History of Nigeria Police: Facts You Need to Know

The Nigerian Police is the principal law enforcement agency in the country today. They have staff strength of about 371,800. There are currently plans to increase the force to 650,000, adding 280,000 new recruits to the existing 370,000.

The NP is a very large organization consisting of 36 commands grouped into 12 zones and 7 administrative organs. The agency is currently headed by the Inspector General of Police in the person of Ibrahim Kpotun Idris

Nigeria’s police was first established in 1820 and it began with officers from the eastern part of Nigeria, especially present day Imo State. The first person to have the highest rank in all the police is commissioner general colonel KK.

In 1879, a 1,200-member armed paramilitary Hausa Constabulary was formed. In 1896 the Lagos Police was established. A similar force, called the Niger Coast Constabulary was also formed in Calabar in 1894 under the newly formed Niger Coastal Protectorate.

In the north, the Royal Niger Company set up the Royal Niger Company Constabulary in 1888. When the protectorates of both Northern and Southern Nigeria were proclaimed in the early 1900s, part of the Royal Niger Company Constabulary became the Northern Nigeria Police, and part of the Niger Coast Constabulary became the Southern Nigeria Police.

During the colonial period, most police were associated with local governments or native authorities, back then, they already had access to uniforms, including the very famous condor battle belt. In the 1960s, under the First Republic, these forces were first regionalised and then nationalised.

The NPF performed conventional police functions and was responsible for internal security generally; for supporting the prison, immigration, and customs services; and for performing military duties within or outside Nigeria as directed.

Plans were announced in mid-1980 to expand the force to 200,000. By 1983, according to the federal budget, the strength of the NPF was almost 152,000, but other sources estimated it to be between 20,000 and 80,000. Reportedly, there were more than 1,300 police stations nationwide.

Police officers were not usually armed but were issued weapons when required for specific missions or circumstances. They were often deployed throughout the country, but in 1989 Babangida announced that a larger number of officers would be posted to their native areas to facilitate police- community relations.

The Nigerian Police (NP) is designated by Section 194 of the 1979 constitution as the national police of Nigeria with exclusive jurisdiction throughout the country.

Constitutional provision also exists, however, for the establishment of separate NPF branches forming part of the armed forces of the Federation or for their protection of harbours, waterways, railways and airfields. One such branch, the Port Security Police, was reported by different sources to have a strength in 1990 of between 1,500 and 12,000.

The NPF was under the general operational and administrative control of an Inspector General of Police (IGP) appointed by the president and he is responsible for the maintenance of law and order. He was supported at headquarters in Lagos by a Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) and in each state by police commissioners.

The 1979 constitution provided for a Police Service Commission that was responsible for NPF policy, organization, administration, and finance aside from pension issues. In February 1989, Ibrahim Babangida abolished the Police Service Commission and established the Nigeria Police Council instead, under direct presidential control.

The new council was chaired by the president.  The Chief of General Staff, the minister of internal affairs, and the police inspector general were members.

In late 1986, the NPF was reorganized nationwide into seven area commands, which superseded a command structure corresponding to each of the states in the federation. Each command was under a commissioner of police and was further divided into police provinces and divisions under local officers.

NPF headquarters, which was also an area command, supervised and coordinated the other area commands. Later these Area Commands were grouped under Zone Commands as follows:

  • Zone 1, Headquartered Kano, with Kano, Kastina, and Jigawa Commands
  • Zone 2, Headquartered Lagos, with Lagos, and Ogun Commands
  • Zone 3, Headquartered Yola, with Adamawa, and Gombe Commands

The 1986 NPF reorganization was occasioned by a public eruption of tensions between the police and the army. A superintendent was suspended for a time for grumbling that the army had usurped police functions and kept police pay low, and there were fights between police and army officers over border patrol jurisdiction.

The armed forces chief of staff announced a thorough reorganization of the NPF into the seven new area commands and five directorates, which are criminal investigations, logistics, supplies, training, and operations, under deputy inspectors general. About 2,000 constables and 400 senior police officers were dismissed by mid-1987, leaving senior police officers disgruntled.

Police Mobile Force

In mid-1989 another NPF reorganization was announced. In 1989 the NPF also created a Quick Intervention Force in each state, separate from the mobile police units, specifically to monitor political events and to quell unrest during the transition to civil rule. Each state unit of between 160 and 400 police was commanded by an assistant superintendent and equipped with vehicles, communications gear, weapons, and crowd control equipment, including cane shields, batons, and tear gas.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) is the highest criminal investigation arm of the Nigeria Police NPF. The Department is headed by a Deputy Inspector-General (DIG). Its primary functions include investigation and prosecution of serious and complex criminal cases within and outside the Country.

The Department also coordinates crime investigations throughout the NPF. The CID is divided into sections, with most of them headed by Commissioners of Police. The Sections are Administration, Anti-Fraud Section, The Central Criminal Registry (CCR), Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), X-Squad, General Investigation, Special Fraud Unit (SFU), Legal Section, Forensic Science Laboratory, Interpol Liaison, Homicide, Anti-Human Trafficking Unit, Force Intelligence Bureau (FIB), DCI Kaduna Annex, and the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU)

The Police Mobile Force was established as a strike unit under the control of the Inspector-General of Police to counter incidents of civil disturbance. It is designated to take over operations of major crisis where conventional police units cannot cope.

There are presently 12 MOPOL Commands and they are controlling 52 Police Mobile Squadrons which are spread amongst the 36 states in Nigeria and also the Federal Capital Territory.