In her heyday as the mouthpiece of the State Security Service (SSS), which later metamorphosed into the Department of State Security (DSS), Marilyn Ogar, nicknamed “Iron Lady,” was known for always responding to inquiries from security journalists on the activities of her agency thus: “We are on top of the situation.” This response became a sing-song that eventually was adopted by every media spokesperson to security agencies. Ogar was unceremoniously dismissed. However, I want to borrow the popular slogan for this piece.
Today, indeed, Nigerian security agencies are really on top of the situation. They put extra efforts in ensuring that the majority of the population is protected. There is seeming peace around the country despite a few pockets of insecurity here and there, unlike in the past, between 2014 and mid-2022, when the country was virtually enveloped in insecurity.
While in the North terrorism was the major concern, with those in the North-West and North-Central crying over kidnapping and acts of banditry, those in the South-West, South-East and Niger Delta areas were complaining over assassination, kidnapping or local agitators and militants that asserted security might on innocent citizens. Apart from gradual curbing of insecurity by the armed forces, impressive activities of other security agencies have been very complimentary in their seizure of items that promote insecurity around the country.
Agencies like the Nigeria Customs Service, NDLEA and Civil Defence Corps have been up and doing. The army and air force raiding Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists and bandits, thereby dislodging them from their hideouts has greatly degraded and incapacitated these vicious groups. Indeed, the newly acquired weapons and sophisticated machinery have greatly boosted the war strategies of the Nigerian military to curb terrorism. Despite the efforts of the armed forces, it is very obvious that members of the society in areas like Kaduna, Katsina, Plateau and Imo states are yet to feel the impact of the new direction of war success by the armed forces. For the recent gains of the war against terror to be generally felt across the country, the Nigeria Police MUST be completely restructured. Restructuring the police is simply introducing the state policing system.
This clarion call has also been supported by security experts from the elite security platform, Total Security Platfom (which comprises eminent body of retired top police, military and DSS officers). Others who have joined the clarion call include former head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida, the APC presidential candidate Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and serving governors.
The Federal Government has tactically disenfranchised the police in all areas of its development. Instead of increasing the population of the organization to comply with the standard requirement of the United Nations ratio of one policeman to 400 people, Nigeria has an inadequate police population, considering the population of the country of over 200 million citizen (even the figure is not verifiable). Apart from the statistical error, the police force is grossly underfunded, with depleting manpower arms, ammunition and operational vehicles. Yet the Federal Government of Nigeria Justified the approval of N1.14 billion donation to the Republic of Niger to aid in the acquisition of some operational vehicles. Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, confirmed the purchase while fielding questions from reporters, shortly after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by the President, Muhammadu Buhari, recently.
Following public outrage, the minister argued that even though Nigerians have the right to question the rationale for such donation, President Buhari, who approved the purchase, also has the right to make his own assessment on situations and act accordingly. The contract to supply the 10 units of Toyota Land Cruisers was awarded to IFO Kaura Motors Nigeria Limited.
But justifying the funds, Zanaib Ahmed noted that the President reserved the right to take decisions “in the interest of Nigeria.”
This is not the first time that Nigeria has assisted the Niger Republic, Cameroon or Chad.
According to her,“The President makes an assessment as to what is required, based on the request of their Presidents. Such requests are approved and interventions are provided. Their capacity to protect their countries, as it relates to security and also to Nigeria.”
No one is questioning the President’s decision, but did our proverb not educate us that “charity begins at home?” What does Nigeria stand to gain when several police stations in Imo and many other states lack patrol vehicles, not to mention armored vehicles for serious assignments? Or could this be the reason why virtually all the operational space in the country have been handed over to the military to create easy explanations why funds earmarked for the police are used to equip the military, since they are handling practically every police assignments as constitutionally mandated? Painfully, a former Inspector-General of Police, now late, had lamented the gross negligence of the police in an interview.
EX-IGP, Alhaji Gambo Jimeta, said, “Being a police officer was a thing of pride when I joined the force.” But five decades later, Jimeta recounted how the institution became a shadow of itself.
“The police force I joined 50 years ago was a highly trained and motivated one. We were very proud of our profession and we had a lot of support from the public who felt that we were really there for them, to help them,” he said. “The police force was well equipped during my years. They had vehicles, laboratory equipment and everything that it took to run a modern police force.”
Unfortunately, he noted, “since Independence, the police have been put along the line of what they call competing demands from other services in Nigeria. This has downgraded us and has brought us to where we are today, almost at a standstill.”
The police force is very huge, scattered and uncared for today. To have a police force of a highly conscious and civilised society like Nigeria requires a lot of funding and it is one service that deals with what life is all about in the country. People want to see their lives secured. “They want to be protected and want to feel happy without anybody molesting them. You cannot achieve this unless you have properly trained, well paid and confident police officers to enforce the laws of the country.”
According to Jimeta, the police force has ended up with a large number of policemen ill-funded, badly motivated and drained of their self-esteem. “So, really, the 50 years we are talking about has seen the police force regress from a very efficient and confident police force to what we have today.”
Jimeta complained about police being neglected. In the interview, he accused successive governments of ignoring recommendations on police reforms. Recommendations are always presented to the government, but implementation has always been an issue, Jimeta lamented.
These recommendations, he said, were meant to be implemented randomly. He said they were put up in the scheme so that there would be positive results.