Late last year, December 15, 2020, an incident took place, which did not make the headlines, maybe because of the institutions and personalities behind the news story. The news was not the type that commandd front-page headlines. It was the real import of the news that caught my attention.
It was simply a security meeting held in Kwara State, between Mr. Oseni Oluwasina Kazeem, the zonal head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in Ilorin, the state capital, and the Kwara State directorof the Department of State Service (DSS), Mr. Patrick Ikenweine, at the commission’s office. The meeting was historic and had the trappings of a convergence of great minds. That was the first time heads of both institutions would come together to collaborate in the fight against corruption by sharing intelligence.
I recalled that the same DSS operatives wrote a a report against the activities of the then head of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, to the Attorney-General of the Federation and the President. This culminated in a suspension and, later, his removal.
That both institutions were finding common ground for collaboration was a commendable move in the spirit of inter-agency partnership. It should be noted that the EFCC was established in 2003 by President Olusegun Obasanjo.
As I explained in the first part of this write-up, the DSS is an offshoot of the Nigeria Police and was headed by a top police officer, Mr. Aliyu Ismaila Gwarzo, in June 1986, when it was set up by the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida administration.
The arguement on the table is simply whether a retired senior officer of the DSS, with a clean record, can appropriately fit into the office of the chairman of the EFCC.
The Ilorin meeting, though not in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, has sufficient significant importance, bearing in mind the insinuation in security quarters about the abysmal failure of the police, who hitherto had been in charge of the operations and administration of the EFCC since 2003, whereby four top police officers were appointed at various times to head the commission, with one being a retired police officer, Mrs. Farida Waziri.
The pioneer executive chairman was Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, and others were Ibrahim Lamorde and lbrahim Magu. Unfortunately, all left in controversial circumstances, thereby fuelling the argument that you dont continue doing the same thing the same way when you are not achieving the desired result.
The Nigerian government has tried the police four times and it seems they are always biting its fingers. So, what is wrong in using a bird of the same feather but with different discipline? The DSS is an offshoot of the police and is exposed to the same skills and managerial requirement. By so doing, a new lease of life would have been injected into the system. After all, hardly have we heard of corruption being associated with the DSS, apart from a few reckless behaviours as usually exhibited when they are on duty. The DSS is the only security institution that has been headed by other security agencies, The police and the army.
In his day, Obasanjo appointed a military officer, Lt. Col. A.K. Togun, to head the DSS, and he managed it successfully. Security observers are wondering if it is not time for President Muhammadu Buhari to look the way of the DSS and appoint someone with an impeccable record to help the President achieve his election promise of reducing corruption in the system and the country at large. Since he has reiterated his campaign promise to end terrorism, we should also be optimistic that corruption would soon evaporate from Nigeria.
Like they “abducted” the former acting chairman of EFCC, Magu, on his way, surely, they would explain that away as exhibiting the original police operational genes. That notwithstanding, such hard moves are associated with every security agency across the world.
The question is, why the DSS? The answer can easily be found in the fact that, since its formation 18 years ago, the EFCC has been embroiled in various controversies that had impeded its smooth development, mainly because of the stranglehold of the police, which has over 70 per cent of its personnel in the commission.
Did President Buhari not appoint a retired army colonel, Hameed Ibrahim Ali, to head the Nigeria Customs Service? Going by the recent revenue report he has performed creditably, and he has earned a thumbs up and recommendations so far. According to the report, the Nigeria Customs Service generated over N1,562,115,419,216.3 for the year 2020. The declared amount supersedes the previous year’s generated target amount of a little above one trillion naira (N1,380,765,353,462.00), which has a different sum of over a trillion naira (N1,342,006,918,504.55) in 2019, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Such an impressive result has further heightened the call that a trained security officer is equipped sufficiently to head any other security agency except the military. After all, they all go through the same drill, investigation and other security training.
The main function of the police is to maintain law and order. Its investigative section handles invesgation and another section handles intelligence gathering, an area that the DSS has proficiency in and it is well known for it. The simple arguement, therefore, is, if the DSS umbiblical cord was joined to the police and, since its birth, the DSS has grown into a reliable and better institution, what then is wrong if the cap of the EFCC is handed over the DSS, since the parent institution, the police, has roundly failed the country severally?
Must the country continue to allow the police truncate the aspirations of President Buhari, who vowed and promised Nigerians that trusted and voted him into office basically because of his integrity? Did the the adage not warn us that “Once bitten, twice shy”? The police is one institution that has attracted more odium to Nigeria than any other. Its corruption rating makes those with good conscience in the uniform feel ashamed. From the recruitment stage to administrative and operations stages, unfortunately, all is corrupted. Yet, no concrete policy is in place to dissolve this ever-increasing wax.
In all of these, the Nigeria Police is yet to show Nigerians that it is ready to yield itself for a total reformation. This could be the source of worry for many Nigerians, when they unianimously agreed to the call demanding for the total restructuring of the police. This writer, like many others, has called for the decentralization of the police by creating state police system.