Recently, the Police Service Commission (PSC) revealed that it could not verify the academic credentials of 80,724 applicants shortlisted for employment into the constable cadre in the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). According to the PSC, the candidates were shortlisted based on their physical attributes, and the verification of their certificates would be done by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) after their admission into police colleges for training. The commission’s spokesman, Ikechukwu Ani, explained that the test would be held in the 36 States of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The 80,724 candidates were shortlisted from the 210,150 persons who applied for the 10,000 police slots. A total of 315,032 online applications were received at the close of the commission’s recruitment portal in January.
Ani said, “What we are doing is that we screen the documents and their physical attributes. At this point, we don’t have all it takes to verify certificates, but we look at it (each certificate) and if it looks okay, we pass it. When they (applicants) finally get in, there would be proper scrutiny of the certificates after they get to the (police) colleges. I think we would write to WAEC to confirm the certificates, but at this point, we are just looking at them (certificates) and the one that is okay, we would pass. The person must have five credit pass including in English and Mathematics.” Ani added that only those with physical deformities were dropped during the physical screening conducted by the NPF, and that candidates who passed the aptitude test would also be subjected to medical screening to ascertain their health and fitness for the job.
To all intents and purposes, this method of recruitment is reflective of the warped system that inheres nearly every aspect of the national life. It is inconceivable that as serious an exercise as the recruitment of personnel into the police force is being trivialised by no less an agency than the PSC which is saddled with the responsibility to, among other things, appoint persons to offices other than that of the Inspector General of Police and dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over any person holding any office in the force. Pray, what manner of recruitment exercise is encapsulated in the following declaration: “We look at it and if it looks okay, we pass it.” How do credentials “look okay”, assuming that a fool-proof method was available to facilitate this kind of looking?
For the PSC to say that it cannot verify the credentials submitted by police recruits “for now” betrays its operational antiquity and lack of finesse. In today’s Nigeria, all that the PSC should have done was to obtain the relevant details from the websites of WAEC or the National Examination Council (NECO) as the case may be. In any case, getting the examination bodies to verify the submitted credentials ever before any form of training or screening should not be difficult for the PSC: the examination bodies are public institutions and ought to have been taken into confidence by the PSC in vetting credentials. In these days when fraudsters and certificate forgers have acquired high-level sophistication, it is absurd to determine that a certificate submitted during the application process is genuine merely by looking at it.
The fact is that many forged certificates look just like the original ones and only a forensic examination can spot the difference. Ideally, the PSC should have confirmed the authenticity of any submitted certificates before shortlisting any candidate for screening. As a matter of fact, those proven to have submitted fake credentials could have been invited to the screening venues with a view to interrogating and handing them over to the police for prosecution. That would have sent a powerful message to potential recruits that the police force would not tolerate any form of crime and indiscipline among its rank and file.
Besides, how do you begin to verify credentials when candidates are already undergoing training at the police colleges? Why treat a national security issue with such levity? Pray, how do you train people first, then send them home when you discover that their credentials are fake? Can such persons not become threats to the society later? This kind of strategy is a threat not only to the police but the society at large. It is a threat to the PSC itself. Sadly, though, the PSC and the NPF have often worked at cross purposes. For instance, commenting on the planned recruitment of 40,000 community police officers announced by the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, the PSC spokesman said the commission was not part of the initiative. He stated: “There was no meeting where it was discussed with the commission. The commission is not part of it. I don’t have a brief that the commission is part of it, but I feel the commission should be part of it.” This is a terrible turn of events.