The history, sociology and political economy of policing in Nigeria is a deep and complex subject. However, our modest focus in this blog post is the organizational transformation of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) i.e. the NPF’s reform of itself from within.
Where Are We?
Although the NPF is working to reorient itself, it has so far failed at the task of significantly reforming itself from within.
On 4 October, 2020, a video of acts of brutality by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a unit of the NPF popularly known as SARS, appeared online. The video provided the impetus for a largely online movement against police brutality, which had been identifiable by the hashtag #EndSARS since 2017, to hit the streets in protest.
In the evening of 20 October, 2020, after over two weeks of sustained protests, Nigerian security forces opened fire on citizens peacefully protesting police brutality. The attack reportedly killed at least a dozen, injured many more. The incident brought to a head the longstanding national struggle to reform the NPF.
It is arguable that if the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the most senior officer with responsibility for the operations of the NPF, had followed the reform timeline set for him by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on 3 June, 2019, the protests of 2020 would have been pre-emptively defused and the deaths, the destruction of property and national instability would have been avoided.
On 3 June, 2019, the President, having taken delivery of the 2,084-page report of the Presidential Panel on SARS Reform, gave the IGP a three-month deadline in which to produce a White Paper from the report, the first step in implementing the recommendations of the report. The IGP would not commence substantive action on producing that White Paper until 12 October, 2020, over a year later, when the protests were already underway.
While it was a lapse on the part of the IGP to not act and a lapse on the part of the President to not follow up on his instruction, it would be a signal mistake to conclude the stalling of reform is merely a consequence of the inactions of that particular IGP and that particular President. There are systemic factors militating against reform of the operations of the police.
Indeed, the current administration had merely fallen into the by now recognizable pattern of institutional inertia that characterizes reform of the operations of the police in Nigeria. 2019/2020 was the fourth time a perverse pattern would repeat itself since the return to democratic governance in 1999. We refer to the presidential police reform panels of 2006, 2008 and 2012. In spite of the slew of new, vital legislations that have been passed by the Buhari administration, which frame the operations of the police, reform continues to stall at the regulatory level and in actual operations.
Where Do We Want to Go?
The performance of the current and future federal governments—legislature, judiciary and executive—will ultimately be measured domestically within an Assessment of Implementation Framework that may be synthesized, primarily, from six documents:
1. Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015
2. Anti-Torture Act 2017
3. White Paper of the 2018-2019 Presidential Panel on SARS Reform.
4. Police Trust Fund Act 2019.
5. Police Act 2020.
6. Proposed 2021 and subsequent national budgets.
How Do We Travel?
In this view, the task of the legislature is clearly the disciplined attendance to its oversight roles, particularly the Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters and the Police Affairs committees of the Senate and the Federal Judiciary, the FCT Judiciary, the Human Rights, the Justice and the Police Affairs committees of the House.
As to the judiciary, court rules have to be reviewed towards explicit and strict conformity with the new laws. The courts can no longer operate in a way that condones citizens being arrested without being told what for or long pre-trial detention. The courts can, also, no longer wink at lack of legal representation or unduly facilitate the remanding of accused persons in prison to await trial. Again, the admission of evidence obtained and confessions extracted through cruel, inhuman treatment or torture should no longer have a place in our courts. It is squarely the responsibility of the courts to hold the police to basic standards.
In addition, administrative procedures have to be digitized and updated to reflect the grundnorms of criminal justice for our new Nigeria. Furthermore, legal education and practice in the area of criminal justice must be reviewed to center on and prioritize the new statutes. On all this, the judiciary needs to have begun work yesterday.
The Hard Starting Car (Immunity to Change)
What then is the first task of the executive? The executive must realize that there is a fundamental gap in the training and experience of its police. Nothing in the life’s course of a police officer has schooled them in the discipline of organizational transformation, not least an organization of the size and complexity of the NPF. Organizational transformation is a skill, and must be learned as a necessary prerequisite to genuine reform from within.
In spite of the ‘tone at the top’, political will outside the NPF, citizen direct action, immediate evidence suggests that all those are insufficient for overcoming the NPF’s 90-year immunity to change. Changing that institution requires a proven methodology for overcoming institutional inertia, interests vested in the status quo and the lack of transformation management capacity in the leadership of the NPF.
You Must Set Forth at Dawn
To facilitate decision-makers within the institution of the NPF and critical stakeholders from police oversight institutions—the Police Service Commission and the Ministry of Police Affairs—into ownership of the necessary vision and processes of reforming the NPF from within, by 30 March, 2021, WANGONeT proposes the use of its transformation management methodology, first deployed in the pathbreaking How Not to Rig an Election Project, which contributed to Nigerian institutions delivering the much lauded improvements in electoral performance of 2011.
Of the six major reform design attempts targeting the NPF since 1999—the Association of Retired Police Officers of Nigeria Recommendations of 2000, the Ministerial Five-Year Development Plan on Police Reform of 2002, the Dan Mandami Committee Report of 2006, the Yusuf Committee Report of 2008, the Osayande Committee Report of 2012 and the Committee on SARS Reform Report of 2019—the Dan Mandami report, without prejudice to other on-going efforts and past documents, offers a good chance for seeding self-sustaining root and branch reform within the NPF.
Our view is that within a framework of capacity building for managing organizational transformation, officers of the NPF need to be facilitated into the ownership of the vision captured in the Dan Mandami report.