With the return of democracy in 1999, the Nigeria Police Force, after serving under several military regimes, needed to retrace its steps. From among the crop of policemen in active service at the time, few were privileged to serve as the head of the force to help drive her to great heights. In this report, EJIKE EJIKE profiles the Inspectors-General of Police (IGPs) that the force has had since then.
Musiliu Adeola Smith:
When the Fourth Republic began in 1999, Alhaji Musiliu Adeola Smith was appointed the Inspector General of Police, succeeding Ibrahim Coomassie who had served in the same capacity from 1993 under the last military government.
During his active days in the police force, he worked in different parts of the country beginning from Enugu where he served as an Assistant Police Superintendent in 1972. He later served as an instructor in the Police College Ikeja and a Divisional Police Officer in Mubi, Adamawa State. And from 1980 to 1982, he was in charge of the X-Squad at CID Alagbon Close before he was moved to Ilorin where he served in various capacities.
He was promoted to Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) in 1996, and placed in charge of Zonal Headquarters, Kano. The next year in 1997, he completed a master’s degree programme in Strategic Studies at the University of Ibadan and was appointed member of the Provisional Ruling Council in 1998.
Under his watch, an unprecedented event happened on February 1, 2002 when a so-called Nigerian Union of Policemen went on strike. The strike which was partially successful, led to Smith’s sack in March, 2002 just after three years of his appointment as IGP and before the end of the first term in office of President Obasanjo. He was replaced by Mustafa Adebayo Balogun.
Just like his predecessor, IGP Mustafa Adebayo Balogun lasted only three years. After he was appointed in March 2002, widespread charges of corruption were levelled against him and this later led to his forced retirement in January 2005.
A graduate of the University of Lagos, Balogun joined the Nigeria Police Force in May 1973. While in service, he obtained a law degree from the University of Ibadan. After working in various positions around the country, he became Principal Staff Officer to former IGP Muhammadu Gambo, then Deputy Commissioner of Police in Edo, Rivers and Abia states. He also served as Assistant Inspector General of Police in Zone 1 Kano, a post he held till he was promoted to IGP.
As IGP, Balogun reassured reporters that there were provisions to ensure the safety of businessmen in Nigeria through the so-called Diplomatic Corps and Foreign National Protection Unit.
He was responsible for providing the overall police security during the April 2003 national elections, which were marred by reports of police abuses. In August 2003, he presented a paper on ‘Nigeria: Electoral Violence and National Security’ in which he advocated improvements such as use of national identity cards, mass education, electoral law reforms, citizens participation in politics, good governance and establishment of a constitutional court.
In the last month of 2003, he organised extensive security measures across Nigeria to ensure that there was no disturbance during the Commonwealth of Nations summit.
Following various incidents in 2004 where reporters were beaten and their equipment damaged by the police, Balogun made apologies and promised that those responsible would be punished.
Towards the end of 2004, newspapers published allegations of corruption on a massive scale, asserting that the IGP had pocketed public money and taken bribes from politicians and criminals.
He was arraigned at the Federal High Court, Abuja, on April 4, 2005, on charges involving about N13 billion obtained through money laundering, theft and other sources. He made a plea bargain with the court in exchange for returning much of the property and money. He was sentenced to six months in jail and released on February 9, 2006 after serving his sentence, part of it in Abuja National Hospital.
On one of his appearances in court, Nigerians were shocked to see Balogun in handcuffs and being dragged into a Police van.
Sunday Gabriel Ehindero was the IGP from 2005 to 2007. He started his career as a teacher in Abeokuta, Ogun State, and transitioned into the Police Force in the early 70s.
Before he became IGP, Ehindero made a name for himself in April 2004 when as a Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) led his team on an investigation and uncovered human bodies and skulls at Okija Shrine in Anambra State.
After he became IGP, his administration was characterised by different human friendly policies that included sending a Bill to the National Assembly to amend the Police Act to remove gender bias. It was also in his days as head of the police that the Supreme Court judgment declared that police lawyers could prosecute criminal cases in any court in Nigeria.
In May 2006, after a pipeline explosion at Inagbe beach on the outskirts of Lagos, he called on communities and officials to play greater role in securing pipelines and expressed police’s concern with the control of corruption in the society and within the police itself. According to him at the time, his administration had started addressing the second issue through improved pay to policemen.
In 2006, after he noted that police roadblocks in the country were not mounted on his orders, Ehindero was subjected to over three hours of searching questions by the Senate. He condemned the duplication of anti-corruption commissions like the EFCC and the ICPC, bought 30 armoured vehicles for the force to be used to combat crime in Lagos, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers states.
With the elections drawing close in 2007, IGP Ehindero expressed confidence that the police could cope with any problems that might arise. He noted earlier that 80,000 weapons and 32 million rounds of ammunitzon had been procured for the police.
