By Aare Afe Babalola, SAN
Sequel to the previous discussion, this week, I will emphasise on the lack of proper, modern policing tools and equipment, as well as lack of good accommodation and effective training system which, no doubt, has negatively impacted the capacity of the Nigerian police to effectively carry out their duties.
Lack of modern equipment:
Another serious problem confronting the Police is lack of modern tools (equipment). This can be sub-divided into (i) communication, (ii) vehicles, boats and marina crafts (iii) aircraft and helicopters; and (iv) special modern weapons/arms and ammunition. As rightly observed by the former Inspector-General of Police “the beauty of policing is in operations; at the heart of operations is communication”. A crime-combating organisation that lacks basic functional communication gadgets in this twenty-first century is doomed. With obsolete, non-functional communication equipment both at state and federal levels, the police cannot but fail in the war against crime in this country.
When one juxtaposes the highly sophisticated equipment being used by dare-devil armed robbers which include communication gadgets, with those at the disposal of Nigerian policemen, it becomes evident that the comparison has no relevance at all. This is why one cannot but agree with the view that miracles credited to police forces in developed countries today are attributable substantially to computerisation and techno-communication. It is estimated that each police division needs 12 walkie talkies for ease of communication as well as expansion of repeater network; more mobile and base sets; acquisition of at least 3,000 units of 40KVA generators; transponder and the digitalisation of the analogue system and several new telephone lines.
It is an eyesore that today in Nigeria and in the 21st century for that matter, over 90 per cent of Nigerian Police Divisions have no functional telephone lines. That the divisions, area commands, state commands and zonal commands in this country cannot communicate effectively even within the organisation let alone with the public should give each and every one of us serious worries. Where then do we go from here? In other serious climes across the globe (even nearby smaller Togo, Republic of Benin, South Africa, etc. not to talk of advanced countries) effective communication with the police is a sine qua non.
Here in Nigeria, it is common sight to see policemen stationed within short distance along the same route but unable to communicate with one another in cases of emergency like car theft or armed robbery. The effect is that the victim is permanently deprived either of his life or property and the society becomes the overall loser. In like manner, vehicles, boats, marine crafts, aircraft and helicopters including special, modern and sophisticated weapons are either in terribly short supply or practically non-existent.
Little wonder then that armed robbery, kidnapping, smuggling and other vices are on the constant phenomenal rise. In this respect, it must be noted that criminals have particularly realised the inadequacy of the police as most notorious kidnappings and armed robbery incidents have been carried out by bandits who operated from the creeks. Force animals like police dogs and horses have almost disappeared from police kennels and stables. It is my view that if Nigeria needs efficient and modern police, the police must be well equipped. Every policeman on patrol should have a walkie talkie on him or her.
Accommodation and training: One of the three most essential needs of man for his meaningful existence on earth is shelter or accommodation. The others being food and clothing, among others. Quoting from the Instruction Book of the Metropolitan Police Service, “Police work can be very dangerous and stressful. In addition to the obvious dangers of confrontations with criminals, officers need to be constantly alert and ready to deal appropriately with a number of other threatening situations. Many law enforcement officers witness death and suffering resulting from accidents and criminal behaviour. A career in law enforcement may take a toll on officers’ private lives.
“Uniformed officers, detectives, agents and inspectors are usually scheduled to work 40-hour weeks but paid overtime is common. Shift work is necessary because protection must be provided around the clock. Junior officers frequently work weekends, holidays, and nights. Police officers and detectives are required to work at any time their services are needed and may work long hours during investigations. In most jurisdictions, whether on or off duty, officers are expected to be armed and to exercise their arrest authority whenever necessary.
“The jobs of some Federal Agents such as US Secret Service and DEA Special Agents require extensive travel, often on very short notice. They may relocate a number of times over the course of their careers. Some special agents in agencies such as the US Border Patrol work outdoors in rugged terrain for long periods and in all kinds of weather.”
The above, with the exception of the issues of payment of overtime and the number of hours required to work per week best captures the nature of police work even in Nigeria. The deduction one easily makes from all this is that a good welfare programme which include habitable modern accommodation ought to be a natural package for members of the Nigeria Police. Again, and sad enough, this is not the case.
Both in terms of office and residential accommodation (barracks), the situation on the ground paints a most ugly picture. And a look around at what we call police stations, officers and barracks in Nigeria is nothing short of a complete failure on the planners and executors of some our policies. The existing police barracks are not only poorly maintained but many are also dilapidated and need rehabilitation and provision with water, good road and electricity for the policemen and their families.
It is my respectful opinion that enough modern barracks should be constructed and equipped with modern facilities to take care of the expected rising numerical strength of the police. It is equally good to have the policeman live among the people as they are regarded, under normal situation, as part of the people. This, in turn, presupposes the provision of good habitable housing so as not to allow the people the police are supposed to serve look down on them.
There is no way a policeman who lives in a wooden make-shift room as we have in certain barracks especially in Lagos, together with his wife, children sometimes with relatives and dependents and under extreme unhygienic condition can perform the best of his ability. The appearance of a policeman is of utmost importance and the police uniform is meant to further project the image of the police through identification.
To regard the materials put on by many policemen in Nigeria as police uniform is to do a monumental injustice to the use of words. Those tattered and faded clothing’s on our police officers cannot qualify as police uniform at all. Lack of adequate training and training facilities are conspicuous problems militating against the effective performance of the police in this country. These, by extension, have led many, both within Nigeria and without, to regard our police officers as half baked as a result of poor training. The basic training wherewithal, as in other instances, are just not there.
Perhaps, the former Inspector General of Police got it right when he submitted that “our training institutes all over the country are, however, in deplorable conditions and can hardly cope with our proposed training needs. Buildings for offices and residence of instructors are in poor state of maintenance due to paucity of funds. Library facilities and teaching aids, all pre-requisites of effective learning, are virtually non-existent. There is also the need to resuscitate overseas training, courses and seminars to re-orient the police in their new roles.”
Our police colleges should, among others, be equipped with modern training facilities to enhance the quality of training, cum education, being received by the would-be policemen. It is said that not all our policemen are capable of handling arms and modern weapons. Gone are the days when mobile policemen were revered. This lapse as a matter of urgency should be addressed.
When all is said and done, we all stand to benefit from a modern, well equipped and trained police force. While the citizens will feel safe in the knowledge that they are well protected, the Policeman would feel confident in the discharge of his duties knowing that he has the right equipment and tools to fight crime. That is the only way to restore public confidence in the Police.