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‘A Policeman Is Corrupt Because He Is Not Sure Of His Future’

09 May 2015   |   3:32 am
 The Nigerian Police Force is widely regarded in Nigeria as the public enemy, corrupt and ineffectual. On the assumption of office, the Acting Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, did not hide his disdain for this perception and has initiated moves to check this trend and weed it out from the force. He spoke to some journalists in Abuja on these and sundry issues. KARLS TSOKAR was there and reports.
Acting Inspector-General of Police, solomon Arase

Acting Inspector-General of Police, solomon Arase

How do you give Nigeria hope in your current position?
Well, I have come in at a very defining moment in our national life and I know that the expectations are high.

I have been in the system for quite some time too and I have been in the very strategic positions in the Force.

In the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), we first take a look at our personnel profile. We were have the best you can have in the system, but I think what we have not been able to do over the years is for us to build on the capacity of our officers.

So, one of the areas I am very interested is trying to desegregate our needs assessment and look at the areas where I think we should base some emphasis on and give my officers purposeful training that would make them to perform in those offices, be it administration, operations, investigation or intelligence.

Another area is our relationship and public perception of the NPF. We have a negative public perception, whether rightly or wrongly.

Perceptions are issues that are subjective, but at the same time there are certain things that the members of the public expect that a good Policeman should do.

They would not want a Police officer to be corrupt; and they would want him/her to be civil.

They expect him/her to be polite. They would want him to treat Nigerians with a lot of respect, because Nigerians have not been captured and they are supposed to be given all the respect and if the tax payers fees and the monies are been invested in you as of right and they would demand a lot of things from you.

At the same time too, we would be able to see how we can connect with the community. There is no Police Force in the world that can perform without information from members of the community.

You must be able to win the confidence of the community for you to be able to get that information.

I think it is going to be a two-way thing for us to be able to look at our society, involving all the strategic stakeholders, the non-state actors and say, ‘look, this is your Police Force, you cannot go and bring a Police Force from anywhere in the world.’

Globally, if you look at policing in the advanced countries within Europe or America, they have gone through this process of redefining itself, remodeling itself and its not a one fixed thing.

Members of the public should also learn to be very patient with the Police. When you talk about the depth of the average Policeman, the professionalism of the average policeman is not enough for him to be able to confront issues that he is dealing with, if there is no technical platform to back it up.

If you go through central London in a period of maybe about three to four hours, you are captured within the system and in case anything happens, its just to zero in there and that is why the Metropolitan Police have a 90 per cent success rate, in terms of homicide cases, as you cannot commit offence and escape the eagle eye of their surveillance system.

Those are the issues we are dealing with. Intelligence is very key.

“I don’t want a situation where people are detained unnecessarily. I expect that my Policemen should be sufficiently trained enough to, say if a case is reported to them, they are able to gather evidential proof about those cases.”

Bank robbery, for example, are cases where you can get records from the bank or corporate affairs. You assemble these things before you invite whomever the suspect you think you are inviting.

That way, you limit the pre-trial detention period that they stay in our facilities.

I think that is one area we have to rarely work on, because if you invite somebody and you say he has committed an offence, you invite him to a Police facility, keep him in custody and start looking for evidence.

The period you have kept him there is very long and him relations come and start asking for bail. Once they start asking for bail, the corruption circle is initiated, because to grant that bail, you start putting conditions here and there. In the final analysis, money change hands.

These are areas I know are capable of exposing my officers to corruption. I want to remove them from the system.

I have already directed that on no account should anybody be invited to any Police station when they don’t have sufficient evidence to confront the person.

This is because if you have the evidence and you confront the person within 48 hours, you should be able to makeup your mind if the truth has been told or you are able to keep the person in custody.

Where are the Policemen to police 170 million Nigerians and where are the equipment to do this effectively?
You can never have sufficient Policemen and there is no way you have a sufficient Policemen to police 170 million Nigerians.

People always talk about this United Nation (UN) ratio. Even that, one you can only situate it against international or a society that had already has a very good technical platform, like I have talked about Britain, for example.

We don’t have a technical platform, so no matter how, what people try to do now is feasibility policing; your ability to do some predictive policing, where you position your men strategically to give that psychological reassurance that society is been policed.

Take Abuja, for example. Instead of dotting the whole streets with Police officers, you can position a few of them strategically, so that anywhere you go or by the time you are driving from Shehu Shagari Way to the other place, you see them at the junction. You go the other way and you see them at a junction.

It does not presuppose that you have sufficient manpower and there is no Police Force in the world that would ever say they have sufficient manpower to police.

That is why the community partnership in policing is very important in internal security management, because if you are able to win the confidence of the community, half of your job is done.

But here, most of us don’t care. As far as it does not affect you, you walk away and say, ‘what is my business? If I call this people now, tomorrow they would ask me to come and write statement.’