He it was who announced that more than 10,000 officers would be sacked in an attempt to root-out dirty policemen, alleging that his predecessor, IGP Balogun, had employed thousands of officers with criminal records.
He also recommended the promotion of the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at the time, Nuhu Ribadu, from Commissioner of Police to Assistant Inspector General of Police.
After his retirement in 2007, Ehindero faced a probe over N21 million fraud, N2.5 billion of police cooperative money, N300 million police funds and the source of money for allegedly building about eight magnificent houses.
Nigeria’s first IGP of Igbo extraction, Mike Mbama Okiro, held the position from 2007 to 2009. Though from the South-South zone and an alumnus of several institutions because of his many degrees, Okiro joined the Nigerian Police in 1977 and went on to serve as DPO in several police stations in Lagos State, receiving double promotions for excellence in service.
After he became IGP, Okiro’s first priority was making Nigeria safe for the actualisation of the president’s vision of placing Nigeria among the world’s top 20 economies by the year 2020.
This he ably pursued by partnering effectively with the Ministry of Police Affairs and the Police Service Commission in a conscious effort towards re-positioning the Nigeria Police in the areas of quality training, behavioural and attitudinal change, community policing and service delivery.
He significantly improved the welfare and morale of officers and men, by an enhanced salary package and improved logistics, notably owner-occupier houses and created a channel of communication as a tool of bridging the police-public divide; the philosophy that gave birth to The Dawn newspaper.
He reinstated a number of officers who had been forced into early retirement and also made police service more open, receptive and responsive to troubled spots in the country among many other achievements.
It was Okiro who introduced registration of SIM Cards in the country, initiated the Amnesty Programme for the then restive Niger Delta militants, introduced the Anti-Terrorism Squad and the Police Games as well as Police Housing Scheme and forced Commercial banks to introduce CCTV cameras, bullet-proof Bullion Vans and bullet-proof doors to reduce bank robberies. He also increased the mobile force units, sponsored a bill in the National Assembly on anti-terrorism and introduced the Police Marathon Race in October 2008.
Okiro was notable for speaking on the responsibilities of the press, saying reporters should avoid sensationalism and investigate any story carefully before reporting it.
Okiro also headed a five-man inter-agency panel to investigate the $190 million Halliburton scandal and did such a good job while on the panel that when he retired at age 60 in July 2009, he was congratulated by President Musa Yar’Adua for a job well done. A month before he retired, he published a book, ‘Policing Nigeria in a Democracy.’
In July of 2009, Ogbonna Okechukwu Onovo, became IGP serving to September 2010. He was the first IGP from the South-East geopolitical zone.
A graduate of Political Science from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, he joined the police force in August 1977 as an Assistant Superintendent of Police (AIG) and rose steadily through the ranks to become Commissioner of Police in April 1997 and AIG in May 2001. His first posting was in Rivers State, with later positions in Imo, Lagos, Edo, Adamawa and Ogun.
Between 1998 and 2000, he was chairman/chief executive officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
Onovo was promoted to Deputy Inspector General (DIG) on March 14, 2002, and served three IGs (Tafa Balogun, Sunday Ehindero and Mike Okiro) in that role. He was briefly the acting IGP in 2007 before Mike Okiro was appointed to the post.
At the ceremony where he formally assumed the acting IGP post in July 2009, Onovo promised continuity in the direction set by his predecessor. He however made a few changes including shortening the number of years that Aide de Camps (ADCs) attached to governors or political office holders are allowed to spend on an assignment to just three years, after which they must return to the force.
He also announced a campaign to deploy mobile police officers to address the high rate of kidnapping in Anambra and the entire Southeast at the time. And when members of the extremist sect Boko Haram went on the rampage in five states in the North, attacking several police stations, soldiers eventually arrested their leader, Mohammed Yusuf, who was handed over to policemen in Maiduguri before he died in police custody.
After the incident, Onovo summoned the five commissioners of Police in that region to explain police involvement in the death and declared as ‘National Heroes’ the 20 policemen who died trying to maintain order, presenting cheques to their families in compensation. But with the coming of Boko Haram, security threat increased so much that Onovo was removed after just 14 months as IGP.
Hafiz Ringim expressed optimism that he would defeat Boko Haram when he replaced Onovo in 2010. Ringim, who was enlisted as a Cadet Inspector on March 1, 1977, occupied the position when the country was faced with the most daring security affront by Boko Haram terrorists.
And with the shocking bombing of the Force Headquarters in Abuja by terrorists in June 2011, six days after he had pledged to defeat the sect when he visited Maiduguri, things got worse.
Many other bombings occurred throughout his tenure, the deadliest ones being the 2011 Christmas Day bombing at the St. Theresa Catholic Church, Madalla, near Abuja, which claimed over 40 lives and that of Kano that claimed no fewer than 185 lives. He retired on January 25, 2012.
