FEATURE ARTICLE

E O EkeSunday, May 11, 2014
eoeke@aol.com


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ASKING THE NIGERIAN ARMY AND POLICE TO DO THE IMPOSSIBLE

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t is not news that all is not well with the Nigerian army and police. Security has broken down and policing in the country very much behind the 21st century. Nigeria is regarded as one of the most corrupt in the world being grouped amongst countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Haiti, and India to mention only but a few, where corruption in endemic and systemic. The continued terrorisation of Nigeria by boko haram and the inability of the Nigerian army to mount a convincing response has exposed a serious problem in the ability of the Nigerian armed forces to defend the country. With the endemicity of police brutality and continued existence of road blocks, where armed police extort money from transporters, the arbitrary arrest of citizens on trump up charges by the SSS, past history of what happened in the old Bendel state under DSP Iyamu and in Anambra state during the time of Obasanjo, and how much Balogun stole from the force, who can doubt the deplorable state of policing in Nigerian police. However, what is also not widely known or discussed is that the budgets of the Nigerian army and police are often not spent on what they are budgeted for, leaving the army and police unable to get the resources they need to do their very important work. In fact, the Nigerian army and police are two of the agencies whose budgets are most likely to end up in the bank accounts of its top officers. This is also corroborated by the magnitude of corruption that has been exposed in the police force, the state of police college Ikeja and many other police colleges, the recent confession of DSP that the police in Nigeria is run on charity and bribes and the number of Nigerian army generals that retire as millionaires.

The Nigerian army and police are yet another faces of the failed Nigerian state. They are both victims and perpetrators of corruption, which the Jonathan administration has failed so far to address with the required degree of conviction and honesty. I am one of the critics of the attitude and impunity of the Nigerian army and police. I often condemn their trigger happy members who kill at will without consequences. I decry their tendency to engage in extra judicial killings, brutality and constant harassment of the public to secure bribes. I am one of those who condemn the inability of the Nigeria police to investigate any murder, except the one the president or police chief ask them to find their killers. I have often decried the use of police by politicians in power to achieve personal objectives or victimise their opponents. All these are the evil faces of the Nigerian police.

Unfortunately, what is not often known is that many soldiers and policemen and women go for months without their salaries being paid because one of their chiefs or politicians has put the money to personal use. What is not well known is that police stations receive every quarter less than what they need to fuel their vehicles in two weeks. What we do not often hear is that the Nigeria police is underfunded and their needs not prioritised. What is not often said is that the government abuse the police and fail to treat members of the police with the respect they deserve. Police officers who are seconded as security aids to politicians are often used as drivers and errand boys devaluing the worth and undermining their authority as agents of the law. What Nigerian do know is that millions budgeted for the army weapons and equipment end up in the private pockets of generals and military contractors who are mostly retired army generals without the equipment and weapons being delivered. If not, how come boko haram is more armed and prepared than Nigerian army and the army could not protect the girls even though they were informed about four hours before the terrorist struck and stayed for five hours according to amnesty International. This is a sad indictment of the Nigerian leadership. A clear evidence that they are not yet fit for purpose and another reason to continue to speak out about the inept and corrupt leadership that Nigeria has.

The question is what we shall do. First, the status quo is unsustainable. The government must prioritise the reorganisation of the police force with the view to eliminate corruption, fund it appropriately and make it fit for purpose and institute an inquiry into the use of the military budget in the last 15 years.

Second, the Nigeria police should be dividing into three regional police forces with headquarters in Kaduna, Lagos and Enugu and central police service in Abuja which will coordinate and cater for Abuja. Each of these regions should recruit qualified people from the regions and give them the training they need and the regions should compete for some extra budgetary sum of money every year for which region will be the best in policing. The regions will be judged on several indexes of good policing including the perception of how corrupt and effective it is by the people, rate of crimes in the region, conviction rate and how effective they are at solving crimes like murder and bringing criminals to justice.

