Ethics And Professionalism In The Nigeria Police Force, By AIG Oyebade

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Since creation of man, there has been set of rules guiding human conducts. This set of rules encompasses dos and don’ts that regulate human behaviours. In the Holy Scripture, we are told, that God commanded the man (Adam) saying, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden’ ‘But you must never eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because when you eat from it, you will certainly die’ (Genesis 2:16-17). Similarly, the Holy Scripture codifies the Ten Commandments for guidance of man.

The Biblical allusion is relevant here because as it can be seen, the origin of ethics can be traced to the creation period as recorded in the Bible.  The society is populated by human beings who are social animals. The society is also stratified, comprising different individuals, professions, associations and organisations. Every of these professions or associations has its ethics so designed for the guidance of its professionals or personnel. Thus we talk of ethics of medical profession, of law, engineering, and of course ethics of the police profession.


Ethics is a moral standard of behavior; rights or wrongs. It is, according to the Wikipedia, ‘moral principles that governs a person’s behaviours or the conducting of an activity’. Ethics is synonymous with moral code, morality, moral principles, creed, rules of conduct or standard of behaviours etc. It is ‘the basic concepts and fundamental principles of decent human conduct’. We can say that ethics is about conscience.  It is about doing the right or proper thing expected of a member of any profession.

Professionalism is the way and manner certain tasks are carried out officially, as laid down. Professionalism is ‘the competence or skill expected of a professional’.


The Nigeria Police Force, like every profession, has ethics or code of conduct which regulates its activities. As stated earlier, every profession or organization has its own codes of conducts and ‘how’ they carry out their work effectively and successfully.

The ethics of the police is hinged on the duties of the Nigeria Police Force as contained in section 4 of the Police Act and Regulations. The duties are:

i.                Prevention and detection of crime,

ii.              Apprehension of offenders,

iii.           Preservation of law and order,

iv.           Protection of life and property,

v.              And the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged;

vi.           Performance of such military duties within or without Nigeria as may be required by them, or under the authority of this or any Act.

Having undergone specific training required, it is expected that a policeman should act and abide by the ethics of the police profession. This ethics is tantamount to code of conduct or creed. What this suggests is that the duties of the Nigeria Police Force should be performed by police officers who are expected to be ethical and professional in all ramifications.

While preventing and detecting crime, during investigation and prosecution, a policeman is expected to adhere strictly to his professional ethics by acting within the confine of the rule of law. To be professional here is to carry out the arrest in the most diligent and lawful manner putting into consideration the fundamental human rights of the suspect in custody. Part of administrative procedures for investigation requires that necessary investigation activities papers be duly prepared, signed and that the investigation team should book at the nearest police station. Professional ethics also requires that a warrant of arrest should be made available when arresting a suspect who the law says cannot be arrested without a warrant. Similarly, our professional ethics dictates that before searching the premises of a suspect, there must be duly signed search warrant in which it is indicated the period and time it could be executed. Not only that, it requires that such search warrant must be properly executed.

Professional ethics dictates that prosecution which is an important part of police duties should be carried out diligently without fear or favour and without prejudice. Investigating police officers and police prosecutors must work collaboratively to ensure diligent prosecution of all cases without perverting course of justice.

During operations, an area which concerns operational units like the PMF, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Puff Adder, IRT and others, professional ethics requires that standard operating procedures or rules of engagement must be followed. For instance, ethics of the profession guides the use of firearms. The use of firearms is contained in Force Order 237 and every police officer using the firearms must be guided by its provisions. The use of firearms should also be put into consideration when suppressing riot by PMF personnel. This should include when to use the baton, when to use smoke, when to give word of proclamation, when to deploy the arms unit and what to do after every successful or failed operation.

It is evident that often times judging from complaints received from the public, professional ethics are thrown into the dust bin on the road during stop and search, or vehicle patrol by policemen who sometimes harass or shamelessly and recklessly extort money from members of the public. This act is no doubt against discipline and a gross violation of the professional ethics for which the police is known.

In addition to the above, professional ethics should cascade every aspect of our statutory duty. In administration it should reflect in the way correspondence are shared or treated. There are oath of office, oath of allegiance and oath of secrecy provided to guide office personnel and others. The principle of need to know must always come to the fore while working in the office. Professional ethics forbids a policeman whose duty is to handle correspondence to keep, hide or delay important mail. Professional ethics in the police also forbids a police officer to unlawfully transmit or disclose the content of classified documents or any other documents whose content should not be disclosed for some obvious reasons.

To ensure that police officers discharge their duties professionally, mechanism is put in place to punish erring officers who work contrary to the dictates of the professional ethics. This is codified as ‘offences against discipline’ contained in the First Schedule of the Police Regulations.

In conclusion, it will serve all police officers, the Nigeria Police Force, and the public well if we discharge our duties conscientiously bearing in mind at all times ethics of our profession. It will be expected of us to key into the vision and mission of the Nigeria Police Force. This is why the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, NPM, mni in his inaugural address to senior officers at the Force Headquarters, Abuja said, ‘I demand that you henceforth resolve to abstain from conducts that will drag the Police into disrepute and put your career in jeopardy…’

As you undergo this important course, I charge you as supervisors, to ensure that you are guided by good conducts, and professional ethics. I also expect you to impress it on your subordinates the culture of selfless service, discipline and professional ethics required for quality service delivery so as to win the trust and confidence of the public.

I thank you for inviting me to make this presentation. And I wish you all good luck in your career.


1.    Police Act and Regulations.

2.    Wikipedia, online dictionary.

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