By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
Several efforts have been deployed to ensure that effective policing is instituted in Nigeria. Part of the problems of policing in the country is that the rural centres are not adequately policed and this has led to such initiative as community Policing, or what in another parlance is the neighborhood watch.
Policing in Nigeria has been militated against by several factors such inadequate manpower, inadequate funding, logistics problems and provision of ammunitions to help fight crime. In this vein, the police are undermining themselves by large missing arms from the armoury as indicated by a recent report.
On the other hand, the police-civilian ratio is nothing to write home about and grossly falls short of the United Nations standard. In this vein also, the police are equally undermining themselves by deploying part of it’s limited manpower to secure Very Important Personalities (VIPs) in the society, who sometimes become errand elements in the hand is these personalities, mostly politicians. The media were recently awash with photographs of an orderly of a prominent politician trailing behind her boss with a tray of food. This attracted severe knocking from the public on police, which in turn, police in its usual damage control measure tried to condemn the incident and pretentiously offered some recipe to remedy the situation. But what is decipherable is that” the lion, the king of the jungle,” is still alive against the delusional imaginations of the animal world that he is dead. Put the other way round, despite the incantations by the juju priest, the owl is still rampaging, and its howling is not deterred rather has taking a geometric turn.
Indeed, inefficient policing has led to the design of several approaches to mitigate it or proffer solutions that have been elusive. This has led to several police reform efforts which have indicated lack of training and retraining, funds inaquate manpower, faulty recruitment process, poor and inhuman welfare have been the albatross of the Nigeria Police Force. Unfortunately, however, the reforms, as usual, have ended up mere paper presentations without adequate or implementable frameworks. Even the latest Police trust Fund Act, that was enacted to improve the welfare of the police; the Police Establishment Act 2020, which is seemingly an improved version of the previous are mere paper works, because, they may end up not being implementable.
Of much worry is the recent efforts and initiative,which is community policing. Yes, because of inadequate manpower and other shortcomings, the police need an alternative, or non- conventional arrangement to complement their efforts, especially in the form of intelligence gathering. The functions of these non-conventional efforts metamorphosing into community police are very simple- gather intelligence within your locality and offer to the police, who will in turn sieve those intelligence into concrete and workable information; where possible apprehend law offenders and hand them over to the police. There is a caveat to this- in the process, do not torture or take laws into your hands by adjudicating or those matters , and in most cases convicting the suspects, who by law are presumed innocent until proven otherwise by a law of competent jurisdiction. Simply arrest and handover to the police, who are empowered by law to prosecute law offenders.
Everything in Nigeria is subject to abuse or subject to the reverse gear,all these groups proliferating into community police arrangements are monsters whose urgent reining is highly demanded.
These purported community policing efforts in the guise of one youth formation or the other are fast constituting themselves into lords in their various locaties. They bear arms, which they are forbidded by the laws. They use the guns to intimidate and harass. It is not far from the truth if it is asserted here the worst days are ahead considering our present painstaking gun control efforts which are not yielding any meaningful efforts. The gun wielding community police elements best described the idiom” adding salt to injury”. In the days ahead,and when the chips are down, we will begin another disarmament process, by then we will be reminded that our previous efforts at that have taken us to nowhere. More recently is the kidnapping era when efforts were deployed by some government made frantic and fruitless efforts to mop up arms.
Furthermore, these elements have constituted themselves agents in those areas even the Police Act 2020 prohibits the conventional police to delve into such matters such as debt recovery, contract defaulting marital and other domesticate issues. More worrisome is that as bad and unlawful their interventions are, they make huge fortunes from them. They are now agents of extortion milking the locals dry.
They are now willing tools in the hands of traditional rulers and notable elements in the localities where they operate who will not hesitate to use them intimidate, maim, harass, kill both their perceived and real enemies.
The truth is that there no where in a dancer clone where people who do not undergo any form of picking trainings are vested with some as important and critical as policing functions. Another million naira question: How are they recruited? Are they people of questionable character? Do notable personalities in the locality influenced their recruitment without giving recourse to credibility and integrity? These questions and more demand urgent resolution. If not we are sitting on a keg of gun powder, especially now that the election periods are fast approaching.
Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu, a journalist, writes from Abia State Nigeria.