A recently leaked US diplomatic cable, made available by Wikileaks, quoted top police chiefs as telling embassy officials that their force lacked trained dogs, explosive detectors, bomb suits and other equipment necessary to face the kind of security challenge the insurgent group, Boko Haram, has foisted on the nation.
“The NPF (Nigeria Police Force) does not have the capability to respond to a WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) scenario,” embassy officials informed Washington hours after the July 20, 2001 meeting.
“The NPF does not have an emergency plan, equipment, logistics or training to respond to a WMD incident. The NPF officials expressed a strong interest in receiving training and assistance in this area.”
In the meeting, convened by the US embassy in Abuja, to assess the training need of Nigeria police personnel, officers opened up and spoke frankly, declaring categorically that their force lacked even the basic resources to effectively respond to Nigeria’s “overwhelming crime situation”.
“The NPF officials on the panel advised their agency does not possess adequate forensic capabilities, equipment and training required to conduct an investigation of a major terrorist incident,” the cable said. “The NPF officials expressed a strong interest to receive assistance in this area.”
The document did not list the names of the officers at the meeting. But it did show that they were very senior officials of the force.
Based on the extensive interaction with the police team, the US security officials at the meeting sent a report to Washington, making a case for extensive training and equipment support for the Nigeria police.
The cable reported, “The NPF has several late-model Mercedes-Benz bomb squad trucks equipped with bomb handling robots and bomb containment trailers.
“However, the NPF officials on the panel advised they are in dire need of bomb suits, explosive detectors and portable x-ray devices. The NPF bomb squad also lacks trained bomb dogs.
“The NPF bomb squad does not have significant experience responding to actual bomb threats requiring them to “render safe.”
“The Nigerian Police lacks adequate resources (vehicles, communications, etc.) to effectively respond to an overwhelming crime situation.
“The NPF has not received any outside training in hostage negotiation, roadblocks and response to high threat crimes in progress. The NPF officials on the panel expressed a strong interest to receive additional training in these areas.”
The police chiefs also confessed to the American team that there were “serious inadequacies in the force’s training program, especially in firearms training.
“Most recruits,” they admitted, “are lucky if they have the opportunity to fire more than a dozen rounds while in training. There is no requirement to pass with a minimum score, and targets are hardly every evaluated.”
It also came out of the meeting that the police did not have a dedicated Crisis Reaction Team.
In the event of a crisis situation, the US team was reportedly told, the NPF draw officers from regular police units.
“These NPF officers,” the cable said, “do not receive any special Crises Reaction training or equipment. The NPF officials on the panel expressed a strong interest in receiving assistance in this area.”
The document also reported that Nigeria’s borders were porous because the special NPF marine units that patrol waterways, and enforce maritime law (in cooperation with the Nigerian Navy and Coast Guard) are “ill prepared, equipped and trained to adequately perform their duties.”
Download full cable here