The Nigeria Police And Mockery Of Common Good (A Critical Investigation)

Project and Seminar Material for Philosophy

The Nigeria Police And Mockery Of Common Good (A Critical Investigation)


The recent excesses and illegalities of our respected police force, give special urgency to the question of control over and accountability of our police establishment. The purpose or objective of this research is streamlined towards exposing certain indiscipline and corruptive activities of Nigerian police force that ridicule the realization of common good of the people, which defines the role of police institution, and which underscores the fundamental end of a civil society. In this regard, we shall consider an understanding of an act of policing, roles of police in a society, the structure of police force in Nigeria, and philosophy of police service.

Table of Contents

  • Title Page
  • Certification
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgements
  • Table of Contents

Chapter One

1.0 General Introduction

  • 1.1 Background
  • 1.2 Statement of the problem
  • 1.3 Scope and purpose of the study
  • 1.4 Method of the Research

Chapter Two

2.0 Common Good

  • 2.1 Literature Review
  • 2.2 The Ontology of Common Good
  • 2.3 Obstacles that hinder Common Good
  • 2.4 Common Good and Institutions

Chapter Three

3.0 Understanding The Act of Policing

  • 3.1 The meaning of police and act of policing
  • 3.2 Community policing
  • 3.3 Roles of police in a Society
  • 3.4 The Structure of Police Force in Nigeria
  • 3.5 The philosophy of police service

Chapter Four

4.0 The Nigeria Police and Some Cases of Mockery of Common Good

  • 4.1 Some possible causes of police mockery of common good in Nigeria
  • 4.2 Nigerian Police and Destruction of lives and Property
  • 4.3 Nigeria police, Bribery and Extortion of Twenty Naira Syndrome
  • 4.4 Police Conniving with Armed Robbers – A mockery of common good
  • 4.5 Police Brutality and Extra-judicial killings
  • 4.6 Police meddling with Public Funds and property
  • 4.7 Nigeria Police, other Human Rights Abuses, Corruption and Indiscipline

Chapter Five

5.0 Evaluation and Conclusion

  • 5.1 Critical Evaluation
  • 5.2 Some Recommendations
  • 5.3 Conclusion
  • Bibliography

Chapter One

1.0 General Introduction

1.1 Background

Mind cast on some capitalist societies shows that sometimes, pursuit of personal interest overrides and militates against the realization of common good. Ipso facto, Nigerian society has not been an exception to this. Yet, the fact still remains that it is in working together for the common good or welfare that one achieves one’s private good, and not the reverse. This is because the adoption of a capitalist system does not presuppose a society where the sense of justice and mutual co-existence is totally lost. Hence, some social philosophers have become exponents and defenders of common good of the human society. No wonder Aristotle holds that man is a social being. That is to say that the goals which man sets for himself, are those he pursues in common with other men. This, as a matter of fact, defines the existence of human society. Taking a cursory look on one of the reasons why man seeks to live in a society:

…is to attain the fullness or end of his life, which is achieved only when it is integrated in a body of social communication.1

Thus, the society more or less, exists for the realization of the common good of the whole.

But it seems that even people, who suppose to make others adhere to the promotion of common good, are sometimes found to be those who directly or indirectly oppress the common good. The Nigeria police for example, sometimes go against the common good of the members of the society, which results in loss of lives and property here and there, and they swim in the ocean of indiscipline and corruption in the force. This is because there is a gruesome pursuit of private interest and so, the end for which man comes together in a society is seriously defeated.

Thus, in this social ill, human right and dignity is compromised. It is on this that Pope John Paul II holds that “respect for the dignity of the person which implies the defense and promotion of human rights, demands the recognition of the religious dimension of the individual”.2 This is in consonance with social, economic and political order respectful of the dignity, freedom and fundamental rights of each person. There exist both fundamental and other human rights, which every citizen should enjoy. This underscores the urgency of promotions of such common good.

