Nigeria police and checkpoints
Monday, 19 March 2012 00:00
SHORTLY after assuming office as helmsman of the Nigeria Police, the Acting Inspector- General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, announced the dismantling of the ubiquitous police check-points across the country, to eliminate their nuisance-value on Nigeria's highways.
It was also part of overall plans, to sanitise police operations.““But this step elicited mixed reactions from some quarters of society. While some applauded it as a way of curbing the excesses of bribe-taking policemen on the highways, others booed it as a mere invitation to anarchy and conceding too much ground, to the men of the underworld.““One critic of the measure, Friday Ituah, a member of the House of Representatives, sponsored a bill seeking a reversal of the order of the police high command. Itulah argued that the IGP’s action had led to an unprecedented wave of robberies on the highways.
“Hardly had he ended his presentation, when it was shot down by a tumultuous majority voice vote. Contributing to thendebate, Ayo Omidiran and Udoh Ibeji, submitted that armed robbers had always terrorised road users, without the policemen at the checkpoints being able to adequately address this.““In a rather caustic but frank contribution, Hon. Omidiran may have spoken the mind of the general public, when she asked "how many robbers and terrorists were the police able to apprehend, when the check points were in place?" The House therefore urged the IGP to continue with his security plans.““The truth is that, Abubakar must now roll up his sleeves, and get on top of the challenge of insecurity in Nigeria. He must also ensure the country has an effective and disciplined police force. In short, he has to fix its damaged image as well as address its operational lapses.““It is true that there have been several reported cases of robbery on the highways.
But a school of thought argues that those incidences are man-made and artificial; designed to prompt a reversal and take the wind out of any planned reformation efforts, making it appear as if police check points, are inevitable and unquestionably desirable. “We believe that dismantling the check points is a right and timely step. It will ease the artificial traffic snarl caused by the check points, where extortion takes place willy-nilly; acts that demean the Nigeria Police as a law enforcement institution. Viable alternatives to guarantee security must be explored without further delay.“It remains unclear what happened to the Federal Highway Patrol of the mid-1980s? The best way out of the current quagmire, is for the Nigeria Police not to be swayed by sentiments, but to earnestly forge ahead with its reforms and as an alternative, reestablish a comprehensive wellmanned highway patrol initiative.
This will entail purchasing a fleet of patrol vehicles, institutionalising transparent vehicle fuelling and maintenance systems; providing patrol units with reliable communication equipment to facilitate effective intra and interunit communications and
information-sharing among patrol teams, up and down the country.“If well-funded and operated with transparency and accountability, such patrol systems can work successfully; highways and communities will become safer and more ecure.“The current leadership of the Nigeria Police must be strong, stay focused and rebuild the public's trust in the country's lawenforcement capabilities.
“We believe that operational and discipline issues should be the centre-piece of reforms. And less focus on aesthetics and premature plans to change the police uniform, which may amount to about N18billion for the 32,000 policemen and women in Nigeria. The hood does not make the monk. The police should blend internal disciplinary systems with dedication to duties and restore safety and security to the country. This should be the top priority.“Nigerians want a vibrant, effective and efficient police. This is yet another opportunity to repair the deep deficiencies in the country's policing strategies. The new man must stay on course and not let this chance slip by.