Mariam Mohammed –
I could not but watch with admiration the exchange of banters between the delegation of the federal executive and legislators after President Muhammadu Buhari presented the N8.6 trillion 2018 budget estimates to Nigerians through the National Assembly in Abuja.
The atmosphere was congenial for both arms of government to put Nigeria first. The President, being the soldier that he is, stood for over an hour and point-by-point, reeled out figures that would translate into positive developments for the country in the coming year. I admired the steadfastness in which the President delivered the budget speech by analysing the 2017 budget performance and focused on the 2018 proposal.
Considering the aforementioned scenario, one would think that at the budget presentation, a scene would take place after the incident at the Villa, but surprisingly many lawmakers swamped the President on his way out of the chamber to get a handshake after presenting the budget. This showed a level of immerse maturity, I must admit. More so, I have an impression that many of the lawmakers wanted to have a feel of the President for delivering such a wonderful speech on the backdrop of his medical vacation.
Another episode however played out before the commencement of the President’s speech as some legislators were seen heartily exchanging pleasantries with the new Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF) Boss Mustapha which was another show of cordiality.
Let’s skip the chitchat and get down to the nitty-gritty of my article which of course concentrates on the Inspector General of Police, IGP Ibrahim Kpotun Idris and the umpteen burden of policing Nigeria. Idris, appointed in June 21, 2016 as the 19th IGP, has a tough task of overseeing some 1300 police stations, 370,800 men and women, 36 state commands, 12 Zones and 7 administrative organs.
The police force is a noble job and well respected in other climes but in Nigeria it has been perceived as a god-forsaken job due to its modus operandi. Before I go further, I will like to use the words of Robert Kennedy: “Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves. What is equally true is that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on.”
As a patriotic citizen, I see the need to remind Idris of some of his promises made when he was appointed acting IGP; because he seems to have forgotten so soon that some persons paid the price for his emergence. The emergence of Idris was expected to usher in a total turn around in the force. In truth, it was like the long awaited clean sweep. Just in the wake of the appointment, no fewer than six Deputy Inspectors General of Police (DIGs) and 21 Assistant Inspectors General of Police (AIGs) were shown the way out of the force in a compulsorily retirement.
When President Muhammadu Buhari, in search of a perfect IGP, announced the appointment of Ibrahim Idris as the nation’s new police chief, many Nigerians believed the new IGP is a rare gem who will bring about change in policy and practice that will transform the Nigeria police force in tandem with the true tenets of democratic policing.
Almost one and a half year since Idris assumed office, the police are still fraught with the burden of poor public perception, low morale, pitiable living standards of the rank and file, corruption and a ridiculously low capacity to nip crime in the bud.
Promo payment of the policemen especially the rank and file should be one of the key priorities of the force. It should not be a favour to pay them, it is their entitlement. When they are paid promptly, the complaints about some police men extorting money at check-points will end. Save the Nigeria Police from continuous embarrassing. The IGP is not fulfilling his promises. This is a clear contradiction of the kind of policing IGP Idris promised Nigerians in his speech when he took over the mantle of leadership.
Again, I was disturbed the other day I went to the salon, and to my amazement, a police orderly was feeding the baby of her supposed “VIP” whom she is assigned to protect. I have heard of orderlies being misused for cooking, washing, taking officer’s children to school, shopping for the family etc. An orderly thus became more of a menial servant? It is derisive. Police in other countries are most commonly known and recognised for their stringency in discipline in almost everything at which they do or say but here they operate in an unprofessional manner.
Perhaps, the IGP may reflect his memory to one of his statements: “We are building a new police that is owned by Nigerians. We want a new strategy that will define policing from a different paradigm. It’s a challenge, but we are up to the task. We need to change the perception of the police by the people. The police will be expanding new frontiers like the School of Marine in Bayelsa, and the School of Logistics and Administrations. The new training of the police will emphasise integrity so as to spur public confidence.”
This is far from reality. I was expecting “Super Cops” based on the assurances the IGP gave in June last year. In spite of his numerous promises and acclaim revolutionary reform in the police, 18 months after; the achievements in creating the needed change of institutional paradigm are very infinitesimal. For instance, there are complaints that the police continue to run like a communist command in a plural society where values and civilisations sharply differ and sometimes in violent conflict.
Idris is one IGP that entangled himself with numerous unpalatable issues which seemed to have diverted his attention from the policing work. His frequent transfer of commissioners from one state to another is worrisome and it seems as though he is looking for loyalists at the expense of competent officers. The recent brouhaha over the Idris’ move to withdraw the security aides of the Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano at the heel of the election was an ill-decision condemned by many concerned citizens. But Buhari, being a listening leader, as the governor cried to him, he immediately ordered the IGP to reinstate the security aides of the governor. Idris should not enmesh trivial issues that could dent his credibility; rather he should let his work speak for him.
There are lots of security challenges to be addressed across the country. Kidnap cases have risen in Nigeria, under Mr Idris and are witnessing a spike in the north, including the Kaduna-Abuja road, Kogi state, some part of the South East and South South where vehicles are intercepted on the highway, and travellers are abducted until ransom is paid. Despite hundreds of police assigned on some of these places, motorists are still crying out that the crime continues unabated, in some cases turning deadly.
Most Nigerians were happy when the President at the book lunch on Thursday raised concern on the issues of armed robbery and kidnapping and assured Nigerians that they will be addressed. This should be a signal to the IGP that he need to be on his feet knowing that the President is having a sleepless night over the security challenges confronting the nation.
Unless the police take the issue of poor remuneration, strict adherence to global best practice of policing, the future of policing in Nigeria will be a bleak. If there is any bright light in the dark tunnel of policing in Nigeria, IGP Idris must change his tactics by addressing the basic challenges confronting the rank and file and also get the people deeply involved in policy decisions that will usher in a new breed of policing in the country. Though, that may not be enough unless the reform focuses on tackling the root causes of the menace.
We want to see a breed of police and policing system that is based on professionalism. Law enforcement officers are never ‘off duty.’ They are dedicated public servants who are sworn to protect public safety at any time and place that the peace is threatened.