The recent explanation by the Nigeria Police hierarchy to the effect that it conducted psychiatric test on recruits to curb incidences of accidental discharge by its personnel is a right foot forward at repositioning the police force towards greater effi ciency. The policy will also help to way to improve the psyche of the rank and fi le of the Nigeria Police which has the potency of improving police’s public relations and perception. Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Administration, Shuaibu Lawal Gambo, gave the explanation in Minna, penultimate weekend during a working visit to Niger state on the ongoing recruitment exercise by the police nationwide.
He said that the psychiatric test was aimed at ascertaining the mental alertness of applicants into the Police Force, adding: “we do not want to train and hand over guns to people who will turn their fi rearms against the citizens they were trained to protect.” He warned that any of its officers and men involved in any corrupt tendencies during the ongoing recruitment exercises would be dismissed from service while applicants who give the bribe will be disqualifi ed. DIG Gambo said about 6,000 applied for recruitment in Niger state to become the highest in the country, adding that his visit to the state was to ensure transparency in the whole exercise. It is noteworthy that the Nigeria Police is part of the government agencies that has the responsibility for enforcing the law and /or providing protection to the communities; and as the first component in criminal justice system, it plays an important and sensitive role in the issue of “justice” and also in helping society run smoothly.
Thus, one of the critical functions of the Nigeria Police like any police department in the rest of the world is the prevention and detection of crime. Part II Section 4 of the Nigeria Police Act states the duties of the Nigeria Police thus: “The police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of off enders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged….” However, the issue of crime prevention and detection is more complex and deeper than the perception of an average Nigeria police officer on the street whose ideology on the issue is colonialism based – an approach where brute force, cruelty and intimidation of innocent, harmless, and powerless citizens are seen as the only means of prevention and detection of crime.
Therefore, it is not uncommon to hear of Nigeria police brutality and cruelty in their daily interactions with the public Undoubtedly, Nigeria police are lacking significantly in their relationship with the members of the public. Part of the Nigeria Police Force mission statement is: “To partner with other relevant security agencies and the public in gathering, collating and sharing of information and intelligence with the intention of ensuring the safety and security of the country”, and “To build a people’s friendly Police Force that will respect and uphold the fundamental rights of all citizens”. In contrast, the image an average Nigeria police officer on the street portrays to the public is that of cowardice when faced with dangerous situations (especially when fighting criminals), unprofessionalism, intimidators of the powerless, and abusers of authority.
It is a common phenomenon to see police officers in their uniforms and with their guns drinking and getting drunk while on official duties in Nigeria, and it is a recurrent pattern to see police officers threatening innocent and powerless citizens with guns – in fact, most reasonable people do not argue with them as they are very capable of extra-judicial killing.
It is on the backdrop of this reprehensible situation that we commend the initiative of the Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Kpotun Idris’-led Nigeria Police Force in introducing psychiatric test for police recruits, especially given the countdown to electioneering for the 2019 general elections. However, as much as the current IGP has brought a lot reforms to make the policeman more responsive, efficient and people-friendly, the Nigerian public, particularly politicians, should be made to play by the rule and desist from the use of thugs and hooligans to obstruct the police from performing its duties. To achieve the objective of complementary policing, therefore, politicians seeking public office, once described by the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri, as suff ering from ‘madness’ or some form of obsessive-compulsive psychiatric disorder, should also be subjected to psychiatric test to determine their suitability