The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Solomon Arase has given the promise to reform policing in Nigeria and transform the force into a scientific body in line with global trends. He has thus initiated a series of campaigns for attitudinal change in the force as a prelude to the transformation. IGP Arase made bold to state: “I am allergic to corruption.” There is no denying that corruption is at the root of Nigeria’s problems, and the cankerworm is embedded in the police force. Arase has in fact gone ahead to appeal to the Nigerian public to stop offering bribe to his officers. According to Arase, “I am appealing to the members of the public, do not corrupt my policemen. It takes two to tango. If they ask you for bribe and you refuse to give, and you have avenues where your grievances can be ventilated, I do not see any reason why you should give them bribe. The Commissioner of Police is there, the Area Commander is there, the DPO is there, our office is there and the technical platform to report corrupt police is there. We have opened ourselves to public accountability. So, you cannot now say the whole problem should be put on the police force.’’
IGP Arase assures that the police would continue to ensure protection of lives and properties in line with the dictates of the constitution. He has since sent special squads to Ekiti and his native Edo State to tackle kidnapping and cult activities respectively.
Even as the IGP offers an optimistic agenda, there is no running away from the fact that policing in Nigeria needs to be revamped holistically. The trouble with the Nigeria Police is of course not with the IGP alone but institutional. The police force owes its origins to the colonial mentality of keeping the natives under leash while protecting British interests. Even with the advent of independence and the emergence of black leaders, the force could hardly shed its anti-people toga. The coming of military rule introduced unwholesome arbitrariness to law enforcement such that the police became willing bullies to the military brass hats. Military subordination to civil authority is still being observed only in the breach.
IGP Arase is seen as a man of singular integrity who understands the issues at stake in the policing of the country along democratic lines. The celebrated helmsman must lead by personal example by making sure that his subordinates play their roles according to the rule of law and the dictates of the Nigerian Constitution. It is incumbent on the IGP to champion the cause of Nigeria’s law of procedure such as the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA), the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) and other regulatory laws.
The issue of roadblocks which was scrapped by former IGP, Mohammed Abubakar and re-enforced by his successor Suleiman Abba somewhat surreptitiously creep back to the roads especially in the eastern part of the country. We do know that IGP Arase has restated that the checkpoints are still banned. He should go further to punish those who disobey his orders. He should make a public example of any policeman caught manning roadblocks.
There is the need for a thorough reorganization of the entire police for more effective policing. The decentralization of the force is a necessary project. The issue of state police has been controversial over the years, but there is no escaping the fact that over-centralization of the force has only yielded results in deficit value. The state governors should not be expected to be donating vehicles and equipment to the police without having a say as the chief security officers of the various states. Local policing is necessary because the locals know the terrain. Community policing should take over from the ill-assorted vigilantes that the public had resorted to due to a failure of policing across the country. The reorganization of the force should take into its course requisite restructuring and re-equipping of the police. A proper implementation of federalism in the country will go a long way in redressing the ills of the police.
Among the many issues that should immediately engage the attention of the IGP, transparency and accountability should take pride of place. The war on corruption will remain a failure without police commitment. Crime prevention should be the rule rather than the exception that it happens to be currently. The IGP should undertake the computation of an up-to-date intelligence and crime database. Nigerian policemen and women are in sore need of training and re-training. The IGP must do something urgently to improve the public image of the police. The question of human rights is of course paramount. For the IGP to enshrine a laudable legacy he must champion the cause of a seamless inter-agency cooperation while also orchestrating the oils of community policing. Funding of the police has been a thorny issue over the years. It is obvious that an underfunded force can hardly perform and will surely be prone to bribery.