The Nigeria Police Force is one of the cardinal agencies of government. They are tasked with the sole responsibility of protecting the lives and properties of citizens of the country.
Apart from performing the conventional duty of protecting the lives and properties of the citizens, the Nigeria Police also supports other law enforcement agencies such as the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Prisons, Immigration and Customs. The Police also engages in military duties within and outside the country.
The police operates with powers accorded it by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. According to the constitution, the police has the exclusive right operate within every territory of Nigeria, according to the laws of the land.
The Nigeria Police as it is known today was formed after the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914. Before then, there was the Northern Nigeria Police which operated in the Northern Region and the Southern Nigeria Police which operated in the Southern Region.
The first attempt at forming a police force in the area of modern day Nigeria was made in 1820 in modern day Imo State. The Hausa Constabulary was formed in 1896 with a staff strength of 1200 officers and men. The Niger Coast Constabulary was formed in 1894 with its base in Calabar. The formation of the Niger Coast Constabulary was quickly followed by the formation of the Lagos Constabulary in 1896.
Before independence in 1960, the police was set up to be under the various local governments or native authorities as they were called back then.
The most senior police officer in Nigeria is the inspector General of Police (IGP). He is usually appointed by the President of the country. The first indigenous IGP was IGP Louis Orok Edet who served from 1964 to 1966.
The current IGP is Solomon Arase who assumed office in 2015.
After gaining independence in 1960 the police force was then regionalised; that is placed under the command of different regions before the force was nationalised to have the structure in operation today.
The Nigeria Police Force has expanded from the humble pre independence beginnings. The force currently has more than 300,000 officers and men scattered across every nook and cranny of the country.
The force is structured to operate under a system of three administrative arms. These arms are hierarchical from the departments to the zones down to the state level.
The Police Force is made up of departments with each performing its own unique duty. These are:
The police also has a Mobile Police Unit (MOPOL) which has the principal mandate of carrying out anti-riot duties.
As earlier stated, the force has the primary responsibility of protecting the lives and properties of the citizens. The diverse roles of the police are listed below.
Crime prevention is arguably the most important role of the force. They have the responsibility of carrying out investigation with a view of anticipating potential criminal activity in a locality. The force usually takes steps to prevent these crimes from taking place.
In the event that the police is unable to prevent a crime from taking place, they are also saddled with the responsibility of investigating the crime to ensure that the perpetrator is brought to book and to make sure that such crime does not repeat itself.
The police has taken up the role of traffic control to assist the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and other government agencies tasked with traffic control. The police has even gone as far as setting up a traffic control unit with full time traffic wardens.
During the 2015 elections, the police played a very important role in the protection of electoral staff, voters and materials. The police assigned unarmed men to all the polling stations all over the country to forestall any breakdown of law and order. The presence of these police officers further encouraged people to come out to cast their votes, and also ensured a freer and fairer exercise.
The police force is the first line of defence in the occurrence of riots or civil unrest. The MOPOL was specifically set up for this reason. During the dark days of deadly religious conflicts in the Northern part of Nigeria, the police did quite a lot to protect innocent civilians from been victims of mob actions.
The Nigeria Police force has been known to embark on peace keeping duties within and outside the country. A good example was the role played by the force (MOPOL) unit to bring peace in The Congo.
The police also has the role of providing protection for VIPs such as the President, Vice President, Senate president and other senior public servants and top government functionaries.
Despite the various good works done by the Nigeria police force, they have continued to receive knocks from the general public for various reasons.
There is almost a general consensus that the police force is hugely corrupt. This is mainly due to the fact that police officers are notorious for collecting bribes from criminals and innocent citizens alike.
The Nigeria Police is also notorious for committing human rights abuses, chief of which is the use of torture to get confessional statements from suspects, and extra judicial killings. Nigeria was even forced to withdraw 120 police officers from the peace mission in The Congo due to assertions of sexual assault.
Successive police authorities has put various measures together to launder the image of the police force and change the orientation and training of the officers and men of the force.
It is the hope and belief of patriotic Nigerians that they will have a police force that they can be truly proud of.