Thursday, February 16, 2012

M.D Abubakar’s Police Reform Initiatives

The new Acting Inspector General of Police, M.D Abubakar was seething with palpable anger as he addressed Assistant Commissioners of Police (ACPs) whose commands are in charge of operations and Criminal Investigation Departments (CIDs) on Monday, February 13, 2012. He dressed down his officers and men and pungently tongue-lashed them. He accused them of corruption, incompetence, unprofessional conducts and countless other ‘sins’. Abubakar noted that police duties had become commercialised and were provided at the whims and caprices of the highest bidder. In his words: “Our men are deployed to rich individuals and corporate entities such that we lack manpower to provide security for the common man; our investigation departments cannot equitably handle matters unless those involved have money to part with it. Our police stations, state CIDs and operation offices have become business centres and collection points for rendering returns from all kinds of squads and teams set up for the benefit of superior officers. Our respect is gone and the Nigerian public has lost even the slightest confidence in the ability of police to do any good thing.”

He regretted that justice is being perverted, peoples right denied, innocent souls committed to prison, torture and extra-judicial killings perpetrated, and so many people arbitrarily detained in their cells because they could not afford the illegal bail monies the police demanded. The IG further declared that state anti-robbery squads (SARS) set up by state governments to combat crime in their states had become killer teams, engaging in deals for land speculators and debt collection, while toll stations in the name of checkpoints adorn the highways with policemen shamefully collecting money from motorists in the full glare of the public.

Among the redemptive measures announced by the IGP include: The dismantling of all intra-state and highway road blocks, especially in Lagos and Edo States as well as in the South-eastern states; Disbandment of all squads, teams and other operational or investigating outfits under whatever name and a directive that such groups should collapse into the original structures recognised by police standards; The immediate release of all persons detained in police cells without lawful justification, and non-detention of persons beyond the stipulated period of 24 hours, except as otherwise permitted by law; ACPs must enforce discipline among their subordinates and cease to encourage patronage over and above merit in the conduct of official affair while also asking the officers to begin to task Divisional Police Officers (DPOs), Divisional Crime Officers (DCOs) and Divisional Operations Officers on the need to uphold core police mandates within their respective jurisdictions. Abubakar also announced the withdrawal of all policemen on illegal duty of protecting unauthorized individuals.

This is a courageous, bold and inspiring admittance of guilt with commensurable measures to tackle the identified menace. However, the IGP is not telling us anything new, neither is his actions novel. An average Nigerian who has had any dealing with the Police will attest to what MD Abubakar has said. In fact, Human Rights Watch in its 2010 report titled “Everyone’s in on the Game” detailed the corruption and human rights abuses by the Nigerian Police Force. According to HRW, “the 102-page report documents the myriad forms of police corruption in Nigeria. It also shows how institutionalized extortion, a profound lack of political will to reform the force, and impunity combine to make police corruption a deeply embedded problem.”

Also, many committees had previously been set up to dissect the plagues impeding efficiency and effectiveness in the Nigerian Police. Among them are the Admiral Murtala Nyako’s committee on the police in 1989; the Presidential Panel on National Security, headed by Professor Tekena Tamuno; the 2006 ex-IGP Muhammad Danmadami Committee; the retired DIG Chris Omeben committee and in 2008 a committee of experts led by another former Inspector General of Police, M.D.Yusuf which submitted a report with 125 recommendations. Just this 2012 January, President Goodluck Jonathan also set up Retired DIG Parry Osayande committee on police re-organisation.

To my own mind, the problem of Nigerian Police has been well articulated, what needs to be done is for government to muster the political will to implement the reform proposals. Nigerian Police is the only security institution which constitutionally has both a Nigerian Police Council headed by the President and a Police Service Commission saddled with appointment and discipline of senior police officers with the exception of IGP. Additionally, a separate Ministry, (Ministry of Police Affairs) was created for the Force. In spite of these bureaucracies, the performance of Nigerian Police has been anything but sterling.

I see the IGP’s tirade against his officers and men as that of someone wanting to impress his employers, all in a bid to get Senate confirmation. New broom, they say, sweeps clean but old broom knows all the corners. IGP directives have been previously issued by his predecessors, what came out of it? What is being done by IGP Abubakar amounts to mopping the floor of a leaking roof during a rainy season. It is not enough to berate your colleagues as having being corrupt; the needful and most sensible thing will be to remove those prevailing conditions that make the Police corrupt.

I learnt Nigerian Police is the least paid in West Africa, yet they buy their uniforms and shoes, what is government doing to enhance their welfare? Are the police well equipped to fight crime and criminality? Do they have intelligence gathering tools and modern forensic laboratory, skilled personnel to man it, arms and ammunition to combat crime? What are the training facilities and curriculum of Nigerian Police like? What state are their barracks and work stations? When state governments make donation of vehicles and communication gadgets to the Police formations, are there budgetary provisions or subventions for maintenance of these working tools? The politicization of Nigerian Police is its most undoing; government must allow our Police to enjoy both administrative as well as funding autonomy.