…in line with the Police Act of 2020, a good place to start is the development of an Annual Policing Plan as provided for in Section 9(a) of the Act. The Annual Policing Plan, developed with inputs from the Headquarters and all police formations and commands nationwide, sets out the priorities, objectives, cost implications and expected outcomes of policing…

President Muhammadu Buhari has officially appointed a new Acting Inspector General of Police to replace the erstwhile IGP, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, as the number one cop in the country. Mr. Adamu, whose tenure formally ended on February 1 had this extended despite public outcry, in view of public service rules and the provisions of the Police Act of 2020. That extension ended on April 7, with the handover to the new Acting IGP Usman Alkali Baba.

While welcoming the Acting IGP and wishing him a successful tenure, the state of insecurity in the country has thrown up several policing challenges that he should prioritise. Re-positioning the Nigeria Police Force for improved performance in addressing these security challenges should essentially seek to fulfil government’s mandate to make the security and welfare of citizens its primary business and restore citizens’ confidence in the ability of the state to protect the people and properties within its geographical space. From banditry to kidnapping and insurgency, the Nigeria Police needs to recalibrate and deploy its personnel and resources in an effective operational manner to address these concerns.

First, and in line with the Police Act of 2020, a good place to start is the development of an Annual Policing Plan as provided for in Section 9(a) of the Act. The Annual Policing Plan, developed with inputs from the Headquarters and all police formations and commands nationwide, sets out the priorities, objectives, cost implications and expected outcomes of policing for the next financial year, in consideration of the security situation across the country. As it is, policing cannot be business as usual, given that crime and criminals are constantly evolving new ways of unleashing violence on the populace. Each Command, working alongside its host communities, will bring into the Annual Policing Plan the contextual policing priorities peculiar to their regions/states to engender a template for responsive police service delivery to the public. The IGP needs to sit with his team to develop the short, medium and long-term policing needs of the public on the basis of emerging security trends. Accordingly, a framework for monitoring, evaluating, and drawing lessons from the implementation of the Plan at strategic periods should be set and implemented. This will ensure that policing services are results-driven and responsive to the policing needs of the public.

The role of the Police Public Relations Committee, which is a mechanism for building trust relationships between the police and the public needs to be looked at. One must underscore the fact that one of the underlying drivers of the #EndSARS protest was the pent-up public resentment against police brutality and weak oversight mechanisms that are poor in holding errant police officers to account.

Police public relations is currently at its lowest in Nigeria. While there seem to be some efforts at community policing by the Federal Government, it is obvious that these programmes need to be amplified and sustained. The role of the Police Public Relations Committee, which is a mechanism for building trust relationships between the police and the public needs to be looked at. One must underscore the fact that one of the underlying drivers of the #EndSARS protest was the pent-up public resentment against police brutality and weak oversight mechanisms that are poor in holding errant police officers to account. It is therefore pivotal for the police to empower its internal accountability mechanisms with such strategic powers to fully achieve their mandates without bottlenecks.

A close collaboration should be forged between the Police and the Police Service Commission, and the newly inaugurated Police Public Complaints Committee under the Ministry of Police Affairs, to enhance the accountability of its personnel and uphold zero tolerance for police misconduct under the new Acting IGP’s tenure. Again, the recent targeted killing of police officers and burning of police stations across the country should be investigated with the findings addressed, as a matter of urgency. As one of the banes of our current police system is the shortage of manpower, the country cannot afford to overlook this ugly trend that portends dire consequences and further exposes citizens to criminal elements. The community policing committees and boards to be set up across the states and divisional levels, as provided for in the Act, should be a top priority for the new IGP and the Commissioners of Police across the states, to nip security threats in the bud and support participatory policing.

…we cannot over-emphasise the need for better welfare packages and improved working conditions for the Police. Both the Police Act of 2020 and the 2019 Police Trust Fund detail beautiful provisions that touch upon improved welfare, salaries, periodic training, and equipping of police training institutions.

One of the demands of the #EndSARS protest was improved welfare packages for the members of the police. Thankfully, while other demands are being addressed by the government, we cannot over-emphasise the need for better welfare packages and improved working conditions for the Police. Both the Police Act of 2020 and the 2019 Police Trust Fund detail beautiful provisions that touch upon improved welfare, salaries, periodic training, and equipping of police training institutions. The Acting IGP, through the Trust Fund Committee and the Federal Government, should work assiduously to sustain and achieve this demand under his leadership. As a people, we cannot provide meagre resources to the Police and expect it to perform wonders or pay lip-service to recommendations for police reforms. The necessary working conditions and tools, through appropriate budget releases, which will capacitate it to effectively fulfil its core functions in securing the nation, should be provided to the Police.

In conclusion, the quality of recruitment is a matter of national importance that both the Police Service Commission and the Police need to address systematically. The Police Act of 2020, which makes provisions for specialists to be recruited into the Police, essentially seeks to provoke improved and specialised police service delivery to the public. It might also be necessary to look at the possibilities of upgrading entry requirements into the Police Force and introduce computer-based technologies that enhances transparency of the recruitment process. Those recruited into the Police must be trainable and able to imbibe and demonstrate the underlying principles of various police capacity building programmes, without resorting to brutality or harassment. These suggestions are considered necessary and timely to break the vicious cycle of police-citizen resentment and nurture a climate of partnership, professionalism, and accountability of the police in Nigeria.

Ruth Eguono Olofin is a scholar-practitioner in security sector reforms and gender. She writes from Abuja and tweets via @OkugbeniRuth

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