Po­lit­i­cal in­de­pen­dence is cru­cial in Nige­rian po­lice re­form

With 'state po­lice,' we risk di­ver­si­fy­ing the sources of dys­func­tion of polic­ing across the states of the fed­er­a­tion.

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents - By Olayinka Omol­ere

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump's dis­missal of Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (FBI) Di­rec­tor, James Comey, touched off a firestorm of re­ac­tions and crit­i­cism. Al­though the Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent has undis­puted author­ity to fire an FBI di­rec­tor, this pre­rog­a­tive had only been used once be­fore, due to an ex­cep­tional and doc­u­mented case of eth­i­cal mis­con­duct.

Amer­ica's premier law en­force­ment body is de­signed to be apo­lit­i­cal and in­de­pen­dent in per­form­ing its func­tions. Hence, US Sen­ate con­fir­ma­tion is re­quired to ap­point FBI di­rec­tor, for a ten-year ten­ure that would span changes at the White House. That James Comey could pur­sue an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into close as­so­ciates of an in­cum­bent Pres­i­dent is an in­di­ca­tor of the in­sti­tu­tion's free­dom to in­ves­ti­gate crimes.

Nige­ria has a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion. Dis­count­ing the con­sti­tu­tional im­mu­nity con­ferred on cer­tain elected of­fi­cials, one can hardly ex­pect the Nige­rian Po­lice Force to se­ri­ously in­ves­ti­gate po­ten­tial crimes by the Pres­i­dent or his favoured po­lit­i­cal as­so­ciates. This is be­cause the NPF lacks po­lit­i­cal in­de­pen­dence.

Per­haps a ves­tige of ex­tended mil­i­tary rule, the laws govern­ing the NPF ren­der it supremely be­holden to the Pres­i­dent. The Nige­rian Pres­i­dent and his/her rep­re­sen­ta­tives are legally em­pow­ered with op­er­a­tional con­trol of the po­lice force. Such an ar­range­ment is ab­nor­mal among modern democ­ra­cies.

Gary T. Max, a Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus of So­ci­ol­ogy, de­fines a demo­cratic po­lice body as one that uses po­lice pow­ers ac­cord­ing to the rule of law, not the whims of rulers or po­lice agents and is pub­licly ac­count­able. The NPF falls short on both counts by de­sign.

Nige­ria has cy­cled through at least 10 In­spec­tor Gen­er­als of the po­lice since 1999 be­cause IGs serve at the plea­sure of the Pres­i­dent. The Pres­i­dent can uni­lat­er­ally ap­point and dis­miss IGs at any point. But if jus­tice is to be served, with­out fear or bias, the po­lice should have pro­fes­sional in­de­pen­dence. Po­lit­i­cal over­sight of the po­lice is re­quired for public ac­count­abil­ity, but this must not equal po­lit­i­cal con­trol or in­flu­ence over po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion, ar­rest of sus­pects and pros­e­cu­tion.

Since 1999, there have been three com­mit­tees con­sti­tuted by the pres­i­dency to ex­am­ine po­lice re­form. There has also been the Civil So­ci­ety Panel on Po­lice re­form (CSO panel). They all reached sim­i­lar con­clu­sions on a non-re­new­able term of four or five years for Po­lice IGs, op­er­a­tional in­de­pen­dence from the ex­ec­u­tive, and ex­plicit pro­ce­dures for ap­point­ing and re­plac­ing po­lice chiefs must in­clude leg­isla­tive ap­proval and public hear­ings.

These rec­om­men­da­tions and nu­mer­ous oth­ers have not been im­ple­mented till date. The speaker of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Yakubu Dog­ara, has also called for the in­volve­ment of the Na­tional As­sem­bly in the ap­point­ment and re­moval of the In­spec­tor-Gen­eral of Po­lice, 'to en­sure op­er­a­tional in­de­pen­dence and com­mand in­tegrity.'

Apart from un­due po­lit­i­cal con­trol of its lead­er­ship, the NPF is be­dev­illed with a rep­u­ta­tion prob­lem. In the Nige­rian so­ci­ety, the po­lice is a by-word for cor­rup­tion. Ar­guably, one of the more fre­quent in­ter­ac­tions of av­er­age Nige­ri­ans with a fed­eral gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tive is through armed po­lice of­fi­cers de­mand­ing bribes at road­blocks. 33% of the re­spon­dents to the Na­tional Crime and Safety Sur­vey con­ducted by the CLEEN Foun­da­tion said they had paid, or been asked to pay, bribes by po­lice of­fi­cers.

There are other is­sues with the po­lice. De­spite fre­quent de­nials by po­lice au­thor­i­ties, there are con­sid­er­able al­le­ga­tions and sup­port­ing anec­do­tal and doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence that the Nige­rian po­lice en­gages in hu­man rights abuses, tor­ture, per­vert­ing the course of jus­tice, and il­le­gal killings while fail­ing in its core du­ties of pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity. Such ev­i­dence is not only col­lected by the usual sus­pects, in­ter­na­tional civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions like Amnesty In­ter­na­tional and lo­cal CSOs in­clud­ing Net­work on Po­lice Re­form in Nige­ria and the CLEEN Foun­da­tion, but it is also ac­knowl­edged in the fed­eral gov­ern­ment's own po­lice re­form re­ports and by top po­lice of­fi­cials.