There are several definitions of common good. In general parlance, common good highlights a specific good that is shared by and beneficial to all, or most members of a given community, and also this is how this common good is broadly understood in philosophy, ethics and political science. The idea of common good could also be seen in certain degree, as the general welfare of the people.

Nevertheless, sometimes people propound certain theories in criticism of the idea of common good. There is, for instance, a theory called psychological egoism, which argues that man is selfish and self-seeking by nature, and so, every person always seeks his interest in whatever he does. According to this theory, whenever a person does anything, he does it only because he has seen that somehow (either directly or indirectly, either immediately or in the future) he will derive some benefits for himself from it.3 The theory claims that behind any human action, there is always a selfish motive which prompts it and which acts as its driving force. Thus, any human action could aim at a selfish desire for fame, a desire for wealth, a desire for praise, a desire for money, a desire for power etc.

But, one may not have to say for sure that this theory completely holds water. If it were true, then, it would be impossible to be altruistic, since altruism is the very opposite of egoism. Altruism has been found to be a moral ideal; the more morally mature a person is, the more altruistic he becomes, and the more morally immature he is, the more egoistic he is. According to J. Omeregbe, the truth is that man has, by nature, the potentialities for both selfishness and altruism because he is by nature, both individual and social.4

But why does a human society exist? One can say that society exists in order to ensure the free movement of the individual members in the pursuit of their interest as a community. This underscores the notion of common good, which is part of what we set out to consider in this work. Man realizes his private good more genuinely when it is pursued in the general or common good of the society in which he belongs.

1.2 Statement of the Problem.

Every civil society exists for the realization of common good of the social whole.5 This underscores the establishment of some institutions or bodies that would be charged with the responsibility of helping to achieve, promote or realize this common good. The police force, then, is one of such institutions. As a matter of fact, the basis for establishment of police force is mostly geared towards the welfare of the society.6

However, it has been found out that in Nigeria, there are instances where insecurity of life and property are rather found in the hands of security agents, who leave the common good in pursuit of private interests. When this becomes the case, there is no promotion but the mockery of common good. This is when law enforcement agents become lawless themselves. They are even seen to use their police authority to pursue their selfish interest, to the extent of using bullying and killing to the detriment of the general welfare of the people, of which they are called to protect. Lives and properties are lost in the hands of those meant to protect them.

But a person is not meant to be subject to whomever that can control him by force without regard for reason of law (common good of the whole) and order of a society. When this prevails in a society, Thrasymanchus’ ‘might is right’ reigns, where the stronger (armed policemen) takes along what belongs to the society. Injustice becomes the order of the day, where the rights of the weak and poor, are trampled on.7 The problem then becomes: who, after all, guards the guardians, if the entire common good is to be realized. This is a question that has bedeviled man for a long time. The recent excesses and illegalities of our respected police force, give special urgency to the question of control over and accountability of our police establishment. Certainly, the sight of such ill activities of some of our police officers intimidating its citizens, or interrupting the flow of life of justice, is sufficiently unnerving to force us to seek answers to the challenge.

1.3 Scope and Purpose of the Study.

In this research work, my realm of concentration and concern will be limited to the consideration of notion of common good by some thinkers and then use it to investigate into only some ill activities of Nigeria police that militates against the general welfare of the people. As a matter of fact, Nigeria police has cases where they promote common good, but I shall only limit myself to some cases of their negation of common good.

The purpose or objective of this research is streamlined towards exposing certain indiscipline and corruptive activities of Nigerian police force that ridicule the realization of common good of the people, which defines the role of police institution, and which underscores the fundamental end of a civil society. It seems that this work sets to answer, to some extent, the question: who will guard the guardians for the realization of common good. Hence, the aim is to consider perhaps, some possible solutions to the problem.

