Making a Case for the Non-Adoption of Community Policing in Nigeria

Making a Case for the Non-Adoption of Community Policing in Nigeria

By Samuel Onimpa Alfred

It is not uncommon to hear Nigerians especially political office holders make a case for community policing. Many believe that the Nigerian Police force cannot effectively maintain law and order with the current method of policing.

Community policing, according to Wikipedia, is a strategy of policing that focuses on police, building ties and working closely with members of the community. State policing and community policing are often used interchangeably. They technically mean the same thing. The United Kingdom does not have states-like delineations like the United States of America but they both have the same kind of police structure.

Politicians will try to placate Nigerians by saying the establishment of community policing would not take away the powers of the National police. Some even support their assertion by stating that community policing is widespread in parts of the world.

Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo on the 4th of July, 2017 said the Federal Government would soon announce a new policy on community policing for better service delivery. He disclosed this at the presentation and launch of a book ‘Law on Prevention and Detection of Crimes by the Police in Nigeria’ in Abuja. Professor Osinbajo said that sitting down in Abuja to police other remote parts of the country was not practicable any longer. “For us to continue this old way of policing our country, I don’t think it can work and it is not working. We have to look at other parts of the world, how they are doing it, “he said.

As at August 2017, only 10 out of the 195 countries in the world practice community policing. They are Brazil, United Kingdom, United States of America, India, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Spain, Germany and Switzerland.

There are many rankings that rate the effectiveness of Police forces globally.  Police forces globally are judged based on some parameters. There are some statistics that speak for some of the more efficient police forces in the world. The parameters used to measure the progress of a police force is in their ability to tackle crime, their resources and efficiency, public protection and perception, their ability to protect vulnerable people, implementation of neighbourhood policing, fewest cops per 100,000 population, fewest shots fired by them in a year and fewest people beaten, shot and killed, fairness and local priorities etc.

After going through various rankings comprehensively, some countries consistently in the top rankings are Japan, France, UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Italy, Australia, China, Holland, Iceland, Germany and Austria. Of these countries, only the UK, USA, Australia and Germany practice community policing. Most rankings tend to agree that France is the most well policed country in the world. France does not practice community policing. Of the top ten countries that practice community policing, only three of them are not economic heavyweights.

Nigeria has more than 170 million people with a police force of 370,000. Our police per 100,000 people are about 217. This is one of the lowest in the world compared to other countries. We should be more concerned about making the police force attractive by increasing the number of well-motivated policemen. Apart from recruiting more policemen to the force, there is need to train them sufficiently. However, even those in the service are not well catered for. Community policing will require special training for the police force as they will now have more streamlined duties.

The Inspector General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Idris, while delivering a speech on a bill for an act to establish the Nigeria police reform trust fund and for other related matters said that “What is required to run the force excluding major capital projects like arms and ammunition, purchase of new vehicles, gun boats, helicopters and other technological needs is conservatively put at N14.132, 532,142,242. In 2017 budget, only N36.1billion was allocated to the Police for both capital and overhead costs. This is a far cry from the N1.13 trillion conservatively estimated. This difference is alarming and has sounded the loud trumpet that the regular budgetary allocation to run the police is sharply inadequate and requires urgent measure to address, if the Force must be effective and responsive to the security needs of Nigerians in a complex and dynamic policing space” That statement coming from the Senior Police Chief says it all. We need to adequately fund the police for better operations.

In a nation were public perceptions about the police leaves a lot to be desired, how will community policing work effectively? In foreign countries like the UK, it is a common occurrence to see citizens interact freely with police officers. In the UK, the policemen are genuinely concerned about the welfare of those within their jurisdiction. Unfortunately, that cannot be said of some of the Policemen in Nigeria. Sordid tales of ill treatment and poor police response to emergencies is widespread. Visiting the average police station in Nigeria is one of mixed feelings. Whether you are reporting a case or giving useful information to the police, one is usually sceptical. Little wonder that there has been a rise in cases of jungle justice lately. The police have to improve its public image.

A clamp down on corrupt police officers that are giving the force a bad name should be a priority also. Bad elements are projecting the Police wrongly and they should not only be dismissed but tried for the offence’s committed.

Imagine what will happen if a state government owes policemen for months as is the case currently with civil servants in most states. Remember, they have guns in their hands! As it stands, Nigeria is not ready for state policing. We are far from it because as a nation, we are yet to attain economic, political and social maturity.

The Nigerian police force as currently constituted, is in need of reforms but changing the structure to accommodate state or community policing will be counter-productive. The police force is an institution that is always meant to be non-partisan at all times. Ruling out political interference is almost impossible as their source of funding will come from state resources.

Samuel Onimpa Alfred can be reached on twitter @samoalfred

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