In the second week of August, 2017, the National Bureau of Statistics released a report which described the Nigeria Police Force as the most corrupt public institution. Same day, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNDOC) released a similar report that put the police on top of the corruption index in the country. The Police top hierarchy attempted to dispute the report, in an effort that seemed to have achieved little if anything. The public appears to have gotten to a cynical, though dangerous point of seeing the police and corruption as synonyms.
That perhaps explains the indifference that has trailed the revelations by Senator Hamman Misau of Bauchi Central Senatorial District, who accused the current IGP of making about 10 billion naira monthly from posting officers to private firms, multinational corporations and homes of the elites in the society. Misau alleged further that officers of the Force pay as much as between 10-15 million naira to get juicy postings as Commissioners, Mopol Commanders among others.
This is not the first time an IGP will be accused of being corrupt. As a matter of fact, the incumbent IGP accused his predecessor, Solomon Arase, of corrupt practices, which included the illegal appropriation of choice vehicles from the Force’s pool. Tafa Balogun however remains the point of reference for the rot in the Force, after the conviction of the top cop for aggrandizement, running into several billions of naira. Yet, the current allegations against the IGP appears set to dwarf the ignominious corruption record of the Force if they are proven true. So far, the IGP’s refutal has been tepid. He has accused the Senator, himself an ex-cop, of being a deserter. The Police Service Commission, which oversees the Force, disputes the claim.
The New Independence Group feels concerned that the presidency, like the public, has been indifferent to this ugly development. The idea that gargantuan corruption and racketeering pervades the Force, a critical institution to the success of the fight against corruption, is seriously damaging to president Mohammadu Buhari avowal to rein in the culture of malfeasance that has robbed public institutions of the capacity to serve the primary purposes of their existence. Without an effective Force peopled by those committed to the anti-corruption agenda of the government, achieving success in that regard is highly doubtful. It is for this reason that the President needs to order an independent inquiry into these claims to establish their veracity. Nigeria is one of the countries with a low level of police-citizen ratio. Turning officers of the Force to the private army of the privileged on such a large scale, if true, is not just an act of corruption but one capable of undermining the internal security of the State.
It must be stated that the Police Force is a seriously challenged institution, a state of affair largely accounted for by long years of deliberate neglect under military rule, as the Army sought to assert itself forcefully over other public institutions, thereby undermining their roles. The Police, overtime, evolved a survival, though dangerous strategy that has increasingly abandoned professionalism and integrity for opportunism, blackmail, intimidation, coercion and extortion. Thus, the rot in the Police Force is not only systemic but deep rooted.
To reposition the institution therefore, President Buhari will only be seizing the opportunity provided by the current image crisis rocking it to holistically reform the Force for optimum delivery of its expected societal role. This will require a realistic program of reorientation, surgical weeding off of persons and processes that sustain the monster of corruption and inefficiency, addressing the problem of inadequate manpower and training, as well as enforcing a new culture of police-public engagement.
The needed reform will also need to shift fundamentally from the unsustainable centralization policy of policing that presently obtains. At the NIG, we believe that there is no better time for allowing states to have and control their own police forces, which have responsibilities for the day to day security of local communities, towns and cities under their jurisdiction. This does not necessarily render a federal police force redundant, but merely streamlines it to effectively deal with crimes and security issues that are very serious or interstate in nature. Not only will this boost security and the maintenance of order, it will also make the policing system more manageable than it is presently.
To this end, the NIG calls on the President to ensure that the grave issues being raised,bordering on nepotism,bribery and extortion-all variants of corruption- against the leadership of the NPF are not swept under the carpet or ignored until the next scandal takes national attention away from it, as has been the case with a number of appointees of his government involved in corruption cases. The decisiveness of the President is important, as we consider the attempt by the Senate to investigate the matter an indictment of executive indifference. Such investigation, while likely to open up more of the rot in the system, from experience, have always been short on solutions. At worst, the findings become negotiating tools between corrupt public officials in the different arms of government. If the war on corruption is to be successful, such an indispensable institution as the police must be made ready to carry out the task of prevention, investigation and diligent prosecution with the highest sense of responsibility and professionalism required of it.
*Signed by Professor Akinyemi Onigbinde as