1.4 Method of the Research

The method used in this work is strictly expository in the sense that it portrays some police misconducts with a view to proffer possible solutions; investigative because it is a search for instances of police misconducts; critical because of its reasonableness and that it is given to expressing severe judgments of what the police ought to be; and evaluative in the sense that it assesses the value of common good in relation to the end for which a civil society exists.

Thus, for proper handling of this task, the work is divided into five chapters with sub-headings under each one. Chapter one will be a general introduction. Chapter two has to do with literature review, ontology of common good, obstacles that hinder common good and then, the common good and institutions.

In chapter three, we shall consider an understanding of an act of policing, roles of police in a society, the structure of police force in Nigeria, and philosophy of police service. Chapter four, will furnish us with some instances or cases of police mockery of common good in Nigeria. Then, the final chapter is all about a critical evaluation, an attempt to proffer some solutions and then conclusion of the whole work.

Chapter Five

5.0 Evaluation and Conclusion

5.1 Critical Evaluation

Obviously, it is a fact that human beings who opt to live in a society have purpose for doing so. This purpose, surely, is not egoistic but must be to secure a kind of good shared by the members of such a civil society, hence, the idea of common good, which we have explored and studied. The common good according to A. Gonsalves is the end of the cooperation of all members or the end for which society exists; it is an end that is the temporal welfare for the community taken both collectively and distributively.1 There is in the above, the idea of a shared welfare or good of those who live in a human community. Due to the importance of securing this good, certain institutions are charged with the responsibility of protecting and promoting this common good. No wonder, speaking on what common good entails, Francis O.C Njoku holds that it consists in the establishment and maintenance of order, which is achieved by proper carrying-out of rights and duties and services by members and social groups without interference. Hence, the common good creates an environment of peace, harmony, security, freedom and other social enhancements, opportunities for the realization of common good.2

Stating the end of human society, J. Maritain holds that the end of society is the good of the community, of the social body.3 This common good is something ethically good. Included in it, as an essential element, is the maximum possible development, here and now of the persons making up the united multitude to the end of forming a people, organized not by force alone but by justice. To promote and realize this common good is thus, of paramount importance, if this end is to be attained. This is because, in my own estimation, a society where every person vehemently pursues his or her selfish interest without regard to what becomes of co-members of such a society, or the interest of society as a body, is liable to experience anarchy, lawlessness, chaos, injustice and so on. These conditions jeopardize societal peace and mutual co-existence.

Following the literature review made of the notion of common good in chapter two, it underscores that both philosophers and other great minds have lent their support to the importance and option for the common good against the pursuit of selfish interest in human society. Individual needs are met in the promotion of common good of the whole. That is why Plato holds that human beings enter into civil society to meet their needs because an individual person is in himself insufficient.4 Attempts made to opt for egoistic pursuit of interest have been noted as that which brings state of no progress, chaos, unrest, brutality; quarrels etc. In the opinion of J. Omoregbe:
There can be no development, no progress in any society in which devotion to duty, honesty and efficiency yield to self-interest and the craving for self-enrichment5

Buttressing this idea, Thomas Hobbes theory of the state of nature shows that there was no development, no progress in the state of nature since the individuals were morally immature and socially irresponsible. No wonder, man opted to enter into social contract. In social contract, there is moral maturity, social responsibility and public interest or good on the part of the individual members of a society, and I think these are indispensable for the development and sustenance of human society, properly called and catered for. Elaborating on the need to opt for common good instead of egocentricism, J. Omoregbe has this to point-out:

To the extent to which moral laxity, egoism, individualism, lack of a sense of duty, bribery and corruption, egoistic disregard for public well-being, embezzlement of public fund etc., prevail in any society, to that extent is the development of that society obstructed and rendered impossible6

Thus, if the dominant principle of action is self-interest or selfish aggrandizement at the expense of the common good, how can the society in which human beings live develop, and who will develop it?

