A slogan of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) says: “Police is Your Friend”. Police, indeed, are friends of the citizenry, because they are the ones everybody looks for when confronted with threats to life and property.
But it is also true that the Police are not very popular with most people because the average policeman is generally perceived as being highhanded, corrupt, and unfriendly. They are also very poorly treated by the Federal Government. Few of our young people will voluntarily join the Police Force if they have the luxury of choice.
It was an irony of sorts when the Police Service Commission (PSC) recently invited applications from qualified Nigerians for recruitment into the Force based on President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval for the recruitment of 10,000 policemen. The Commission had advertised for the hiring of 500 Cadet ASPs, 500 Cadet Inspectors, 1,500 Specialist Officers and 7, 500 Constables.
Within a few days of the advertisement, officials of the PSC were astounded, if not shocked, by the response from applicants. According to Ikechukwu Ani, Head, Press and Public Relations of the Commission, between April 24 and May 2, 2016 no fewer than 843,008 applications had been received. A breakdown of this showed that 243,327 applications were received for ASP cadre, while 197,990 and 401,691 applied for the Inspector and Police Constable cadres, respectively.
Soon after, the figure rose to over one million applicants, leaving many wondering if the Police was indeed as unpopular as generally held. Even the Inspector General of Police could not help but exclaim that he “never knew Nigerians liked the police this much that such a gargantuan number wants to join the Force.”
It is, however, obvious that the stampede for police jobs has little to do with “popularity”. With an unemployment rate of 36.8 per cent of Nigeria’s over 170 million people, jobless Nigerians certainly cannot be too choosy when positions are advertised by any organisation. This was what informed the response by 6.5 million applicants to the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) recruitment in March 2014, which ended tragically with the death of 23 job seekers during a recruitment test.
The Police authorities have to exercise extreme care in this recruitment drive, ensuring that only people who are suitably qualified with impeccable characters and backgrounds will be brought on board. The process of ascertaining this must be very painstaking to keep out bad eggs.
The large number of applicants for every job opening, is an enduring warning bell over the worrisome unemployment situation. We urge governments at all levels to come up with radical ideas to put more of our idle youth to work and reduce the social consequences of high unemployment.