Civil Law

Community policing in Nigeria: Reforming the structural/ operational Nature of the Police.

Everywhere in the world, security has proved to be a challenge which has attracted global and municipal attention. It is our aim in this discourse to analyse the issue of security as it relates to the Nigerian State and the ongoing debate on whether states of the federation should be allowed to establish its own police departments; the advantages or likely challenges associated with the policy; and the overall effect the idea may have on the Nigerian economy, as it shall also be our concern, as we go on in this discourse, to raise possible recommendations on the subject matter.

The most onerous responsibility of any Government is to ensure at all times the continuous safety of the lives and properties of people within its territory. Consequently, it became necessary, if not inevitable, for the Government of the countries of the world to establish to wit- the Army; the Air force, the Navy, the police and other paramilitary agencies that would ensure that lives and properties are secure at every material time. Nigeria as a country with all these agencies as mentioned above still falls short of ensuring that the lives and properties of her citizens are not destroyed by terrifying acts of unscrupulous members of the society.

 Since 2010 when the Ex-President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan took over power, the issue of security became even more challenging in the country and as a result, the country was plunged into its darkest period since the civil war with diverse kinds of terror being unleashed in different parts of the country ranging from the kidnap of over two hundred girls in the Northern part of the country, to the issue of BOKO-HARAM as a terrorist group with its dominance in the Northern part of the country, the terrifying acts of the Fulani Herdsmen in Enugu state , Kano state, Kaduna state and most recently in Yobe state and indeed other parts of the country. Just recently it was also reported by the media that the BOKO-HARAM terrorist group kidnapped dozens of girls from Yobe state which is also in the northern part of the country. The list could go on and on but the point we are trying to emphasize would remain the same as the security threats the country is facing is continuously spreading its effect throughout the country.

It is important to state at this point that the kinds of threat we face as a nation are not entirely different from the terror that other countries of the world are facing but the fundamental thing to note is that they have taken a different approach towards seeking for lasting solutions to reduce the security challenges they are facing and as far as possible upgrade their security consciousness to a point where the threats would not affect their development and growth economically. It is my aim to comparatively discuss these measures as we move on in this work.

           The Nigeria Police
The Nigeria Police is an agency of the government created by an act of the National Assembly.  Section 3 of the Police Act provides as follows: 
There shall be established for Nigeria a police force to be known as the Nigeria Police Force (in this Act referred to as “the Force”).
Thus, it is the above section that creates what is known and referred to as today in Nigeria as the Nigeria Police Force and from which they derive the powers they wield and control. The Act further provides under section 4 among other things, for the duties of the Nigeria Police. Section 4 of the Act provides:
  “The police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within or outside Nigeria as may be required of them by, or under the authority of this or any other Act.  [1979 No. 23.”
The above section clearly outlines what the fundamental duties of the Force are and it is on this basis that the Nigerian police have seemingly conducted their affairs in the past up until now. It is worthy of note that the Act further provides under section 5 of the Act the constitution of the Force as follows:
                  “ There shall be an Inspector-General of the Nigeria Police, such number of Deputy Inspectors-General, Assistant Inspectors-General as the Nigeria Police Council considers  appropriate, a Commissioner for each State of the Federation and such ranks as may,  from time to time, be appointed by the Nigeria Police Council”.
From the foregoing provision, it is clear that due to the very important need to ensure that the Nigeria Police Force carries out its functions effectively, it provides that there shall be a commissioner of police for each state of the Federation who would of course be charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the police command in each state performs its functions diligently and effectively.

The government of Brazil is notable among the countries in the world that are operating multiple law enforcement institutions. There are as a matter of fact about five different police departments established under the Brazilian constitution. These institutions operating in the country includes: The Federal Police, The Federal Highway Police, The Federal Railway Police, The state military police and Fire Brigade and The State Civil Police. Of these, the first three are affiliated to federal authorities and the other two are controlled by the government of the states. There is also the one called the “Municipal Guards” however the Guard is not considered a public security force. It is important to note also that by federal law 13,022 gave them de facto police features. According to the Supreme Federal Tribunal, the security forces considered police units by BRAZILIAN LAW  are the ones provided under the Federal Constitution.

