NIGERIA: University for the police sparks controversy

The Nigerian government has approved the establishment of a university for police. The aim is to improve the working tools, skills and operation of the police, along the lines of a similar academy that serves the armed forces.

The move has generated controversy although there is consensus on the need to equip police to deal with the demands of an age in which crimes are committed using modern technologies.

Minister of Information Professor Dora Akinyuli confirmed the government was creating a university for the police. She announced that President Goodluck Jonathan would soon send a draft bill to the national assembly for ratification.

The university would "afford the police the opportunity to acquire higher and liberal education that will nurture, equip and produce globally competitive police graduates with [the] required knowledge, skills and attitudes suitable for learning, scholarship, policing and community service".

If approved, the police university would emerge as a degree-awarding institution from the upgrading of the police academy in Wudil, Kanu, the biggest city in Northern Nigeria.

Reliable sources said it was likely parliament would approve the university. There is a cordial working relationship between the presidency and leaders of the legislative arm of government. Prominent figures in both are influential members of the ruling party.

Proponents of the proposed university believe top police must be well-equipped to respond to contemporary demands.

"We are witnesses to the use of sophisticated technologies by intelligent and highly educated criminally minded individuals who perpetrate crimes," said Isah Suleiman, who teaches criminology at the University of Abuja.

"We are also aware of cyber-crime with its attendant devastating effects on the local and global economy. We need a police university to produce graduates who can deal with the exigencies of the times."

Another supporter of the police university, who did not want to be named, recalled that some police sent on peace-keeping missions in Africa had not lived up to expectations because they were not computer literate. United Nations officials had rejected their hand-written reports, demanding computer-generated digital reports.

Police and military officers who have shown interest in peace-keeping missions have had to enrol in computer courses in private colleges. "With the creation of a tertiary institution for the police, such technical deficiencies will be solved once and for all. And police officers would be equipped to participate in peace-keeping missions," said Akin Shola, manager of a security organisation in Lagos.

But not all have welcomed the police university project. Some media and academics have been among its opponents. The national newspaper The Punch argued in an editorial the police force did not need a university to cater specifically for its interests.

The paper said global practice was for some universities to establish faculties to train police. The editorial pointed out that the first attempt by a university to assist in the training of police was by the University of Wisconsin in 1927.

The University of Illinois had over five decades developed substantial police training capacity. In Africa, the Kigali Institute of Education and the National University of Rwanda offer degree-level police training with technical assistance from the UK's University of Teesside.

The paper suggested police authorities enter into a partnership with the Armed Forces Command and Staff College in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria, where senior police could obtain advanced-level training.

Another tabloid , The Guardian, reminded the government that existing universities were facing problems of under-funding, lecturer shortages and inadequate infrastructure to cater for the student population. A police university would compound the problems confronting institutions because the government would dip into the tertiary budget to fund its creation.

The general feeling among academics was there was no need to waste public funds on a police university. The government could fund faculties in some universities to train police, said Osaze Obasi, a current affairs commentator:

"In fact, the cross-pollination of ideas in any university would widen the horizons of police officers. Nigeria does not need, for now and in the future, a police university."