Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

Obstacles to Effective Policing in Nigeria

Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

Obstacles to Effective Policing in Nigeria

Article excerpt


This paper traces the history of colonial social control and Policing in Nigeria, and also reviews the literature and examines how colonialism demonized, discredited, and supplanted the traditional system of policing. It establishes that in place of the old (traditional) system, colonialism imposed a new (but alien) militarized policing geared toward the colonial needs of political oppression and economic exploitation without regard to the needs of the colonized. The post-colonial state was thus bequeathed a corrupt police system that fails to cater to the needs of the people. This unfortunate development explains the emergence of "ethnic armies" in the face of corrupt and insensitive national police.


In the face of ever increasing acts of lawlessness, social disorder, armed robbery, and senseless vindictive assassinations in Nigeria, it has become necessary to look for causal explanations that go beyond superficial semantics. This research work is therefore intended to add to the body of literature that go to substantiate the claim that colonial policing was not introduced to protect the lives and property of Africans. It was rather introduced to protect colonial interests (traders and missionary agents) financed to serve the economic needs of colonialism which is exploitation.

Additionally, this work will lend credence to the view that the present obstacles in the way of effective policing in Nigeria is an inevitable aftermath of a colonial system designed to conquer, displace, and suppress, for the sole objective of exploiting African indigenous labor and resources. Nigeria needs to shade off neocolonial apron that has stymied progress and embrace innovative approaches geared towards combating the obstacles in the way of a detached professionalized police. Some of the options are suggested in this work.

Study Methodology

The research on obstacles to effective policing in Nigeria is part of data collected over several years. The study methodology is based on ethnographic observation of events as they evolve over the years; from independence through the Nigerian civil war, various military regimes, and (s)elected representative governments. It also includes analysis of Nigerian newspapers and magazines, academic journal articles, books, archival materials, and internet-based documented source materials. Other sources of data include convenient sample personal (clarification) interviews of selected individuals and officials whom the author felt have something relevant to contribute.

The Colonial and Post-independence Policing Experiment

The origins, development and role of the European type of police forces in Africa are traceable to the nature of European interests in the continent and the reactions of the indigenous people to their activities. With the advent of colonialism came the distortion of the traditional institutions and values, which had from time immemorial sustained harmonious relationship, peace, and security of lives and property in the pre-colonial African communities. Thus, the legacy of Western plantation (and in some cases racist) ideology is the portrayal of African societies and cultures as lawless and disorderly (Onoge, 1993). This negative image had its roots in the long ordeal of the slave trade, and later colonialism, which mediated modern Africa's interaction with the West.

Following conquest, colonial rule was consolidated through a system that subjugated the existing traditional informal law enforcement mechanism with the forceful imposition of the Western idea of policing. Thus, the colonialists introduced new laws, which replaced, or seriously threatened the efficacy of native laws and customs, traditional religions and other sanctions, as well as indigenous tribunals and justice. Achebe (1959) recounted a colonial demonstration of this assertiveness in his legendary Umuofia village:

.... the white men had also brought a government. …

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