by Temie Giwa
Last Friday afternoon, a young Nigerian doctor, Irawo Adamolekun, was shot to death in his car on a Lagos road. Although his shooter was not a member of the Nigerian Police Force, one can infer that his weapon was procured from a member of that force. The direct or indirect murders of the Nigerian people by the force created to protect and serve should concern each of us. The tragedy of Irawo’s death must be used as a catalyst for the Nigerian people to rise up and demand sane public policy reforms that will save their lives; it might be you next time. This is the time for action for Irawo and the thousands who have died at the hands of the Nigerian Police Force.
Reforming our police force is a requirement to development and it seems that the executive branch is keen on reform. Although surprise inspections to police colleges do not guarantee timely reform, it is a start, an opening for the new policies and laws that is so needed. State Police Forces, the leading reform in public discourse, has already been shown as a way to fragmentize incompetence and corruption in small states. This idea will not help us fix what ails the Nigerian Police; it will only redistribute the problem.
So what will work? How do we reform the Nigerian police quickly and permanently?
Any reform of the Nigerian Police Force must include a plan to pay all policemen and women a living wage. It is imperative that these security agents must be financially insulated so that they can focus on solving crimes. A hungry police is an angry and inefficient police. A constable cannot make a life with a N6, 000 monthly salary and a salary reform can be achieved by restructuring the police budget. Reform must include a system for better discipline in the force. Officers with criminal records must not be allowed to stay on in the force. Extra judicial execution must be punished swiftly and strictly so that the idea of the protection of human rights becomes a major component of crime fighting. This recent report shows how imperative it is to reform how our police forces are trained. There needs to be a new human resources system that includes transparent hiring of only qualified individuals, and an accountable and open system for promoting based only on merits and crime fighting. The police need better equipment to fight crime in the 21st century, a national bio metric identification system, free uniforms, and open distribution of weapons to name a few. All of these reforms must be passed by the legislature and implemented rapidly through all sections of the police command.
The current structure of the Nigerian Police Force is far too fragmented and thus it is unlikely to achieve all these lofty but important goals. Something needs to change structurally for reform to happen. Nigeria needs a Central Police Inspector (CPI) who serves independently of the inefficient National Assembly and the shortsighted administrations that represent the executive branch. Central banks have been shown to need insulation from political considerations for a strong and stable economy. A strong and stable country needs a police force that is insulated from political machinations and the short sightedness of political actors. A strong police force needs independence in order to sack bad policemen and women, to implement its budget without interference, and to introduce reform that might not be in the best interest of the Executive but good for the Nigerian people. The CBN Act of 2007 has helped Nigeria in strengthening her economy. A Police Reform Act of 2013 that insulates the force from tampering by the executive and the legislative branch. Now is the time, for Irawo and all others like him.