Reforming Police and Policing Reforms.

I have watched and heard a lot about the recommendations of the police reform committee chaired by M D Yusuf. I also watched a programme on AIT (Focus Nigeria) on the 21st April 2009 were the chairman of the police service commission (Parry Osayande) was featured. I agree with most of the recommendations of the police reform committee since it is aimed at improving the security situation in the country. Security is paramount for any venture including the sustenance of our democracy.

I have said it some time ago that the primary purpose of every government is welfare and security. All other duties of governance are secondary. Nigerians are hoping that these recommendations will not be like the two previous police reform recommendations which the past administrations allowed to die a natural death. Very few government projects see the light of the day in Nigeria even when it’s very vital to the society. Otherwise how can you explain why the past governments failed to act on previous police reforms? No society can afford to compromise its security.

The insecurity level in Nigeria demands that the federal government should accord the police reforms its number one priority. No price will be too much for the Nigerian government to pay for the security and safety of its citizens. Insecurity is not an option, therefore security in non negotiable. Insecurity drives local and foreign investor away from investing in Nigeria. It has a multiplier effects. Government should also look into the causes of insecurity in the country. Perhaps solving this problem might go along way in ensuring that people abstain from crime. Government should create job opportunities, or enabling environment for jobs to be created.

I want to suggest to the Nigerian police authorities to present a bill to the National Assembly which will make it a law for the police to take the finger prints of every suspected criminal. This can be extended to other crimes. This is the practice in the developed countries. The Nigerian police should start taking DNA fingerprints. As a matter of urgency, they should build a central database where DNA’s can be stored. This project is possible. Its not rocket science. Nigerian police can do it. I will also use this medium to challenge the Nigerian security experts, IT experts, and other stake holders to come up with a Nigeria made system for taking and storing DNA database. This technology can be copied since its available every where.

DNA fingerprinting will be a valuable tool in the fight against crimes in Nigeria. It will help in investigating cases. Similar technology has been deployed before by the Nigerian government during the registration of ID card scheme. The current e-passport system in Nigeria takes our finger prints. So what the government needs to do is to transfer the national database to the police or the police can share this data base with all relevant government departments. So as soon as a suspect is caught, the DNA fingerprinting should be taken and stored or checked with the ones already in the system.

The Police reform will not be complete if the federal government fails to establish an independent body to investigate the Police officers, including the rank and file. In the United Kingdom, this body is known and called Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). The function of this body should be to investigate police brutality, abuse of their powers, discipline police personnel and punish were necessary. This will be a kind of checks and balances on the Nigerian Police Force. The membership of this body should be people of proven character. I suggest retired judges and retired top civil servants etc. It will make the Nigerian Police to be efficient in the discharge of their duties. This body should have offices in all states of the federation.

The government should look into the Police cells in Nigeria. It’s nothing to write home about. The present system is totally unacceptable. It’s an abuse on the rights of suspects by clamping them in an inhuman condition. No person deserves this inhuman treatment. Not even convicted criminals. Am not expecting immediate changes to the system, but am hoping that the government should extend these reforms to this important sector. It’s not enough to reform the police without touching all this vital sectors.

I will suggest to the federal government to make a law that will link up the Nigerian Police with the Nigerian media. The purpose will be for the Nigerian media to break the news of any crime as its being reported to the police. Such information will help the public a lot. For example a situation were there is a road accident and the Nigerian media reports it to the public as the police is getting the news, will go along way in preventing traffic congestion in that area. This will save the motorist time and money, which will indirectly save the nation some money as well. This is the practise in most countries.

The general public also has a duty to police whatever reforms the Nigerian Police undertakes. That is the Nigeria public should watch and report any breach of the reforms. This is to ensure total compliance on the part of Police personnel. Finally Nigerians should always report suspected members of the public to the police. But the Police have to guarantee not to reveal the identity of the informant no matter the circumstances. If the police go contrary, then the body I recommended above will do its duty of punishing the police officer. May God bless Nigeria.

Chinedu Vincent Akuta
An activist and leader of “Support Option A4 Group” Leicester-UK

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