By Hassan Zaggi
On March 16, 2021, the Force Spokesman, Commissioner of Police (CP), Frank Mba, in a well attended press briefing paraded 50 suspected criminals who were arrested for various offences.
According to him, the suspects who are members of various notorious criminal gangs and networks across the country, were arrested by operatives of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) and the Special Tactical Squad (STS) of the Force attached to the Operation Puff Adder II.
The arrests, he explained, were outcomes of successful follow-up on cases bordering on kidnapping, armed robbery, banditry, unlawful possession of firearms, amongst others.
Items recovered from the suspects include 10 sophisticated prohibited firearms, 2,496 AK47 live ammunition, 10 live cartridges, Cartons of Tramadol Drugs worth over 3 million naira, bags of weed suspected to be Indian hemp, 2 laptop computers and 8 mobile phones.
The confessions made by some of the suspected criminals were interesting and in some cases, enlightening.
In fact, one of the suspects shocked journalists when he revealed how he has the capacity to demobilize some brands of phones and get every information he needs in few minutes.
One of the suspects, Markus Danladi, was picked in Kachia, Kaduna State for conveying 1,565 AK47 ammunition in a Volkswagen, Golf 3 Car.
Investigations by the Police team revealed that the suspect is member of a syndicate that specializes in supplying ammunition from Jos to bandits in their various camps/hideouts in forests in Kaduna State.
Since the past few years, thousands of suspects have been paraded by the Nigeria Police Force in different states of the country. This is highly commendable.
For example, on Monday, March 15, 2021 or thereabout, the Kano State Police Command paraded 101 suspects arrested for various offences.
Also, in August 2020, the Lagos State Command paraded hundreds of criminals arrested for different offences. The list is endless as most states of the federation at different times paraded suspects arrested for various offences.
The Nigeria Police Force must be commended for making efforts at tackling the growing rate of crime and criminality which skyrocketed in Nigeria in recent years.
There is no doubt that the Nigeria Police Force, despite insufficient funding and the dearth of equipment, has done well and has proven that if given the needed support, it can do better in ensuring that the country is safe.
While many Nigerians applaud the Nigerian Police Force for what they describe as exceptional performance in the arrest of such large number of suspected criminals for various offences in different parts of the country in recent years, some experts in security matters, however, differ.
According to them, a police force that is working does not wait for a crime to happen before it arrests the suspects. They believe that a working police force is proactive in ensuring that crime is busted at its budding stage.
Yes, preventing the crime before it takes place is far better than running after and arresting the suspects after causing the havoc.
This view is corroborated by the Sir Robert Peel who is said to be the ‘Father of Modern Policing’.
Sir Robert Peel, in 1829, established the London Metropolitan Police Force.
During his time, two centuries ago, his commissioners established a list of policing principles that are said to remain as crucial and urgent today as they were that time. They contain 3 Core Ideas and Nine Principles.
A cursory look at the Sir Peel’s policing principles, the Ninth principle states that: “To recognize always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.”
On the other hand, the CORE IDEAL 1 states that: “The goal is preventing crime, not catching criminals. If the police stop crime before it happens, we don’t have to punish citizens or suppress their rights. An effective police department doesn’t have high arrest stats; its community has low crime rates.”
These 3 Core Ideals and 9 principles are used globally to assess the performance of any police force in any part of the world.
The question, though is, juxtaposing the frequent arrests and subsequent parade of hundreds of suspects by the Nigeria Police Force in recent years with the Sir Peel’s Core Ideals and policing principles, is the Nigerian Police Force actually performing?
While we are struggling to respond to the above question, it is pertinent to look at the role of the community in ensuring that the police perform optimally bearing in mind that the police cannot succeed in isolation.
The 2nd Sir Peel’s Core Ideal states that: “The key to preventing crime is earning public support. Every community member must share the responsibility of preventing crime, as if they were all volunteer members of the force. They will only accept this responsibility if the community supports and trusts the police.”
It is also pertinent to say here that our communities have not been supportive to the Nigeria Police Force enough. All these suspected criminals in their hundreds are from our communities. They are our brothers and sisters. They also live with us and among us. In fact, our communities have failed us.
If Nigerian communities are proactive and supportive to the Nigeria police enough, these criminals could have been nipped even before they perpetrate their nefarious tendencies.
It is therefore, necessary to invoke the 2nd Sir Peel’s Policing Principle which states that: “To recognize always that the power of the police to fulfill their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behavior, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.”
For the police to succeed, it must, through its actions, win the confidence of Nigerians. There is no police force that will get support from any community if the community suspects it.
For us to get to a level where we have zero criminal arrest and ensure a near crime-free society, the Nigeria Police and our communities must work together in an atmosphere of trust.
The communities must trust the police enough to be able to volunteer intelligence to them.