IDPs – and other Nigerians – are probably not considering these factors in their requests to join the Nigeria Police Force

Becoming a Nigerian Police Officer appears to currently be one of the most attractive jobs for unemployed citizens and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Durumi Area 1 Camp in the capital city of the country. Although the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) is commencing the recruitment of 10,000 people, a staggering 570, 174 individuals applied for various positions within the force last month.

Following the NPF’s decision to accommodate the aforementioned number of Nigerians in its institution, the Durumi IDPs are asking that their 700 members be given an advantage in the ongoing recruitment process based on the general circumstances surrounding IDPs in Nigeria. The Chairman and Secretary of the IDPs, Messrs. Ibrahim Ahmadu and Bala Yusuf addressed a letter to Mike Okiro, Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC) explaining how positions in the NPF would help to alleviate the difficult situation of IDPs.

In March, PSC declared that there would be no “short-cut” in securing a position in the current exercise, which was commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari last year and seeks to significantly improve the Police Force. What this implies is that the process would be free and fair for all applicants albeit rigorous.

From a point of empathy and compassion, the request of the IDPs should probably be getting a lot of support. But before we examine it through those lenses, the glaring and disturbing issue that being a police officer is just another job in Nigeria, needs to be addressed.

What it takes to become a police officer in Nigeria versus what it ‘should’ take:

While the high number of applicants suggests that ‘policing’ in Nigeria is a sort of dream job, this is true only when viewing the situation from the standpoint of an unemployed, struggling Nigerian in the best case, and one who is desperate and thoroughly unqualified for the job in the worst. According to a lot of young Nigerians, becoming a police officer is one of the most unattractive jobs to have. The reasons go from highly crucial matters such as the corrupt and damaged system and poor image of NPF to interesting ones such as the colour of the national uniform for the force.

As emphasised by the representatives of IDPs, it basically takes O Level, HND, NCE and OND certificates to qualify for consideration and a possible position in the NPF which involves undertaking a certain level of responsibility towards lives and property in the Nigerian society. While this is okay on paper, a sensitive factor that is being overlooked by most Nigerians is the nature and manner of the training received by those who would be in charge of security in the country.

Police recruits are required to learn about a wide scope of security-related issues both physically and mentally, in addition to possessing human/crowd management skills and understanding societal laws and civil rights. The calibre of police officers found in the society today seem to be lacking in a majority of these areas, coupled with the fact that the government is not doing its best in the area of motivation and adequate remuneration, and this could be responsible for the high level of corrupt practices that have resulted in the unpopular image of NPF today.

The United States Department of State released an unsavoury report on Nigeria two days ago where the country’s security personnel came under scrutiny. Under a section titled “Role of the Police and Security Apparatus” – and in fact in a manner of generality throughout the report – the shortcomings of the NPF, including the abuse of power, extortion and human rights violations were clearly stated. All of the aforementioned is necessarily news to any Nigerian, shameful as the situation stands.

Last week, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, announced a compulsory drug test for all intended police officers before they are assigned firearms. More than being an obvious requirement, and not exactly deserving of a special announcement, this measure does not guarantee excellence or the presence of a necessary moral fibre that is lacking amongst police officers in Nigeria. This can, however, be helped through a dedication to adequate, well-rounded forms of training that would rival those being conducted in other parts of the world. Also, the problem posed by the unsatisfactory ratio of police officers to Nigerian citizens remains a cause for concern.

Police Commandant, Mr. Joseph Ibu, spoke to the press in November 2015 about how the training institutions in the country are suffering from neglect and decay, resulting in the inability to produce top officers. And while the decision of the government to grow the force by 10,000 recruits is laudable, all eyes are on the NPF to do something different and produce better recruits this time around.

In summary, the IDPs with a desire to be included in NPF, along with the rest of the 10,000 police recruits, need to answer a key question – are they willing to make the required sacrifices to transform the police institution or do they just need a ‘job’? In the case of the latter, perhaps the Federal Government would do well to go beyond positions in the police force and also consider IDPs for much needed employment opportunities in other sectors of the economy.

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