has not lived up to this universal mantra, I vigorously submit that the fault is not the Police’s and the Police alone. The Police do not write laws; the Police do not hire and promote officers; the Police do not fire corrupt and inefficient officers; the Police are not in charge of budgetary allocations; the Police are not in charge of procuring uniforms and the tools necessary to do great jobs.  The Police, as it turned out, never really got the respect, the training and the tools it needed to function properly and achieve great things.

To change the Police, we have to change our Orientation and National Culture. In order for the Police “to serve and protect with integrity,” we must honor them; we must provide adequate leadership, adequate compensation and proper training. We must take care of the men and women who give their lives in the service of our country

Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Adewole Kehinde is a Journalist and Public Affairs Analyst based in Abuja.

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