According to Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, about three hundred and thirty-four thousand policemen are currently policing Nigeria. This means that the police force forms about zero point one-seven per cent of the total population.
This figure is nowhere near enough to uphold the rule of law in Nigeria. Many have acknowledged that manpower is one major problem that the Nigeria Police Force is facing and considering that death, retirement and dismissal cause a loss of about nine thousand and twenty-eight police personnel per year, it appears that the Nigerian Police Force is running at a deficit. The NPF is already attempting to cover the deficit by running mass recruitment initiatives frequently. However, it appears there are more complicated factors limiting the size of the police force.
Public perception of the NPF is overwhelmingly negative. A study conducted in Benue State regarding the ability of the police in that region to curb kidnapping indicated that most individuals had little or no faith at all in the police. Ninety-five percent of respondents disagreed with the notion that the police is effective in curbing kidnapping. While thirteen percent of respondents believed that corruption is an obstacle to effective policing, twenty percent asserted that poor public perception was the greatest obstacle to policing.
Effective policing cannot reasonably take place with such little public trust in Nigerian law enforcement. This is where the NPF must begin to tackle its challenges in recruitment, as more citizens will be attracted to the force if it is held in higher esteem.
It may also be that community policing strategies can compensate for low recruitment rates within Nigerian law enforcement. The IGP had a point when he expressed the view that community policing strategies could play a major role in reducing cases of the most pressing security challenges confronted by Nigerian law enforcement agencies.
It would not be out of reach to set up a neighbourhood watch in most Nigerian neighbourhoods, and as Nigeria tends to be a collectivistic society, such a system would fit in perfectly with social norms and ‘good neighbour’ conventions. In addition to that, the existing police should attempt to mend its relationship with the public through community outreach programmes.
We need more police officers. But in order for this to happen, current police officers have a lot of work to do to regain public trust and respect. Then and only then can we see the Nigerian Police Force rise to meet the demands of our increasingly growing population.
May God Bless our beloved country, Nigeria.
Funmilayo Adetokunbo A-A, a political and International Affairs Analyst, writes from Somerset, England, United Kingdom.