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OF MILITARY AND POLICE DUTIES -This Editorial

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The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, recently raised an alarm about the increasing deployment of military personnel in the country. At the last count, no fewer than 28 of the 36 states are under one form of military ‘occupation’ or another. In expressing his displeasure with the growing trend of soldiers taking over civil and security duties that are constitutionally reserved for the Police, Dogara asked two major questions: how did we come to this sorry situation? What could be done to redress the anomaly?

To be sure, several recent studies by respected institutions over public confidence in the Nigeria police and satisfaction with their services have made damning conclusions. The findings had always revealed a general lack of confidence in the capability of the police to prevent and contain insecurity in the country. Therefore, the ‘’militarisation’’ of the country becomes a ready option, especially when armed robbers, kidnappers and terrorists choose when, where and how to carry out their nefarious activities.

However, what drafting soldiers to the streets for law enforcement – a duty for which they are ill-equipped – has done is to reinforce the knee-jerk approach to fighting crimes which, more than anything else, defines our lack of serious approach to basic issues. As we have always argued, the surest way to fighting crimes remains equipping the police for the discharge of their onerous responsibility. But to do so effectively, the authorities must also sit up to the challenges of a global security system where high-tech fighting techniques as well as intelligence sourcing of information, provide a basket of reliable and result oriented strategies.

Last week, the ‘Economist’ carried a report on how the Brazilian army’s remit has expanded to what it described as “mundane police work” even while stating that such military troops that now patrol city streets enjoyed the confidence of the people. “Unlike politicians and police officers, servicemen are seen as honest, competent and kind. Despite the shadow of the dictatorship, confidence rankings of institutions often put the army at the top,” wrote the Economist which however added that “blurring the lines between national defence and law enforcement is perilous.”

Nigeria bears eloquent testimony to that as there were cases where soldiers have evidently overstepped their bounds and engaged in activities that highlighted significant tension and conflicts between the military and the civil populace. There is therefore an urgent need to boost the capability of the police force.

For several reasons, majorly as a result of corruption, the Nigeria Police Force has abdicated its vital role in the society. But the blame goes round because when someone commits an offence in Nigeria today, there is no certainty of punishment and this has encouraged the impunity that now pervades the land. To therefore readdress the threat posed by the swelling militarisation of the country and the long term effects, we need to strengthen the Nigeria police to be effective and efficient both in terms of professionalism and structure, so that it sustains the capacity to carry out its constitutional responsibility of maintaining law and order.

As the situation stands today, what the polity can boast of is a police force that is easy game for a more sophisticated world of crime. Even at the risk of sounding repetitive, we state that the best approach to fighting crimes remains effective intelligence gathering that helps not only in pre-empting and disrupting criminal activity but is also indispensable for the investigations of crimes. But only a well equipped and professional police can gather the close-to-the-ground information that is necessary for such exercise.

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