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Presidency must intervene in police recruitment

The needless dispute between the Nigeria Police Force, NPF and the Police Service Commission, PSC has reared its head again stalling the recruitment of 10,000…

The needless dispute between the Nigeria Police Force, NPF and the Police Service Commission, PSC has reared its head again stalling the recruitment of 10,000 police constables. This is a huge blow to ongoing efforts to strengthen the numbers and capabilities of the NPF to enable it deal with rising spate of insecurity and criminality across the country.

Back in 2018, the Federal Executive Council under then President Muhammadu Buhari gave an approval that the authorities of the NPF and the PSC should work hand-in-hand and recruit 60,000 police officers over six years. Unfortunately, only 20,000 had so far been recruited due to the clashes and recriminations between the two organisations. This dispute was officially resolved by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court in its judgment, delivered on  July 11, 2023 in the case of NPF & Ors v Police Service Commission & Anor (2023) – LPELR-60782 (SC)  reinforced the PSC’s  “exclusive” statutory authority in the recruitment of constables. The Supreme Court thereby affirmed an earlier ruling by the Court of Appeal delivered on  September 30, 2020.

However, on Saturday, June 15, 2024, the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, in a statement issued by the Force spokesperson, Olumiyiwa Adejobi, rejected the list of successful candidates released by the PSC. According to the statement: “Upon a careful scrutiny of the list released on the PSC portal, it was discovered that several names of persons purported to be names of successful candidates are those who did not even apply, and therefore, did not take part in the recruitment exercise. Most worrisome is the allegation of financial dealings and corrupt practices, leading to the outcome where unqualified and untrainable individuals have been shortlisted”.

Reacting to the IGP,  the PSC, in a statement by its spokesperson, Ikechukwu Ani, denied the allegation and characterised it  as just a ploy by the Police “to hold on, by all means, to the recruitment of Police Constables despite the Supreme Court judgment. It added that: “The Commission is disturbed at the flagrant abuse of ethics, the Constitution and valid judgment of the apex court of the land. It is important to state that due process was meticulously followed throughout the exercise and the Commission wishes to assert its prerogative to exercise full control over recruitments into the Nigeria Police Force. The Commission is also insisting that its list of successful candidates and that of the Police should be subjected to a forensic audit using the result of the JAMB computer-based test”.

We at Daily Trust believe that it is bad that this crisis continues to linger despite the nation’s dire security situation.  This is even more worrisome after the Supreme Court judgment and the painstaking efforts undertaken by the PSC to ensure integrity and accountability of the process by setting up a multi-stakeholder recruitment board, including representatives from the NPF as well as engaging the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board, JAMB to set-up computer-based tests for the shortlisted candidates.

The police is central to the maintenance of law and order and deficiency in personnel is bound to affect its operational performance. Nigeria is among the most under-policed nations in the world. IGP Egbetokun had in a paper presented to the Senior Executive Course 45 at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) Kuru, acknowledged that while the United Nations’ (UN) recommended one police personnel to 460 citizens, Nigeria has police-citizen ratio of 1:650. “Therefore, the NPF requires an additional 190,000 personnel to be at parity with the United Nations’ recommended ratio,” he added.

The impact of this under-policing is being felt daily throughout the nooks and crannies of this country. In almost all the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria, the military are currently engaged in police work. Apart from the armed terrorists and bandits plaguing the nation, even petty hoodlums in inner cities are exploiting the limited number of police personnel to perpetrate violent crimes such as phone robbery, leading to several cases of murder, assault and battery.

We are, therefore, calling on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to, as a matter of urgency, intervene in this matter. Mr. President should order the Ministry of Police Affairs to conduct a time bound investigation of not more than three weeks to establish the facts of the matter, given the specific accusations made by the police.

In the event that the Inspector General of the Police, the Police Service Commission and the ministry cannot agree to organise an accountable and transparent recruitment, Mr. President should step in to either sack them or set up an ad-hoc body to recruit not just 10,000 this year, but possibly 50,000, given the challenges that the nation face. This should be an opportunity to infuse thoroughly screened recruits that would be given the kind of training that will enable them form the basis of a new police force which does its job professionally using forensics, information and communication technologies (ICTs), and other modern means of policing and investigations.

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