From the above question, certain institutions are thus, established to ensure the promotion of the common good of the society. The police are typical example as demonstrated already in previous chapters. There is need to ensure that every member of society gets a fair share of the goods which belongs to all. The police are involved in this regard. This is in consonance with Thomas Aquinas definition of law as ordained for the common good of the members of the community. The police officers are themselves law enforcement agents, and therefore, enforce laws to realize the end of law-making (common good).

The Nigeria police force, no doubt, promotes the common good of the people to some extent in various ways. However, there are still some deficiencies or their ill-activities that jeopardize the realization of common good. Some of the instances of the mockery of common good are just some and not all of them. They serve as evidences to prove that they still have to work on some of their mode of operations. These instances continue to raise the question: who guards the guardians? This is because some of those instances indicate their pursuit of private good or interest against the common good, law and justice. Therefore, there is a call of our attention to what could be done to guard the guardians and how it can be done. This ushers us into proffering some recommendations and contributions to this question. No matter how far the solutions might go, I think they will help us to better our police force or improve it at least to some extent. The common good should be realized through our law enforcement agents.

5.2 Some Recommendations

This section is designed to consider possible solutions to the problem already stated. How do we improve the image of Nigeria police and see to it that they carry-out their duties in a way that they will devote themselves to promotion of common good. Nnamdi Azikiwe opinionated that there is need for us to appreciate that the status-quo is not the best of all possible worlds.7Thus, there is always need for us to seek solutions to transcend and improve ourselves.

In the first place, there should be serious police reforms and re-orientation by the federal government of Nigeria especially for the police and then, members of the public on the correct conception of what police work entails. The police work is geared towards the welfare of the public or the human society. People should not see police as it was used during the colonial era by the colonizers, which was to advance economic and political agenda; to exploit the public or their colonies. Rather, a protective and service -oriented police should be conceived and fostered. When police officers have the correct conception of police work and are trained in that direction, it will go a long way to shape their mode of action; to work for the common good. This is because it is when there is right conception and conviction that there will be right attitude.

On another note, there should be a critical recruitment procedure, professional and adequate training of those properly and critically recruited. There should be serious screening, paying attention to psychological make-ups of the recruits, to avoid recruiting those with certain psychological problems that would endanger police operations. Again, those properly screened should be given an adequate training towards professionalism, efficiency, and right attitude to police work. It is when this happens that police officers that have foresight of the interest of the people in mind and deed can be ensured. The police should be trained towards service for the welfare or good of the society they are to protect or guard.

Another very important contribution is on ensuring a detailed and workable police welfare strategies. It is said that a hungry man is an angry man. The police officers are human beings with existential needs like others. Therefore, I think that their needs and welfare have to be properly attended to, in order to encourage them to work selflessly in service of their community. The federal government should always budget enough money to improve police welfare, which includes housing, payment of salaries, grants and other benefits. It is when a policeman with a family is given attention that he is disposed to work for common good. This is because a policeman who works for common good should be able to secure his private goods but, it is only when he is dedicated to the common good that he can secure his own good.

Similarly, there should be rewarding of good and hard-working or brave policemen and punishment of erring ones. It is when those who have been doing well are properly rewarded that they are encouraged, and others are encouraged as well to imitate them to work selflessly. On the other hand, processes for receiving complaints on police misconduct should be free and reachable to the public and tracking systems to provide some protection against police efforts to dismiss or cover up complaints. There should be a guarantee of security of complainants against any possible threats or reprisals. Again, those handling such complaints should keep in touch with the public on how they are handled through the media. Thus, erring policemen should be assuredly penalized, and this will serve as a deterrent to others. This is because justice is necessary for any police functionary who violates force code of conduct. Perhaps, this may make others to reconsider their ways and treat human lives with some respect and work of common good and not for selfish interest.

