Civil societies, experts brainstorm on police reforms

Leaders of civil society groups and security experts met in Lagos on Thursday, to brainstorm on ways to achieve better policing in Nigeria.

The public hearing organized by the Network of Police Reform in Nigeria, was designed to complement the efforts of the Parry Osayande-led Police Service Commission (PSC) that has been saddled with reforming the Nigeria Police.

Ayo Obe, the chairperson of the panel said that the public hearing was held “mainly because the government has had a history of establishing police reforms specially for specific crisis of the police.”

“But at the end of the day, when the agony of the crisis seem to die down, so does the government effort,” Ms. Obe added.

Amongst the attendees were activists, lawyers and security consultants. They made presentations ranging from conventional issues like ‘tightening police recruitment, improving welfare, and establishing a state police’. There were also radical suggestions such as “sacking the entire police force and forming a new one.”

“How do we reform a corrupt entity,” Peter Okereke, one of the contributors asked. He went on to suggest that the Indian example where the police was disbanded and fresh officers recruited within six months should be copied.

David Anyaele, another contributor noted that Nigeria Police officers perform better when sent on foreign missions.

“I’ve been privileged to see the Nigeria Police abroad,” Mr. Anyaele, Executive Director of Centre for Citizens with Disabilities said.

He said that the Nigeria Police even get commendations from the leaders of foreign countries on their performance.

“The President of Angola commended the Nigeria Police for the job they did during their independence,” he said.

Mr. Anyaele said that people with disabilities have difficulties accessing the police because there are no departments to attend to complaints from the blind, deaf and dumb.

“Imagine a country where we have shortage of policemen, you have political office holders having seven police officers,” Mr. Anyaele lamented.

Fola Arthurworrey, a security consultant, stated that of the 371,000 police officers in Nigeria, 110,000 are on “VIP duties.”

“The issue of police reform especially as it relates to Nigeria is a very complex one,” Mr. Arthurworrey said. “The critical thing that has been missing in all the debates is who makes the decisions as it relates to the police vis á vis structure and funding.”

Mr. Arthurworrey further stated that the more than 3000 police stations spread all over the country hardly have operational vehicles. 

“I know it because I’m in the system. They look to the police public trust fund for vehicles,” he added.

Bayo Ogunleye, another contributor, said that those clamouring for state policing should take Lagos state as a yardstick. 

“The people they gave uniforms – KAI (Kick Against Indiscipline); LASTMA (Lagos Traffic Management Authority) – are abusing it,” Mr. Ogunleye said.

But in his keynote address, Babatunde Fashola, the Lagos State governor, argued that state policing is crucial to true federalism.

“The opposition to the establishment of state police structures in Nigeria has largely been driven by an exaggerated, misleading and unfounded precedent focusing on the abuse of state police through political interference and manipulation,” said Mr. Fashola, who was represented by Major Tunde Panox, Special Adviser to the governor on
Security.

“If we say we are practicing true federalism,” Mr. Fashola continued, “then each constituent part of the federation such as the states, municipalities and federal governments all have their autonomy for their daily affairs while issues like international affairs, common currency, defence and other unifying interests are vested in the federal government.”


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