Security is an evolving phenomenon but when it is static, its potency becomes ineffective and rudderless. That was how the community policing programme that former Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, initiated in 2003 went comatose after his exist from office and the subsequent administration packed up the programme like a machine and abandoned it to rust away. This has been the bane of the Nigeria Police, and our political institutions.
Visions are killed for no justifiable reason. Some visions were killed out of sheer envy and wickedness. Visionary leaders come up with noble ideas, conceived after sleepless nights and then embarked on through implementation, only for the visionary to leave the stage for another leader who, instead of building on the idea, prefers to destroy or delete it from human memory. This is sheer wickness and witchcraft; after all, it is the same taxpayers’ money that is being expended.
The community policing programme received great attention and acceptability because it was to provide lasting solution to many of Nigeria’s security problems. lt was to help nip in the bud crimes that would have claimed innocent lives and further startle our ill-equipped security agencies.
The community policing programme would have helped to restore the people’s confidence in the Nigeria Police and also see the personnel as friends of the community.
In fact, all these acts of insecurity plaguing the country would have been resolved and effectively handled. More painful is the fact that so much resources had been sunk into the realisation of the idea when five senior police officers of integrity were sponsored to the United States of America and Britain to be trained in the rudiments of implementing community policing. Unfortunately, all the efforts were jettisoned for no tenable reason.
It was, therefore, a welcome narrative when senior special adviser on political affairs to the Vice President, Mr. Femi Ojodu, broke the news at the public presentation of Sir Mike Okiro’s book, titled, “Nigeria: The Restructuring Controversy,” that the Presidency was already thinking ahead on the viability of reintroducing community policing. So, when Ibrahim Idris recently rolled out the drums to relaunch the programme as though it was his idea, it raised the question, after how many years in office? The relaunch would have been commendable but when credit and honour are not ascribed to the rightful person, it poses questions as to its genuine purpose.
The original initiator of community policing in Nigeria is Tafa Balogun and he should be credited as such.
The relaunch was seen as a wasteful ceremony in this era of “Change” mantra. One would have expected more detailed input in the speech but, as usual, there was really nothing to take home except the rehearsing of previous talks on community policing.
All the major criminal incidents like suicide bombing and other heinous crimes that had occurred in London had either been foiled or arrested by the community policing structure on ground. Same could not have been the case in Nigeria, as all the kidnapping cases would have been executed undetected.
As the first step, the 10,000 police recruits presently graduating from most police colleges across the country should be used to rekindle this initiative. This is a commendable initiative of the Buhari administration. If pass marks should be awarded to all the security agencies, according to performance, no one would blink an eye before scoring the police low and the military, customs and imigrations services higher. Even the President, in his Independence anniversary speech, commended the military, just as he listed some state governors.
Though belated, the community policing programme should have been the main cornerstone of crime fighting and prevention in the country by the Buhari administration. Unfortunately, successive police administrations and governments only paid lip service to this great idea. The world over, communities are fashioned and integrated into the policing system, thereby making it impossible for criminals to berth and carry out their nefarious activities. Had other police administrations indigenised the community police programme, the country would have been reaping the fruit of such a progressive idea by now. A senior security officer described community policing as an ideology, pointing out that the re-launch should be extended to schools and communities, where this type of policing can be inculcated in all children of school age.
No wonder, strangers in many foreign communities are easily noticed, because comunity policing is entrenched in those communities. In such communities, the relationship between them and their policemen cannot be compared to what is obtainable in Nigeria, where the hatred for the police is at a boiling point. It has snowballed into a ridiculous situation where mothers use the police to intimidate their crying baby, yet the police public relations cannot sell the simple phrase “police is your friend” to Nigerians. The police force must first worm itself back the people by changing their way of carrying out their duties, which, to many, is still questionable. A time was when the police were indeed the friend of the people. How did the public’s relationship with the police get sour?
These are some of the many obstacles that may strangulate the programme before the Nigeria Police can set out to rebrand itself and re-launch the community policing initiative, it would be like a new wine in an old bottle.
Few more months the retirement bell of the IGP would have started ringing and one would ask, when exactly will this programme take effect? Like I noted, it would then be back to square one.
• (Published October 5, 2017)