Nigerian Police in search of excellence and redemption: the Tech option

File photo. Source: Toryng

The Nigerian Police has long been perceived as one of the most corrupt public institutions in Nigeria if not the most corrupt.

Battling poor funding, indiscipline, and over-stretched workforce, it has grossly underperformed in its statutory responsibility for decades now.

Currently, Nigeria is under-policed as a result of inadequate and inefficient manpower in the force. And many of its citizens have become perennial victims of the unprofessional attitudes of police rank and file.

As we speak, a lot of allegations have been leveled against many of its officers and men. They include extra-judicial killings, slow response to distress calls, bribery, unlawful detention of innocents, and criminals alike beyond the stipulated timeline, blowing the lead on their informants, illegal roadblock, and outright extortion of law-abiding members of the public.

In fact, police stations across the length and breadth of the country, just as the late Afro-beat musician Fela Anikulapo rightly predicted have become something akin to banking halls because a lot of their routine professional activities have been transactionalized and commercialized.

Bail you are told is free, even with a sticker to that effect on the walls of the police post, but the contrary is what obtained at every visit by family and friends of the detained who are forced to part with tens of thousands of naira to secure the release of their loved ones.

It is commonplace also that the police sometimes demand mobilization fees from the complainants to activate their responsibility of carrying out the arrest of persons alleged to have acted in breach of relevant laws of the land.

And because these monies are not receipted, they can only end up in the bank accounts of officers and men connected with the case for which money has been paid.

Also as Nigerians, you certainly must have heard times and again the slogan: 'police is your friend' on your favorite media channels.

But more often than not, many people have ironically discovered over the years that with a friend like the police, you actually don't need an enemy. Now, unfortunately, the majority are no longer fooled.

The police authority, on the other hand, has often not helped matters. It has been criticized for its lack of willpower to draw up a roadmap to put an end to these sharp practices that have completely eroded the trust people have in the police.

With this attitude, it becomes so convenient to conclude that the top echelons of the police are a direct beneficiary of these illicit funds. And that cannot be far from the truth.

It then came as no surprise to both security experts, and members of the public, who especially have long been at the receiving end of their unethical practices when Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) listed it as number one in its latest ranking of the corrupt public institutions in Nigeria.  

However, with the coming of the new IGP, Adamu Muhammed, there has been some new response to these and other mounting security challenges presently facing the nation.

The new IGP immediately on assumption of duty has thrown up a couple of innovative ideas on how to effectively combat the rising spate of insecurity in the country and also to check cases of unprofessional conducts of police personnel, and units of which the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) readily come to mind.

The SARS un-abating notorieties have continued to generate resenting conversations among Nigerians. Even to this end, the end SARS campaign on social media is still very fresh in our minds.

The IGP has indeed hit the ground running. It is little wonder, therefore, that the Mr. President had recently joked that the IGP is lean which is as a result of his high work rate since assuming office.

One of the measures that have been suggested by the IGP is the Constabulary Force which if I’m not mistaken was widely used with great successes during the colonial era. I remembered reading in my history textbook that it was deployed during the Oba Overamwen Nogbaisi incident of 1897.

While the IGP has been commended for being proactive and thoroughgoing, the presidential Human Right Commission that has looked into allegations of abuses leveled against the Nigerian Police personnel and other security-related issues submitted its report to the president.

And the report contained a lot of recommendations. According to the various news sources, it recommended in part state and local government policing which is what many people have been clamoring for, and the president appears in the interim to align with.

The commission also recommended for dismissal 37 officers of the force and additional 24 for prosecution for various forms of professional misconducts. It recommends also that the IGP should fish out 22 other officers accused of violating the rights of citizens.

Just as we were chewing those, the Nigerian Police also simultaneously hinted on the plan to launch a security App, tagged VGS security App. According to the force information outlet, the App will among others assist the force in the effective discharge of its security functions. 

The App, when finally launched the police claimed will enable it to respond swiftly to security emergencies which members of the public must have put through on the App.     
A section of the public has been so impressed by the news that they excitedly went online looking to download the app. They were, however, disappointed because no app meets the description given by the police could be found on Google play store.

Others can only be amused because it amounted to playing to the gallery or embarking on a wild goose chase. And I’m one of them.

While I concur that the Nigerian Police are in dire need of an urgent search of excellence in its modus operandi; the launch of a security App is clearly a step that smacks of a misplaced priority.

Though, I’m not unaware of the fact that artificial intelligence is increasingly playing strategic roles in the operations of private and public institutions around the world and Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind; it is, however, the least and the last the Nigerian Police needed at this point in time.

Ordinarily, it would’ve led to an enhanced capacity for the Nigerian Police, but I doubt this would be the case because the Nigerian Police has not been able to cover itself in glory looking back at how poorly it has often managed the information regularly and directly provided it by members of the various communities where they have an outpost.

If officers and men of the Nigerian Police can excuse themselves from their statutory responsibility when people alert them of incidents of crime on various flimsy grounds, what then do you think will happen if an App is all they will rely on to professionally discharged their official duty?   

I think more than ever before, the Nigerian Police must work hard to, first of all, regain the lost confidence and trust of the people and focus more on effectively interfacing with the people and their various communities to whom they owed the task of effective policing.   

After that, the tech option can then come on stream for complementary purposes. Anything outside of this, for now, is diversionary and will be counterproductive.

At best, all I see the App does for the people is perhaps eliminate some of the risks involved in providing the police with timely and reliable information necessary for the professional discharge of their duty.

But for App to significantly alter the process of social security is Nigeria when fully operational is incomprehensible and farfetched.

The first thing I want the Police Authorities to do is either ensure that bail is truly free if not, the process should be receipted and documented to help the federal government in shoring up its dwindling revenue.

If the people won’t stop committing crimes then the government shouldn’t wait to widen the process of cashing in on it.

Secondly, SARS and indeed the entire police force should be reformed for efficiency and professionalism with immediate effect as recommended by the Human Right Commission.

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