Muhammed Abubakar left no one in doubt that it will no longer be business as usual when he took over the mantle of leadership of the Nigeria Police. Wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself, Abubakar has often rubbed it in that the police under him will be reformed to face contemporary challenges facing the nation. One of such challenges is the Boko Haram’s menace that has wreaked havoc in the northern part of the country.Another one is violent crime especially kidnapping and armed robbery prevalent in nearly every part of the country.
Since the Boko Haram insurgency started in mid-last year, more than 1,200 Nigerians have been dispatched to their untimely graves. This figure was released recently by Oluseyi Petinrin, an Air Chief Marshal and Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, while speaking to newsmen at the venue of the meeting of the Defence Chiefs of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, which was held in Abidjan, capital of Ivory Coast. In his words, “Boko Haram has killed over 1,200 people in Nigeria, including Christians, Muslims and most internationally remembered was the bombing of UN House in Abuja that killed about 23 people.”
It was obvious that the interview with the CDS may have been conducted before thegruesome killing of Chris McManus, a Briton, and Franco Lamolilara, an Italian, by elements suspected to be Boko Haram members.The two men who were working for a construction firm, B. Stabilini, in Birnin Kebbi were kidnapped by gunmen in May 2011 and kept incommunicado for more than nine months. The duo were later shot and killed by their captors when a combined Nigerian and British forces stormed the kidnappers’ hideout located in a suburb of Sokoto, Sokoto State on Thursday, March 8, 2012.
The killing of the two men sparked off a diplomatic row between Britain and Italy which accused the former of not carrying it along during the planning and execution of the botched rescue attempt. Besides, the unfortunate incident has brought the activities of the Boko Haram sect once more into international attention with a global outpouring of grief.
The wave of condemnations and arrests that followed the killing of the expatriates was still smouldering when the graduation ceremony of assistant commissioners to deputy commissioners of police promotion course took place at the Police Staff College, in Jos. The acting inspector-general of police used the occasion to emphasise that his administration “will not tolerate officers running away from criminals.” Abubakar said that the force would henceforth hold officers responsible for attacks on police formations in their domains.Hear him: “Of a particular worry is the increasing number of police officers killed in the line of duty.You can’t afford to run away when there’s trouble. Post sufficient men around your stations and when there’s problem, face it squarely, you don’t run away. Then, the enemy will think twice before attacking you.”
Abubakar, who was represented at the event by the DIG ‘E’ Department, Abdulrahman Akano, said his goal was to make officers and men of the force “more competent, more confident and more efficient” in the art of modern policing. He said he had declared a state of emergency in training and made it a central focus under his leadership.He later announced that about 20,000 officers, who were due for promotion, would be promoted. Earlier, while addressing the gathering, John Morenike, assistant inspector-general and Commandant, Police Staff College, expressed disgust at the current “total or near lack of confidence in the ability of Nigeria Police to face security challenges, particularly the Boko Haram menace.”
There is no doubt that the choice of the graduation event to embark on confidence building among the top rank of the police hierarchy in charge of operations by the IG is very strategic. These are officers who will be saddled with the responsibility to map out strategies to combat crime in their various formations on their return to their duty posts. And in recent times, criminals have been riding roughshod over the police. The major reason for this is that while the criminals have become more dynamic in their mode of operations with modern, up-to-date and sophisticated weapons, the police have continued to rely on outdated and antiquated weapons to fight back. In most instances, due to the superior firepower of the enemy, many a
time policemen have had to vote with their feet. Sometimes too, when it is rather too late to flee crime scenes, the criminals have often made mincemeat of policemen who are brutally killed while their rifles are carted away by the criminals.
This situation has emboldened the criminals further as they now carry their offensive to police stations and police barracks which they often overrun with ease or minimal resistance. During such raids, suspects are freed, while arms and ammunition are removed from the stations. The frequency of the attacks in recent times has become worrisome.
Besides raiding police formations, the criminals have also formed the habit of raiding banks, other financial institutions and bureau de change in search of money with which they sustain their devilish operations. Again, policemen posted to these banks on guard duties either take to their heels or are callously mowed down by the rampaging band of armed robbers.
One thing is that telling the policemen to live up to expectations by standing their grounds in the face of assault by criminals may not be enough. The IG needs to match words with actions. It is an open secret that the police are not properly equipped.
Their salaries, pensions and other conditions of service, including accident or death benefits, are as deplorable as they are appalling. In a situation like that, only a mad policeman or anyone on suicide mission can stand in the face of the superior firepower of criminals.
The reference to modern policing has become mere sloganeering since what the police, as presently constituted, are doing is an archaic form of policing. Modern policing requires very sophisticated crime detection and crime-fighting equipment. Certainly, it is not the type of method or equipment with which they have been fighting crime or should I say attempting to fight crime. Crime cannot be fought with bare hands or in a situation where intelligence gathering is nil and there is obvious lack of appropriate communication equipment.
However, the IG’s decision to declare a state of emergency in training and make it a central focus under his leadership is laudable. One important thing is that emphasis should be on who is the trainer. Our policemen need to be exposed to overseas training or training programmes undertaken by tested, proven and season crime busters who are available everywhere outside our shores. In addition, there is the need to research into the trend of crimes in order to understudy the modus operandi of these criminals as well as provide adequate strategies to nip their nefarious activities in the bud using modern technology.
Above all, police welfare packages such as accident and death compensation should be properly reviewed to correspond with the demands of modern policing. When one hears what the families of deceased officers who died on active service get at the end of the day, one would be forced to shed tears. Benefits aside, the policemen should be properly kitted and insulated from callous killings by better armed and ‘well-motivated’ criminals.
It is high time the police authorities did something to preserve the lives of our policemen rather than sending them to their early graves through poor equipment and improper training. It is only when this is done and other necessary things are put in place, that we can reach our goal of modern policing in Nigeria.