The recent revelation by the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ibrahim Idris, that the force had 334,000 officers and men that secure the lives and property of about 190 million people across the country, has underscored the manpower shortage in the law enforcement agency. The police boss, who stated this at the 2018 Safe School Leadership Empowerment Conference and Awards in Abuja, said that kidnapping had remained one of the most vicious crimes confronting the country.
Nigerians are aware of the manpower shortage in the force. What is important now is how to address the problem. There is no way the Nigeria Police with such a workforce can adequately secure the country. In June last year, the IGP stated that the country should recruit 30,000 police officers annually for five years to meet the United Nations’ standard of one police officer to 400 citizens.
In August 2016, the then chairman of the Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Senator Abu Ibrahim, noted that the Nigeria Police were operating in deficit of 90,000 officers. He spoke at a meeting of the Joint National Assembly Committee on Police Affairs with the police boss in Abuja. It is apparent that the country lacks the required number of police personnel to adequately secure the citizens. This has led to increase in the rise of criminal activities across the nation.
The increasing cases of armed robberies, kidnapping for ransom, cultism, internet fraud, ritual killings have overstretched the capacity of the police. To effectively curtail crimes in their states, many governors have contributed to equipping the police.
In spite of the manpower shortage in the police, it is regrettable that the police authorities have assigned many of their officers and men to guard politicians and private individuals. It is not uncommon to see armed policemen protecting retired public officers, clergymen, businessmen, celebrities and anyone, who could afford the special service. Yet, there are hundreds of communities in the country that are not protected by the police.
In February this year, former Inspector-General of Police and immediate past Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), Sir Mike Okiro, raised the alarm that about 150, 000 police officers were still attached to private individuals in the country. This, according to him, was in spite of the order by President Muhammadu Buhari that all officers attached to unauthorised persons be withdrawn and deployed to combat insecurity in the country. Till date, nothing has been done to redress that anomaly.
The general insecurity in the country and the seeming inability of the police to contain it has forced many communities to establish vigilance groups. And without adequate training, members of the vigilance groups, at times, take the law into their hands.
The inability of the extant policing system to curtail insecurity has continued to fuel the agitation for state police. Those calling for state policing argue that it will lead to more efficient and effective policing in the country.
Beyond the dearth of police personnel, a major issue that is affecting the performance of policemen is poor remuneration.
The state of police barracks is far from edifying, and the living conditions of most policemen are pitiable. Allegations are rife that many policemen buy their uniforms, shoes and other essentials. With complaints of stalled promotions and stunted career growth, many officers and men of the force are frustrated.
In advanced countries, police officers are adequately trained and motivated. They are made up of men and women of integrity who are proud to serve their fatherland. But, in Nigeria, the reverse is the case, due to years of frustration.
To address the manpower shortage in the force, the government should urgently recruit qualified men and women into the Nigeria Police. The process of the recruitment must be transparent. The agitation for the creation of state police must be revisited. Nigeria deserves a disciplined and highly motivated police. Nothing less is good enough for the nation.