Policing the Police in Nigeria Featured

Saturday, 31 December 2016 00:00 Written by  Published in The Nation Read 339 times
IGP Ibrahim Idris IGP Ibrahim Idris

‘Run forward a bit and I will carry you on my shoulder’ is a trick an adult can play on a child and not on another adult. So have been the seemingly inexhaustible menus of promises made by previous inspector-generals of the Nigeria Police Force towards guiding its misguided elements who as always, have been euphemistically and imaginarily labelled ‘bad eggs’.

From this bemoan, amorphous and anomalous state however, as the old Chinese saying goes, “An institution is conditioned by the natural environment where it exists”. Police corruption is now universally understood to mirror the state of the Nigerian nation which includes but not restricted to unchained corruption in the populace, absence of checks and balances, poor legal frameworks and weak rule of law. In essence, all Nigerians have a hand in gutting this system and all Nigerians will also have a han``d in remedying the situation.

At a casual glance, mortality rate in Nigeria still remain 13 per 1000 people, compared with 9 in Ghana, 8 in Netherlands and 7 in China. Likewise, the total life expectancy in Nigeria is 53 years, compared with 61 in Ghana, 76 in China and 81 in Netherlands. Some school of thought have pinpointed corruption as the root cause of this anomaly and have succeeded in indicting corruption in the law enforcement agencies, the Police and their sister agencies, among others as the major corruption drivers in the country. Undoubtedly, this means that corruption in the Nigeria Police Force have contributed in not only making life unbearable for Nigerians, but have either by omission or commission, terminated and is terminating lives. On this note, the Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) has consistently indicated year by year that the Police are perceived as the most corrupt institutions in many developing countries. Nigeria is not an exception as the corruption in its police force before now, have reached unprecedented proportions. Average Nigerians now find it difficult to differentiate between the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) as an institution and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) as one is left to wonder, by the unbridled rate of extortion, whether they also generate revenue for the government?

Police corruption is a universal challenge to nation building and is said to occur when a police officer acting officially misuses the authority invested on him to achieve his personal goals. Charles de Montesuieus opined that there is no crueller tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice. Corruption within the Nigeria Police Force is both internal (within the ranks of the force) and external in regard to its official relationship with the public. By and large, there is no clear cut difference between the internal and external corruption in the police. Be that as it may, it can be said that the corruption within the ranks of the police is positively correlated with the corruption exhibited in the discharge of their duties. The USAID program therefore recommends ways of addressing police corruption to include investigation, prosecution and removal of tainted police officers, as well as the creation of effective mechanisms to detect and punish police crime.

All said and done, there is a glimpse of hope as nigeria’s Inspector-General of  Police (AGP), Mr. Ibrahim Idris has graciously taken the responsibility to reverse this tragedy. In words and in deeds, he had desisted from the usual ‘escapist theorem’ of blaming ‘bad eggs’ for systemic misbehaviour within the force and have proven in a short while that reducing police corruption involves changes on many fronts. He has customized and tailored this vision to suit the operational system of the NPF establishing the fact that borrowed theories cannot always be twisted to produce a national vision.

In infusing passion and animation to this vision, he has done a lot in strengthening the internal disciplinary procedures of the NPF by inculcating seriousness in the business of policing and by revamping the police x-squads units to fight corruption and abuse of office within and outside the police force. The x-squad, established in 1966, is mandated to investigate officers involved in bribery and corruption and all other forms of official misconduct.

Having had the opportunity and the privilege to observe at close quarters, the Nigeria Police Force: then and now; the positive attitudes on one side, the negative on the other, one might agree that IGP Ibrahim must have somehow found the chutzpah in reducing police corruption thereby building a more professional police force. At least, the capacity of the police to conduct patrols, respond to emergency calls, and investigate crimes seems to have improved. Also, through professional training of officers on human rights seasoned with other necessary incentive schemes, he had done a lot in instilling qualitative personal positive characters via ethical indoctrination, communitarian orientations and egalitarian values. On the whole, IGP Ibrahim seems to be doing a lot in curbing corruption within the force. But since a list of ingredients does not make a stew, much still needs to be done in combining these condiments proportionally in time and space to get a better result.

In this era so unprecedentedly illuminated by science and reason, IGP Ibrahim, with his wealth of experience on international policing, must have considered equipping police cars with recording systems which can deter, document or rebut police misconduct during patrols, or body cameras as a stricter measure in controlling police misconduct as it is done in some developed countries. In comparison to its advantages herewith, these processes are cost effective. Alternatively as the case may be, as it is done in the New York City Police Department, “integrity checks” can be used to test officers’ integrity through an opportunity for corruption. In essence, it is not so much the fact that officers are tempted by an opportunity to be corrupt that is more important, but whether an institutional culture exists to discourage it. Most importantly, it is pertinent to modify the underlying structures that encourage corruption in the NPF and establish an institutional environment that increases the cost of corruption by decreasing the incentives and opportunities for corrupt practices.

Preventing police corruption completely is a tall order. However, steps can be taken to reduce it significantly. And for this to be possible, the public must be cultivated as allies. For sure, there is the need to have instituted mechanisms for police whistleblowers to anonymously report to the necessary quarter incidents of police misconduct and other corrupt practices without fear of intimidation. The public need to be enlightened on their rights and that of the police officer. That can go a long way in severing the chains of police corruption. Instances abound where the police often threaten citizens to prevent them from using cameras. In other scenarios, the police will illegally seize or delete evidence captured by citizens, notwithstanding laws that made it a criminal offence to destroy evidence of a crime.

Preferentially, evidence abound that IGP Ibrahim’s fury on corrupt practices on one side, and his humanistic preoccupation on the other, have gone a long way in putting checks on irregular practices within the NPF. He who wants to tame a lion must first consider its teeth and claws. And if you allow bad food to enter your stomach, it will definitely drum for you to dance.

Mr. Iheanyi lives in Enugu

Orji Iheanyi

Orji Iheanyi is a journalist and novelist. He is also an academician and seasoned agronomist. He can be reached at orjilla@gmail.com