Posted by News Express | 25 June 2016 | 3,541 times
Without prejudice to my opinion on the consistent violations of the constitutionally-enshrined principle of Federal Character relating to high profile appointments made so far by President Muhammadu Buhari and without further prejudice to my belief that Nigeria is long overdue for the establishment of state and local policing institutions, as are obtained in developed climes of Europe and the United States of America, this piece will attempt to proffer a common assignment for Nigeria’s new police chief. The Niger State-born police officer, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, has just resumed office as the Acting Inspector-General of Police.
Although he has supposedly resumed in only acting capacity, he has indeed read out his comprehensive blueprint as if he has already bagged the presidential and police council’s blessing and confirmation. There’s no antecedent to show that an officer picked in acting capacity in that position has ever been overlooked in terms of confirmation, after about six months. It is therefore safe to assume that he is the substantive Inspector General of Police.
As is common among newly-picked police inspectors-general, who are usually overwhelmed by the joyful atmospherics that becloud their choice by the numero uno of Nigeria (the President), the current police chieftain, Alhaji Ibrahim Kpotum Idris, has uploaded and offloaded a trailer -load of promises as some of his underlying objectives. The summary of his pledges is that the police under him shall carry out policing duties as it is done in civilised democracies. Tall dream, you may say, given our perennially notorious policing styles in over 50 years. And, if the saying that 'old behaviours die hard' is to be considered, then we can as well say that this aspiration is difficult, though not impossible to achieve.
We shall return to his exact promises, but for now suffice it to inform our new Inspector-General of Police that most patriotic Nigerians have only but a single agenda for which if well implemented will restore people’s confidence in the police. The one-point agenda for this brand new police chief is to restore DISCIPLINE among the rank and file of the Police of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Luckily, the new Inspector-General of Police was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari who, as the then military head of state in the early 80’s, gained reputation for introducing the War Against Indiscipline (WAI). Let this police chief go back to the archives and read how Gen Muhammadu Buhari (as he then was) and Gen Tunde Idiagbon (as he then was before his recent demise) jointly enforced strict disciplinary measures that effectively imparted on most Nigerians the disciplinary virtues of promptness to duty and the attitude of first come, first served.
The demon that has led to the generational degeneration of the Nigeria Police Force is gross indiscipline. Corruption and inefficiency are the inevitable offspring of INDISCIPLINE. The police operatives and officers in Nigeria are PHENOMENALLY INDISCIPLINED.
Indiscipline among and within the policing institution in Nigeria was responsible for the growth of impunity, corruption, inefficiency, tribalism, nepotism, and other societal ills. All the ethical crimes bedeviling the Nigeria Police Force branched off from the systematic and systemic indiscipline in the police over the last five decades. From the simple to the complex, it is apparent that indiscipline stares us in the face whenever a citizen encounters the police operatives in almost all cases. A simple observation of the level of sanitation of the various police stations and barracks will show any observer how dirty the Nigeria Police Force has become.
Then to the complex issue of typical middle- level officers offering bribes to their superiors to gain appointment and posting to juicy positions. Top level police officers lobby with material and financial inducements to staff of Nigeria Police Service Commission for promotions.
So from head to toe, indiscipline has overshadowed the operations of the Nigeria Police Force.
No need for the new head of the police to ransack the dictionaries for big grammars to frame up his policy direction, because he only needs to restore discipline in the force so other things to follow. The Holy Book says: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and the rest shall be added unto you.” Let the police chief enforce discipline, and it shall be well again with the police.
What is discipline, if one may ask? From the website of www.thefreedictionary.com, we can decipher the following as the meaning of discipline: “Discipline means the training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behaviour, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement. Discipline implies to train by instruction and practice, as in following rules or developing self-control.”
The new police chief must hit the ground running by introducing measures to check the different levels of indiscipline in the Nigerian Police Force. For example, financial indiscipline, strict compliance to constitutional provisions regarding law enforcement, and ethical discipline. These basic tenets are lacking in the current Nigeria Police Force, and this lack of discipline is the reason why the typical police operative is public enemy number one. The total lack of trust and confidence of Nigerians in the Nigeria police is the reason why the intelligence-gathering efficiency of police operatives has declined significantly. You can't possibly fight and/or prevent crime if there's no intelligence; and you can't build actionable intelligence without the inputs of members of the public. In places like the USA, it is even a punishable offence for citizens to conceal vital information that can assist law enforcement in cases of breaches of the law.
Importantly, the Inspector-General of Police must clean up both the professional image of the police and, must as a matter of urgency, restore environmental sanitation all across the police formations. The new leadership of the police must deliver clean, quality and durable housing facilities for the police. Virtually, all the police stations and barracks across Nigeria are in varying degrees of deterioration. There is no way you expect a person who operates in a dirty and dilapidated environment to render clean services to the public. Because, as it is said, “You cannot give what you do not have.” And, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” So, if the police continue to operate in dirty environment it follows, therefore, that they can only render dirty services to the public.
