A former Commissioner of Police in the Federal Capital Territory, Mr Lawrence Alobi, has warned that any attempt to institute state policing as is being canvassed in some quarters would further fragment the country.
Alobi is also not happy that the Federal government is militarising policing in the country, scenario which he said bore the signpost that the police cannot discharge their constitutional functions while only the military can perform.
The ex police chief noted that Nigeria had attempted the practice of state policing in the 1978 and suspended it because of its unworkable nature adding that the country can only be ripe for it when the citizens “develop the spirit ‘to serve Nigeria with all their strength.”
“That’s when we can operate state policing but now we are too fragmented, suspicion everywhere, no trust, he said.
Alobi who spoke in an interview in Abuja with Blueprint blamed the Federal Government for not meeting with the funding needs of the Nigerian police saying that the most problems of insecurity in the country were due to lack of proper funding of the police force.
The erstwhile police officer therefore called on President Muhammadu Buhari to accent to the Police Trust Fund bill already passed by the National Assembly.
According to Alobi, the 21st century policing is technologically driven and capital intensive and if the bill becomes a law, “it would go a long way in solving the problem of funding in Nigerian police.
He also said it would now enable the citizens to participate in empowering the police force in line with section 24 of the Constitution which says that the citizens should assist the police and other security agencies to maintain law and order.
“The government has not been able to meet the security needs of the country and policing is capital intensive in line with the prevailing challenges and the 21st century policing is technologically driven, knowledge driven and technology will require funding. Look at what happened the other day, that Senator that assaulted that lady, if not for that footage, he could have denied.
He said: “Security like democracy, is participatory. It would go a long way in driving the proposed community policing. So I want to appeal to Mr President and all peace loving Nigerians who love this country to also join in appealing to Mr President to accent to that bill.”
“So the security challenge in the country is due to the long time neglect of the police in terms of training, in terms of manpower. Nigeria is said to be about 200 million people and police is less than 4000 officers and men. How can they cope?
“They have to maintain law and order, prevent and dictate crime, man the section of the VIP, investigate crime, response to distressed calls. The pressure is more than the police and they are not well chartered for, not well motivated, they not well funded in terms of training, they not given adequate training because training requires funding.”
He stated that despite the sacrifices being made by policemen and women in the country, they live in the most deplorable condition and devoid of appreciation by the citizens who only blame them on the flimsiest reasons.
He however acknowledged that the same police force being blamed in the country often excel in peacekeeping operations abroad attributing the poor showing of the police within the country to what he called the “toxic and hostile” environment capable of creating a defective system”.
“Everything people know is how to blame the police, they don’t appreciate what the police is doing, those are sacrifices. A police man is very alienated from his family; has no time for his family. During festivities, when people are celebrating and enjoying, the policeman is out there to maintain law and order,” he said.
Alobi noted that many Nigerians only know about their rights without being concerned about their obligations to the society, urging citizens to also consider the social contract which talked about citizens sacrificing some of their rights to enable the state to protect them.
He also chided the federal government for militarising policing and law enforcement saying that it is the duty of police to protect citizens in a democratic society while the military functions to protect the territorial integrity of the country against external aggression.
According to Alobi if the country had had hostile neighbours, the military would not be able to cope during external aggression.
“Look at it now, the government is militarizing policing and law enforcement. It’s not good for the society. Policing is purely the function of the police in a civil society in a democratic dispensation. Section 217 provides for the function of the military. It is clear; The military cannot come into the civil society. But now the military are now doing police functions which is not supposed to be so. It has some serious implications. The military are not trained for police functions.
“Thank God we have friendly and weak neighbours. Assuming we have very hostile neighbours, our military will not be able to cope when there is external aggression, when the territorial integrity is being threatened.
“The military are not trained for police functions. The military man is trained to bombard an area, take over the area, dominate the area. The police is trained to arrest, investigate and prosecute, to prevent crime and dictate crime, that’s not the function of the military.
“We are over militarizing policing which is not too good for us and other negative consequences is that you create the impression amongst the citizens that only the military can perform, the police cannot perform,” he said.