Is community partnership the same thing as community policing?
The nomenclature has been variously abused. The elite use it, especially when they want to rationalise what good policing is all about and what responsive policing is all about.

We would ensure that we do community policing and if you ask them to conceptualise community policing, they would not be able to give you anything tangible.

What they will be talking about is why can’t you allow the people to police their security space, just like we have in pre-colonial days, where we have age group system, masquerade groups and all those were forms of policing in one form or the other.

The age group people too also know those ones who are deviant. It is a social means of control, where you keep out some people. It is like asking the people to be involved in internal security management.

That is what community policing is all about.

How prepared if the Police Force in the use of technology, considering the deficiency of the in this aspect, in spite of the cash crunch in the country?

I will give you an example and I have done it before. I set up the intelligence laboratory in the Nigeria Police Force. The Intelligence Department has become moribund after over 30 years of the excision of the national security unit to form what you now know as the nucleus of the State Security Service (SSS).

Since then, we have not been able to emplace a department that would be able to drive policing through predictive concept.

It took us just about two years to redirect what intelligence was all about, crime analysis, which is my ability to train the officers to know that they can always ascertain the trends and patterns of crime- crime mapping- in their various states and divisions and area commands.

For instance, as I sit down here, the intelligence department that we set up some two years ago can give you statistics of the number of kidnapped cases in the country in one week, one month, etc.

We can give you the statistics of the manpower wastages by operational loses. We can locate and tell you where those crimes are prevalent, the typologies of crimes that are prevalent in those areas and all those things that can be done.

What do we do is simple enough. When we talk about technology, you think about warehousing a big building, like this, with heavy machines. It is about thinking outside the box.

In setting up the intelligence lab, we got a server, computer systems, trained the men, gave them phones and put them on Skype.

So, once all my information collectors in all the states of the federation get an information, they send it to me and it hits my intelligence lab.

The intelligence lab boys, who are the analysts, start drawing the graphs, putting it in intelligible form that if you are going to my office, you can see it been expressed, both graphically and otherwise.

So, when you talk about technology itself, driving this thing is not about something too big; it is about the mindsets of the officers who are going to operate the system.

If crime has become scientific and technological, the response to it and the officers who are suppose to respond to it should also be thinking and mentally mobile. They should be in a situation where they should be able to think outside the box.

We migrated from intelligence lab from finger printing, then into an automated system, where we want to give you your character certificate.

It only costs us a laptop, camcorder and biometric machine. I looked at how many cases they report in the force on a daily or weekly basis, because when I came, I said we were not going to investigate land cases, commercial transactions, civil cases, etc because those are the areas you carry people and lock them up, while another individual is somewhere demolishing the person’s house, especially in Lagos.

It is not something you conjure from outside from the moon. The small technologies that you need to perform effectively as a Police officer are things that are easy to access.

How about enforcing the ban on the roadblocks?
I have already cleared them and I have dismantled them. I have set up a taskforce, with 12 vehicles, to the six geo-political zones as co-terminus, with the ones that have been supervised by the various DIGS.

All I have asked them to do is a very simple task- I pay your bills, I gave you money and I gave you the vehicle, I fuel it and you go there, wherever you see those roadblocks, remove them from the highway and just note where it is and hold the commissioner of Police responsible, because I have already directed. I hold the Area Commander responsible and I hold the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) responsible.

Secondly, they are also supposed to go to the cells to ascertain when the detainees were kept in the cell, when were they arrested, for what offences they were arrested, how long they have been there, do they meet the prosecutors standard of keeping people in our facilities, etc.

We don’t intend to harass any Policeman on the highway, but we just have to say it that these things are points of corruption and they are intolerable, an inconvenience and nuisance to members of the public.

But then, we are not saying we are going to leave the public space vacant; we have the federal highway patrols, which all the states Police commissioners are supposed to oversee.

It is the federal highway patrol vehicles that are supposed to be at the roadblocks.

So, in case of distress, we have vehicles that have been given to all state commands and I have also asked them to give me where those vehicles are located to take care of the vacuum that may have been created by the removal of those roadblocks.

If there is any serious crime on that highway, I hold the commissioner of Police, who said he has deployed on those highway, responsible, because you cannot just remove roadblocks and say you are not going to police.

It is our statutory responsibility to police the public space. That is one thing we have to understand, because removing the roadblocks does not mean getting policemen off the highway or roads.

Most importantly, there are times we could do some stagger checks. If, for instance, they stole a vehicle in Ilorin, Kwara State and they radio to say the vehicle is heading towards Abaji, we can lockdown the highway.

But when lockdown the highway, we look for that specific brand of vehicle that has been stolen, so that when we recover it, in the space of time we ease out.

