Nigerians Want Better Police Force, Says Osinbajo

REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE  3-DAY CONFERENCE AND RETREAT FOR STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP OFFICERS OF THE NIGERIA POLICE FORCE ON THE 28TH OF OCTOBER, 2019.

Protocols

I am delighted to join you at this opening ceremony of the 3-day Conference and Retreat for Strategic Leadership Officers of the Nigeria Police Force. I think this retreat is appropriately timed, and themed, “Repositioning the Police Force for the Challenges of Effective Policing in the 21st Century.” It presents a unique opportunity, not only to review internal security and policing issues, but also to acquire contemporary professional information and knowledge, undertake some peer review and build important partnerships and networks needed to efficiently deal with current and anticipated internal security challenges.

Aside from the threats of terrorism in the North East, we are currently combating a series of crimes that constitute significant drawbacks to our national security. These include banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, cybercrime, small and light arms proliferation and sundry transnational crimes.

The dynamics of crime in the country has over time, become increasingly complex due largely to the impact of technology, global terrorism, socio-economic challenges and other security situations, especially within the African continent.

It was in response and in anticipation to these challenges that at the inception of this current administration, concerted efforts were made towards emplacing policies that would re-engineer the Nigeria Police and ensure the restoration of the agency’s primacy within the internal security architecture of the country.

In this regard, funding, limited manpower profile, professional capacity gaps and issues arising from the relationship between the Police and the citizens, were identified as challenges that need to be addressed.

The Nigerian Police force is without a doubt, one of our proudest national assets. This is the largest Police Force in Africa. We have some of the best trained and best-educated men and women in any force, anywhere in the world. Our policemen and women have served everywhere locally and internationally with outstanding results and accolades.

The Nigeria Police Force led police peacekeeping activities in several countries of the world such as Congo, Namibia, Angola, Western Sahara, Somalia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and even as far as East Timor.

Locally in the past one year alone, the Nigeria Police has between January and this month arrested, over 2,348 armed robbery suspects, over 1,400 suspected kidnappers, 694 murder suspects, 1,513 cultists, and safely rescued over 826 kidnap victims, recovered 1,660 firearms and 1612 vehicles stolen or used for crime are now in the safe custody of the Police Force.

In the course of duty, so many have paid the supreme price, while fighting off robbers, kidnappers and other criminals, many have been maimed for life, their families have had to deal with their incapacity. Yet, every day our men and women of the police force go out at all times, with exceptional bravery, often beyond the call of duty, and in challenging conditions, working to make the cities, towns and villages of this nation safer for us all.

Let me say that we are extremely proud of the work you do and are grateful for your service to this nation.

The service that the Police Force renders is one we cannot do without. It is service that we all need. Your law enforcement service is the closest to the average Nigerian, the grassroots. There are police stations everywhere and the police above every other service, represent law and order to the average Nigerian.

Which is why the police cannot escape public scrutiny and very often, criticism. Nigerian people, old and young, want our Police Force to be better and to do better. They want to be even prouder of your service than ever before.

This is why in some of our urban areas, we want to see more compliance, and the people insist they want to see more compliance with the rule of law and with your observance of human rights in dealing with the ordinary Nigerian.

Recently, many Civil Society Groups and individuals have complained about the arrest of young men and women just because they look successful and are carrying laptops. Yes, we must apprehend yahoo criminals, but we cannot harass young men and women on the streets and in taxis, most of whom are merely going about their legitimate businesses.

There are also cases of extrajudicial killings and injuries, the misuse of weapons and excessive use of force by some members of the force. This sort of conduct by a few must stop. And it is the duty of you senior and strategic leaders of the police force to ensure that impunity of any kind is discouraged and punished where it is found.

The image of the police as an interlocutor of fairness, justice, and decency in the enforcement of peace, law and order, must be maintained at all times in the interest of the credibility of the force as a whole. You have spent your professional lives building a great institution, you must prevent a misguided minority from destroying it.

But I am pleased to note that the Inspector General has taken up the task of preventing these practices and I quote him, “By equipping the police with the right orientation for policing in the 21st Century and to align their operations within the expectations of the law and the citizens and the standards of democratic policing, which is hinged on the protection of fundamental human rights.” He goes on to say that special trainings are being organized for the Special Units of the police, including the Police Mobile Force, Special Forces, Counter-Terrorism Unit, Anti-robbery detachments, Anti-Kidnapping Squads and the Criminal Investigation Department.

In addition, he has put resources to acquiring and deploying electro-muscular disruption technology-based weaponry, which is commonly known as Taser or Stun Guns for low-risk police operations.

But most importantly the recent review, standardization, and simplification of Force Order 237 Rules of Engagement (RoE), with the active collaboration of several international development partners.

For its part, the Federal Government has facilitated the passage of the Police Trust Fund (Establishment) Act, to which Mr. President has since assented. The Federal Government also set up the Ministry of Police Affairs, all geared towards ensuring that we are able to give the very best possible support to the Nigeria police and in terms of funding, to mitigate the funding deficit in the Nigeria Police.

The groundwork for the take-off of the Act is progressing steadily and I understand that the Minister of Police Affairs is now working closely with the Inspector-General of Police to ensure the smooth take-off of the Fund.

Furthermore, our efforts in embracing community policing as a national security strategy is also informed by the need to close the trust gap between the Police and the citizens, build partnership and strengthen collaboration with communities towards addressing prevalent security threats.

We have made steady progress in this regard. An important part of the strategy is to recruit new personnel from within local governments and ensure that after training, such new police officers remain within their local governments. Policing must be as much as possible local in the order to give the local populace the benefit of the civil policing that we all need.

It is also within this context that the Federal Government approved the recruitment of 10,000 junior cadre officers into the Nigeria Police. Beyond this, we shall continue to support the leadership of the Nigeria Police in their personnel capacity development programmes at the various Police Training facilities.

All these internal security initiatives will, of course, remain ineffectual if the personnel at the strategic level of policing in Nigeria lack the optimal professional capacity to drive the strategies. It is for this reason that I commend the Inspector General of Police for convening this retreat and for providing quality leadership to the Nigeria Police at this crucial time in our nation’s history.

I can confidently assure all Nigerians that the Federal Government shall continue to support the Police towards the attainment of its statutory mandate.

To the participants at this conference and retreat, I urge you all to take full advantage of this retreat to update and share your knowledge in full realization of the increasing sophistication and complexity of criminal activity today. Realigning knowledge and practice to these realities is the key to policing in the 21st Century and within the challenges of the 21st Century internal security space.

On this note, I consider it a singular honour and pleasure to declare this Conference and Retreat open. I wish you all a professionally-enriching engagement and pray for God’s divine protection over you and our Republic.

Thank you very much.

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