Police reform: role of police in a new Nigeria

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Police reform

A pharmacist developed several drugs for curing various diseases that afflicted people in a large city. He opened different branches in all the city’s district and employed few managers for administering the drugs to patients. Before retiring to the main office, he briefly instructed the managers on the symptoms of different diseases, and corresponding drugs for them. Though, many of the managers lacked former healthcare training, they zealously took over the healthcare duty with their shallow understanding, and continue to record more casualties. Without proper understanding of adequate social structures, police and other law-enforcement agencies do more harm than service to the society.


The feeling among many Nigerians at the sight of Nigerian policemen may be far from pleasant. Their public-opinion allegations range from employing former criminals and unqualified persons, to being champions of corruption, brutality and injustice. Several encounters with Nigerian police makes it difficult to accept the “police is your friend” mantra. Though some good officers may strive to redeem the institution’s image, the foundation of the institution still frustrate their efforts. Hence, without understanding the foundation and purpose of police in the society, there may not be a remedy.


Progressive societies are formed by members’ agreement to collaborate in using their resources to produce what they need for sustenance and profit. Plato suggests that a good society has administrators, protectors and producers, who agree to contribute their share for the society. After negotiating and agreeing on modes of collaboration, members of the society write down the agreement as their guiding law. The society hands over their agreement to law-enforcement agents, to ensure smooth organisation of the society. The police are thus guided by the people’s agreement, legitimate laws, to guide the society.


Functions of the police includes:

  • Properly studying the people’s agreement (laws) to be properly guided in their operations.
  • Reminding the people about their agreement through public enlightenment programs
  • Using the people’s agreement to regulate the society in case of public disorder
  • Investigating, apprehending and prosecuting defaulters of the agreement
  • Using commensurate force to halt public disorders and restore order


These functions are very sensitive functions that require highly coordinated persons to avoid social breakdown. Among the qualities required from police personnel include:

  • Ability to adapt to different situations and learn fast in new situations
  • Demonstrated ability to intellectually understand the society and its agreement (laws)
  • Meet up with standard university admission requirements[1]
  • Retentive memory, facial recognition and sociable personality
  • Psychological balance and mental sanity certified by reliable clinical psychologists
  • Physical fitness, energy and sound health history
  • Able to learn about maintaining and handling weapons, to avoid accidental discharges
  • Original citizenship, background verifiable moral character and commitment for the society
  • Having no history of felony conviction, domestic or sexual abuse, illegal drug use and driving or financial recklessness.[2]

These requirements become necessary for the police personnel to sustain order and respect for human rights/dignity in a society according to the people’s agreement – law.


Nigeria is a country of hundreds of nations, kingdoms and communities, colonially yoked together WITHOUT CONSENT under a militarized federal government.[3] Nigerian laws derive from the Nigerian constitution, which was imposed by the same colonialists and militarily sustained by successive governments.[4] The Nigerian police derived its authority from the same imposed constitution[5], which has not implied the consented of the governed. Though members of the Nigerian police strive for social justice, the institution remains an appendage of a colonial scheme: to contain the natives within the territory, barring them from interfering in the foreign exploitation of their local resources.


The present Nigerian police developed from the Royal Niger Company Constabulary (North) and the Niger Coast Constabulary (South). These colonial police were associated with native authorities for containment until 1960s, when they became regionalised and then nationalised.[6] With nationalization of police, policemen from different tribes or groups can be deployed to any part of the country. They are controlled from the central government in accordance with the colonial intention that brought the Nigerian constitution. Thus, the police follows the prejudice of whoever is in power as directed by the colonially-imposed constitution without understanding the principles behind the laws they enforce.

Some people suggest that police reform in Nigeria must begin with sacking the old and corrupt officers, who cannot learn modern tricks. Yet, they forget the place of experience and the possible effect of disengaging officers without providing other sources of income. It may not be odd to believe that some people joined police because of unemployment, not because of love of the job. And when given the opportunity to take other lucrative jobs, some policemen will quickly switch over.


Resolving the problem of Nigerian police may not be possible without resolving the problem of the Nigerian agreement and productivity. Nigerian ethnic communities have never agreed on terms and conditions for collaborating in using their resources for producing what they need. Instead the central government auctions the resources to foreigners, while using military and police force to contain the natives. The government ensures ruthlessness by posting officers from different tribes to contain other tribes against different calls for community police. Reordering the role of police in Nigeria may include few processes:

  • Organizing intra-sectional conferences that will culminate in a national conference for ethnic communities to decide who they are, what they have and how they want to collaborate in Nigeria. This includes knowledge of their native population in preparation for proper bio-data collection, and knowledge of their economic resources.
  • Writing down their agreement as the people’s constitution with “consent of the governed”, and governing laws for harmonious productivity.
  • Smaller communities choose to link up as (sub) sections according to common resources or affinity.
  • Each section trains their people for using their resources to produce what they use, trade and remit as federal tax. At this point, people begin to appreciate their productive membership in their sections, and would like to protect the sustainable way of life adopted in their laws.
  • Each of the ethnic communities form their police bodies (of known and trusted indigenes) linked through a sectional command and regional command to the federal police.
  • The sectional commands are formed from special agents sent from community police within the section; regional command are formed from designated agents from different sections under a region; while federal police is formed from agents from the different regions.
  • The structure is mainly sponsored by the federal tax and supported at different levels by regional, sectional and communal revenues. The extent of the sponsorship in personnel pay, welfare and risk allowances, encourages full commitment to duty.
  • The police academies upgraded to tertiary institutions with specialized courses in security, laws, information technology, general administration, education or other relevant courses.


The purpose of law enforcement is correction, not killing its own citizens. Except in extreme cases of self-defence, rehabilitating a misguided citizen is more fruitful to the society than killing. The society benefits from the transformational testimonies of previously misguided citizens, who became useful to the society. This is why every society has several correctional facilities (prisons) for rehabilitating and empowering their misguided citizens for productivity.


When a society is not ordered for productivity, no amount of policing will soothe a physically strong, but jobless, hopeless and angry people.

[1] Cf. Egon Bittner, The Functions of the police in modern society (Maryland, USA: National Institute of Mental Health, Nov 1970)

[2] http://www.discoverpolicing.org/what_does_take/?fa=requirements

[3] Cf. S. O. Oyedele, “Federalism in Nigeria” in Issues contemporary political economy of Nigeria (edited) Hassan A. Saliu, op.cit, p.57

[4] Cf. Chukwunwike Enekwechi, “Education in Nigeria: liberation or indoctrination” in Restartnaija, 23 November, 2017. https://restartnaija.com/2017/11/23/education-liberation-indoctrination/ retrieved 25th February, 2018

[5] Section 194 of the 1978 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigeria_Police_Force

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigeria_Police_Force/