29 January 2013

Nigeria: The Rot in Police Colleges


An unscheduled visit by President Goodluck Jonathan to the Nigeria Police College, Ikeja, Lagos, appeared to have opened a can of worms regarding the rot in police training institutions all over the country.

Jonathan's visit was apparently prompted by media reports that exposed the infrastructure decay at the Ikeja college. There have in fact been several reports documenting the deplorable state of police colleges in Nigeria, including those submitted by former Inspector General of police, Muhammad D. Yusuf and Parry Osayande, Chairman Police Service Commission. These documents are gathering dust in the president's cupboard.

A private television station had broadcast a footage depicting the deplorable state of facilities at the Ikeja Police College. It showed the college's male and female dormitories, some of them built before independence in 1960, in state of disrepair. The trainees are clearly in some discomfort, because the footage showed bug-infested sleeping quarters and blood-stained beddings. The Olympic-size swimming pool, which was once a pride of the college, now features toads and reptiles. Built to accommodate 700 students, it now plays host to 2, 554 cadets at any given time. This dehumanizing condition cannot produce decent, efficient and knowledgeable police personnel.

Worrisome also is the interpretation that President Jonathan appeared to have given the exposé, saying that its airing was an attempt to "embarrass government", reducing clear evidence of grave national malaise to trivia. The president ought to be conversant with the rot, obviously captured in various reports submitted by government-appointed panels. If he is not, then someone in his government should be held to account.

What the Channels Television did was merely to publicise a portion in one of those reports that are now with the president.

Equally depressing was the reaction of members of the National Assembly to accounts of the mess in the police college. What are the worth of the oversight functions of the House of Representatives and the Senate if rots like this have not come light since 1999? President Jonathan's umbrage with the Police College's authorities for allowing journalists to film the scenes to accompany the report suggests that his visit to the college was not to take corrective measures to repair the rot. In fact, this was corroborated by later reports suggesting that the Commandant of the Ikeja Police College was threatened with disciplinary action for the news broadcast, a sad commentary on what public office has been turned into in this country. If anything, the commandant deserves a medal for performing a worthy service expected of someone in his position.

The rot in the Police College in Ikeja mirrors the obsolescence of facilities in all the police training colleges in the country, reflecting the long years of neglect due largely to corruption by government officials in collaboration with police authorities. The Nigerian Police Force, like other establishments, has over the years been turned into a sinkhole from which corrupt officials enrich themselves. In the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, the NPF was provided some funding by the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), purchasing nearly 1,000 jeeps to support police operations in the country. During the period, the government introduced a private initiative through the Police Equipment Fund (PEF) to support the police. The billions of naira raised by the PEF, instead of benefitting the police, were instead squandered by its operators. A case against them is still pending in court.

Soon after the Jonathan's visit to the Ikeja college, the federal government set up a committee to, among other terms of reference, look in to the funding of police colleges in the country between 2009 and 2012. The committee is expected to ascertain how much was appropriated for the police to renovate and upgrade the nation's police training institutions. The committee, which is headed by the Special Duties Director in the Ministry of Police Affairs, was named by the Minister of Police Affairs, Mr Omoniyi Olubolade. The government should also review past reports that are now before it.

The entire police infrastructure needs complete overhaul, which should include adding a research element to the curriculum of police training colleges. The Force should collaborate with research institutions on the use of state-of-the-art technology to align with modern trends in training of personnel and in detecting and fighting crime.

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