A police force can only be as good as its police chief. This is because police chiefs, and to a lesser or greater extent, others at the helm of its architecture, exerts a critical source of influence as they play significant roles in making provisions, designing strategies, deciphering codes, choosing alternatives, ascertaining possibilities, making recommendations, identifying practices to be adopted and issuing orders. In the native parlance, they are said to hold both the knife and the yam on the altar of policing.
The Nigeria Police Force was established under section 214 of the 1999 Constitution and charged with internal security, maintenance and enforcement of law and order, prevention of crime among other duties. But in the discharge of these duties regrettably, the Nigeria Police Force have long had a bad reputation for needless highhandedness, unjustified blood lust, brazen extortion and bribery, criminal activities, commercialization of criminal enquiries, and in general, endemic corruption bedevilling its ranks. Apparently so to say, the corruption equation in the NPF is not alien from that obtainable in any other police organization the world over, except perhaps, in scope and the societal and organization’s reaction to it.
Since his enlistment into the NPF as ASP cadet in 1984, Mr. Ibrahim Kpotun Idris had acquired all the necessary credentials needed to subjugate all the subterfuges, eradicate corruption and dislodge abusive behaviours within the NPF, while improving the welfare of police officers. The security virtuosity he had exhibited in different capacities in building a crime-free, and a more peaceful and stable Nigeria, both as the Commandant, Police Mobile Force Training School, Commissioner of Police, Kano and Nassarawa states, and the Commissioner of Police, Police Mobile Force among others; and the mettle and singularity of purpose with which he invested outstanding and outlandish efforts towards instituting peace and stability in countries such as Liberia and Timor Leste where he coordinated major security operations under the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission shows he has all it takes to decidedly make ease such an uphill task.
And now as the IGP, the onus is on him to, from his wealth of experience and integrity, impact a positive influence by particularly uncovering patterns that guarantee good policing and at the same time, reversing the toxic culture that validates corruption and venerates mediocrity within the ranks of the Nigeria Police Force.
Retrospectively, during the era of the then IGP Mike Okiro, the Human Rights Watch suggested a gorier reality. It argued emphatically that the true number of persons killed by the police extra-judicially since 2000 may exceed 10, 000. Peter Takirambudde, the agency’s Africa director had noted how stunning it was “that the police killed half as many ‘armed robbery suspects’ as they managed to arrest…” and how scandalous it is “that leading police officials seem to regard the routine killing of Nigerian citizens – criminal suspects or not – as a point of pride”. And from IGP Mike Okiro to IGP Solomon Arase, the status quo seemed not to have changed much.
But there might remain a nexus between the blue-print marshalled out by the present IGP, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, in his transformation sweep in the NPF, and the awkward possibility that the indiscriminate extra-judicial slaughtering of Nigerian citizens, wanton disregard for the rule of law by the same agency established to uphold it, and other misdemeanours within the Nigeria Police Force will no longer be acceptable.
In his first speech after his appointment as the Inspector General of Police months ago, IGP Ibrahim emphasized that “the Nigeria Police Force will henceforth be guided by the international core values of policing with integrity, ensuring that the rule of law prevails in our actions and activities”. He further noted that “the Nigeria Police also would operate within the principles of Democratic Policing which is an institution that is responsive, representative and accountable to its citizens at all times”. According to him, “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”.
Indubitably, IGP Ibrahim, at the course of his international security exploits, must have internalized the international core values of policing to the later. As Operations Coordinator in various United Nations Missions, he must have either as a requirement of duty or by association, exchanged ideas with officers of The California Highway Patrol, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Metropolitan Police Service, the Australian Federal Police and the New Zealand Police, to know exactly the strategies they adopted to belong among the best ten police agencies in the world.
As he attended a Senior Leadership Induction course and UN Leadership course at the UN Headquarters in New York as shown in his credential, he might have interacted with officers of the New York City Police Department to learn how they won a relatively high level of trust of the society they police and how they succeeded in acquiring better equipment and apparatus in the policing of just about 8 million persons thereby becoming one of the best in the world. In Jakarta, Indonesia as he attends a Civil-Military Coordination in Disaster Management course organized by the United States Military Pacific Command and United Nations, he might have parleyed with the officers of the People’s Armed Police Force China in an attempt to demystify how they have been able to contain crime in a country that has about 1.2 billion persons, thereby emerging as one of the best in the world. In crime index for country 2016 mid-year, China was at 88th position while Nigeria came 6th.
By now, he must have understood why the best three police agencies in the world: Federal Police Austria, Garda Síochána Ireland and the Icelandic Police, have succeeded in using majorly batons and pepper sprays to build a peaceful and a crime-free society. The most peaceful country in the world is Iceland while Austria came at 3rd place. On the international scene also, as his various international policing adventures must have enlightened him, he must have discovered that policing have now gone digital as most serious police agencies are now relying on surveillance technologies and specialized software to be able to predict the occurrence of crime in time and space. Also, he must have been very familiar with the different managerial models invented and aimed at improving relations with citizens: Community-Oriented Policing (COP), Problem-Oriented Policing (POP), Intelligence-Led Policing (ILP) etc.
To this end, according to the International Code of Ethics, the international core values of policing includes among other things that force should be used only with the greatest restraint and only after discussion, negotiation and persuasion have been found to be inappropriate or ineffective. It therefore preaches that police officers must avoid any conduct that might compromise integrity and thus undercut public confidence in a law enforcement agency. Having known all these, time shall tell to what extent IGP Ibrahim would have gone in inculcating these values on the police force he now commands.
On the other hand, today’s ideal is “democratic policing” and IGP Ibrahim proved himself abreast with modern day’s policing technicalities and challenges in Nigeria when he reiterated that the force would now operate within the principles of Democratic Policing. On a broader sense, democratic policing principles bound on accountability, subject to the rule of law, respect to human dignity, effectiveness, efficiency and accessibility. It also seeks to create the security environment which best promotes democracy, transparent in its activities, provides society with professional and ethical services, demonstrates adherence to the principles of good governance, and re-aligns its organizational architecture towards the achievement of these goals.
Inadvertently, IGP Ibrahim has already promised Nigerians that he will relentlessly pursue the attainment of these objectives when in his first speech, he specifically stated that he will infuse seriousness in the business of policing by building a more responsive police institution; strengthen the police x-squads units to fight corruption and abuse of office within and outside the police force; work towards establishing forensic laboratories in the six geopolitical zones in the country to enhance investigative capacity of the NPF which is suppose to nullify the usual culture of using torture to get information from victims; reorganization and restructuring of police special units through reviewing critically the deployment of special unit’s personnel to individual businessmen and private companies, and professional training of such officials on human rights, use of force etc.; establishment of criminal database in all police divisions nationwide; and the reorganization and restructuring of special anti-robbery squads among others.
Not neglecting the welfare of officers, he hinted exclusively on cheap and affordable housing for ranks and file; availability of police uniforms and accoutrement; prompt and timely payment of salaries; while assuring transparency and accountability in the management of police cooperative and police insurance schemes.
On the whole, as legacies are like monuments not easily washed away by the vagaries of time, only time will tell how commendable IGP Ibrahim’s influence derived from a pool of expertise; experience and integrity have been brought to bear in improving the Nigeria Police Force. Hitherto nonetheless, since police agencies are mirrors of our beliefs and values as a society, and since the state of Nigerian police system, either for good or for ill, accurately reflects the state of the leaders and the led, our trust for him remain unswerving.
Mr Iheanyi, a public commentator, lives in Enugu, Enugu State.