Mass failure in police exams

THE NATION newspaper

•Conscious efforts must be made to attract the country’s best into the police force

It is official: more than 90 percent of applicants seeking placement in the Nigeria Police Force fail to score up to 30 percent in recruitment examinations. Many are academically challenged, reflecting the poor calibre of operatives that would get unleashed on the citizenry should they end up being enlisted into service.

This trend was made known by Police Service Commission (PSC) Chairman, Alhaji Musliu Smith, who described it as a sad reflection of the society. In an address at a sensitisation and townhall meeting on police recruitment early last week in Birnin-Kebbi, the Kebbi State capital, he said it was alarming the society’s best were not attracted to join the police. “Part of the challenges the commission discovered during recruitment exercises in 2019 was the academic challenges of the applicants,” he noted, adding: “If our responsible and upright young ones are discouraged from joining the police, where are we going to source police officers of our dreams? Police and policing are a noble act and deserves the best of the society to join and change the narrative on the issue of internal security of our nation.”

The PSC boss, whose address was read by deputy director, Hajiya Hawa Komo, also said there was need for communities to raise the alarm when they notice dubious characters seeking to join the police. “There have been cases of robbers finding their way into recruitment camps. We must all come together to ensure only the best apply for and are recruited into the Nigeria Police,” he admonished, noting that public disenchantment with the force and failure of citizens to appreciate the police and policing had impacted negatively on the quality of persons applying to get enlisted.

PSC’s stakeholder engagement initiative is commendable, and Smith was right about the implication of the kind of people applying to join the police. The force at the lower rungs isn’t attracting bright minds in the society and tends to be a prospecting ground for jobless hordes seeking a bite of the proverbial national cake through quota system-based government employment. Whereas some sections of the country regularly oversubscribe their quotas, there are other sections that hardly utilise theirs. And it has been alleged that rather than be based on merit, career progression in the force is systemically skewed in favour of a region of the country to the disadvantage of the other region.

Smith was not entirely on point, though, about the route to redressing the trend. It is true to some extent that community members have filtration role in the quality of people enlisted into the force by encouraging their bright minds to join, and blowing the whistle on bad elements seeking to be recruited. But a more assured way is to tackle systemic disincentives that do not make the police professionally attractive and rewarding. For one, the barracks of police training colleges are an eyesore and would not attract anyone worth his professional salt to join the force. There are other grossly abusive welfare conditions applicable to recruits in training. This factor, perhaps, explains why many products of the system, upon interfacing with the public, betray an abused mentality that they in turn inflict on the citizenry through extortionate and oftentimes downright criminal behaviours. Government recently raised the salary of policemen, but the challenge goes beyond that and requires an overhaul of the entire system.

Another measure that may be helpful is to raise the entry qualification for police recruits. This, of course, would entail a radically enhanced wage package; and why not? Nigeria regularly appropriates huge sums on security provisioning, but we see little that is done with those funds because they do not get applied as appropriated. There is need for budgetary prioritisation by government that will make funds designated for police operations invariably get applied to those operations. Besides, police operatives need be kitted with tools that have worked in other climes – body cameras, for instance – to regulate their conduct while dealing with the public. A new police will require more than community engagement on quality recruits.


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