Review of "Obstacles to Effective Policing in Nigeria" by Emmanuel C. Onyeozili

Topics: Police, Colonialism, Crime Pages: 5 (1893 words) Published: October 11, 2007
The article chosen for review is "Obstacles to effective policing in Nigeria" by Emmanuel C. Onyeozili. It follows the changes in the policing system in Nigeria from pre-colonial to post-colonial systems. It aims to add support to the claim that colonialism and the methods of colonial policing were not in the best interest of the people native to the areas that became Nigeria. The information presented in the article is based on an ethnographic observation of happenings from independence, the Nigerian civil war, military regimes and representative governments as well as data analyzed from magazines, newspapers, academic articles and other documents as well as convenient sample personal interviews. Colonialism involves the rule or taking of territory of one people by another and without their consent. It is a highly controversial topic and the positive and negative aspects have been heavily debated. Expounders of colonialism use former colonies such as the United States of America, Canada, Australia and Hong Kong as expamples of post-colonial success. However these are not typical examples since they were settler societies or tradepost cities and do not reflect the normal course of colonialism. Critics point point out that the acquisition of land and subsequent mistreatment of the native people far outweigh the professed benefits of education and civilisation. Despite arguments put forward by colonists their presence did more harm than good, harm which remains ingrained in Nigeria and other African nations today. The change from traditional values and institutions to harsh corrupt control of the colonists did nothing to help the native and in fact burdened their peoples more.

When colonial control was extablished the eventual emergence of a foreign and illegitimate ruling class led to the need to subdue and monitor the indigenous people to prevent any organized rebellion. So that communities that resisted the new colonial master were dealt with using military force. It was said that the change from traditional values and institutions was necessary since they were seen as unruly and lawless, an image purported by the slave trade and colonialism. It was fitting therefore that the first modern police force in the area was known as the Hausa police and were in fact paramilitary in nature. They dealt with mostly military duties and were perpetually attacked by the public that resented their presence. The police came to be known as the Armed Hausa Police Force and courts were established that sought the interests of the colonists. This movement away from the traditional systems of control where self control was encouraged instead of forced military control was not to the benefit of the people but did make controlling the population substantially easier for colonists. These tactics of brutality and terror have been maintained by post-colonial governments and used against their opponents. The police underwent further changes and had goals and clearly delineated duties, "the prevention and detection of crime, the repression of internal disturbance, and the defense of the Colony and protection against external aggression" Even though the Lagos Police ha these duties law-and-order maintenance and riot suppression remained the main emphasis over social services. After that the amalgamation of the police of the Colony of Lagos and the Southern Nigerian Protectorate was important to the establishment of national police in Nigeria although their main duty remained the management of colonial disorder making Nigerians amenable to colonial exploitation and administration, policies continued to be formed to suppress and repress the need for freedom from the colonial interests. To perform these duties better they continued to be semi-military in nature. This was necessary because of the opposition of several chiefs and their people who continued to fight for their rights so that the execution of the powers of the police was widely...