There are two types of state police: due to the nature of this paper we shall just briefly discuss the two agencies that are affiliated with the state:
The Military Police and Fire Brigade is the state police responsible with maintaining law and order. It patrols the streets and conducts searches where the situation demands it and imprisons suspects of criminal activity and goes further to hand them over to the civil police custody and in the event that the crime the individual is suspected to have committed is a federal offence, to the federal police. It is important to note that the body is not a branch of the Armed forces and it also does not perform traditional policing duties.
The civil police are the police with criminal law enforcements duties. It has the responsibility of investigating crimes committed in contravention of Brazilian law. The significant thing about this unit is that it does not patrol the streets and generally does not use uniforms.
The above briefly highlights the structure of the Brazilian police and its modus operandi. The structure which has been adopted by the Brazilians is what many jurist regard as community policing. The aim being to make sure that security is at the highest level even at all material time. We shall however, in the later pages of this work, delve into a very brief enquiry on how far this unique procedure has worked and the factors affecting it as we had mentioned in the beginning of this work.

         The United State of America

The concept of community policing as an ideal security structure has its dominance and has been widely practiced in the states of America. It is equally interesting to note that different jurists have expressed their views on what the concept actually implies. However the term community policing is a term that has not proven to have an easy definition because of its nature. This was acknowledged by Wesley Skogan when he cited (Moore, 1992) thus:
“Community policing is not a clear concept, for it involves decision-making processes and creating new cultures within police departments, rather than being a tactical plan. It is an organizational strategy that redefines the goals of policing in other to guide the future developments of departments.”
We cannot agree more with the position of Skogan that the opinion of Moore carefully depicts what community policing actually means. It remains our view that community policing is a concept that seeks to develop a relationship between the police and the public with a view to solving the common problems of the people of the community unanimously. This view was further given support by the erudite scholar professor Jack R. Green when he opined thus:
“The organizing theme of community policing suggests that law enforcement can be more focused, proactive, and community sensitive…”
This concept has been practised in different forms in the Houston, Texas, Madison, Wisconsin, Oakland, California, Baltimore, Maryland, Newark, New Jersey etc. and virtually every part of America. Different issues were used to test the practicability of the idea of community policing in different Areas of the states and in each of these states came to the conclusion that it is a more effective and  efficient system. This concept has in fact played a significant role in the response to criminal activities in the United States such as mass shootings and knife attack in the United Kingdom.

Challenges in the Nigerian System:
The Nigeria state shares some remarkable similarity with the United States where community policing is the only system that has been in place for decades. This similarity is mostly shown in the area of ethnic diversity and cultural differences. The states however equally share shown dissimilarity in the way and manner they have been able to harness the beauty of diversity that is evidenced in their day to day lives. The idea of community policing as an upgraded level of security became necessary in the United States due to the vast nature of America and its landmark. Thus, there was need for the community to be more in charge with the management of their own security. This same need is ever growing in Nigeria with the constant security issues that have risen to a surprisingly remarkable level.Nigeria indeed needs a system of security that will reform the system and provide a more suitable system that will be more responsive to the needs of the society. The police need to create a better relationship with the communities as this would encourage more participation in matters of security. Security is a public matter as much as it is an individual matter and if this is the case, it remains my humble opinion that a community that makes its indigenes more involved in security matter would achieve better security than when it is a matter that is squarely in the domain of people that are foreign to that locality.
I also hold strongly that the killings in Kaduna, Zamfara and other parts of the country would have either been averted or at least, a quicker response would have been seen, if there was a communal system of policing in those areas which would enable the states to respond to aggression without having to wait for the federal authorities to respond to every situation. This is because when the indigenes of a locality are in effective management of their own security, there is the tendency that they would be more responsive.
 It is my opinion that if there is a state police system, the nation would have upgraded its security system and consequently the issue of herdsmen attack, Boko Haram and other communal issues would reduce drastically because the communities would be more equipped to handle threats as they arise.
Amongst the advantages that the system of State sponsored policing or communal policing, whichever form one may regard it, would bring about are the provisions of jobs in the society. If this system is adopted, we would be creating over 20,000 jobs in the system. Given that the nation has been notable for the rate of unemployment its citizens suffers and its inability to do anything about it, a reform in the economy that will begin with job creation  would in more ways than one be highly accepted.

