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1.1 Background to the Study
The police force is regarded as the most visible governmental agency through which the character of a government and political system may be assessed. This is so because the police are the guardian or vanguard of the status quo. The role of the police in any human society cannot be over-emphasized. The police force is not only central to individual self-actualization, but also to social cohesion, economic development and democratic consolidation (Wabara, 2004). To a large extent, the actions and behaviours of the police reflect the political and economic character of society as well as what those in power are willing or able to tolerate or condone. Elemika (1999) seems to agree with the foregoing statement where he states that the goals, performance, problems and challenges of policing are determined by the social, economic and political structures of society. According to Elemika (1999), the police are subject to the dictates and interests of those who control the political and economic resources of society. Hence, the ability of the police to respond to popular demands of citizens as opposed to their subservience to the interests of political and economic power-holders is determined by the extent to which political and economic resources are equitably distributed and the citizens afforded opportunity for participation in the determination and implementation of public policies.
Before Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the number of enlightened and educated Nigerians was very minimal and the few privileged elementary school graduates had dreams that were much larger than being a policeman or women. Consequently, officers were recruited from among illiterate natives who saw themselves as white man’s tool for the oppression of their fellow citizens. Elemika (1999) further lends credence to the foregoing where he states that the history of the police forces in the country indicates that the various forces were established, organized and maintained by colonial and post-colonial governments primarily for order maintenance that engenders repression, a culture of impunity: corruption, incivility, brutality, lack of transparency and accountability. After Nigerian independence, concerted efforts were made by the first set of the country’s indigenous leadership to correct the perception of the police by the public. The efforts were however short-lived as frequent military regimes that started in 3966 only furthered the mentality of oppression.
Furthermore, the conduct of police officers in relationship with public over the years has simply reflected the rate at which corruption level grew in the entire country. The method of recruitment never helped matters. A young man who refused to go to school; troubled people in his community by stealing their yams and goats, as well as fighting and raping people, was simply referred to a highly ranking uncle in the force for recruitment. Bribery and corruption was a way of life in the police and based on public knowledge of these facts, people with integrity were reluctant to identify with police and unwilling to offer useful information to the force.
Then, came the slogan ‘Police is Your Friend’ as part of measures by the federal government to restore public confidence in Nigeria police and perhaps change the poor public perception of the force. However, pushing the vision in the slogan down the psyche of the rank and file was a very Herculean task. With time, the growing rate of unemployment in the country forced university graduates to start scrambling for the job of a police man or woman. Many did not join the police out of passion for security. They enlisted in the force just to guarantee their daily bread.
Another measure introduced to clean up the battered image of the Nigerian Police Force in recent years included the ‘Community policing’ initiative, This was introduced with the intent of making the public partner with the police in addressing security challenges against the backdrop of the fact that police are the people and the people are the police. Community policing is a police philosophy that involves problem solving with the assistance of the community. This is done through establishment of the proactive nature of policing, with the objective of encouraging a genuine partnership with members of the community and other stakeholders in security business to better the society. This has many forms like the neighbourhood watch, citizens’ crime watch and community policing. However, with insufficient funds to pursue the noble objectives behind this initiative, the programme seems not to have fared well.
Then came the introduction of a police-public interactive radio programme ‘Police Diary’, which is a one hour programme aired on the network service of Radio Nigeria. This programme since its inception in 2007 has tackled issues bothering on extra-judicial police actions, misconduct, extortion, arbitrary arrests, illegal detention, pension matters and other relevant issue raised by members of the public who call in and send text messages to commend or seek redress form the police.
In recent times, the force command under the leadership of Mohammed Abubakar ordered the ‘Removal of road blocks’ form the nations’ federal highways. This was against the public outcry that the roadblocks were contributing to the high rate of road accidents on the highway as well as a source of obstruction and extortion by members of the force. This directive has contributed in reducing the time within which Nigerians travel from one point to the other.
Consequent upon the public poor/negative perception of the Nigerian Police Force, the leadership of the force with the approval of the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2012 launched a programme geared towards “Changing police uniform’ from black to neon-blue and camouflage. Though there have been uniform changes in the past, some members of the public are of the view that since black denotes darkness (negative), anybody adorning black uniform is bound to have negative mindset and behavior. This view they extended to the members of the police force who wear black uniforms. However, it is not yet known how this is likely to affect the way Nigerians perceive the police as the programme is still in progress.