Cited: factors include nepotism, ethnicism, corruption, early socialization and language differences. Institutional constraints also contributed such as inadequate manpower, insufficient education among other poor conditions. Ethnicism was a prominent factor in the break down in law and order , in addition the problems of religious and inter-communal conflicts also played a role since the police often took sides thereby intensifying conflicts and tarnishing police reputation. Ethnic nationalism had the potential to be a positive force but deep seated animosity and easy access to arms and ammunition fueled the battles. Corruption in the form of "God-fatherism" involved the protection of the "connected" criminals from prosecution. This kind of corruption plagues numerous countried of the third world and further discourages public faith in the police. When there are unslved assassinations of high profile persons and police are rumoured to be involved directly of indirectly by turning a blind eye to these crimes only demonstrated the obvious police corruption present. This corruption in fact infiltrated all facets of the police force. Another part of the corruption identified by former minister of Police Affairs, David Jemibewon identified the "Nigerian Factor" where promotions and appointments were not based on performance but given to friends and relatives whether or not they are qualified to hold such a position. The problem of miscommunication also is quite a problem. When the many peoples of the semi-illiterate society use their "mother tongue" it creates a situation where outsiders can not effectively communicate with the native people. There are also constitution problems where the police are concerned, especially where th police under the command of an executive president and have been used to silence opposition forces. The involvement of police in political governance usually creates a situation where the neutrality of the police is compromised. This can be seen in the participation of the police in stae political governance during the military regimes of 1966-1917 and 1984-1999. The efficient performance of duties of the law enforcement process is very important to the effective functioning fo society. In Nigeria crime and violence is rampant demonstrating the glaring inadequacies of the police. Robberies, assassination, arson, looting, and child-theft are no longer the exception to the rule. The police force were subjected to witheld salaries as a means of subjecting them to mental anguish and inactivity until 1999, so by the time the country returned to democratic rule the police was reduced to a set of unarmed, demoralized semi-zombies. In order to survive a large number of them extort money from commercial drivers at illegal checkpoints set up for just that purpose as well as join armed robbery gangs. These facts further add to public mistrust of the police. As a response to the repressive military rule a number of ethnic militant groups came to the forefront to take their lives into their own hands. These groups demand their autonomy and ethnic rights while managing to have base appeal to the population manifested by the tacit support at the government level at the state level. The federal government however does not recognise them and have outlawed them. This has not changed the need for them in the states that rely on them for the protection of live and property in the absence of an effective police force. They have been criticized for their methods in usurping the judicial role and as cntributed to the loss of many innocent lives and property in a brazen contempt for fundamental human rights. Despite these problems there are benfits of the militant activities of the ethnic armies. Their struggle is based on the principle of justice, equity and fair play a welcome change to the fraud, cime and corruption so prevalent in society. By doing these things they have given hope to the common man in a country where people have no confidence in the government or the police. Even many prominent individuals have occasionally expressed support for the localized vigilante groups within limited areas of operation.
The government needs to understand that genuine need for change underlies the activities of the local vigilante groups. Dialogue should be undertaken with these groups to establish legal parameters for them to operate within rather than a clampdown on them using force. These groups also employ indigenous ways to identify criminals which would be of great service to the police force. The police force itself is in great need of a new modus operendi and the six-point program for their development presented by Mr Sunday Ehindero is a move in the right direction. The public view of the police cannot be changed overnight and concerted effots must be made to remedy the tarnished image of the police over time. The first real issue to be tackled is the prevalent corruption present in the police force so that the problem of spiraling crime can be more effieciently dealt with. Another policy that can be implemented is to defer prosecution from the police to a different government agency so that the fear of prosecution will make controlling police corruption and excesses easier. A revision of the salaries of police would also be welcome making their salaries more competitve, regular and timely therefore reducing the temotation to take bribes and be involved in corruption and extortion. Police aslo should not be allowed to hold political office that would affect their sense of neutrality and impariality or cause them to have allegiance to whoever gave them power. Education can also play a key role in getting the police force on its feet, the officers can be educated in criminal law and social sciences. This would help them to relate better to the population and give them a greater understanding of their jobs so that they can perform better. the promotion of officers should be based on a system of meritocracy and not based on affliation so that individuals can aspire to climb the ranks based on their genuine abilities and performance. Te author also suggests the decentralization of the Nigerian police an idea that can be seen to have some merit. The separation into a three-tier police structure the federal police, the state police and the local governmant police will maintain police for federal and state matters while keeping a local unit to deal with communities on a more intimate basis. Thereby keeping the people and the police closer more progress will be made.
Nigeria has been seen as a corrupt country much like other third world countries left to fend for themselves after the onslaught of colonialism. The systems put in place by colonialism keep the country from progressing in any meaningful way once they attain independence. Another problem not addressed in the article is the backlog of the criminal justice system. It was so bad that the government resorted to periodic amnesties just to reduce the inmate population. There have been others fghting against the corruption such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the fight continues.
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