Mohammed Dikko Abubakar:
Former IGP Mohammed Dikko Abubakar was appointed in 2012.
Abubakar mounted the saddle in an acting capacity on January 25, 2012, following Ringim’s retirement. Before then, he was AIG in charge of Zone 12, Bauchi, which is the stronghold of the Boko Haram sect. He was once a Commissioner of Police in Lagos.
Abubakar identified corruption, inadequate training and absence of tactics and equipment, among others, as the bane of the Force but did little to solve the problems. His most transparent achievement was the introduction of a new ‘camouflage’ uniform similar to that used by the military.
Also, in an apparent attempt to get an extension of service, Abubakar chose to personally control the traffic on the road leading to the Force Headquarters. He was subsequently retired in 2014.
Suleiman Abba served as the IGP from August 2014 after he was appointed in an acting capacity by President Goodluck Jonathan. He was later confirmed as substantive IGP on November 4.
Before his appointment, Abba worked in various capacities as Commissioner of Police in Lagos and Rivers states and as AIG in charge of Zone 7, Abuja.
He also once served as Aide-De-Camp (ADC) to former First Lady, Maryam Abacha, wife of Nigeria’s former military leader, Sani Abacha.
As IGP, Abba seemed to have hit the ground running when in his first statement he said, he would not change the vision of his predecessor but will instead, bring about attitudinal change in the way policemen conducted their business.
He, however, made some decisions many termed controversial at a point. One of which was withdrawing the security details of the House of Representatives Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, after the latter defected from the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
He presided over the 2015 general elections and soon switched allegiance to the then President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, whom he went to welcome at the airport while still serving as IGP under President Jonathan.
IGP Abba was sacked shortly afterwards on April 21, 2015 for indiscipline.
Solomon Ehigiator Arase was appointed IGP in 2015 by President Jonathan to replace Suleiman Abba.
Before his appointment as IGP, Arase was head of the topmost intelligence gathering unit of the Nigerian Police, the Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Bureau (CIIB). He was recruited into the Nigerian Police in 1981.
While in the Police service, Arase served in various capacities including being commissioner of Police in Akwa Ibom State as well as serving in intelligence gathering unit as AIG.
He is a Fellow of the Nigerian Defence Academy and had served in Namibia during the United Nations peacekeeping operation.
Though, he didn’t have enough time before retirement, Arase was noted to have returned the Nigeria Police to professionalism, where the welfare of officers was paramount. He completed many ongoing projects during his tenure. Arase retired from the force on June 21, 2016.
Ibrahim Kpotun Idris:
Ibrahim Kpotun Idris was appointed IGP by President Muhammadu Buhari on March 21, 2016.
Prior to his appointment, Idris was AIG (Operations), Force HQ, Abuja. He also led the Police Mobile Force (PMF) and served as Police Commissioner in Kano and Nasarawa states at different times.
When he took over, he started on a stormy note with altercations with his immediate predecessor in office, Arase, on the whereabouts of some police vehicles.
His time saw the rise in kidnapping, cattle rustling, banditry among other crimes. His time also saw the alleged intimidation of perceived political opposition members who were constantly harassed and detained by the Police.
He retired on January 15, 2019.
Mohammed Adamu Abubakar is the current Inspector-General of Police. He was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari on January 15, 2019.
Before his appointment as IGP, he was an AIG in Benin City, Edo State, and was responsible for the overall management and operations of the NPF Zone 5, comprising Bayelsa, Delta and Edo State police commands.
He enlisted into the Police Force in 1986 after obtaining a degree in Geography from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He also holds a master’s degree in International Criminal Justice System from the University of Portsmouth, England.
He served as officer in charge of General Investigation at the NPF Zone 6 Headquarters in Calabar.
Adamu also has extensive international experience. He worked at Interpol’s NCB in Lagos from 1989-1997. He was the first Nigerian to be seconded to Interpol General Secretariat, Lyon, in 1997 where he served as specialized officer in Economic and Financial Crime Sub-directorate from 1997- 2002.
He became the first black African to be appointed Assistant Director in charge of African Sub-Directorate from 2002-2005.
He was again the first African in the history of INTERPOL to serve as Director when he was appointed director of NCB Services and I-24/7 Development from 2005-2007.
When he returned to the country, he was appointed director in charge of Peacekeeping and Training at the Force Headquarters, Abuja. Between 2013 and 2015 he was appointed deputy commissioner of Police and Commissioner of Police in Enugu State command.
Barely a week after he took over as IGP, he disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) established by his predecessor. And in January 2019, while he was still acting IGP, he submitted six names of the new Deputy Inspectors of Police to the Police Service Commission (PSC) for general approval. His appointment was confirmed on May 23.
Adamu is currently embroiled in a power tussle with the PSC over the recruitment of 10,000 Constables into the Police Force. The PSC is headed by former IGP Musiliu Smith.
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