Nigeria Police and Record Keeping

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Nigeria Police and Record Keeping

Postby Richard Akindele » Fri Nov 14, 2008 6:07 pm

When recently the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro admitted that he did not know the actual number of policemen in the country, not a few people felt embarrassed. However, given the nation’s notoriety for poor record keeping, we are hardly surprised. What is true of the police is, unfortunately, also true of many government agencies and ministries.
What is also interesting about Okiro’s confession is that it makes it easy to understand why the police seem to be overwhelmed by criminals who increasingly terrorise the society. All the argument about Nigeria being under-policed would then seem to be based on mere speculation. While it may seem obvious, there is no data to prove it. It is also only when the strength of the police is known that it is possible to make a case for more men or otherwise.
For an organization that is charged with the maintenance of law and order, the question of its numerical strength is of critical importance. Apart from the sheer number of its men, there is also the need for proper and specific identification of these men. We are aware that policemen are usually assigned service numbers and that those who are deceased are de-registered. Why then is it difficult to keep track of the number of men in the organization?
It is hard to imagine how the police authorities can do any meaningful planning without accurate information on its population. It is only when we know the current strength of the police that we can say if it needs more men or not. Besides, it is hard to determine the other demographic facts—age, gender and distribution—about the police without an accurate database that is regularly updated.
From the inspector-general of police’s admission, it is only fair to assume that even the Police Service Commission which claims that there are 377,000 policemen in the country, is just speculating. If such information is to be relied on, the I-G ought to be the right person to authenticate it. But by his own admission, whatever figure is being bandied about on the number of policemen in the country, is at best, an estimate.
This is not good for crime fighting at a time when criminals are becoming more desperate and more sophisticated. It is indeed scandalous that all these years, the police authorities have no reliable records on its personnel. Little wonder that policemen are sometimes involved in criminal acts without being easily identified.
With Okiro’s admission, we cannot even begin to imagine if the police have records of criminals, especially hardened criminals. In an era when crime fighting has become scientific, how computerised are the operations of the police in Nigeria?
It is fair on Okiro’s part for him to have confessed. But he should follow it up with immediate action of updating police personnel records and indeed those of criminals. It is an issue that needs not be treated lightly. How can we be certain that the nation is under-policed if we do not know the current strength of the organisation? Indeed how can we plan for arming the police without accurate information on the number of men to be provided for?
The IG and the Police Service Commission need to tackle this challenge immediately so that the nation can reasonably provide for the organization. Computerising the activities and records of the police is the best way to go about it. It is not something to be paid mere lip service. Concrete steps should be taken to actualize it. What we say to the police also goes for other government agencies where record keeping is equally in shambles. A nation that toys with record keeping is a nation that is not ready for real development and where projections are like a leap in the dark.
Richard Akindele
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Postby Richard Akindele » Fri Nov 14, 2008 11:53 pm

A country that does not have a solid statistics of its citizens, is not going to function properly. All planning starts with knowing the population you're going to serve.

Consider this everyday example...

You want to throw a party. What's the first thing you think about? You think about how many people are going to attend that party. Once you have a rough idea of the number of people, you'd then be able to plan for an appropriate venue, the amount of refreshments, parking space, and ultimately be able to put a number on the total cost of that party.

However, assuming you did not bother to research the number of people that will attend that party, instead you decided to throw the party in your Daddy's living room. Chances are that the living room can only accommodate roughly 10 people. What happens if on party night 120 people show up? Well what happens is that you just got a major chaos on your hands. An obvious result of bad planning.

The reverse of that scenario is as follows...

You foolishly assume that 120 people are going to attend your party, and you go out and pay for a large party hall.

Unfortunately, only a disappointing 5 people showed up. Well, you just wasted a whole lot of money on the hall, and in paying for catering, etc.

A simple scenario like the ones above are not far fetched. They illustrate the same way things work at the governmental level. Every planning starts with the number of people you're going to serve.

So, for Nigeria not to know how many Policemen it has is beyond embarrassing.

What is most baffling about Nigeria is that we have the ability to do great things. We have people both abroad and at home, blessed with incredible academic abilities, backed by practical knowledge, that could turn things around in our nation.

However, this is not happening. It's either we don't know how easily things could be developed in Nigeria; we know but don't care; or there are elements in government who don't want to see progress take place in Nigeria.

I am a computer programmer. I have built dozens of Internet applications that handle tens of millions of records in databases. Nigeria should be taping into the expertise of its citizens such as myself. We have highly experienced professionals around the world working to build other nations, but not ours.

Considering the enormity of our problems as a nation, and how backward a nation we are, what our government needs to do is first identify the areas that need improvement. You cannot solve a problem, until it's been clearly defined.

So let's say the government wants to keep accurate statistics of the country's Police personnel, this is a problem in the area of Information Technology. A secure online application needs to be built that every Police Department in the country can access securely over the Internet.

The application should be such that a new State can be created. New Cities within the State can be created. And one can continue to drill down until you get to individual Police precincts. Every precinct can then get on the Internet and enter the statistics of its Policemen.

Once such an application is ready, it'd be just a matter of weeks before the number of Policemen in the country is tallied correctly.

What is the approximate cost of building such an application? Peanuts really. Just me working alone can build it in a few months once the specs have been mapped out. If the Nigerian government wants the application built, I can do it for free as a contribution toward the development of Nigeria.

Besides building the application, there is also the question of hosting it. I can host the site securely, or it can be hosted on any Web server that the government already operates. Hence, there isn't any extra cost to be incurred on that front either.

Given all the aforementioned possibilities, the only reason we can't implement such an important database system is apathy.

Other things the government should give serious thought to are: Population census, Medical record keeping, court records, police arrest records, etc. These services need to go online.

Although the focus has been on a database system for the Nigerian Police, there are tons of other areas where Nigeria could use the expertise of its citizens. All that is needed is for the government to take the first step, and identify those experts qualified to handle the tasks.
Richard Akindele
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