Community support and participation are critical to improving police performance and confronting the insecurity in the country, Innocent Chukwuma, the Executive Director of CLEEN Foundation, has said.
Chukwuma, who represented the Civil Society Organisation in Nigeria, revealed during a media presentation in Lagos State that a panel on police reform organised the by Civil Society Organisations in Nigeria have discovered the multidimensional problems facing the police and how to make the police function optimally.
One of such findings by the CSOs include consulting the people and their priorities factored into the reform process so that their support for reform programmes can be guaranteed.
He said: “Official debates about police reform in Nigeria and committees established by successive governments to facilitate such discussions and recommendations of measures for implementation have mostly been dominated by people with a security background who view such assignments as their exclusive preserve.
“As a result, their reports have often focussed on increasing policing capacity in the areas of personnel strength, materials for work and welfare, as though once these are right, the NPF will be super effective and efficient.
“While not belittling the significant difference a properly resourced NPF can make in addressing the safety and security challenges currently confronting Nigeria, experience from other jurisdictions has shown that it requires more than this for the police to win.”
In order to bridge the gap in ensuring a working police reform programme, the CSOs decided to set up a parallel but complementary Civil Society Panel on Police Reform in Nigeria.
Ayo Obe chaired the six-person panel, whose other members are Josephine Effah-Chukwuma, Sampson Itodo, Dr. Abubakar Mu’azu, Ayisha Osori and Dr. Smart Otu.
Chukwuma provided technical advice, Chinedu Nwagu served as the Secretary and Okechukwu Nwanguma served as the CSO liaison officer.
In its work, the CSO Panel paid more attention to salient issues that may not necessarily require a great deal of money before they can be addressed, but are often ignored in the work of government committees on police reform.
However, the CSO Panel recognised the impact of material deficiencies on the effectiveness of the NPF and aligns with reports of government committees on such issues.
Factors affecting police effective performance that were identified by the panel include inadequate articulation of the NPF’s mission, legal framework, specialisation of functions, performance appraisal system, duplication of policing agencies, weak oversight agencies and corruption.
Chukwuma said: “The Panel found the mission statement of the NPF as provided in Section 4 of the Police Act inadequate in capturing the expectation of the new kind of police Nigeria requires in the context of its disheartening experience of police inefficiency and brutality and hope for a democratic society of security and liberty. In proposing a new mission statement for the NPF the CSO Panel is of the view that focus should be on modelling a new police service that works in partnership with the communities it serves.”
In one of its recommendations, the panel stated that the National Assembly should “Amend Section 215(3) of the Constitution and sections 9(4, 5) and 10(1, 2) of the Police Act to restrict the role of the President or Minister of Government acting on his behalf to issuing only lawful policy directives, not operational directives, to the NPF. The amendment should state clearly and unambiguously that operational control of the NPF and its department/units rests with the IGP.
“Sections 215(1) and 216(2) of the Constitution should be amended as part of the present constitutional reform process to:
“Provide for a competitive and transparent process to be followed in the appointment of an IGP if the position becomes vacant, including an open application process, screening of applicants, Senate hearing and confirmation of the most competent person for the job.”
Other recommendations by the Panel included:
That the “NPF structure should be decentralised and powers and resources devolved to Zonal, State, Area and Divisional Commands to enable them effectively respond to the priority safety and security needs of their jurisdictions.
· The seven DIG structure should be abolished, and the IGP should have just one DIG who should serve as his second in command. The headquarter departments should be headed by AIGs in the same way as Zonal Commands.
“The CSO Panel found that the NPF has turned most police officers in Nigeria into ‘jacks-of-all-trades’ who in the end, are not able to master any. The ‘general duty policy’ should be abolished. Every police officer should be given a time line of five years to specialise after recruitment, be a promotable officer or go home. Diverse professionals such as criminologists, psychologists, sociologists, lawyers, doctors, pathologists and others should be recruited as police officers and allowed to practice their professions within the police service, and be promotable in their areas of expertise as is done in services such as the military.”