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Accountability, ICT and effective policing in Nigeria

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accountability,-ict-and-effective-policing-in-nigeria

By Bolaji O. Kazeem

The desire of the present administration to promote digital technology and transparency is obvious from various policies and programs being implemented by Ministries, Departments and Agencies. But the flip side may be its inability to focus more on accountability, efficiency and deployment of technology in security agencies’ operations.

The drift towards digital technology worldwide is like a supersonic jet; once you are left behind in this global village and current 4th revolution, you will deny the population of enjoying seamless opportunities of broadband penetration, Internet of Things (IoTs), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotic Technology and improved services.

It is a well-known fact that Nigeria is not maximising the use of technology in the security sector and this has great implications for the society at large. People’s businesses have been ruined; innocent citizens get killed unnecessary and the benefit of the agricultural transformation have been relatively eroded because of slow adoption of digital technology and the inability to hold public officers accountable in the country.

Citizens have been left alone to feel the brunt of criminals in the society due to corruption of some individuals in charge of relevant agencies that have the sole responsibility of protecting them.

The inability of individuals to perform their official responsibilities has grave consequences on individual businesses, lives, and the nation at large. Upcoming small-scale businesses have been made bankrupt because of the inability of the Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) to secure their areas of jurisdiction, allowing burglars to make away with goods, despite the effort of people to secure their properties.

When Nigerians sleep at night, our security apparatus also goes to sleep, especially when it rains. Rarely would you find police patrol vehicles moving around despite the fact that there is no CCTV installed to monitor the street, day and night.

The response of our security agencies to the main function of policing the environment is reactive and their action to the crime scene is abysmal and poor in this digital age, and this is due to corruption from top to bottom of the hierarchy of our security agencies.

There have been numerous complaints by citizens that some police officers’ attitudes to their official complaints at the stations that require urgency are not encouraging. Some police officials also have the effrontery to tell them that there are no operational vehicles to move to crime scenes.

Despite the fact that the majority of households strive to have basic protection by employing private security guards, the criminals also device means of cooperation by ganging up in large numbers to attack homes, business outlets, and villages. The superior numbers during their crime activities had defeated initial efforts of individuals hiring one or two private guards.

Private sector and non-governmental organizations, as well as state governments, have supported Nigerian Police with numerous vehicles to enhance their operations in the country but within a year, most of these operational vehicles are not on the road for official duty. Who is auditing Nigerian Police asset? Where are these vehicles?

There is no doubt that the federal government’s effort toward digitalising Nigeria’s economy is gradually taking shape.  The Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy gave explicit directives to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to work with telecom companies to resolve the issue of 9.2 million unregistered SIM cards in the country. This has been one of the issues that have been in the front burner with the security agencies in the country. Foot-dragging in the sector by telecom operators in the area of cooperating with security agencies has led to aggravation and aiding of kidnapping and terrorism in the country.

Within three weeks, 6.9 million unregistered SIMs were resolved with the remaining 2.3 million pending.

The harmonization of data from various agencies such as Federal Road Safety Corps, Nigeria Immigration Service, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) are crucial to the identification of individuals and serve as effective support to security challenges in the country.

Digital identity is critical for digital economic development and crime prevention and it is good judgment on the part of the federal government to move the National Identity Card Commission (NIMC) to the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy for effective and efficient supervision.

The government has also commissioned 19 call centres in some states with access code of 112. This is commendable and there is a need to complete others under construction in good time in order to aid effective communications between citizens and agencies responsible for the protection of lives and properties in the country.

All these efforts are meant to enhance the efficiency of our security agencies in the country but this would be worthless if those in charge of approving and disbursement of funds are not accountable to the public. In the Nigeria Police Force, everyone, starting from Inspector General, Deputy Inspector General, Assistant Inspector General, Commissioner of Police and DPOs in charge of police stations, all over the country, must be accountable to Nigerians.

How long would it take the Nigeria Police Force to deploy ICT equipment and network Police Stations all over the country to capture data of criminals for effective information sharing for easy identification of criminals who have continued to ply their trade from one state to another?

Government should provide a platform for police officers to report maladministration going on in their organization and an Open Treasury Portal should be adopted for the Nigeria Police in the disbursement of fuel money, maintenance of operational vehicles, purchase of operation equipment and data capturing in the stations.

Operational Vehicles should be on the network with the installation of digital camera for effective monitoring and evaluation of the field officers charged with the responsibilities of patrolling our streets in the cities and villages.

To address paucity of funds, the government can direct the Nigeria Customs to release smuggled cars seized to the police to add as additional operational vehicles that would enable Divisional Police Stations to patrol and protect the lives and properties of the citizens.

Private security, both formal and informal, should have a database with the police and there should be effective communication channels for information sharing. More synergy should be adopted with citizens to create trust and confidence building for citizens to have the courage to pass information to the police.

Surplus administrative officers, ICT, and others cadre in the public service can be given crash program to blend with the force and relieve the force of the administrative, data collection and storage as well as information dissemination duties, which the regular police officer is presently performing. This would enable more hands in the operational field and create an opportunity for the force to deploy operational officers for effective patrol and intervention in their areas of jurisdiction.

The inability of police to function effectively is at great cost to the citizens and the nation at large. The loss of lives and properties need to be curtailed by everybody through accountability of those disbursing and executing police projects and there is the urgent need for total adoption of digital technology in police operations.

The government must pay security agencies better emolument that can be compared to what CBN/NNPC staff receives as take-home before we can demand from the force total commitment to securing lives and properties. When they are better paid, there should be heavy sanctions for not living up to their Key Performance Indicators (KPI).

A better paid and well-equipped police force is an effective way to curb corruption in the society. Adoption of open treasury portal in the disbursement of running cost and maintenance funds would enable the force to be accountable to Nigerians. And the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) should be a watchdog over police funds’ disbursement to enable transparency and accountability.

  • Kazeem writes from Abuja.

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