The recent order by President Muhammadu Buhari to the police authorities to recruit 6,000 additional personnel is good. The exercise will boost the capacity of the police to handle increasing security challenges, especially the incessant farmers/herders clashes that have led to avoidable deaths in recent times.
This is the second time in the life of the present administration that the government would authorise fresh recruitment into the force. In 2016, for example, President Buhari approved the recruitment of 10,000 policemen into the Nigeria Police Force as a way of beefing up its numerical strength.
These recruitments represent government’s effort to fill the gap in terms of the number of men required to adequately police the country. Nigeria has about 400,000 policemen securing its growing population, which the National Population Commission (NPC), put at 198 million. This translates to an average of one policeman to 495 citizens, which is not in tandem with the United Nations (UN) recommended standard of one policeman to 222 persons.
If we want to attain the UN standard, Nigeria needs to increase its present number of police personnel. While we commend the government for its latest attempt to increase the number of our policemen, we add that the present effort does not go far enough. If the manpower gap is to be bridged, the government needs to sustain on a yearly basis the recruitment of 20,000 policemen into the force in the next ten years. This can be done if the government can muster enough political will to do so. Besides, more emphasis must be laid on the need for training and retraining of the members of the force and equipping them adequately with techniques of modern policing.
The state of disrepair in most of our police colleges is deplorable. Government should address the decay in these police institutions and raise the standard of training to conform with global best practices. We cannot condone a situation where our police recruits are subjected to maltreatment and extortions all in the name of training. The image of the police is so battered that many university graduates cannot consider or dream of being in the force. This contrasts sharply with what obtains in the United States, Britain and other advanced countries.
Changing the image of the police is the challenge before the country and its ruling elite. The image of the police is at an all time low and therefore, decisive steps must be taken to improve it. The present difficulties we have on the security front, if anything, urgently recommend it. The government should quickly reposition the police by equipping them adequately with all necessary gadgets for policing in a 21st Century world. Apart from increasing the number of policemen, we also have to improve their quality, too. This may have informed the President’s caution that the recruitment must be spread across the 774 Local Government Areas in the country. It is not surprising that misfits and people with questionable character might have been erroneously recruited into the police force.
Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, had alluded to this anomaly in the recruitment into the force before. The country cannot afford to continue on that unhelpful path any longer. Persons of sound mind and requisite educational qualifications are the only ones good enough for our police force.
For high quality personnel for the force, we recommend that henceforth a minimum of Ordinary National Diploma (OND) should be the entry point into the police force. In addition to that, government must improve the conditions of service of the force. The Federal Government should also consider introducing state police as a way of combating rising insecurity in the land.