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11 Police Stud.: Int'l Rev. Police Dev. 161 (1988)
Policing and Perceptions of Police in Nigeria

handle is hein.journals/polic11 and id is 171 raw text is: Policing and Perceptions of Police
in Nigeria
Etannibi E.O. Alemika, University of Jos, Nigeria

In spite of perennial public outrage against
pervasive police repression, corruption and in-
efficiency in Nigeria since colonialism, research
into the historical, socio-political and economic
foundations and features of policing in the
country is still scant and perfunctory. The
present paper discusses the contours of polic-
ing in Nigeria. In addition, a tentative scale for
the measurement of the public perceptions of
the Nigerian police is constructed. The re-
sponses to the items on the Perceptions of
Police Scale are analysed. Generally, the re-
sponses of the percipients reveal an unflatter-
ing view of the nation's police. The basic con-
clusion drawn is that the perennial problems of
conduct, corruption and productivity (Sykes,
1985) in the Nigerian police derive from the
perpetual crisis and     breach   of social
democracy, rule of law and socio-economic
justice in the country. Consequently, it is sug-
gested that solutions to authoritarian, class-
biased and inefficient policing in Nigeria lie in
the creation and consolidation of political and
economic structures that promote fundamental
democratic rights and liberties, socio-economic
justice, and legitimate succession to power.
The history of the numerous and disparate
police forces in Nigeria since colonialism re-
veals a legacy of arbitrariness, ruthlessness,
brutality, vandalism, incivility, low account-
ability to the public and corruption. There has
been tremendous continuity in the country's
policing traditions and goals in spite of series
of organisational reforms. Policing in both co-
lonial and post-colonial Nigeria also exhibited
pre-occupation with law and order mainten-
ance, state security and defence of a few power-
ful and wealthy individuals who control the
country's political and economic system
through force and violence. Thus, police work

became organised around, and for the suppres-
sion of, oppositions and individuals agitating
for social democracy, socio-economic justice,
liberties and an authentic development of pro-
ductive forces and decent living conditions for
all in the country. Consequently, public sup-
port for, and attribution of legitimacy to, the
Nigerian police are tenuous and problematic.
The perceptions of the police which this
legacy generates among several social groups
in the society have enormous implications for
police - citizen encounters, support for police
work and the legitimacy of the legal order. As a
Nigerian police officer counsels his colleague,
if the public feel that policemen and women
are poorly behaved and dishonest you can ex-
pect very little assistance from them. Public
co-operation depends largely on their attitude
towards you (Obozuwa 1970 p.11). Percep-
tions may not perfectly depict the object being
represented. However, they are neither formed
nor sustained in a vacuum. On the contrary,
perceptions derive from, and are continuously
influenced or moulded by, direct and indirect
contacts and experiences of percipients with
the object of perception (for instance the
police). Socio-economic and political structures
determine the latitude, contents, contexts and
ramifications of the encounters between police
and the citizens and the latter's perceptions of
the processes and consequences involved. A
broad web of interconnections therefore exists
between perceptions of the police, support for
police work and attribution of legitimacy to
the law enforcement and criminal justice
system in the society. Piliavin and Briar
(1964), in their study of police-juvenile en-
counters, found that where police officers are
viewed negatively there tends to be hostility
toward police work.
In light of such interconnections and the re-
cent and extant colonial history of the Nigerian

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