Mohammed Abubakar, the new Inspector-General of Police, is not unaware of the enormous responsibility his new appointment has placed on his shoulders. Perhaps, this is why he has painted a clear, sorry picture of the Nigeria Police Force by literarily describing it as a security outfit that cannot secure itself. At a meeting with Deputy Commissioners of Police, DCPs, from all police formations at the Force Headquarters, Louis Edet House, Abuja, last Tuesday, Abubakar lamented the decadence in the force, stressing that the security agency is where it is today because it has abandoned its modus operandi. The IGP noted that it is shameful that today’s police cannot secure itself but would rather rely on soldiers for its security.
While reprimanding the officers, the IG said most of the DCPs are just figure heads at the Commands or their formations. He took them down memory lane from when he was a DCP to Commissioner of Police and said he was able to assert himself in those positions of authority. He reiterated what he told the CPs at an earlier meeting that they would be responsible for crimes committed in their states and that the DCPs were not exempted from this responsibility, since they are next to the CPs and are there to make sure that security is provided in those states.
The IGP told the DCPs that they should assist their Commissioners to bring back the lost glory of the agency and categorically stated that the time for “tea party in the force was over”. He warned them against taking bribe, as this and other such vices drag the name of the force in the mud. Some of the bad acts he listed are, police involvement in land cases, arbitrary arrests, civil cases, long detention of suspects, and undue privileges accorded to some suspects. Finally, the IGP noted that the reformations he intends to carry out in the Police Force will cut across all segments of the Police.
It is a good thing that the new IG has been making consultations since he was appointed a few weeks ago. In spite of the set back he recorded by the unfortunate loss of his wife soon after his appointment, he has been talking tough. To many watchers of events in Nigeria, especially as far as the police is concerned, there is hardly any magic Abubakar can spring up in order to change the system which many Nigerians see as rotten as it is maggoty. In his address to the DCPs, he has clearly identified some of the problems of the police. He spoke about the fact that policemen no longer abide by the rules and regulations guiding their activities. That is indiscipline. What will Nigerians or the taxpayers expect from a bunch of people in uniform who are not disciplined?
‘The indiscipline in the police permeates all the strata of the organisation, from top to the bottom. That is why there are cliques everywhere in the police’.
For those of us who are close to the Police Force, we know that as they say, “you cannot give what you don’t have”. The indiscipline in the police permeates all the strata of the organisation, from top to the bottom. That is why there are cliques everywhere in the police. These cliques are the sacred cows who are often pampered by the superiors. It does not matter whether they come to work or not. Whenever they are identified anywhere in police formations, they are treated as untouchables.
Abubakar’s lamentation that the police could no longer secure itself and have had to transfer the burden on soldiers has been there for a very long time in the name of “joint police/military patrols”. As hoodlums are becoming more and more sophisticated in terms of weaponry, strategy and dare-devilry, the policemen have long adopted a system of voting with their feet whenever the hoodlums come calling. To paraphrase a famous writer: “since the hunter has learnt to aim properly at his target, the birds too have learnt not to perch any longer”. At least, if the bird is not stationary, how will the hunter take a pot shot at it?
Nothing can be more shameful than the bombing of Police Headquarters in Abuja last year. The ease with which that operation was carried out left many Nigerians wondering whether we actually have policemen or they are just Boys’ Scouts in police uniform. The disgraced IG, Hafiz Ringim, had read out the riot act to Boko Haram sect members barely 48 hours earlier. Instead of replying him through the media or any other form, the sect simply took the war to the Police Headquarters. Ringim only escaped by a whisker.
It is as if even if you give some policemen the best of equipment to withstand the onslaught of these hoodlums, they would rather prefer to secure their head. That brings me to equipping the police. Yes, it is true that our policemen are not properly kitted to perform their roles in the society. But every year, huge amount of money is voted for the organisation. There exists nowadays a “special trust fund” for the police which is under the office of the Vice President. Last year, within a period of three or four months, I think between March and June, the fund had about N25 billion. Shortly after, the fund was drawn down by about N22b, ostensibly to equip the service, leaving a miserable balance in the vault.
Now, if I may ask: How was this money expended? Where is the equipment? The bitter truth is that a large chunk of the money went into the private pockets of some privileged officers in the police hierarchy as well as some handpicked contractors who are mostly conduit pipes through which money, huge sums, are regularly squandered. The officers involved in this perennial rackets don’t care about what happens to the junior ranks who are left at the mercy of rampaging hoodlums.
If Abubakar talks about some DCPs becoming figure heads in their commands, it may not be by choice. Apart from putting them in charge of operations without a final say, what are the other duties assigned to the DCPs. The way the force operates, I mean the command-and-obey structure, does not actually leave room for a cocktail of ideas where everybody is free to air his or her views. In that situation, there wouldn’t be room for superior arguments to thrive far and above pedestrian ones. So, one thing to do in this regard is to allow for a free-flow of information without any officer reading meanings to any good intention spearheaded by his subordinate. This way, “mumus”, as Abubakar called them, will rise above their docility.
On the issue of bribe taking, dabbling into land cases, civil matters and other vices, I am sure Abubakar may not win that war. Bribe and police are Siamese twins. Even if you pay policemen 10 times what they are earning now, they will still take bribe. That is why you have arbitrary arrests, long detention of suspects, suspects’ disappearance from custody and all that. It is all about money changing hands.
However, as CP Lagos and later AIG Zone 2, where I observed him at close quarters, Abubakar gave a good account of himself. Many a time he embarked on patrols with his men at night. A few others before him also did so but what is spectacular about him is that he is diligent, always rewards hard work and excellence. And if there will be punishment for misdemeanours henceforth, Abubakar must be prepared to reward outstanding performance among his officers. However, some people say he is a religious fundamentalist. I do not believe that. He is a model of a true Nigerian as his friends and aides cut across various religious tribal or ethnic groups. That is the simple truth!
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