The return of the Police Affairs Ministry, after about five years of its suspension in the face of precarious security situation in the country, must translate to improved internal security and redress the fears of Nigerians and foreign residents alike that the nation does not take security of lives and property with levity.
Coming years after the ministry was merged with that of the Interior in 2015 in an action informed by President Muhammadu Buhari’s preference for a lean cabinet, Nigerians must reap the benefits of its re-introduction to tackle burgeoning security issues in the country, exacerbated by pervasive unemployment, kidnapping, crass criminality and sundry internal security issues.
Daily, road transportation, especially via the Lagos-Benin Expressway, Ibadan-Akure Road, Akure-Abuja Road, Abuja-Kaduna and several others in the South-East and North-West has become a nightmare. Travelling on such roads has become very perilous as vehicles come under attacks from kidnappers or robbers forcing motorists to a standstill while victims await intervention of security agencies. The nation’s food security is also threatened as millions of farmers are either in internally displaced persons’ camps and in other areas find it extremely difficult to ply their trade as criminally-minded herdsmen ravage their farmlands.
Also, the recent report by the police that over 4,700 people have been mauled in various parts of the country in the past six months gives the impression that the nation is in a state of war. The fact is that as long as the current level of insecurity remains, foreign direct investment (FDI) will be scanty even as the competence of the security agencies in the country comes under serious question.
By way of hindsight, the Police Affairs Ministry was created by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 with Major General David Jemibewon (rtd) as pioneer minister. He was succeeded by Stephen Akiga, while the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua named Dr. Yakubu Lame for the position in 2007. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan retained the ministry, appointing Adamu Waziri for the position in 2010, while Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade (rtd) was the last to hold the position till 2015 when Jonathan lost the election.
While the re-introduction of the ministry by President Buhari at this period was informed by the need to properly address security of lives and property, with proactive intelligence gathering to nip crimes in the bud before they escalate the concomitant lessons of history calls for caution. It is on record that the existence of this ministry prior to 2015 did not automatically translate to reduction in criminality, as scores of Nigerians, including the then Justice Minister, Chief Bola Ige (SAN), Chief Sunday Afolabi and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Deputy National Chairman, Chief Aminasori Dikibo and many others were either felled by bullets or died in mysterious circumstances, even as the police failed to successfully investigate and prosecute their killers.
Another issue of interest is that unlike the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and the Police Service Commission (PSC), which were created by the Nigerian Constitution pursuant to Section 214 and Part 1 of the third Schedule respectively, the legality of the police affairs ministry has come under debate over time, as some consider it duplicitous, without prejudice to the president’s executive power to make all executive appointments.
Indeed, the absence of a clear legal framework for the Police Affairs Ministry, other than the collection and management of police budget in the face of the attendant bureaucratic bottlenecks on the activities of the police formed the basis for the recommendation of the Civil Society Panel on Police Reforms for the scraping of the ministry in 2012, because it merely constituted job for the boys.
To further drive home the fears, it has been observed that through the years, inadequate articulation of the mission of the Nigeria Police Force, insufficient legal framework, non-specification of functions, improper performance appraisal mechanism, duplication of police duties by other agencies, and, recently, the existence of such organisations and the peace corps, weak oversight and corruption have continued to be the Force’s albatross.
Equally ridiculous is the current legal lacuna over the duties of the Nigeria Police Force as against that of the Police Service Commission over whose constitutional responsibility it is to handle police recruitment, a development that informed the current recourse to the law court for interpretations of the affected section of the constitution.
In the face of all these task before government and the new Police Affairs Minister, Mohammed Maigari Dingyadi, we call for proper articulation of the constitutional duties of NPF, overhaul of operational structures, re-organisation of its duties, procurement of modern equipment and ensuring that its leadership are well-grounded on contemporary policing strategies to facilitate their work. Adequate attention must also be paid to stronger local intelligence and networking with other security agencies locally and internally to decimate the criminal elements in the country.