Issues, challenges of policing in Nigeria
Continued from yesterday’s back page
Among the Command appointments, I held was Commissioner of Police (Personnel) now up-graded to the office of the Force Secretary, Commissioner of Police Kogi, Yobe, and the Rivers States at different times and worked with four governors. At some other times in the intermediate cadre, I was a Unit Commander, No 5 Squadron, Police Mobile Force, Benin City, Police Academy, Wudil, Kano, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Administration, Force CID, Alagbon Close, Ikoyi, Lagos, and Deputy Commissioner of Police, Delta State Police Command, Asaba.
It is worthy of note, that during my service years, I obtained a B.Sc (Hons) Business Administration in 2nd Class Upper Division from the University of Lagos (1985/86) and Master of Business Administration from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (1992/93). Six months into my retirement in October 2007, I was admitted into Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba-Akoko to read Law. Four years later, I bagged a 2nd Class Upper Division in Law winning five prizes including the best graduating student of the Faculty of Law. I was at the Nigeria Law School, Agbani, Enugu, and passed the prescribed examination. I was called to the Nigerian Bar on November 28, 2013.
When in 2014, the National Conference was convoked by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, I was nominated and I participated as a delegate representing the Association of Retired Police Officers of Nigeria (ARPON) South-West.
Following the EndSARS protests and its consequences, I was nominated into the Committee inaugurated by the Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, in line with the Federal Government directive, to look into the alleged activities of the SARS operatives and the fall-out protests.
I am an author of an autobiography titled Policing In Nigeria: My Story – a 358-page book on my odyssey and experience as a policeman. A chapter of the book was dedicated to making appropriate recommendations for the government and Nigerians to take a cursory look at policing in this country with a view to better a lot of policemen and by extension, the improvement of policing in the country. These recommendations, if properly implemented have the potential to solve most of the lingering and myriad problems of policing in Nigeria and ultimately enhancing the Police service delivery.
With the aforementioned background, I can state without fear of contradiction that I am sufficiently grounded in deed and in truth, to give an informed opinion and advice to Nigerians and the government on matters affecting policing and security in Nigeria.
Let me draw the attention of government and Nigerians to a few issues that impact negatively on the level of performance of the Nigeria Police. The issue of the criminal neglect of the police which tops these issues has been with us for decades. This is the twenty-first century for crying out loud and all over the world particularly the developed part, security, and all the key components are technology-driven, using state of the acts technological tools consistent with the technological advancement to enhance the operations of security agents. Sadly enough, in Nigeria, internal security strategies rely mainly on the outdated analog system of stop and search. On our roads, you have checkpoints with policemen carrying AK47 rifles and such other sundry Arms stopping and searching vehicles. I have always asked myself what can these policemen and other security agents see? Absolutely nothing! That is the truth.
A few years ago, I was in the U.S. One day, I went to view the Los Angeles to San Diego road, which has14 lanes. Two service lanes and five lanes on each side of the road. The first thing that struck me was the strict compliance with all traffic regulations and restrictions by all the road users. As I strolled back to my residence, I wondered then where a policeman will stand on any part of the road to stop a driver for inspection. I am sure that anyone who dares to carry any offensive or incriminating items will be arrested in the shortest possible time. This is the wonder of the twenty-first century – digital age.
Security as is being envisaged is capital intensive and requires more than what the present annual budgetary allocation can accommodate. That is why the Police Trust Fund Act must of necessity compel men of character and proven integrity to handle the affairs of the Fund. I am happy at the appointment of Suleiman Abba, IGP retired as the chairman of the Fund. I know him very and I believe that if the environment does not inhibit him, he will make a mark and improve the lots of the Nigeria Police.
Today, Nigeria, a secular state still sponsors men and women on pilgrimages, both Christians and Muslims. I recommend that this state of affairs should be stopped and funds for this purpose channeled to improve the level of infrastructure and also the fortunes of the Nigeria Police. This recommendation aligns with one of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference held in Abuja of which I was a delegate. The immediate effect of this is an improvement in economic activities, which ultimately will lead to a reduction in the level of unemployment in the country. The multiplier effect arising from the above will undoubtedly lead Nigeria out of the woods.