The new police chief must also enforce strict adherence to prompt response time to distress calls, and abolish the extortion of complainants who are taxed for police to even fuel their vehicles to operate. The police must abolish this attitude of going cap-in-hand to beg for assistance from rich individuals and companies. It must clearly abide by ethical codes of conduct that would not make them consistently demand funding assistance from rogue persons and institutions, since the saying – he who pays the piper dictates the tune - holds true in our clime. We must also streamline the areas of partnership in terms of logistical support between state governors and the Nigeria Police Force. The current practice of assigning hundreds of armed police men to secure one man - the State Governor, whilst millions of Nigerians are endangered - must be stopped. There ought to be verifiable timelines for all these objectives listed above. For the Acting IGP’s information, majority of the youth who turned out to be enlisted into the Nigeria Police did so because of the unemployment situation in Nigeria, and not because they have the passion and calling to so enlist.
For instance, I asked a young Nigerian graduate to sum up what she thinks the Nigeria Police looks like now, and she wrote as follows: “The Nigerian police have let down the society for a long time. Growing up, we were always told that the police was there to serve and protect; to cooperate with the police because they are there for our own good.
“However, as the years passed, we started to realise that that may not be the case, after all. The police aren’t there to protect us. On the contrary, they are there to extort us and to abuse the majority of the Nigerian public who are ignorant of their rights. I recalled a situation one time when I parked on the street for close to 15 minutes. Admittedly it was night time, but I was waiting for someone; and these police individuals came and started banging on my car like some kind of criminal or what.”
This young mind continued: “My companion in the car just drove off. The police individual proceeded and punctured my tyre. That day I heard a statement from my companion which basically summarises the image of the Nigerian police to most people: vom ka mma. Meaning, to run is better than standing there to answer their questions. This is because the police have systematically figured out ways to extort money from the Nigerian populace by churning out ridiculous charges and abusing the authority of their uniform. Fights between police and citizens on the streets are not uncommon, which is an affront to the uniform they wear.
“It is rather a case of alarm on how the police is almost synonymous with words like ‘roger’ or ‘how far’: slangs used to collect money from motorists at various check-points on the high way.
These police check-points were set up at strategic points in the highway to check the vehicles on the high way so as to curb crime. But many a time we end up watching in horror as these police officers rather harass motorists for money, rather than checking the vehicles. It is little wonder why Boko Haram terrorists were able to evade security measures and roadblocks and move from state to state for so long.
“The police response to emergency situation is rather abysmal. It’s a recurring joke among the civil populace that the Nigeria Police tend to arrive at the scene of an armed robbery attack well after the robbers have departed the scene of the robbery. It is more than apparent that most officers of the Nigeria Police are in the institution not out of love for the institution but rather because of unemployment and are not willing to lay down their lives in the line of duty.
“The new Inspector-General of Police needs to re-sensitise the police force in respect to their duties and in their constant and flagrant abuse of power. More so, police officers should be picked based on passion for service above anything else. It should be a thing of pride to wear the uniform of the Nigeria Police Force.”
These were the exact words of young Miss Amaka Obi, a philosophy graduate.
But the newly appointed Acting Inspector-General of Police has unveiled his blueprint, among which is to make prompt and 'satisfactory ' services to Nigerian complainants his watchword.
In his inaugural speech, he also stressed adherence to the current administration’s mantra of transparency and accountability as major components of his new policing strategy. The key points of his promises are:
1.The Nigeria Police Force will henceforth be guided by the international core values of policing with integrity, ensuring that the rule of law prevails
2· The Nigeria Police Force will henceforth, have as its main focus, integrity and accountability as its cardinal operational principle in all its actions, and will be decisive on any of its personnel that deviate from its core values.
The new police chief listed his priority areas of physical advancement of the policing institution to include the establishment of Forensic Laboratories in the six geopolitical zones in the country. He also promised to ensure the establishment of Joint Operation Centres in State Police Commands.
Other pragmatic steps are to: Establish of Criminal Database in all Police Divisions nationwide, and to reorganise and restructure the Special Anti-Robbery Squads. Let us conclude by reminding the new police chief of the need to introduce rapid response time mechanisms, as is done in the developed societies like the United States of America.
A website www.self-defense-mind-body-spirit.com asked the question: What is the average-police-response-time to a 911 call? Then responded thus: “When we talk to people about violence and what they would do when confronted with violence, the response is always the same: I would just call 911 for help. There's this false sense of security that we have created with the 911 system that has people believing that with a single call, a swat team will be dispatched immediately to save you and your family within moments of the call.”
The writers noted: “Unfortunately, this couldn't be further from the truth. So, what is the average-police-response-time to a 911 call?”
“According to American Police Beat, the average response time for an emergency call is 10 minutes. Atlanta has the worst response time with 11 to 12 minutes and Nashville comes in at a lightning speed of nine minutes.”
They reminded us that the Department of Justice, with their statistical prowess, reports that the best response time is four minutes and the worst, over one hour.
“Interpretation? If you live in an upper income area, you probably are privy to the four-minute response time, while middle to rural areas will see a much longer response time.”
In Nigeria, it takes eternity for police to respond to distress calls. When they do, they hide from a safe distance and watch the criminals with their sophisticated weapons while their operations last and then resurface, carrying their outdated MC4 riffles to harass innocent bystanders and the victims. Mr Police Inspector-General, please, stop the dogon turanchi big grammar and reform the mindset of your officers and other ranks.
•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). He can be reached via 08033327672 (sms only) or via firstname.lastname@example.org
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