THE Nigeria Police Force has commenced the recruitment process for 10,000 additional personnel, thereby giving effect to the Federal Government’s promise to strengthen its workforce and reposition it for greater effectiveness.
We heartily welcome this move to address the acute personnel shortage in this agency. With a population of over 150 million, and police strength of about 350,000 officers and men, there is no doubt that Nigeria is grossly under-policed. The country still has a long way to go to meet the United Nations’ recommendation of 220 policemen to 10,000 citizens.
The search for 10,000 police personnel began in earnest recently with the advertisement of the positions. Just three days after the public announcement, the portal had received such a deluge of applications that applicants were reportedly having problems accessing it. Every effort must be made to ensure that the portal remains open to give every interested applicant a chance to contest for these positions. This widespread interest in the positions is yet another confirmation of the employment crisis in the country. The days when a job in the police was largely considered unattractive may be gone forever.
Now that the recruitment process has started, we urge the federal government and the supervising Ministry of Internal Affairs to use this opportunity to recruit well qualified and morally upright persons into the force. There is no arguing the fact that policemen are largely not respected in Nigeria. This is on account of the poor quality of personnel that were recruited into the force at a time, and the poor training they were given because of the culture of corruption that pervaded the recruitment and training processes. The qualifications for employment were often compromised, and the necessary background checks not always done, which at a time allowed persons of doubtful integrity and commitment to get into the force to reinforce the already poor image of our policemen. Police training schools at that time were not properly equipped to bring the best out of the recruits, who thereafter graduated into poor salaries and unappealing work conditions.
As a result, many policemen in the country are not motivated to give their best. Many are psychologically down and prone to violence, in a desperate bid to assert themselves to gain the respect of the citizens. The culture of taking bribes to augment their poor salaries is also rife.
Let the Nigeria Police Force use this recruitment to address the problems it has had with its personnel over the years. The police leadership should recruit academically sound and responsible persons who will be amenable to training and capable of good conduct. They should be persons who are passionate about policing who can easily key into the regime of responsible policing which the Inspector General Police, Solomon Arase, is trying to institute in the force.
Nigeria has serious security challenges and only properly trained personnel can contribute to the IGP’s efforts to improve internal security. The challenge of general insecurity in Nigeria and the Boko Haram insurgency, require that only qualified persons are brought into the force as part of a comprehensive plan to renew it and improve its image.
We advise that this recruitment exercise should be continuous until the shortfall in the police is bridged. We also urge that subsequently, new recruitments should be gradually tilted in favour of university graduates, or at least holders of the Ordinary National Diploma or its equivalent. This will help to improve the quality of policing in the country. It will also rub-off on the image of the police and, hopefully, its prestige and efficiency.
In many of the advanced countries, police jobs are among the most sought-after. The reason is simple: those who get into such jobs have the best education, training, motivation and work conditions. It is very difficult for persons of questionable character and those with criminal records to get into the police.
In our country, the experience is not quite the same. The force harbors a number of personnel with criminal records and questionable character. The detection and weeding out of these unsuitable characters, however, remains an on-going activity in the police today, and the IGP deserves commendation for his efforts to sanitise and reposition the organisation.
In the present recruitment exercise, therefore, a new template must be set. Background checks must be carried out on the intending men and officers. Their educational qualifications must be verified, alongside their psychological and mental states.
This is one area in which some past leaderships of the force failed Nigerians. It is not enough to have the numbers, suitability and comportment of policemen are also crucial. How many times have we seen and read of some policemen going berserk and turning the guns on those they are supposed to protect? How often do we see our policemen turn out in poor outfits and display manners completely unbecoming of the institution they represent?
The task of getting the police we can be proud of is daunting, and government and all Nigerians have to join forces for us to arrive there. The budgetary provisions for the force have to significantly increase in subsequent years to give us a police that the people can respect and trust with their security.