On who should monitor police operations, with the X-squad and others who do that already, there should also be public eyes on police operations and independent human right groups should be asked to help in this regard. Such non-governmental human right organizations should be given a place in the constitution to probe human right abuse by the police, and there should be independent lawyers attached to such human rights groups. I think it will help to guard the guardians to work for public interest. Similarly, the people should constitute part of this watch on police operation, so that it will be a reciprocal guardiance (as the police guard the people, the people will also have the opportunity to check police excesses). I believe that this will guard the action of a policeman on duty in public. It means that they should be known and reliable places for people to lodge their observations and reports. This, perhaps, will also improve police-people relationship. Again, community policing and police-public partnership should be advanced and strengthened for positive interactions between the police at the grassroots for overall good of all, both the police and the public.

Furthermore, the media should be a way of checking both the positive and negative activities of the police. In this regard, there should be network media programmes designed to scrutinize and probe police-public complaints, which should be of great interest to the Inspector General of police to tackle or address.

In all, there should be adequate funding of Nigeria Police Force, taking care of police improved resources, adequate and modernized police equipment or arms, funding of various police committees especially the complaint and disciplinary committee, police welfare commission, police housing, recreational facilities, adequate and prompt payment of allowances, financial aids, rewarding of policemen who have been doing well annually in media, and so on. There should be yearly estimation and budgeting of enough money to take care of these. Most importantly, a policeman should not be greedy and selfish because without disposition to be selfless and work for common good, there may still be abuses even when such policemen are cared for.

Finally, there should be life insurance for police officers and enviable insurance on the family of a police officer who might lose his life in active service. These are seen as a kind of an attempt to suggest how the guardians should be guarded for overall realization of the common good of human community.

5.3 Conclusion

There is no gainsaying the fact that pursuit of self-interest cannot be compromised with the common good for which every society exists. For there to be overall progress in human society, they ought to be promotion and protection of common good. Thomas Aquinas pointed out that laws are made for the common good of the community. That is to say that the law enforcement agents could be said to enforce the realization of common good.

There is then, the need to ensure that the police as a law enforcement agency perform towards the welfare of the community that they police. This is in consonance with an insight made by Bradley and Ewing, which holds that:

There is a need to make sure that the police have adequate measures to protect the public without at the same time conferring powers that undermine the very foundation of the society existing for the common good of her citizens, of which the police are employed to protect or defend.8

This is because, in the opinion of Gbenga Abegunde, if custodians of law and order become lawless, then anarchy rules.9

On another note, if this common good is to be realized, adequate attention and seriousness have to be paid to their welfare, so that they will be able to take care of themselves while caring for societal welfare. In the opinion of J. Maritain, common good is received in persons and it is in working for common of the society that the private good is met.10

Again, in as much as the welfare of the Nigeria police should be ensured, the policemen should have the correct conception of police work and perform as such. The police work is a service-oriented one, even though force is applied in some circumstances. Human life is only meaningful to the extent it is lived in the service of humanity. Police work is a risky job, but it is as well optional and humanitarian, and for those who have chosen the path of angels to defend justice and protect the community from the lawless. Common good demands sacrifice and dedication for the sake of others. As such, those who dedicated their life for common good were not foolish but heroes that would have immortalized their existence in human history and society. Buttressing this insight, J. Maritain avers:

In losing itself, in a temporal sense, for the sake of the city, the person sacrifices itself in the most real and complete fashion. Yet the person is not defeated; the city still serves it because the soul of man is immortal, and because the sacrifice gives grace one more chance11

Even though that Nigeria police force promotes common good in very many ways, but when those who ought to promote the common good are sometimes seen using what they have (arms) to pursue their selfish interests, then, it is not the promotion but a mockery of common good. Thus, this philosophical essay designed to consider ways to ameliorate this tendency can be said to achieve its purpose, using the insights demonstrated so far. They can at least go along way to give foresights on how to see police work and why and what police should perform. The common good should not be compromised in any human society. That is why it is pertinent that in the field of maintaining public law and order, in detection and prosecution of crime, police operations and decisions should constantly favour the exercise of discretion, choice between alternative courses of action, and setting of priorities for the use of limited resources and for assurance of the common good of the state.

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