April 6, 2023

Wanted: A new Police Force

Police arrests child trafficking syndicates in Akwa Ibom

THE situation in the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, has gone beyond “reforms”. We need a brand-new Police establishment. What we have now is a mere laughingstock, if what we experienced during the recently-concluded general elections are anything to go by.

The Police are supposed to be the primary law enforcement agency to maintain day-to-day law and order. In every state election, up to 30,000 police officers are mobilised to secure the voters, electoral officials and electoral materials. 

Also, the Army is deployed to provide a kinetic backup to the Police when needed. Yet, election rigging thrives with the Police complicit.

In October 2020, the Police failed to handle a peaceful protest at the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos, and the Army had to be invited by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to quell it. This resulted in the Lekki Toll Gate killings which sparked an upheaval by hoodlums. They destroyed government and private property across the state. Had the Police done their job professionally, the bloodshed would have been avoided.

Recently, the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, revealed that the Force made 781 arrests during the general elections of 2023. Out of these, 185 cases of electoral infractions were recorded and 203 arrests made during the Presidential and National Assembly elections, while in the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly polls, the Police claimed it recorded 304 breaches and arrested 578 offenders. Most Nigerians disregarded these figures which were meant to justify the claim by the IGP that the Police performed “creditably”. The Police Force, as a public service organisation, should allow the public to assess and score its performance rather than engage in self-chest beating.

The entire 371 officers and other ranks of the Police were on electoral duties during the elections. In most polling stations, they came as unarmed onlookers. 

In Lagos, they were seen pleading with armed hoodlums to “take it easy” or actually condoning them as the criminals ethnically profiled, intimidated, threatened, attacked and disenfranchised fellow Nigerians.

Till date, prominent officials and stalwarts of a political party who openly prevented intending voters from a particular ethnic group from performing their constitutional duties have not been arrested and charged. Hoodlums burning markets and warehouses and asking fellow Nigerians to “leave Lagos” operate with impunity without fear of the law enforcement agencies.

The Nigeria Police has not been itself since the EndSARS protests in 2020 organised to call attention to their welfare and an end to police brutality.

We need a brand-new Nigeria Police Force. We cannot understand the rationale for the extension of IGP Alkali’s tenure which should have ended on March 1, 2023. We fail to see what Alkali did to deserve the extension.

It is time to comprehensively rethink and reinvigorate our entire police system.