Streamlining Law Enforcement Functions in Nigeria

If one were to be involved in crime today in Nigeria: woe betide you -if you are a poor man. The multiplicity of law enforcement agencies that will come after you as well as the confusion of the prosecutorial, investigative or judicial authorities has created a nightmarish system in a country that we are all used to nothing working. In fact, if you catalogue the law enforcement agencies in Nigeria, one is bound to find duplicity of functions, lack of focus and an inability of even the President that presides over this mammoth system to clarify the functions, usefulness or viability of many of the law enforcement agencies under his jurisdiction. More appalling was the inability of security agencies last week to find the Federal High Court where Asari Dokubo was to be tried in Abuja…can you imagine this manner of confusion?

One area that this is most profound is the so called anti-corruption war. What is the line between the activities of the ICPC, the moribund organization that was first given the charge to destroy corruption from our national polity, as opposed to the activities of the virile and action filled EFCC that have since shown to be the worthy crusader in this war that cannot be lost. Me thinks the Akanbi ICPC should be disbanded and folded up into the EFCC and that will further sharpen the teeth of the anti-corruption crusade of Mr. President and may God allow Justice Akanbi enjoy a blissful retirement – we are happy to miss you.

Going back to the main point, in Nigeria today we have the Nigeria Police, FRSC, EFCC, ICPC, Office of Public Prosecution, FIIB, SSS, DMI, NIA, DIA etc. all different agencies that investigate, prosecute and even arrest citizens all over the country without being answerable to anyone. It is high time all these agencies are consolidated into a unified system that will pay more attention to the various stages of fighting an all out war against crime and other social menace. Indeed, in today’s modern world of policing – the fight against crime can be broadly diced up into four components: Intelligence, Investigation, Active Policing, and Prosecution.

For the time being, before the powers that be see reason with the wisdom of decentralized policing, these functions should be credited to four major agencies corresponding to these components. Indeed, some crimes stand out as unique within the context of the Nigerian situation and they may be credited with additional agencies for enforcement (investigation and prosecution) thereby removing the red tape associated with dealing with these heinous crimes within our borders. Two of such crimes are the crime of corruption and the crime of drug dealing. NDLEA and EFCC have proven themselves in these field and should be kept in place, any other agencies putting their fingers into these apple pie should be eliminated to reduce the nightmares of innocent citizens often caught up in the cross fire of this law enforcement madness.

The power of active policing should continue to be exercised by a New police department (not Police Force, we are not under the military Uncle Sege). The new police department, better called the department of public safety should be subdivided to three broad divisions – community police, mobile police and road safety division. The community policing policy should be implemented by deploying at least 60% of the present active police force to their local government of origin and developing household policing on the grassroots level to reestablish the bond that should exist between those protecting and the protected. There should also be efforts to eliminate the barrack system for community police officers, they should live among us and witness the horror of crime instead of holing up in dirt dingy called police barracks. Perhaps the potential robber will think twice before robbing an area if policemen live there and may be the few remaining barracks will be neater if the senior officers and mobile police force members are the occupants.

To eliminate the fears of ethnic coloration, officers of the police department should be excluded from this arrangement and should be allowed to freely move within the 779 local government areas of the federal republic. This will encourage fluidity of ideas, command structure discipline and will allow for gradual decentralization of the presently over centralized police force. The road safety division and highway patrol department should be merged, armed and ridden of corruption. They should enforce speed limits, desist of road blocks and bribe collection and should encourage best practices guiding the issuance of driver’s license and responsible road use. The new mobile force should be a rapid response squad that should report to the respective state governors to nip larger conflicts in the bud and decelerate the alarming growth rate of violent crime in our society.

A new non-uniformed agency of educated and talented young Nigerians should be formed to handle the task of scientific cum forensic investigation of crime that is presently non-existent in our nation. The task of investigating crime scientifically and intelligently should be handed over to a reformed Federal Investigation and Intelligence Bureau modeled after the American FBI. This new force should be preferably headed by a forensic scientist/doctor, lawyer or criminologist that will create it from the scratch with well equipped laboratories, new training college and new methods of unearthing criminals in our nation. The new Bureau should be charged with investigating all crimes except drug related or financial crimes that should be handed over to the specialized agencies created for that sole purpose.

Furthermore, the present State Security Service (SSS) should continue to function as an internal intelligence agency. However, like one more sensitive to the human rights of Nigerians and the limits of its powers under the democratic dispensation. It is suggested that a National Intelligence Agency that has a Foreign Intelligence Service and the SSS as major branches similar to the Mi-5 and Mi-6 model of Great Britain will serve our national interest better in the long run. The functions of updating our policy makers on the state of external and internal security should especially converge in this age of terrorism and ethnic militancy.

Already, the courts have since made it clear that power to prosecute suspects in Nigeria lies exclusively with the Attorney General or his/her subordinates either on the federal or state level. As such, the office of public prosecutions should continue to exist under the Ministry of Justice to try criminals that have been spied upon by the SSS in the planning stage, caught in the act by the active police force, investigated by the newly reformed Federal Investigation and Intelligence Bureau. The power to prosecute should also be credited to the specialized agencies so that they can fully marshal limited national resources on these major fronts in the war against crime in our fledgling society.

In conclusion, in addition these the activities of the stand alone and the main agencies should also be continued to be monitored to ensure they converge with the national policy aim of reducing crime, treating suspects humanely and executing justice in a rapid and precise manner. This will increase the confidence of our citizens in a government that works for everyone, that deploys national resources in a cost effective manner and that truly prides productivity over connection and efficiency over noise making. A country with one Ribadu is definitely better than one with hundred Akanbis and worse still one Balogun! God have mercy.

Last Line:

Chaos and Order are not enemies, only opposites.

Richard Garriott

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