There are strategies and the strategies are not too strict, but flexible. They are internal security management strategies. Just as I said, it is about capacity building, about my men understanding the tenets of modern policing, so that they would be able to key into the reforms we are trying to bring on board.

Is it only highways? How about the other roads?
If it is a roadblock, it is not acceptable. Once you stand on the road and hinder the free flow of traffic, they call me or send text message to me that our boys are there, I will forward it to the commissioner of Police.

If you see it, send a small text message to the commissioner of Police that some officers are constituting themselves into public nuisance on this highway and you forward it to me too, if possible, and if the commissioner does not take action about it, I would hold him responsible.

What are you doing about equipping the Police?
I can only articulate the need of the Police, but I don’t have the resources directly. We have other departments that oversight the NPF.

We would say operationally, it is outside the way, but the ones that impinge directly on the operational capacity of the NPF is the Ministry, because they are the ones who keep our money as oversight function.

How do you intend tackle corruption in the Force?
A Policeman is corrupt because he is not very sure of the future. If he thinks that his future is not guaranteed, the tendency for him to be corrupt is very high.

Also, don’t forget that corruption is something pathological. Once you are corrupt, if I put you where they distribute papers, i.e. stationeries, you will still steal it.

We have areas where we can touch the lives of our officers, especially the inspectors, rank and file. We have a corporative society and have set up a mortgage institutions, like the microfinance bank.

In our Works department, we have been able to attract the best brains we can get from the system, including quantity surveyors and civil engineers and we now have an investment department.

Why can’t we now pull on those our finances from our mortgage institution and corporative and do direct labour stuff?
Now, we are going to build some houses for our workforce. We think about maybe two-bedroom apartment somewhere, where they would not have to pay N2.5 to N3 million if it is direct labour.

To build a bungalow in this country, you need about N5 to N6million. But if you give it to a contractor, maybe the land is Police land, they take our money as counterpart funding and resell the lands for us between N18 and N20 million. Where do you expect a Policeman who doesn’t earn well to get that?

There are areas we can touch their lives and we have put some caveat to say if you remain strict, you would be entitled to these type of things.

I have command commissioners in various departments, but sometimes I have to rely on my friends out there, like the technical platform I was telling you about, most of my friends set it up for me, which is not supposed to be.

I am not unmindful that these officers need tools to work with. Within the available resources we have, we would provide them those tools, but we the management too at the strategic level should be able to come up with policies that would give them hope, that if they remain strict, they be entitled to these things.

We also have a scholarship scheme for children of the rank and file. We encourage them that if they are bright, we can give scholarships to not more than two of their children in our secondary school or any other place they want them to go.

There are some small things you can use to elicit or motivate your workforce. The average money a constable takes home is not one of the best in society.

Even my predecessor and I have been making a lot of effort about it.

What are you doing concerning Policemen escorting or following politicians about as guards?
I have already given a directive, as a stop gap, that all civil commissioners in all the states of the federation should not have more than two Policemen for now.

For the remaining policemen, we are pulling them out to form the Judges Protection Section, because we think that with the tribunal cases going on, Judges require special protection. We have directed the commissioners of Police to immediately effect that directive.

A lot of them (politicians) argued that during the electioneering campaigns, they were scared that their opponents were going to do this or do that. Now that it is all over, we are going to take a census of how many Policemen we have out there and start pruning them down, starting from both the Government Houses and everywhere.

What is your final take in repositioning the Police for better service delivery?
Let me leave this on a philosophical note: I have come a long way, I have dreamt dreams, I have travelled extensively around the world, and I have served in the corridors of power on this floor.

I think I am the only Policeman who has served three (3) Inspectors General of Police (IGPs) for five years as a Principal Staff Officer (PSO).

I have articulated what I think responsible policing should be and I think I am fortunate to have the opportunity, no matter how short, to be able to navigate the Nigeria Police Force on a pathway of responsible policing; a Force that when you meet with them, they are confident, proud and intellectually deep, operationally effective, people who can beat their chest and say, I am doing a good job and I want the public to see me as somebody who is doing a good job.

I think I can change the Police Force. I think I have both the professional and intellectual asset to do that.

I want to see an environment where people can move freely and feel comfortably. Even when a crime happens, you have officers who can detect it or you give an information to an officer and you are confident that that information is lively, an information that has been dropped into the ocean that cannot be shared with somebody else.

I want to see a Police Force or a Policeman whose word is his bond. I want to see a Policeman who is neatly dressed and elicits public confidence.

I want to see a Policeman who speaks authoritatively about the security space.

This is the type of Police Force I want to leave and in all the officers that I have mentored and have had the opportunity of working with these years.

If I leave tomorrow, I am leaving some crop of officers who would be able to act as change agents to change the perception of policing in the country.

I joined the Police Force as a civilian and I am going back there again and should be able to look back, after my tenure, and boast that I have left some indelible marks.