Dear Ben Okezie, I read your thought-provoking security column of last week on community policing. My view is that the community policing initiative actually came about because of our “copy-copy” mentality in Africa.
The Black man does not engage in rational thinking. Community policing is well established and functioning well in the countries you mentioned in your write-up, but cannot take root in Nigeria for now, reason being that Nigeria is a federation with a unitary mode of administration. What do I mean?
In a federal arrangement, power is decentralised and the semi-autonomous regions or zones are made stronger than the centre.
In Nigeria, the reverse is the case. Much has been written on this issue and papers presented at conferences and seminars. If you visit a state like Anambra, you will notice that the Commissioner of Police could come from Kano, the Deputy Commissioner of police could be from Kwara State, while the divisional police officers (DPOs) are from states other than Anambra. How do you operate community policing in that kind of environment?
The scramble and desire to be posted to Anambra and indeed many (rewarding) state commands in the South East and South South is heightened by the clamour to exploit the resources of the toiling and hardworking people of the zones.
The word “Community” is derived from the Latin word, which means “commune.”
People in a commune know and interact with other members in a friendly and civil manner. I was once on a police training programme in England, where I met a Constable around the Surrey area who worked all alone covering an entire community. I asked him what his secret was. He said he was part and parcel of that community and knew everyone by their first names. Usually on a bike, occasionally calling at the homes of this elderly Ms. Jones or Mr. Evanson for tea, he endeared himself to the people. In return, he won their loyalty.
In Nigeria, on our highways, especially in the South East, as you approach a police point, you see policemen hanging their rifles across their shoulders while wielding clubs with which they smash windscreens, if the need be. They can afford to break windscreens, beat up innocent people and extort money from law-abiding citizens because they have no stake whatsoever in the community. Such a policeman only came to occupy the land, milk it for himself and his masters and move on. To him, community policing is rubbish. That is where we are.
In Nigeria, community policing cannot work, until the police force is decentralised and indigenes take up the enterprise of policing themselves. How can you send a man from Kankara in Katsina to Obegu in Abia State for police work? He can’t just fit in.
The entire Nigerian system needs to be overhauled for you to even start thinking of the community policing thing.
For those clamouring for community policing, they should consider that the seeming intractable killings by herdsmen in Nigeria can be addressed within six months by a master stroke of amending the law on policing immediately.As politicians would say, it is doable, if only they can muster the will and burning desire to save the lives of poor peasant farmers struggling to eke out a living from overused farmlands all over the Middle Belt and the South.
A lot of our countrymen are pained and disturbed by the butchery of innocent citizens nearly on a daily basis. The rest of the world is hardly perturbed by what is happening as black lives hardly matter to white supremacists. If a tenth of what is going on here was happening in Asia, the Middle East or South America, one is sure that the UN Security Council would have met by now to discuss it. That is not to be because Black Africa is concerned. African leaders, by their body language, give the impression that the life of their fellow countrymen is worth next to nothing, hence, the contempt in which they held by the rest of the civilised world.
Imagine a Western leader calling African countries shitholes, whatever that means.
This is the time for us to be sincere or even try to appear so to solve problems created by us. How can hordes of murdering bestial gangs move about freely in communities, hacking people to death with glee and yet no viable solution has been brought to play in order to stem the bloodletting going on? Is it that some people are enjoying the killings and do not want them to stop?
It is madness, to say the least, that this kind of thing should be happening in the 21st Century of innovative scientific and technological revolution. So, what do I have in mind? It is as simply suggested by the heading if this article. It is the introduction of State Police.
Nigeria is about the only country that claims to run a federal system of government and at the same time has a national police force. Let us assume for the purposes of argument that there are 250,000 police officers serving in the Nigeria Police, covering the 774 local governments in Nigeria. How effective or efficient is this coverage? Police have become the butt of many jokes in Nigeria. This may not necessarily be their own making but because of the environment they have to contend with coupled with the unwieldy nature of its command and control; 12 zonal commands and 37 state commands (with the FCT Abuja treated as a state command). States that have 20 to 30 local governments may have up to 30 to 50 police divisions commanded by DPOs. There are minor out-stations and village police posts also under the police divisions.
If an order is issued in Abuja by the Police High Command, it is always assumed that the zonal AIGs and CPs disseminate these directives to the DPOs, who in turn pass this order to all officers and men, down to the village police post. This may not always be the case.Some of the members of the rank and file do not know the name of their Commissioner of Police. Some don’t even know their DPO’s name. There is general confusion in the top-to-bottom channel of communication. The process of feedback in bottom-up route is mainly flawed, introducing a clog in the smooth performance of the police system. No serving officer would like to stick his neck out to complain about the pervasive inefficiency in the system for fear of a backlash by the powers that be.
The Nigeria Police should be disbanded as a national force and in its place a new law should come into immediate effect for the establishment of State Police. Each state must have it’s autonomous police service dedicated to the service of its citizens. A special crime squad patterned after the American FBI should be established for the investigation of federal crimes like organised criminal activities, drugs, currency and inter-state crimes. The details can be worked out and fine-tuned to meet our local circumstances.
Policing should be local. Locals must police locals. Strangers with different cultures and worldview cannot police locals of a different orientation and disposition. As soon as state police is in place, all that the wanton killings by marauding herdsmen would have died a natural death. We cannot be unmindful of allegations of collusion between security personnel and some unscrupulous criminals even as we write. This is possible because non-indigenous officers who have no stake in the development of an “alien state” don’t give a hoot if tens or hundreds of poor villagers are slaughtered, including women and children.
It is only vipers and myopic local colonisers who will not see anything good in ensuring that equity and justice is enthroned for a stable and progressive polity. The masterstroke to stop the incessant killing of poor peasants by criminals trained by the late Gaddafi, as alleged, and some other foreigners from neighbouring countries. The Empire builders who want to expand their territories from the desert of Libya, Niger and Chad to the lush green vegetation of the South to the coast must be stopped.
We believe that the National Assembly can turn things around and help to stop the blood guilt that is hanging over the heads of many who by their actions or inactions made it possible for the carnage to get worse by the day. State police is the answer.
•AIG Donald lroham (rtd); email: [email protected]