The desire of this present administration to promote digital technology and transparency is obvious from various policies and programs being implemented by various Ministries, Departments, and Agencies. But the flip side maybe the inability of the Federal Government to focus more on accountability, efficiency and deployment of technology in security agencies’ operations.
Secret/darkness is one of the features of tactical criminal operations but that have been gradually eroded by Information Communication and Technology (ICT), based on the effective use of its component to track, monitor, and evaluate various criminal activities in the world.
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 (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotic Technology and improved services.
It is a well-known fact that Nigeria is not maximizing 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 has been relatively eroded because of the 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 society due to the corruption of some individuals in charge of relevant agencies that have the sole responsibility of protecting Nigerians.
It is pretentious for many of us not to notice an individual’s failure in Nigeria’s project, rather, we continue to mention President Buhari as the cause of our country’s failure in order to divert people’s attention from our individual/collective failure.
The inability of individuals to perform their official responsibilities have 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.
The arrangement to have support from police as back up for individuals/collective personal guards have been defeated by the lack of prompt response from the police force due to the unavailability of fuel, damaged patrol vehicles, or non-existence of either of the two in the stations.
It is rare to see police patrol vehicles moving around in the night, especially during the rainy season. You will never see policemen kitted for raining seasons that would have allowed them to perform optimally despite the fact that procurement of operational vehicles, raincoat, torchlights and others continue to appear every year in the budget of the Nigerian Police.
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 assets? Where are these vehicles?
There is no doubt that the Federal Government’s effort toward digitalizing Nigeria’s economy is gradually taking shape through the resilient and visionary steps of the present Minister of Communications and Digital Economy in the formulation and implementation of policies for digital Nigeria.
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 while the remaining 2.3 million was pending. The Minister did not hesitate to give a further directive to NCC for the deactivation of 2.3 million unclaimed Sim cards by owners.
Not only that, he further gave a clear directive to NCC to work with security agencies to remove any encumbrances that would stall their work in curbing the issues of kidnapping and terrorism in the country.
The Minister also charged the newly inaugurated Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Board to ensure that SIM cards and BVN are linked up with the National Digital Identity. The digital database is meant to foster economic growth and easy identification of Nigerians.
According to the Minister, the main responsibility of government is the protection of lives and properties and it would be a great injustice to allow criminals to use the platform under the supervision and regulation of the Ministry to perpetrate crime.
In his words, “In the course of negligence, many lives are going to be lost, many people are going to be affected. We will not have peace of mind, let us ensure that this is a responsibility to ensure that our sector is protected. It would not be a platform for committing a crime in our country.”
The harmonization of data from various agencies such as Federal Road Safety Corps, Nigeria Immigration Service, National Identity Card Commission (NIMC) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) are crucial to the identification of individuals and serve as an 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 present government has commissioned nineteen (19) call centers in some states with an 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?
The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) should step in to investigate how funds allocated to the Nigeria Police Force are being disbursed and expended. There is no reason not to investigate them because politicians, Civil Servants, and others are being investigated every day by this agency.
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 a 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 the paucity of funds, the government can direct the Nigeria Customs to release a smuggled car 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 giving 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 a 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 an 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 receive 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 porter 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.
Bolaji O. Kazeem
Resident Information Officer