In the Pres­i­den­tial Com­mit­tee on the Re­form of the Nige­ria Po­lice Force 2006 re­port, headed by Muham­mad Dan Man­dami, a litany of al­le­ga­tions against the po­lice is pre­sented, in­clud­ing steal­ing from sus­pects or ac­ci­dent vic­tims, de­mand­ing money for bail and sup­ply­ing arms to rob­bers. The com­mit­tee, in its ob­ser­va­tions, con­ceded that these were the re­sult of in­ad­e­quate fund­ing, poor train­ing and weak mon­i­tor­ing con­trols. These fac­tors per­sist over a decade af­ter. Re­cently, the cur­rent IG Ibrahim Idris stated that of the N16 bil­lion ap­pro­pri­ated to the NPF in the 2016 bud­get for cap­i­tal projects, only N4

bil­lion, about 25 per cent, was re­leased to the po­lice as at the end of the year.

A state Po­lice Com­mis­sioner said last year that the av­er­age po­lice sta­tion gets a pal­try sum of N45,000 to cover run­ning costs for three months. If po­lice of­fi­cers can­not fund nor­mal run­ning ex­penses from their of­fi­cial bud­get, they are likely to seek fund­ing from un­of­fi­cial and il­le­gal sources.

Con­cern­ing tor­ture and ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings, the Muham­mad Dan Man­dami com­mit­tee re­port points to low re­spect for hu­man rights cou­pled with in­ad­e­quate train­ing and in­fra­struc­ture for tra­di­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tion meth­ods, as the rea­son po­lice of­fi­cers re­sort to tor­ture in per­form­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

There is so much to fix in the NPF. Thank­fully, the roadmap to fol­low al­ready ex­ists in mul­ti­ple re­form pro­pos­als. Any mean­ing­ful re­form of the po­lice must be un­der­pinned by its op­er­a­tional in­de­pen­dence from the po­lit­i­cal lead­ers. The 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion and the Po­lice Act will need to be amended in this re­gard to en­sure the NPF is ac­count­able to the public.

The po­lice is re­quest­ing more of­fi­cers and money. Mr. Ibrahim Idris said the po­lice wants to re­cruit 150,000 of­fi­cers over the next five years, which will in­crease per­son­nel by roughly 40%. His re­quest is un­der­stand­able, and the NPF de­serves much bet­ter fund­ing. How­ever, al­lo­cat­ing more re­sources alone will not guar­an­tee pro­fes­sional and ef­fi­cient polic­ing with­out con­cur­rent changes to un­de­sir­able as­pects of the in­sti­tu­tion's cul­ture and prac­tices.

Ar­guably, the needed re­form will re­quire more of po­lit­i­cal com­mit­ment than al­lo­ca­tion of more money to the NPF in an­nual bud­gets. The Nige­rian po­lice must do away with its re­pres­sive legacy and rou­tine abuses of its priv­i­leged po­si­tion to re­gain the trust of Nige­rian com­mu­ni­ties. The force must take de­lib­er­ate ac­tions to be ac­count­able, law-abid­ing and re­spect­ful of hu­man rights. In-depth train­ing pro­grammes will fa­cil­i­tate a cul­ture switch, and spe­cific pro­grammes must be de­signed for han­dling crimes in­volv­ing women and vul­ner­a­ble groups.

Po­lice over­sight mech­a­nisms and in­sti­tu­tions must be strength­ened, re­spon­sive and trans­par­ent. The du­ties of other se­cu­rity agen­cies should be de­lin­eated, sep­a­rate from those of the po­lice, to re­duce con­flicts and en­hance in­ter-agency co­op­er­a­tion.

The rec­om­men­da­tion for 'state polic­ing' has gained sup­port in re­cent years, al­though it is such a vague ter­mi­nol­ogy. There is the no­tion that state polic­ing is a mech­a­nism for en­sur­ing the po­lice rankand-file is well known in the com­mu­nity they serve. This will more likely be the case if the of­fi­cers were re­cruited from the com­mu­ni­ties they serve.

Ad­vo­cates of state polic­ing also have the no­tion that the 'con­trol' of the state po­lice should be ceded to the Gov­er­nors to en­hance their role as the chief se­cu­rity of­fi­cers in their state. How­ever, de­vo­lu­tion of the po­lit­i­cal con­trol of the po­lice to the state level with­out first en­hanc­ing pro­fes­sion­al­ism in the force may be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. With 'state po­lice,' we risk di­ver­si­fy­ing the sources of dys­func­tion of polic­ing across the states of the fed­er­a­tion. It is even doubtful that a sig­nif­i­cantly high num­ber of the states can take on the ad­di­tional re­spon­si­bil­ity of fund­ing their own po­lice force, given they al­ready strug­gle to pay salaries to civil ser­vants and have ac­cu­mu­lated huge project loans.

The re­form of the Nige­rian po­lice can be ac­com­plished. But it will re­quire po­lit­i­cal will. The coun­try has, in re­cent time, been faced with var­i­ous se­cu­rity chal­lenges that have re­quired the de­ploy­ment of the mil­i­tary. This has en­croached on the func­tion of the po­lice. How­ever, truly pro­fes­sional polic­ing, ex­tri­cated from cor­rup­tion, in­com­pe­tence and abuses that are as­so­ci­ated with the cur­rent NPF, is re­quired for any sense of nor­malcy to re­turn to our com­mu­ni­ties.

Olayinka Omol­ere

Some of­fi­cers of the Nige­rian Po­lice Force

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