            THE IDEAL ESCAPE

The police have in many ways shown that there is need to take further steps to ensure that they are more effective in the performance of their duties as provided under section 4 of the Act. This has been made even clearer given recent events that have been unfolding in the country in recent time.
It is our humble view that the Idea of having only a federal police command that that is highly detached from the community has proved to be highly inefficient in resolving the security problems that are currently facing the nation. This inefficiency is further strengthened by the highly populated nature of the country with its vast landmark which the Intelligence unit of the Federal Police command cannot adequately cover. For there to be improvement in the security of this nation, the Police departments of Nigeria must became proactive and highly connected to the members of the communities so as to be more efficient in understanding the problems of those various communities. This is what is called problem-oriented policing according to Professor Jack R. Greene. Unless we adopt a system of policing that encourages community participation in issues relating to the security of the nation, the recurrent Herdsmen attack; Boko-Haram attacks and other acts of terror will not seize to destroy  the very fabric that still hold this nation in one piece.   In Nigeria today, there are communities which do not have a nearby police command unit that would respond quickly to security issues. Some communities do not even have police command units to ensure that the lives and properties of the inhabitants of those areas are protected equally as the ones in other places.
The argument has been that those areas are very remote which then ultimately begs the question: Should they be deprived of their fundamental right to security of human lives and properties because they are from the rural part of the country?
Indeed this question must be answered in the negative because if given an affirmative answer, it would go against the spirit of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. Thus, the remote nature of these areas where these criminal acts occurs mainly has not in any way or manner taken away the guaranteed rights of the citizens that reside in those areas. We humbly submit that they, in all intents and purposes, deserve equal treatment and reserve equally the same rights as those that live in the urban areas.
  Due to these terrifying acts that are overwhelmingly increasing in our society, it has led the National Assembly to the debate as to whether there should be another police command for the states which would ultimately be referred to as “State Police”. This argument is indeed one which the writer has given much attention to and after due consideration has come to the conscious and irresistible conclusion that it is a move towards the advancement of security if it is adequately set up
Whether it is called “State Police” or “Community Policing” the point we have been trying to make is that there is need for some sort of reform in the set up of security Agencies in Nigeria and it is my opinion that the reform should produce an organization that would be highly connected to the community. No matter what the nomenclature is, the idea is that more Institutions should be established that would be more connected to the States and the communities within the states. A reform like the one I am proposing along side with other jurists is of course, one that cannot be achieved without an Act of the National Assembly. Security/ Arms and Ammunition as an item in the Exclusive legislative list makes it imperative for the national assembly to be instrumental in initiating these long overdue developments in the area of security. It is also our opinion that the State police system should be introduce given the limitless opportunities that would also be created if this reform is introduced. This ranges from Job creation to increase in the welfare of the people and just the security of lives and properties. However, careful measures must be taken to ensure what their functions/limits would be, if any, so that what should be used as an advantage would not finally operate as a disadvantage especially in the hands of politicians. Even though I may not have been able to cover the field given the nature of this paper, it remains my hope that I have shed some light on what would definitely be a stepping stone in the security of this country. Regardless of our political affiliations, the security of this nation should remain a primary objective.

Associate: Chudi Ozokolo & Associates

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