Another area of concern not openly canvassed is what I see as absolute contempt which government holds the Nigeria Police particularly since the inception of this Republic in 1999. The appointment of the Minister of Police Affairs has continued to draw not from persons with Police background and experience.
Consider the Ministry of Defence, Health, and Justice. No one has been appointed, at least since 1999 to the office of Minister outside the Army, Medical Doctors, and Lawyers who are SAN, respectively. The nearest the Ministry of Police Affairs has had is a retired Prisons and Naval Officers at different times.
Why have successive government shun retired senior police officers from being appointed as Minister of Police Affairs? Only recently I watched the Minister of Police Affairs as he struggled to answer tricky questions put to him on strategies to enhance police performance on TV. His answers were apt and he showed brilliance, no doubt, but those questions and indeed they needed strategies would have been better served were he to be a retired police officer, who would not require anyone to decode any coded information with regards to policing and its strategies. Today the Police parade an array of dynamic, highly educated professionals who have retired but are yet fit and proper persons capable of holding the office of the Minister of Police Affairs. The President may even have to conduct standard aptitude tests and interview to make an informed choice. I dare say that such officers need not be a party man but a technocrat who has the capacity and all it takes to be a Minister of Police Affairs.
Sometimes in March this year, I personally took a letter addressed to the Minister of Police Affairs dealing with insecurity in Nigeria to his office. The letter was signed by DIG Fidelis E. Oyakhilome (rtd). He is the President of the Association of Retired Police Officers of Nigeria (ARPON). Over six months on, the Association of which I am the National Legal Adviser has not received even an acknowledgment not to talk of any actions taken furtherance to our suggestions. This seeming lethargy undoubtedly cannot be helpful in our quest for improvement in policing in Nigeria.
In Nigeria today, the rate at which vehicles are driven on highways and in the township without registered Number Plates or with defaced Number Plates sometimes blaring sirens is alarming. In my humble opinion, this situation can facilitate the commission of crimes. Government should create adequate capacity for the Nigeria Police and other security agents to deal with the scourge.
Other strategies for lifting the capacity of the police include digitalizing the operations of the Central Criminal Registry that will compel the registration of persons with criminal records. In the past, all convictions for criminal cases entailed registering those convicted. Although I am not competent to comment on the present level of efficiency of the department, I dare say that the government must appreciate the contributions of this section of the Force in its prevention and detection drive.
The forensic and Animals – Horses and Dogs should be further strengthened beyond the present level. The contribution of these departments to crime prevention and detection apart from their ceremonial use is enormous.
Let me conclude this piece by urging policemen, even in the face of apparent neglect by government and hostility by the citizens, to continue to respond to the call by the Inspector General of Police to handle the security needs of the nation. You must appreciate that as a policeman, your role in society is a noble one albeit thankless. Although it may not make you a President, Senator, Governor, billionaire, or even confer any special status, advantage, or recognition on you, it will make you happy in retirement if you endeavor during your service years to stand with justice and fair play. You can then look back with contentment and joy at your modest and positive contribution to your country through the Nigeria Police. Therefore, in all your actions particularly in the cause of your duties, and particularly now in Nigeria, your focus must be to make crime less attractive and its commission more cumbersome for perpetrators.
Let me, therefore, leave you with the offer of the following five suggestions which you may find necessary to commit to your memory. They should be your compass and should be your guide. They will always help you tremendously as you navigate the rough and sometimes slippery terrain and tempestuous waters of policing in Nigeria. You must at all times passionately: hate crime in all its ramification, detest injustice, loathe indiscipline, respect the fundamental human right of others, and most importantly fear God. In this regard, the fact of your religion is immaterial.
Adetuyi, a lawyer and retired Commissioner of Police, wrote from Akure
To be continued tomorrow