There should also be a central police force like FIB which will help in investigation of serious crimes, organised crimes, political corruption and support the regional police force as and when needed. In this way, Nigeria would be laying a solid foundation for community policing, which is nearer to the people and able to work in partnership with the people to maintain the peace.Nigeria cannot continue to abuse its soldiers and policemen and women and expect them to perform miracles. Each region should elect a chief law enforcement office who will be the chief law enforcement office of the region and regional attorney or public prosecutor who will work in conjuction to the chief prosecution officer of the region. These individuals and the regional government will be responsible for law and order in the region. This arrangement would also make it impossible for the government to cover crimes as there would be people with power to get to the root of all crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice. They should be elected for a fixed period and will be responsible to the regional police board made up of elected representatives of the regions. Each region should also have an independent police complaints commission, which should be invested with the responsibility to investigating all complaints against the police and recommending appropriate sanctions. This system can be put in place before the change from state structure to regional structure.

There is no doubt that there is need to modernise the way Nigeria is policed and the army held accountable and provided for. It has proved ineffective and we simply cannot go on doing the same thing that has not worked. However, what Nigeria must not do is agree to a state police. It will the death nail to the rule of law in Nigeria as Nigerian governors will definitively use state police to settle old scores and achieve personal objectives. The Nigerian democracy is still too underdeveloped for state police. The politicians are still too primitive in their exercise of power to allow state police to ensure justice as fairness. Moreover, state police would be more expensive to maintain. For a police force to be effective, it must be independent of political officers and empowered enough to make the politicians afraid of them, but not able to function outside the law. This is very easy to achieve. Police reform must become a priority, if Nigeria will endure.

One of the few things most commentator on Nigeria agree is that the Nigerian police force is infested with criminal elements, has a culture of impunity and institutionalised corruption. Of all types of corruption, institutionalised corruption is the worst because it stops those who are in the organisation who are not corrupt form acting with honesty and probity. This is why I believe that any government that will impact on the state of political corruption, rascality and criminality in the country must prioritise police reform. It would be furnishing a house with a leaking roof to continue the attempt to fight corruption or control crimes, without addressing institutionalised corruption in the Nigeria police force

Few years ago Balogun one time inspector general of police was convicted for one of the worst crimes in Nigeria. Because he is from the same ethnic group with Obasanjo, he was given a slap on the wrist and he is now retired to enjoy the proceeds of his crimes. Earlier, Nigeria was introduced to police corruption when, ASP Iyamu conspired with Anini, and Osumbor to declare a reign of mayhem on Nigeria. After he was convicted and executed by firing squad, the government did not cease the initiative to institute the required reforms in Nigeria police force. The result has been that instead of reforming, the police has become more sophisticated in its corporation with criminal fraternity.

Few months ago, There was epidemic of kidnapping in Abia state when the leader of the most notorious gang was arrested the police executed him because of what he knew and the government has made no attempt to uncover the truth as should have been the case, if the government was sincere and has the interest of Nigerians at heart. At the moment, the world is outraged as 223 Nigerian girls kidnapped by boko haran remain unaccountaed for in a country where the military is said to have had four hours prior notice of the attack. This is an indictment of the Nigerian army and a reason why things cannot just remain the same, if Nigeria will endure.

My worry is why the Nigerian government is not interested in staring with the roof of the house and has been busy painting and ordering furniture, which he knows would not be delivered. What we need to concentrate on is reforming the Nigeria police so that Nigerian can be able to enforce their right and the Nigerian army so that it can become and effective fighting force able to protect the country and respond to any security threat. The militrary and the criminal justice are the pivots on which every democracy revolves, without them in sound state, the democratic process would be subverted by the rich and criminal elements of the society.

Nigeria needs a government that would prioritise the institutional reforms we need to enable democratic principles to take root. We need a government that will ensure that those who break the law pay the penalty prescribed by the law. So far none of the political parties has shown that it is minded to go in this direction. Instead, the president has set up a national conference where the usual suspects are carrying on where they stopped. I hope that Nigeria will survive.

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