The Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), a coalition of 49 civil society organizations, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to re-organize the Police Service Commission (PSC). In the proposed re-organization, NOPRIN is calling for the removal of PSC Chairman, Mr. Mike Okiro, whose perceived lack of integrity has damaged the image of the Police.
"The removal of the current Chairman of the PSC, Mr. Mike Okiro, is long overdue, considering that his integrity deficit has rubbed off negatively on the credibility and operational effectiveness of the commission.
"Besides recurrent allegations of corruption against him by police officers, there are numerous documented cases of misconduct against him, especially, the numerous unresolved corruption cases, in addition to other reasons adduced, which make him unsuitable to be appointed in the first place, as head of a credible, civilian external oversight mechanism for the Nigeria Police," observed NOPRIN.
The coalition's position is contained in a comprehensive petition addressed to the President and signed by its National Coordinator, Okechukwu Nwanguma.
NOPRIN explained that it has been receiving numerous complaints from disaffected police officers across the country concerning alleged irregularities and corrupt practices in police recruitment and promotion exercises.
The PSC is the statutory body overseeing recruitment, promotion, and discipline in the Nigeria Police Force.
According to the group, PSC's discharge of these responsibilities has been riddled with widespread infidelities. It also noted that with its present ethical baggage, the Commission is ill-equipped to implement its statutory mandate.
"As presently constituted, the PSC is hampered to effectively carry out its mandate as a civilian external oversight mechanism for the NPF, to ensure accountability by perpetrators and redress for victims of the numerous public complaints of police human rights abuse, corruption, and misconduct," said the petition.
In specific terms, NOPRIN drew the attention of the President to the dodgy nature of the police promotion exercise, which has continued to attract louder dissent from officers who allege that promotions are influenced by favoritism, corruption, and other extraneous considerations.
Many police officers, noted NOPRIN, have continued to allege that their contemporaries and even juniors are elevated above them in successive promotions, with some of them having stagnated on the same rank for 15 years or more.
"This calls for a prompt, impartial and exhaustive investigation," NOPRIN said.
The coalition stated that last September, an interview/selection board was conducted in all the 12 zones of the Nigeria Police Force. This, it said, was attended by over 13,000 inspectors, including the cadets of 2009 and 2010.
During the exercise, over 9,000 inspectors (including all the cadets) were recommended.
However, some cadet inspectors were promoted to ASP, while others were ignored by the PSC and immediate past Inspector-General of Police IGP, Mr. Solomon Arase.
No reason, explained NOPRIN, was given for leaving the others out.
More baffling was that during the exercise, some inspectors promoted in 2011 and 2012 respectively were promoted to the rank of ASP, leaving some cadet inspectors of 2009/2010 set out.
Curiously, during his retirement broadcast, Arase claimed to have cleared all arrears of promotion from Inspector to ASP up to 2010.
In another complaint, some police officers said they attended a board interview for the promotion of inspectors to ASP II.
Most of the officers slated for promotion, said police officers, have spent between five and nine years on the rank. A little over 6,000 officers attended the interview, but those considered for promotion were about half of that figure. The major determinant, they said, had been the use of the quota system, which had long been abolished under Mr. Parry Osayande, former PSC Chairman.
In yet another complaint, an inspector was quoted in the petition as saying that police officers, who were inspectors by or before December 2012 were called to attend inspector promotion board interview, following their recommendation by the Zonal Assistant Inspectors-General. But when the promotion list was released last January, it showed that the majority of those promoted were from certain states in the North.
"Most of my course mates from some certain states from the north were promoted, while a majority of us were not promoted.
"We all joined the Force on the same date, passed out from training on the same day, went for the interview on the same day, have the same qualifications, and we were all recommended for promotion," the petition quoted the police officer as saying.
In the area of recruitment into the Force, NOPRIN said it has also received tons of complaints from applicants and relatives of applicants currently undergoing screening for recruitment. Notably, the complaints revolve around demands of a minimum of N40,000 gratification by officials in charge of the exercise. This, NOPRIN added, should be looked into as a way of ensuring the fidelity of the process and prevent shady characters from joining the Force.
"It is such undesirable characters that constitute the source of the image crisis that the Police have faced over the years, as well as pose threat to public safety and security," NOPRIN reasoned.
It instantiated this with the discontinuation of the plan to recruit 40,000 policemen yearly between 2001 and 2004. The exercise, the coalition recalled, was stopped when an audit revealed that many of the recruits hired proxies and mercenaries who stood for them during the screening.
"Many did not have the basic qualifications and presented either fake certificates or the certificates of others. Most of them paid various sums of money in bribe to be recruited. This explains why there are many armed robbers, kidnappers and sundry criminals within the police force," NOPRIN explained.