Another welcome idea that is likely to impact tremendously on the image of the Nigerian Police Force is the recent policy of “Scaling up the academic qualification of prospective entrants” into the Nigerian Police Force. In line with the policy directive, senior secondary school certificate holders and third class degree holders would no longer be recruited into the force. Additionally, background checks are now carried out on applicants to separate bad eggs and discourage shady characters from joining the police.
These measures are expected to impact on the attitude of members of the police force as well as go a long way in changing the way the public perceive the police force.
From the foregoing, it is quite evident that successive leadership of the Nigerian Police Force accepted that there is the need to be wary of how the public perceive the members of the police force, hence the introduction of series of programmes and policies geared towards engendering public trust and confidence. It is in that direction that the researcher deems it expedient to assess Nigerian public perception of the impact of these programmes.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Over the years, the Nigeria Police has suffered severe public opprobrium as a result of its operatives’ inhuman and unprofessional conducts. Obijiofor (2005) agrees with the foregoing where he states that the force is widely reported in the media as the most corrupt and hated organization in Nigeria because its operatives’ penchant for extra-judicial killings, extortion, human right abuse, inappropriate use of lethal force, illegal arrest, accidental discharge and detention. Adebayo & Ojo (2009) further stated that if there is any institution that Nigerians detest, the Police Force will rank highest because of the negative public perception of the force.
While inadequacies of infrastructure and under-funding contribute to the extent and public perception of police corruption in the country, these cannot justify the disgraceful leprous handshakes between commercial vehicle drivers and police officers at check-points. The insinuation that a portion of the extorted money from such handshakes is ‘remitted upwards’ to senior officers is particularly worrisome. This form of corruption has caused grave damage to the public perception and estimation of individual police officers and the entire police force. These are serious problems that the police authority, government and the society must address and eliminate the factors that cause and sustain them.
There is no arguing the fact that the dismal image of the police accounts for the non-cooperation by the public who are often reluctant to volunteer useful information to the police. Yet, the tasks of crime prevention and detection as well as prosecution of offenders cannot be successfully performed without the co-operation of the public. According to Olujinmi (2005), allegations leveled against the police include arbitrariness in the exercise of its powers of arrest and prosecution, corruption and perversion of justice, use of crude techniques of investigation, collusion with criminals and incessant cases of accidental discharge of lethal bullets.
In order to mitigate public hatred and poor perception of the police and engender friendIy cooperation between the force and civil populace, a number of image laundering programmes and activities have been put forwards by various and varied leadership of Nigerian Police Force. For instance, the Nigerian Police Public Relations Department (NPPRD) has evolved programmes aimed at re-orientating Nigeria Police to be public-friendly. Such programmes include the introduction of the ‘Police is Your Friend” slogan, idea of “community policing’,
“removal of road blocks from Nigerian highways, “change of police uniform”“Radio Nigeria Network live call-in programme “Police Diary” as well as upgrading of academic entry qualification’ into the police.
Notwithstanding these image laundering activities, some persons still do not perceive the Nigeria Police as being able to perform its duty in such a way that the citizenry will appreciate and support their duties. Various reports abound of highhandedness, torture, mass killings, intimidation, .rape, extra judicial killings (summary execution) and other heinous crimes perpetrated against the same citizenry they ought to protect. These to a large extent make police-public relationships in the country to be characterized by mutual hostility and resentment (Elemika and Chukmima, 2000). Despite its vaunted slogan “Police is your Friend,” most Nigerians perceived the police as a dreaded foe that must be avoided by any means possible. The problem of this study include as follows:
• That the extent to which Nigerians are aware of the various image laundering programmes of the Nigerian Police Force is unknown,
• It is not also known how Nigerians perceive the various image laundering programmes of Nigeria Police Force.
• What constitute the sources of Nigeria Police Force’s poor image is unknown.
• It is also not known of whether Nigerians perceive poor planning and
implementation as factors that led to the failures of past Nigeria Police Force’s image laundering programmes. Hence, the thrust of this study is to conduct an in-depth enquiry into how Nigerians perceive the various image laundering programmes of the Nigeria Police Force.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The specific objectives of this study include:
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