If anything, last week’s abduction of four journalists in Abia State, and many other reported cases of kidnapping and ruthless banditry within the period, drew unprecedented global attention to what is now seen as the ineffectiveness of the Nigerian Police in dealing with the crucial issue of securing the lives and properties of citizens. Expectedly, the incidents heightened the call for a complete reformation of the police. While such
respected bodies as the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) called for a wholesome overhaul of the police system, many other concerned bodies and individuals dug up the issue of state police which had, in the last few years, been on and off the front burner of public discourse.
There are strong arguments in favour of vesting control of the police in the states and local authorities, especially as the nation’s police, with its subsisting central command structure, have failed to solve the worsening cases of murder, armed robbery, and other violent crimes in the country.
Of all these crimes, frequent kidnapping for ransom, of innocent citizens going about their normal business, has been on an alarming increase across the country. Gradually, this despicable act, which started in the Niger Delta with the abduction of foreign oil workers by youths purportedly seeking to draw global attention to the devastation of the oil-rich region, spread like cancer to other parts of the country, following the failure of the police to nip it in the bud; with every incident further exposing the ineptitude and hopelessness of the police authorities.
Nigerians and foreign entrepreneurs in the country are now too terrified to go about their daily business. There is the bizzare dimension in the South East where school children and their mothers are now routinely kidnapped for ransom from their families. Apart from the social, psychological, and physical misery inflicted on families and communities, there is also the bigger economic implication of kidnapping.
There is no doubt that one of the key ingredients for growth is an effective and functional security system. That is why most emerging markets like China, India and Malaysia place high premium on securing lives and businesses. It is no accident that in these countries, as in UK, US and other developed countries, the police force is decentralised with power of control vested in local and provincial authorities for effective community policing. In such societies, it has been proven that the security system work better when those in charge of securing lives and property are not only drawn from the local communities but also allowed to dwell among them. That way they are able to cultivate beneficial friendship with the people that would aid purposeful intelligence.
The trend however contrasts with the Nigerian system where the security apparatus is centrally controlled from Abuja. In this circumstance, policemen are randomly deployed from far-flung locations to points of crises; a situation which has not only proven to be grossly ineffective, but has also continued to promote conflicts between the locals and ‘the invading force’. It is instructive that south western Nigeria where a functional vigilante intelligentsia complement police efforts, enjoy better security than other parts of the country. This is made possible by the fact that the vigilante operatives who are well known in the communities leverage the support and confidence of the locals in fishing out criminals.
Against the backdrop of worsening insecurity in the land, it is difficult to fault the position of NPAN that “a police system that is not based on adequate knowledge of the social dynamics of its operating locale cannot provide appropriate response to the complexities of the present day crimes.”
There is therefore an urgent need for the key government functionaries in both the presidency and National Assembly most of whom had joined other Nigerians to express disappointment with the performance of the police to translate their anger into action by initiating the process for the desired restructuring of the police.