The federal government of Nigeria has appointed a new acting Inspector General of Police, in person of Mr. Usman Alkali on 6th April, 2021. The appointment followed the retirement of the former IGP, Muhammed Adamu, whose tenure had earlier expired on 1st February, 2021, but was extended by the government by three months, according to the government, to “allow more time to choose a successor to outgoing IGP” (Premium Times, 6th April, 2021)
As much as we in the Building Blocks for Peace (BBFORPEACE) Foundation, welcome the appointment, we however feel that the controversy that trailed the appointment is unnecessary and avoidable. We feel that the process of appointment of a head of any government, much less a vital security agency like the Nigerian police, should be a routine and seamless process that warrants no controversy. Given the plethora of regulatory and command structures, including the police council (headed by the president), ministry of police affairs, police service commission, and national assembly committees on police, the process of appointment of police head should be more organized and standard. This seeming sense of unseriousness displayed in the appointment of a new police chief casts a shadow over the government’s commitment to reforming Nigerian police and making it live up to the tasks of guaranteeing security for the citizens. We hope the government will learn from this situation, avoid future occurrence, and use the opportunity provided by the new appointment to entrench far reaching reform policies that will improve the image, conduct and character of Nigeria Police Force.
Furthermore, we welcome the directive of the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who while decorating the new IGP, tasked the new acting to improve the image of the organization. However, we believe that improving the image of the police, as much as it is important, especially in instilling public confidence in the police, is not enough. What the Nigeria Police need is a holistic reform that will ensure that the police become an enviable institution in the country. This will require not just the IGP improving the image of the organization, but the government as a whole, especially through supervisory agencies, fashion a comprehensive reform for the Nigerian Police.
Such reform must, as a starting point, ensure that police’s responsibility is geared towards not just providing security but provide it in a manner that deepens democratic space, and not suffocate our democracy under the guise of enforcing law and order. Also, we suggest that the police build strategic alliances with the public, especially the youth, who constitutes the largest demographic in the country. Such collaboration will mean that the police should be under community supervision, which will ensure close collaboration between the police and the community. As a starting point, the existing police public relations units, the community relation department, the human rights units and the provost-general’s office should be properly structured, legalised and integrated with the public, in the most democratic manner, with a view to increasing community and public control and oversight. Important also is the need for the police authority and the government to ensure that pending cases of violation of rights, right abuses and misconduct by police officers are concluded and justice ensured. More than this is the need for adequate funding for the police, and democratic oversight on the use of funds allocated to it. Improving funding for the police should be tailored towards specific result-oriented projects including improvement of intelligence gathering, facility and equipment; expansion of manpower and capacity training of officers; improvement in welfare of officers; etc. These, we believe, will help ensure a responsible, responsive and accountable police organization. Given the increasing spate of insecurity and violence in the country, these reform policies are needed urgently and timely. We hope the necessary authorities will do the needful.
Rafiu Adeniran Lawal
Building Blocks for Peace Foundation