If the newspapers are to be believed that President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) has refused to sign into law, the Nigerian Peace Corps (NPC) Bill passed by the National Assembly; then that will be one of the best decisions taken by PMB. The NPC Bill passed by the National Assembly is an appalling piece of legislation drafted by those who have no genuine knowledge of the security history of this country and who lack a vision of the future architecture to secure a country begging for security solutions. Allow me to explain why.
One of the reasons for the confusing security architecture in Nigeria is the proliferation of para-military and security organizations. This has not served the country well. In most democratic countries, there is only the main police force, with divisions and specialised units and branches to deal with particular crimes. For some inexplicable reason, the governments of Nigeria over the past thirty years established several parallel policing/para-military related agencies some with dubious, conflicting and confusing mandates.
Based on Section 4 of the Nigerian Police Act 1943, the police are adequately empowered to enforce all laws and rights of citizens as provided by the Nigerian Constitution and other Acts of the National Assembly. The duties and powers of the police are well articulated in the Police Act, 1943. Section 4 of the Act itemised the basic duties of the police as directly quoted below:
- prevention and detection of crime
- apprehension of offenders
- preservation of law and order
- due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly, charged, and
- The performance of such other military duties within or outside Nigeria as may be required of them by or under the authority of the Act or any other Act.
So, the police in Nigeria are empowered by law to carry out global standard policing duties and enforcement of the law and keeping of the peace. With mass poverty and high unemployment in Nigeria, along with the chronic funding shortage facing the police, they are seen as serving only the rich and powerful. Many of the operational challenges facing our police make it easier and some will say inevitable for the police to become subservient to the rich and powerful. And some may say it seems to be in the interest of the ruling class to keep things the way they are as it entrenches their hegemony and control of the nation’s resources.
The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in section 214 (1) states that:
“There shall be a Police Force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force and subject to the provisions of this section, no other Police Force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof”.
Section 214 (2)(a) empowers the National Assembly to produce an Act to organize and administer the details of police operations in Nigeria in ways that protect the constitutional rights of Nigerians. This is known as the Police Act. First enacted in 1943, it has been reviewed by the legislature in 1967 and 1979. A new review is definitely overdue by the National Assembly.
This constitutional provision makes it unconstitutional for either the government of the states or even the federal government to establish a parallel police service in competition to the Nigeria Police Force. This has however not stopped the Federal government from establishing additional investigatory and enforcement institutions, even though they have not called any of them ‘police’. They cannot legally be called that in any case.
From an objective analysis, the Nigerian government seem to be in breach of the spirit of the constitution if not the letter of it. By not calling these parallel agencies “police” the government seem to say they have stayed within the provisions of the constitution. But with these agencies having powers and duties similar to that of the police, it can be argued that if it looks like a dog, barks like a dog, walks like a dog, then it is a dog.
These agencies perform policing-related duties; hence it can be argued that they are police in practice if not in names. But nobody has yet litigated this fact by taking the government to a court of competent jurisdiction over it. Examples of these additional agencies are:
- The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC)
- The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC)
- The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC)
- The National Civil Defence Corps (NCDC)
- The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB)
- Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO)
- State Security Service (SSS)
- National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA)
The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) is another needles organization, but I have not included it directly in the list because of its judicial related additional duties.
One hundred percent of the senior police officers I interviewed believe the plethora of agencies, many with overlapping powers, has led to the weakening of the main police force as a result of talent flight to these silo agencies and an accompanying reduction in police funding, as scarce resources are allocated to these additional new agencies.
The main police force (NPF) is then left to do the heavy lifting task of crime prevention and investigation with fewer resources to do the job. These policing related agencies consume a lot of resources and those questioned believe overwhelmingly they are inefficient and incoherent in operational agility.
These organisations consume billions of naira that would have been allocated to the police. They also create inefficiencies in back office activities as they duplicate all the support departments that already exist within the police. So, including the main Police, we have NINE back office departments and cost centres.
To add to the cannibalization of the main police, the Special Branch, (SB) was expunged in mid-1970s from the police force but rebranded the National Security Organisation (NSO). The NSO was later changed into the Criminal Intelligence Bureau (CIB), which later transformed into today’s State Security Service (SSS). With the DSS saddled with Domestic intelligence and the NIA with Foreign intelligence; one wonders what the role of the SSS is? Why was the SSS removed from the NPF in the first place?
Therefore, despite the Constitutional provision that there shall be only one police service in Nigeria, the foregoing agencies have been established to do policing related duties, by either taking over partially or completely duties of the police. To evidence the claim of these multiple agencies taking away valuable money needed for core policing, it is necessary to analyse a typical year financial allocation to some of these agencies. So, 2014 will be our sample year. This occurs every year by the way; I am just using a typical year for illustration. In 2014, the budgetary allocations to some of these policing agencies outside the core police (NPF) force were as follows:
|RECURRENT BUDGET (N)||CAPITAL BUDGET (N)||TOTAL BUDGET ALLOCATION (N)|
Figure 1: Budgets of some agencies with policing related duties
From the above table, just four of these parallel agencies performing policing related functions (but there are more than four of them in existence) were allocated just over N18Billion. In that year the combined allocation to the core operations of the Nigerian Police Force was about N23Billion. In fact, if the funding allocation of these eight policing-related agencies were combined in 2014; it was almost 50% more than the budget of the NPF. So, merging these agencies will instantly more than double the budget available to the police.
From its regional formations of four centres in 1960, the Nigeria Police has grown to reflect the expansion of the political and demographic structure of the country. Now there are 36 states plus the Federal Capital City, Abuja. The country now has 774 local government areas and 37 state command centres.
In the past; when a state was created, a start-up grant is usually allocated to assist in setting up the infrastructure for the new state. Sadly, the setting up of police was never included in these financial disbursements. Consequently, they operated from temporary accommodation not suitable for policing duties. The budgetary allocation to the police has not kept pace with its ever-enlarging office and operational facilities requirements. With the exception of the Headquarters building, police offices are renowned for being the one of the ugliest and most dilapidated looking in all the states.
Some have become a hazard to the serving officers, much less the visiting public. The cells are horrible, unhygienic and health risks for detainees. Most of the police offices do not have running water and it is a common sight to see police posts being illuminated by candles at night.
Hence, against these challenges, why does the National Assembly feel we need another para-military organisation in Nigeria called the Peace Corps. Our silo security and intelligence framework are bad enough why do we need to make it even worse. The Nigerian Police Force does not have a national criminal database and its intelligence operations are segregated and not joined up. Then there is lack of technical interoperability between the NPF and other agencies; so, the right-hand does not know what the left-hand is doing.
Our priority as a nation is to create a joined-up security architecture and not creating new silos. The Peace Corps Bill is needless, ill-informed and against the national security interest; in my opinion. There is confusion amongst the citizenry on which agency deal with what on a daily basis. For instance; if your staff steals N1Million from you; where do you report it? The NPF or EFCC? You will get different answers from different people you ask. Where people go will depend on where they know someone who will assist them. These things should be simple enough.
We need economies of scale to reduce public expenditure on security. Creating additional silos is not the way to go. Rather, we need to consolidate the many outfits into one or two to provide clarity and operational efficiency. The Peace Corps website lists dozens of objectives as its goal. Reading between the lines, an organisation with over two dozen operational objectives is a catastrophe going somewhere to happen. You become a jack of all trade and master of none. We do not need the peace corps and it is a huge disappointment that our lawmakers either don’t see this or they are driven by other agendas only known to them. So, kudos to PMB for rejecting this Bill but he must now work to consolidate and unify our security estate to better protect Nigerians and institute intelligence-led policing for the safety of all.