With prevailing realities nationwide, any support to the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) would certainly be a great step in the right direction. Indeed, with the increasing anti-police manifestations by gunmen and other protesters alone, the NPF would be greatly encouraged with any initiative that would help its operations.
Hence, Federal Government’s recent adoption of the West African Police Information System programme (WAPIS) of the Economic Community of West African States has been described as a very laudable step in providing required support to boost the capacity and capability of the police personnel in the country.
WAPIS is the West African Police Information System programme of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL).
The WAPIS Centre was inaugurated by the Minister of Police Affairs at the Force Headquarters, Abuja on Wednesday, May 26, 2021, with state-of-the-art biometric capturing equipment which will be capturing information of suspects and convicted criminals and pooling such information in a centralized Database.
The inauguration was sequel to an earlier decision on Wednesday March 24, 2021 when the Federal Government adopted the regulation of the WAPIS National Committee (WANACO) on the system, the data collection and registration centre (DACORE).
Significantly, the database is imperative for effective policing in Nigeria and concerted efforts should be made by the Federal Government, State and Local governments to drive the process through the digitalization of their systems to enable proper documentation of both citizens, animals and properties.
The WAPIS programme provided the first batch of equipment, which included the deployment and installation of twenty (20) workstation on various law enforcement agencies sites, including Police, Immigration, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). This was followed with three (3) training sessions.
The Centre will be the hub for the collation of information on criminal proceeding from the various law enforcement agencies. The subsequent analyzed information will be shared with relevant agencies and partners.
It is remarkable that the federal government through its Ministries/Departments/Agencies is making concerted efforts to actualize stakeholders’ concern in the ICT sector and citizens’ demand for a reliable database in the country.
The obvious truth is that some critical government agencies like Police Force are not on the same level of speed with other agencies in the implementation of digitalization and e-government that would enable effective and efficient data base in the country.
The Divisional Police stations in the country lack basic ICT infrastructure that would create enabling environment for accurate, real-time and digitalize database that would capture detailed information of people, animals and properties within the police station environment.
The process of writing a statement, generating a report for citizens and the input of biodata and other official engagements in the police stations are done manually, creating an avenue for extortion of citizens and stalling revenue generation for the government.
Besides, most of the criminal records of offenders and properties all over the country are not done electronically so as to enable seamless transfer to central database and empower criminal investigation officers to cross reference criminal records of offenders.
Currently, modern-day criminal activities are sophisticated and those involved are highly creative and educated based on their access to the information and communication technology tools. This has translated to evasion of arrest and loss of lives and properties in the country.
Criminal activities no longer have boundaries, it involves many people from different background, languages, sex, colour and countries. They are cooperating in groups across the world to defraud, monitor and kill innocent citizens.
These realities, especially the sophistication of criminal activities and drive to promote e-government and digitization of the economy, must have prompted federal government’s decision to put square pegs in square holes by appointing astute and diligent administrator -Mohammad Maigari Dingyadi – and information and communication expert and driver of e-government in the country – Mr Tope Fashedemi -as Honourable Minister and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Police Affairs respectively.
This combination had elicited appropriate policy formulation and implementation as well as confidence from partners, stakeholders and international organizations in the world.
Currently, the Ministry is working closely with partners, especially China, to attract more infrastructure, investment, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) technologies and security equipment/training programme as well as foreign industries into the country to create more employment opportunities, security and reduce poverty in the country.
Work is going on the reactivation of the abandoned CCTV project through Public-Private Partnership and the selection of a concessioner among the private organizations that bided for the project. The process is a welcome development which had prompted the concessioner to start working to resuscitate the CCTV project.
Significantly too, the Federal Government- through the Ministry of Police Affairs -resuscitated the Police Public Complaints Committee (PPCC) to enable citizens to have a platform to seek redress and report recalcitrant police officers. This is an opportunity for people to channel their grievances on the misconduct of police personnel to the appropriate quarters for necessary action.
The committee will have 24 hours dedicated lines with the special investigative team from the Department of State Security (DSS); Nigeria Police Force; Civil Society; Ministry of Justice; National Human Rights Commission; National Intelligence Agency; Police Community Relations Committee etc to forestall a reoccurrence of “EndSARS” because there now exists a platform for the citizens to engage a higher authority on the activities of any recalcitrant officer of the Nigeria Police Force.
In addition, ongoing activities to ensure that SIM cards and BVN are linked up with the National Digital Identity is a boost to the efficiency of the police force. The digital database is meant to foster economic growth. Easy identification of Nigerians is crucial to the identification of individuals that will serve as effective support to security challenges in the country.
Digital identity is critical for digital economic development and crime prevention and it is imperative that all police stations are provided with necessary infrastructures that would enhance storage and retrieval of the identity of individuals within the police ecosystem.
ICT has emerged as a key enabler which is sustaining the continuity of activities within governments, businesses and society. It is crucial to the effectiveness of policing the country. Indeed, the drive of the present administration toward digitalization is an impetus for the Ministry to formulate more policies for the Nigeria Police Force, to enable the officers to level up with their counterparts in the developed countries.
Essentially therefore, state and local governments, individuals and corporate bodies must partner and support federal government’s initiatives of providing modern policing equipment to the Nigeria Police Force.
Indeed, there is the need for more infrastructure and increased investment – especially in Information and Communication Technology and security equipment/training programme in the country.
Apart from the benefits of these to effective policing, security will be guaranteed generally and various sector operators would be able to maximize their potentials and be positioned to create more employment opportunities and reduce poverty in the country, thereby drastically reducing criminal tendencies.
Bolaji O. Kazeem
Head (Press and Public Relations Unit)
Ministry of Police Affairs, Abuja.