The bill seeking to dissolve the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) into the Nigeria Police Force, which recently passed its first reading at the National Assembly, is one worth considering.
The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (Repeal and Transition) Bill 2022, sponsored by Shina Peller, representing lseyin/ltesiwaju/Kajola/lwajowa Federal Constituency in Oyo State at the House of Representatives, is timely and necessary, considering the duplication of duties between the police and the NSCDC.
The NSCDC, first established in 1967, through an act of the National Assembly and in its present iteration statutorily empowered by the lay Act No. 2 of 2003 and amended by Act 6 of June 4, 2007, was set up with three fundamental mandates: provision of constant and effective protection of national assets; interfacing with private security guards for local safety and intervening in the management of natural and man-made disasters. Ordinarily, these are issues that constitutionally, should be handled by the police.
Nigeria has been facing serious security challenges including insurgency, banditry, armed robbery, abductions and agitations by separatist groups over the years that have cost lives of thousands and the loss of hundreds of billions in property. This situation has in no small measure stretched the police force.
Fragmenting the country’s security forces only impedes a holistic approach to tackling these threats. It should be emphasised that the bill proposed by Peller does not seek the disbanding of the outfit but rather the absorption of its personnel and assets into the police force.
As things stand, Nigeria is dangerously underpoliced, with a personnel strength of only about 370,000 in a country of over 200 million people. The United Nations recommends one police officer for every 450 citizens, but in Nigeria, what obtains is one police personnel to 541 Nigerians which is not good enough. There is an urgent need to increase the staff strength and capacity. While the NSCDC is supposed to provide support functions to the police, Nigeria needs it to do more policing functions. Instead of increasing its capacity until it duplicates the functions of the police, it would be operationally more rational and economically cost-effective to merge the two under the police, increasing the size of the police force and its capacity to provide greater service to the Nigerian people. This should open the door to further recruitment going forward.
While we acknowledge the sorry state of the Nigeria Police, in terms of its administration and competence, which makes the idea of this absorption unappealing to many, establishing competing agencies, which the NSCDC is evolving into since incorporating armed personnel, is not the best way to address that problem. Leaving a crucial institution of the state like the police force to rot while building a support unit is counterproductive.
Improving national security needs to start by building up the police in terms of personnel and competence. The police force has proven itself inadequate in making a significant dent in the insecurity plaguing the country. The force is in dire need of a boost. It is no longer acceptable to dismiss the police as an irredeemable, cancerous institution of government and skirt around its failures, instead of addressing them, by empowering other competing units to perform parts of its functions. Balkanizing police functions among other paramilitary units will not address the existential security threats confronting the country.
Tough decisions and crucial efforts must be made to sanitize the force, increase its personnel and bolster its numbers and budget by merging it with competing agencies like the NSCDC; and train the NSCDC personnel to fit into the role of policing effectively. In the long run, this will prevent duplicity of roles, which will only exacerbate going forward, especially if the NSCDC continues to take on more policing roles.
The government also needs to create long-term strategies that will see the absorption of other sister security agencies, like the Federal Road Safety Corps, into the police force within logistically feasible parameters and a reasonable time frame.
Considering the significant breakdown of law and order being experienced in the country, Nigeria must concentrate its security forces into an effective, professional and super-efficient unit that will serve the aim of protecting the lives and property of its citizens and improving economic growth by creating a safe environment for the economy to thrive. Fragmenting security functions through agencies like the NSCDC is moving the country further away from that.
We urge the National Assembly to give the National Security and Civil Defence Corps (Repeal and Transition) Bill 2022 due consideration, iron out the kinks and pass it. We strongly encourage the president to assent to this bill and establish a transition committee to ensure a successful absorption of the NSCDC into the police. Most crucially, we demand to see the immediate implementation of the promised reform of the police, which the federal government made in October 2020.
Nigeria’s national security and wellbeing is at stake and this could be one of the painful but necessary measures needed to address it and must therefore not be rejected out of sentiments.