Insecurity: The Option of Community Policing


Lastweek, “Scars” had been with the people of Nigeria seeking an urgent security overhaul that could settle the nationwide security challenges. Drastic measures were suggested, especially with the need for President Muhammadu Buhari, himself a former army general to take the bull by the horn. It seems this columnist still reflects on this issue, especially as the kidnapped police commissioner in Adamawa now regains freedom.

The subject matter for this week is community policing. The concept has been on the drawing board for a long time, especially in Nigeria. The strategy itself had been around in the United States as far back as the early 1980’s. It is generally viewed as a law enforcement philosophy that allows officers to continuously operate in the same area in order to create a strong bond with citizens living and working in an area. It is a strategy which allows public safety officers to engage with local residents for prevention of criminality.

Of course, while the traditional policing is responsive or reactionary, the community policing is preventive and proactive. The idea of community policing is to focus on creating a safe social environment; engage residents to determine which criminal activities they most experience; create an accurate law enforcement priority list, shaped by the people who live in the area, as we as encourage residents to participate with law enforcement in order to keep their own community safe.

This approach to tackling insecurity can clearly be seen as appropriate, especially in the Nigerian society. With a vast landmass of 923,768 km² and about 200 million people, Nigeria is a large country with very serious need for effective security. Nearly 70 percent of this population is said to be made of the youths. The rate of unemployment is itself a pointer to the fact that an idle youth population have a high propensity to becoming the devil’s workshop.

Crimes of all magnitude have continued to constitute threats to peaceful coexistence among citizens of the country. On a daily basis, the country is plagued by dangerous stories of criminality. Ranging from armed robbery, kidnapping, banditry, murder, to the rest, the security architecture of the country is in sorry state. Just last week end, armed robbers in uniform of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) attacked commuters on a major road.

People group themselves and break into shops, banks, supermarkets, pharmacies and other public places, carting away various volumes of money. On highways, major roads, streets, and even open markets, notorious criminals will chose to die than recede from their resolute decision of armed robbery. Everywhere in the Nigerian society is populated by jobless youths who may be forced to engage in any available opportunity for survival. In view of the facts surrounding policing in Nigeria and the growing need to provide effective security, one will not hesitate to subscribe to the option of community policing.

Mary Kimani of Africa Researcher Magazine had in an investigative piece sometime in 2009, noted that Nigeria had more than 370,000 police officers and a police-to-citizen ratio of 1:400, which more than met the UN’s recommended figure. She threw up the open paradox as was submitted by two scholars, Rita Abrahamsen and Michael Williams at the University of Wales, that Nigerian society “is over-policed and under-secured.”

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s population was estimated at 154.4 million by the year 2009 when the research was said to have been undertaken. This in itself, appear unrealistic. But the important thing is that, supposed the data was correct, thoughtful Nigerians would appreciate it from the prism of critical examination, regarding the level of over deployment of security personnel to those who can pay, while areas with serious security needs are neglected. The United Nations recommends one police to four hundred and fifty people, 1:450.

However, the immediate past Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, in November 2018, revealed that about 334,000 policemen were in service in Nigeria. By November 2019, the NPF has a staff strength of about 371,800. There are indications that the number shall be increased to 650,000, with about 280,000 new recruits to be engaged.

The current ratio of one police per citizen with about 200 million people in Nigeria shows a negligible reality of one police to five hundred and thirty-nine people (1:539). This ratio is grossly inadequate and cannot provide for the security needs of the Nigerian society. Hence, the option of community policing should not be a thing of debate, before it is considered by the country’s policy makers for implementation.

In February 2018, the eight Senate, through a motion moved by the lawmaker representing Osun West Senatorial District, Senator Ademola Adeleke, invited the police boss to make inputs on the bill seeking to establish community policing. The motion which attracted massive support by the Senate was entitled, ‘The Need to Post Junior Cadre of the Nigeria Police Force to Their States and Local Government Area to Enhance Community Policing in Nigeria.’

Adeleke had noted, “It is desirous that the lower ranks of the Nigeria Police – Constable to the rank of Inspector – be posted to their respective states of origin to improve and impact positively on community policing through synergy with vigilante groups and traditional rulers to address the current state of insecurity in the country.” With express approval from Senate, the then police boss, IGP Ibrahim Idris was summoned by the Senate Committee on Police Affairs to make inputs on the modalities of establishing community policing in Nigeria.

Recently, the current Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu, revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari had directed him to immediately commence the implementation of community policing strategy across the country. He was speaking in Kaduna, during a meeting of forum of northern traditional rulers, where he said “the structure, would enable traditional rulers to maintain an effective cultural and social control over their subjects.” According to him, the community policing model envisaged for the country would involve the establishment and utilisation of the special constables, as provided for in Section 50 (1) of the Police Act Cap P19 LFN 2004.

With community policing, Nigerian residents can have a more favorable view of their local police department. The approach can obviously improve trust between law enforcement agents and the citizens. This can trigger a more accurate information from residents regarding criminal activities in their community, while also giving better understanding of the needs of citizens and their expectations of the police.

It was the idea of community policing that informed the decision of the late Inspector-General of Police, IGP Etim Inyang to establish the Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC). The gesture was to enhance free relationship between police officers and relevant community leaders in maintaining peaceful coexistence in the country.

The concept of community policing will certainly build strong ties between the police and members of the community through interactions with local agencies and members of the public — creating partnerships and strategies for reducing crime and disorder. With proper synergy, collaboration and engagements with all authorities, security stakeholders and community leaders, the implementation of community policing will improve Nigeria’s security situation. It is even rumoured that President Buhari has approved fresh recruitment of 400,000 Police Officers ahead of full Community Policing implementation. Accordingly, the Police Affairs Ministry is said to be responsible for the execution of the Community Policing Policy, the Public Security Trust Fund, and Recruitment of 400,000 officers nationwide.

Although there is yet to be any official statement from the presidency, it will be a smashing breakthrough on the fight against insecurity, if this rumour becomes a reality. Jobless and mostly graduate youths in communities around the country must be engaged in this concept and told why they must be active partners in securing life and property in their society.

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