The lack of trust between the citizens and members of the Nigeria Police Force has compounded the security challenges in the country, as the NPF is regarded as one of the most corrupt institutions in Nigeria.
Before now, the Police Force was seen as a place for the not-too-good, and even today some families would never willingly allow their children to join the NPF, especially because of the reputation Nigerians have come to know them for over the years.
While there are indeed disciplined men and women in the Force, bad eggs have crept in and sullied the image of the police, many of whom are still destroying that already mangled reputation.
The lack of professionalism has engulfed the police so much so that hardly a day passes without one hearing of the involvement of a member of the police force in one form of crime or the other.
If they are not accused of extra-judicial killing, it will be bribery or aiding and abetting crimes.
The most recent is policemen’s involvement in armed robbery attacks. Though this has been going on for several years, the number of armed robbery attacks which involved policemen has reached an alarming level; and this is all across the nation.
On 16 October this year a traditional ruler alleged that a serving senior police officer was among the robbers who went on a shooting spree during which 23 people were killed in Dogon Dawa village, Kaduna State, north central Nigeria.
Emir of Birnin Gwari, Alhaji Zubairu Jibril Mai Gwari, who made the allegation said that the deadly robbers launched a pre-dawn attack on the village, apparently to free four of their colleagues who were arrested and detained by vigilantes a few days earlier. The armed robbers killed the village head, one of his sons, some villagers as well as nine worshipers coming out of a mosque.
Mai Gwari spoke when he received visiting Kaduna State Governor, Patrick Yakowa, General Officer Commanding (GOC), 1 Mechanised Division, the state Police Commissioner and the Director of State Security Service (SSS).
He alleged that a police officer his people knew very well led the team of armed robbers to Dogon Dawa, and urged authorities to arrest and prosecute him.
He was quoted to have said: “Since I made my statement in public and before the governor and other security chiefs, I know what I am saying. The police officer, who my people and the armed robbers call OC, led the gang that massacred my people.”
The enraged ruler also alleged that the said policeman attempted to stop the arrest of the four suspected armed robbers when the Dogon Dawa vigilante team went to pick them up.
It was not the first time that police officers would be involved in robbery but this particular incident attracted international attention because many lives were lost while the police, who were supposed to protect lives and property, were said to be behind the killings.
The traditional ruler also alleged that when the gang of armed men invaded the community, it was the OC that led and showed the robbers the places to attack.
“This is why I would personally ensure that the man is investigated,” the Emir fumed.
Following the revelation, the Zaria Area Command of the Police Force ordered the arrest and detention of the police officer in question.
However, the Emir of Birnin Gwari said he was sure that the officer was not in detention; he said he suspected that the erring officer may have been transferred to another command.
But the Kaduna State Police Commissioner Olufemi Adenaike or the Command’s spokesman DSP Aminu Lawal are yet to respond to the Emir’s allegation.
Cases of police involvement in robbery operations have been on the rise, which makes people ask how these criminals find their way into the police force.
In the last few years, recruitment into the Nigeria Police Force has become a contentious issue as people say if one pays a certain amount of money, he could be recruited. While the truth or otherwise of this has not been ascertained, certain matters need to be looked into and deductions made.
On 4 October, the Nigeria Police College, Kaduna was reported to have told journalists that it had found a robbery suspect among recruits undergoing training in the college.
The Commandant of the college, Alhaji Sanusi Rufai, told newsmen in Kaduna that the suspect was named by suspected members of his gang after they were arrested by the police in Abuja.
The commandant said details of the suspect’s identity were forwarded to the college, and he was arrested and transferred to the appropriate police unit for investigation.
Rufai said the suspect was among 25 recruits the college disqualified for various inadequacies identified during training.
The commandant said some of the students were found to have presented forged school results, others had criminal records, “while some were withdrawn based on health grounds.”
He added: “Some of the recruits have sight or hearing challenges, while a few others did not attend the schools whose certificates they presented.”
Rufai said the college would continue to screen unfit persons out to ensure that only those with knowledge and good character were allowed to train as policemen and women.
As at the time of the discovery, more than 4,000 recruit constables were currently undergoing a 15-month basic training at the college. The discovery was just in Kaduna. Nigeria also has Police colleges in Maiduguri, Borno State; Oji, Enugu State and Ikeja, Lagos State.
One can imagine how many people of shady character have found their way into the Police Force. Deductive reasoning says up to five per cent of new recruits may be of dubious character, which will eventually rub off on another 20 per cent when they eventually get posted to cities, towns and villages.
This raises the issue of what kind of people are being recruited into the force, how the recruitment is carried out and the criteria for recruiting policemen.
Though the Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Frank Mba, affirmed in an interview recently that police officers are not a collection of angels and that the force has continued to fish out the bad ones and dismissed them. He noted that the force does not have to do a DNA test for a new entrant, but when the force discovers any deviant behaviour, neccessary steps are always taken.
Mba added that in some cases it is usually too late to trace such deviant behaviour because such a person would have grown in the service and become a senior officer. By then, the damage has been done.
It is obvious that there are no mechanisms in place to weed out criminals who join the force, hence they have continued to commit crimes even while in uniform. The only available means is the screening which is mainly guess work; even then a very high number of people of questionable character find their way into the force.
Our checks traced this problem to the fact that the police have not imbibed a tradition of discipline in the way of recruiting people into the force. Some of the problems include nepotism and bribery. Prospective recruits have been known to bribe their way into the police force, and officers at the recruitment centres cannot swear they don’t know this.
These crooked men eventually get into police uniform, they engage in all forms of criminality— renting out their guns to armed robbers, providing information to robbers, intimidating people, helping land speculators grab other people’s land, mounting illegal road blocks, helping smugglers by escorting their goods and actually robbing people at gun point, among many others. It is therefore not surprising that some policemen and even officers have been caught or linked to many crimes.
It was widely suspected that policemen were involved in the recent robbery incident in Lagos, during which some police officers and civilians lost their lives.
Further checks revealed that recruitment is no longer based on merit, if it had ever been. It is whom you know and how much you can afford. By implication, all manner of unqualified people are enrolled while credible people do not get recruited.
According to police sources who did not want their names in print for obvious reasons, “the rot in recruitment exercise begins when the forms are made available to candidates.
“Those who are qualified are disqualified during the screening exercise and all kinds of people are brought in through the quota system, after a specific amount has been paid through an agent.
“Again, top officers in the force and influential people in the society send the names of their candidates.”
“Most people that come through these ways are usually deviants and criminal-minded young men and women whose relations consider them a thorn in their fresh and push them out to the police to enable them have peace in their homes, families and communities,” the police source added.
But Mba denied the claim that police is a dumping ground for deviants. He said majority of officers have reputation, integrity and are well educated to help imbibe professionalism into the force. He noted that the few bad ones are gradually being shown the way out.