Nigeria: Reform for world’s most corrupt police force?

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The Nigerian Police force has issued a white paper with about 79 recommendations for the improvement of the force, but the big question here is can reforms be made in what is considered by many as one of the most corrupt systems in the world?

‘Police is your friend’ is the popular slogan of the Nigerian Police Force, but Nigerians and vistors alike will beg to differ. Dented by persistent accusations of incompetence; officers who often lack the skills needed to police effectively, the Nigerian police has since lost its credibility before the Nigerian public. Bribery, the use of brutal force on suspects and sometimes killing of suspects without trial is the most common Image that the average Nigerian has of the police force. It is in this regard that the white paper of reforms have been sent to the Nigerian National assembly for review.

The failure of past attempts to reform the Nigerian police has provoked widespread skepticism about the success of the proposed reforms among Nigerians. Some observers say it will be difficult to make any reforms to the Nigerian police department. Once an officer gets to a rank where it is possible to make reforms, he or she is so deeply involved in a corrupt system that they cannot change it.

A hunter hunted

In 2007, Police Inspector General Mr. Sunday Ehindero announced that more than 10,000 officers would be sacked in an attempt to root out dirty cops because his predecessor Mr. Tafa Balogun, who was later convicted on corruption charges had knowingly employed thousands of officers with criminal records.

Mr. Ehindero was eventually charged with economic crimes and the National Assembly heard after an investigation that the officers whom he sacked (as he had promised) were often not the dirty cops that his predecessor had employed. The investigation also heard how police regulators and the government officials in charge of policing were fully aware of the existence of criminal officers, but for more than five years did nothing about it.

A product of the military

Austin Iwar, assistant Commissioner of police at the force headquarters in the capital, Abuja admitted that: “There are numerous challenges the police face; the police as it is now came out of a military administration. That is probably the biggest challenge we face – turning it from a force into a service.” According to the police commissioner, the task at hand is to strengthen the police’s community policing initiative which is to improve the relationship between the police and the community, so people do not feel the law is something alien or foreign to them.

Mr. Innocent Chukwuma a police reform activists of the Cleen Foundation say the proposals on the white paper do not tackle the serious issue of political independence.

“The recommendations that would have removed the president’s power to appoint the chief of police and give the appointee security of tenure in office were taken out of the white paper. The police will continue to see their job as carrying out the will of the political powers,” Mr. Chukwuma insisted.


According to the paper, the police needs to be seriously overhauled; better training, new uniforms, more pay, the building of new police stations and colleges to better equipment and promotion regimes. It describes the resources needed to do it as enormous, and says it will take at least five years.

Once the National Assembly reviews this white paper, it will be transformed into a police reform bill. The authorities will have to show that they can implement this reforms succesfully, and all observers can do is wait to observe an action towards a much needed change.

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