The recent approval of the recruitment of 6,000 additional policemen by President Muhammadu Buhari came as a cheering news. In a country where the total number of policemen is below the number of cops in some cities in the United States, for instance, anything that would beef up the number of policemen should be a welcome development.
Also coming at a time when internal security has become suspect, with killers running riot, especially in the North Central geopolitical zone, the reinforcement of the police would give the citizenry some hope that something is being done to tackle one of the problems plaguing the security body.
However, developments in the police, as they relate to recruitment, have left some Nigerians disillusioned. Now, there are insinuations that some people in government are consciously taking actions that would ensure that the North, for example, dominates the police, in terms of number of personnel and posting of police commissioners on command duty. There is a general belief that the police have more Hausa/Fulani, from the North, than any ethnic group in the country.
The orchestrated “ethnicisation” of the police started last year when 10,000 policemen were recruited. President Buhari had announced, during the National Security Summit organised by the Nigeria Police under IGP Solomon Arase, in conjunction with The Sun Publishing Limited, in 2016 that 10,000 policemen would be recruited. In executing the recruitment, the federal character principle was reinterpreted or deliberately misinterpreted by those in charge. Instead of using the state structure in the recruitment, these government officials insisted that it must be on local government basis. The recommendation of the Police Service Commission (PSC), whose duty it is to recruit policemen, recommend promotion, redeployment and disciplinary actions, to have the exercise done on the basis of the universal state quota system, was jettisoned as these elements in the executive arm of government penetrated the National Assembly, causing an express order to the PSC to adopt the local government quota system in the recruitment of the 10,000 policemen.
In the end, however, there was a combination of the local government quota system and state quota system in the recruitment of constables, assistant superintendents of police (ASP) and inspectors. Each local government area got nine constables, with the Federal Capital Territory’s councils getting five each. For ASP and inspector cadres, each state got 13.
In the 10,000 personnel recruitment, using local government areas to engage police constables, states with large local government areas, irrespective of population, got more policemen than others. In the exercise,the North Central got 1,035 constables, North East, 1,008, and North West, 1,683. When this is summed up, the 19 states in the North produced 3,726 new police constables. And if the 30 constables FCT got are added, it brings the total to 3,756 as against 3,240 for the 17 states in the South. When this is further broken down to states, Kano, with 44 local councils, Katsina, with 34 councils and Borno, with 27 local government areas, produced 396, 306 and 243 (total of 945), which is greater than the 873 policemen that all the five South East states put together got. On the other hand, the South West, with 139 LGAs had 1,251 constables. As I said earlier, the South East, with 97 local councils got 873 constables, with Abia getting 171; Imo, 234; Enugu, 153; Ebonyi, 117 and Anambra, 189. The South South, with a total of 124 councils, got 1,116, with Bayelsa, made up of eight local government areas, getting the least, in terms of states’ share, of 72 constables.
The 2016 lopsidedness in police recruitment is going to recur in 2018 when 6,000 policemen are recruited, as the recruitment will be done, once again, on local government areas quota, which guarantees that states with large number of councils will get more. In the current exercise, if each of the 774 local government areas, for instance, gets seven constables for a total of 5,418 policemen, Kano State, with 44 LGAs, will have 308; Katsina, with 34, will have 238; and Borno, with 27, will get 189. These three states in the North combined will produce 735 policemen, again higher than the five states in the South East, which will get about 672 policemen, based on its total number of 96 local government areas. Again, Bayelsa State, with the least council areas, will get 56. And yet again, the ethnic groups in the South will each lose out, with the South East worst hit.
It is surprising that recruitment into the police would be based on local government when the 1999 Constitution, as amended, does not even recognise it as a tier of government. The constitution recognises the federal and state governments as autonomous tiers of government. The constitution did not give local government autonomy, even though there are local government chairmen, who get allocation from the Federation Account. Federal Character presupposes equal treatment of states, being the federating units. This has always been a cardinal principle in Nigeria. This is why recruitment into the armed forces and the appointment of ministers, for the constitution of the Federal Executive Council, has always been done on states basis, not local government areas.
Apart from the strange formula in police recruitment, there is also something fishy in the posting of police commissioners on command assignment. Now, the North has the greater number of police commissioners nationwide. The South East, as a geopolitical zone, with fives states, has only one police commissioner on command position, in the person of Damian Chukwu, who is commissioner of police in Borno State. Recently, the Imo State Commissioner of Police, Chris Okey Ezike, was redeployed, leaving CP Chukwu as the lone ranger. The question is: Why is it that the South East has only one commissioner of police heading a command out of 36 commands? What is the justification in the South East getting less policemen in recruitment into the force? Why is it that the Igbo police officers, who contributed to the busting of the Evans’ kidnapping syndicate have not got their promotion as their counterparts from other zones in the team?
These are questions I expect the South East governors, leaders, senators, House of Representatives members, socio-cultural groups and individuals to be asking. They should ask these questions because the South East zone has the least number of local government areas and, therefore, would have the least number of new policemen in the current exercise. Surprisingly, the South East zone met in Awka, Anambra State recently and no mention was made of the disparity in police recruitment or the marginalisation of Igbo in posting police commissioners to command positions.
What a missed opportunity! I also expected South South governors, leaders, senators and others to ask these questions. In any case, I am at a loss why the Senate, with equal representation from states (three senators from each state) approved a process that sets aside Federal Character and makes a ridicule of its composition. I wonder how southern senators sat down in that assembly and could not contest the formula for the last police recruitment and the coming exercise.
The Federal Government, made up of the presidency, legislature and judiciary, should look at the police recruitment again. The government should ensure that justice, equity and fairness are brought to bear in the exercise as well as in the posting of police commissioners on command assignment, so that no state or zone will feel cheated. It is by so doing that all components of the country would have a sense of belonging in the police, seeing them as a truly federal security organisation.