As Nigeria marks another Independence Day, Adeola Ajakaiye, examines the policy move by Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, the new inspector-general of Police, to build a formidable democratic police institution in the country has been achieved.
One of the colonial institutional heritages which Nigeria, as a free and independent nation state, has been trying to refine to the goals and aspiration of the citizens in the past 56 years is the Nigeria Police.
What is known today as Nigeria Police, actually started in 1879 by the British colonial administration, from the merger of the 1,200-member Para-Military outfit known then as Hausa Constabulary, and the Lagos police was established in 1896, as well as the Niger Coast Constabulary formed in 1894 in Calabar.
When the Protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria were proclaimed in the early 1900s, part of the Royal Niger Company Constabulary became Northern Nigeria Police, and part of the Niger Coast Constabulary became the Southern Nigeria Police.
During the colonial period, The personnel of Nigeria Police Force (NPF) as it is being called then were associated with local governments (native authorities), and in the 1960, when Nigeria became an independent nation state, under the First Republic these Forces were first regionalised and then later nationalised.
The NPF performed conventional police functions and was responsible for internal security generally; for supporting the prison, immigration, and customs services; and for performing military duties within or outside Nigeria as directed.
Plans were announced in mid-1980 to expand the force to 200,000. By 1983, according to the federal budget, the strength of the NPF was almost 152,000, but other sources estimated it to be between 20,000 and 80,000. Reportedly, there were more than 1,300 police stations nationwide.
Police officers were not usually armed but were issued weapons when required for specific missions or circumstances. They were often deployed throughout the country, but in 1989 the regime of Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida announced that a larger number of officers would be posted to their native areas to facilitate police-community relations.
With the restoration of democratic governance in the country in 1999, the name of the Nigeria Police Force was changed to Nigeria Police, and its numerical strength has grown to over 371,800 today.
So far, the Nigeria Police post independence has 19 indigenous Inspector-General of Police (IGP), starting from Louis Edet, who became the first IGP, and the present IGP, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris.
The incumbent IGP, Idris, born 57 years ago in Bida, Niger State to the family of Idris Abdullahi Kutigi, and a holder of university degrees in agricultural economics, and law from ABU, and University of Maiduguri, respectively, had his appointment confirmed, recently by President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the chairman of the Nigeria Police Council.
Since assuming office on the 22nd of June, this year, the new IGP has being re-tooling the Nigeria police establishment with the aim of giving it a face lift, and making it operate in line with the motto of the establishment tagged ‘The Police is your Friend’.
Analysts are of the view that the move by the IGP to re-brand the force, and make it relevant to the policing needs of the citizens, was borne out of the growing criticism that the force has not been operating in conformity with its motto, and international best practices.
In his address, while taking over the command of the force, IGP Idris disclosed that he intends deploying his half a decade world class policing experience gathered in the several international peace keeping missions he has participated in, in building a police force that can assist in deepening Nigeria’s democratic gains.
“I promise not to fail this nation in our quest to make the citizens of this country safer and also to ensure that our nation remained united and peaceful. I want to use this opportunity to inform you of our policing direction in the management of our police from this day.
“The Nigeria Police Force will henceforth be guided by the international core values of policing with integrity, ensuring that the rule of law prevails in our actions and activities, and it strictly respects diversity, courage, compassion and professionalism. The Nigeria Police also would operate within the principles of Democratic Policing which is an institution that responsive, representative, and accountable to its citizens at all times.
“The Nigeria Police Force will henceforth, have its main focus, integrity and accountability as its cardinal operational principles in all its action and will be decisive on any of its personnel that deviate from its core values in order to establish and maintain high standard of behaviour in our official conduct and to eliminate impunity and ensure transparency in the application of the above core values,” he stated.
Some of the specific policy measures being implemented by the new police leadership include making the force a more responsive, transparent, and accountable institution to the people.
According to him, “it will be against work ethics henceforth for any police commander at any command level to treat complaints with levity, and complaint received from members of the public must be treated within shortest possible time to the satisfaction of the complainant.
“This is in line with one of the principles of democratic policing which states that a democratic police institution must be responsible to the yearnings of the community.
“In our effort to give a boost to the current administration’s war on corruption, the police management will strengthen the police x-squad units in the police commands with the deployment of thoroughly vetted, selfless and patriotic officers to tackle corruption and abuse of office within the police organisation and amongst the federal, states, and local government levels.
“The personnel deployed to this anti-corruption unit will be supported with incentives to make them more effective in the discharged of their duties.”
Other measures put in place to up-grade the operational efficiency of the force, ranges from establishment of forensic laboratories in each of the six geopolitical zones in the country, as well as establishment of joint operation centres in each of the police commands across the country.
This is in addition to the establishment of criminal database in all police divisions nation-wide, and reorganisation, as well as restructuring of special anti-robbery squads.