BY augustine david
Last week’s arrest of a notorious kidnap mastermind, Chukwudidumeme Onuamadike, a.k.a. Evans by IGP’s Intelligence Response Team led by ACP Abba Kyari marks a turning point of sorts for the Nigeria Police Force which has not had a good public image for many decades.
Evans, who was said to have coordinated several kidnappings in Lagos and Ogun States, was nabbed in Magodo area of Lagos State last Saturday. Until his arrest, he was regarded as the most notorious high profile kidnapper in the history of Nigeria. He was said to have collected several billions of naira as ransom in the last seven years, as kingpin of kidnappers.
The last time policemen were seen as heroes was when men of the force arrested Lawrence Anini, a bandit who terrorised Benin in the 1980s along with his side-kick, Monday Osunbor. Acting on a tip-off, a crack 10 man team led by Superintendent of Police Kayode Uanreroro, on December 3, 1986 brought Anini’s reign of terror to an end.
For decades, the conduct of police personnel has caused serious image and operational problems for the Force. The duties of its officers and rank and file had been compromised because they had tailored them chiefly to cater to the highest bidders, who could in fact be criminals that should be prosecuted, not provided cover.
It is commonplace to hear allegations of corruption, incompetence, unprofessional conducts and other questionable practices that have nothing to do with normal police duty or the maintenance of law and order being levelled against police officers. But that is fast giving way to a more professional and highly motivated police force that is well equipped to cope with the challenges of contemporary policing.
Although the arrest of Evans is the single most important turn around for the current leadership of the Nigeria Police, several other successes recorded in the last one year under the leadership of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, point to the fact that a new Force is indeed in the making. But more significant is the fact that the IGP is not your typical Nigerian public servant who does everything to attract media attention to himself.
Idris has every reason to attract attention to himself. Firstly, he was selected from among the eligible senior police officers because he was the only one who passed the integrity test secretly conducted by the presidency. Secondly, since his appointment exactly a year ago, he has completely repositioned the Force to arguably the most efficient Police Force in our recent history.
Testimonies to that effect abound. In February this year, the IGP Special Squad freed, Professor Peter Breunig, a German archaeologist kidnapped by bandits in Southern Kaduna and his associate, Johannes Buringer in what was a major success in the fight against kidnapping. The Police also secured the release of Major General Alfred Nelson, the Deputy High Commissioner of Sierra Leone to Nigeria who was kidnapped by men of the underworld.
The capture and killing of armed robbery kingpin, Henry Chibueze who terrorised the South East region of the country from his den in Imo State is another major achievement of the IGP in the last one year of his administration.
Praise came for the Police boss when he successfully provided security cover for air travellers to and from Kaduna, during the temporary closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. Idris deployed 350 policemen to ensure security of passengers along the Kaduna-Abuja expressway and aerial surveillance by police helicopters which assisted in checking criminal activities in the area during the period.
Unlike his predecessors, Idris has ensured that police checkpoints scattered across the country are taken down. This order has since taken effect and has affected all the states except checkpoints within states where extraordinary measures are still in place in response to attacks blamed on the Boko Haram sects, recurring herdsmen/famers clashes or the menace of kidnapping.
The nation’s most senior cop has argued at several fora, that checkpoints have their uses if they are used to specifically to check crime or apprehend criminals. “But when they acquire the negative perception that they have, they become money-spinning points to which superior officers despatch their trusted subordinates to make ‘returns’ in the form of financial gratifications, then they are compromised”. Regular patrols by well motivated police personnel have effectively replaced checkpoints.
Some of the egregious but common practices of the police, like detaining suspects without charge for more than 24 hours has been discontinued while the law on detention of persons is currently being strictly applied.
On the above scores alone, IGP Idris has every reason to roll out the drums as many a public servant with far less achievements have done. But then, these are not his only achievements.
Another achievement of the police high command that is unprecedented is the leading role it is playing to foster inter agency cooperation to make Nigeria more safe and secure. In this breath, the IGP has strengthened the relationship between the Police Force and other sister security agencies through courtesy visits to the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Chief of Air Staff (CAS), the Comptroller General of Customs, Commandant General of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and other relevant organisations.
Similarly, the Inspector General has established the Eminent Persons Group across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT with a view to engaging all relevant stakeholders; traditional rulers, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN), Market Women Association, National Union of Road Transport (NURTW) and many others to make inputs into how society can become safer and more secure.
– David, a public affairs analyst, wrote in from Benin