Samuel Bello, Abuja
Former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Commissioner of Police, Lawrence Alobi, in this interview, speaks on various extra-judicial killings in the country and other security issues. He also spoke on how the Nigerian Police can work effectively for the citizens.
What’s your take on the issue of Police Reform Bill?
My heart was gladdened when I heard that the outgoing National Assembly has approved the bill on police Trust Fund and Police Reform Bill. You see, policing is an integral part of governance. If the Police are doing well, it reflects on what the government is also doing and also law enforcement and policing is an integral part of government and nations are built based on the development of laws and enforcement. On the issues of extrajudicial killings, the point is that reform must not just be based on thinking about the technical operation of the Police. It has to be holistic. First and foremost, the Police have to be liberated from political control. For now, it is what I call new colonial mentality; you know when the Police was established under the British rule of colonialism, it was meant to protect the British interest and that was the primary purpose of the Police. It was not just to protect the people and ensure that the citizens are protected and also ensure that their rights are being recognised and promoted but focus on the mentality of regime protection, protection of British interest.
When we got independence, the military came on board. Colonialism is an imposed government just as military government is also imposed on the people and it’s not democratic. The military too started making laws like the colonial government. There was abuse of human right; they were not concerned. Even our leaders who were the freedom fighters for our independence were thrown behind the bar and that was just because they were fighting for the independence of the nation. So the rights of the citizens were abused than you can even imagine and that mentality has also snowballed to the present democratic dispensation. So more importantly, the Police reform must ensure that Police is isolated from political control.
How can that be achieved?
One, there should be security of tenure. And not like it has been in the past where Mr. President just wake up one day and say I want to remove the Inspector General of Police, you won’t be informed, you would just see it on the screen that the IGP has been sacked. It doesn’t sound good enough. Inspector General’s Office is a very important and critical office in this country and if you toil with it, you are toiling with the governance of this country and internal security of this country. The IGP should be given that enablement, he should have the capacity and he should be an officer who can assert himself of what he feels is good and right for the force. Then when you talk about reform, how do Nigerians see the reforms. How do Nigerians see the reform, Nigerians themselves have imbibed this new colonial mentality of seeing the police as enemy. Police is a child that is always being weep by a child of every Nigerian. The Police themselves are victims of a defective system. Though they have their own internal problems the government neglects the problems coming from the society. The government doesn’t appreciate the Police and sometimes I feel there are some people in the government who want to run down the Police for selfish gains, forgetting that the Police is critical to governance.
We are now in democracy. Our policing style should be democratic, policing which should anchor on the principle of democratic values and reforms. What is democratic policing?
It is a policing for the people, by the people and for the people, for the benefit of the people and in line with democratic norms and values meeting the security needs of the people. You see it is a- two way traffic, the Police themselves should know they are to serve the citizens to meet their security needs and not to abuse their rights.
How do you think the bill will address certain issues about insecurity?
Yes. Like I mentioned, the tenure should be stipulated and provided for. Not that IGP can be removed by any president and that Police should be isolated from political control by politicians who are not ready to serve. Leadership is all about service, about how to empower people. Democracy is people oriented and when the police are not empowered, not motivated, not properly equipped, not funded, that’s not good. When I was in service for the Police emotional intelligence, I told my officers in the Police FCT command that as you want your brothers to be policed in your village, that’s how you Police people in Abuja. I deployed that strategy because leadership determines fellowship. If your leader is corrupt, officers are going to be corrupt. Leadership has to be upright and given your standards, you have to set the pace and say what you want. I applaud the outgoing 8th National Assembly for the bills on Police Trust Fund and the Police Reform. The Police themselves should use the opportunity to promote the efficiency of the Police.
When the Police are effective, the citizens are happy, they cooperate with the Police. Again, in this country, I have observed that the duty of a Nigerian citizen is to assist the enforcement of law and order. But nobody is thinking about that right and obligation. When there is right, there is a corresponding obligation. So they have to be conscious of the fact that we have a duty to assist with the security agencies. When a Policeman is on duty and he flags you down, you won’t obey. So I think the citizens themselves need to imbibe democratic education to know that policing is all about enforcement to know that policing is all about enforcement of laws and order. The value of law and order to a man in his society is based on his enforcement not just making the law. The law has to be enforced and the citizens must also realise that when there is high crime rate, the citizen suffers the most. So the citizens are the prime beneficiary of a safe and secured environment.
What do you make of the whole assessment of how the case of extra judicial killings is being handled?
Well, I don’t know what report they had but I know that the Police themselves and the Civil Defence Corps worked together in harmony and collaboratively too because they are serving the same country, working for the same goal and purpose which is the security and peace of this country. They should not rival among each other. Can you do it alone, nobody can do it alone? Look at the hairs on my head, how many hairs are they fighting. The human beings who are homosapien, God created in his image and likeness are the one killing each other, it’s stupid. Civil defence, Police, DSS, the military should work in harmony together for the good of the country. Ego debases you, humility exalts you. They should see themselves as partners in the project of this country. So for me, I condemn that action. I was also a victim of brutality of security agency. I was shot when I was in Calabar in 1990 by a naval officer but God spared my life and when I was shot, my intestine all came out. They came to take my Police officer and I refused and said you can’t take my Policeman away because if it’s a problem, let me know. Let me handle it. He is my subordinate but they will not listen, that’s ego. So we need to subordinate our ego. We have a common goal, which is serving the country, serving Nigerian citizens for the good of Nigeria. So policing is key in governance.
On the issue of stray bullets, like the one that hit late Kolade Johnson in Lagos, how do you think Police officers can be equipped to ensure their emotions don’t conflict with their professional duty?
One is the principles and practice of democratic policing. If that is done, the Police will imbibe the norms and values of democracy. Policing is very stressful but when people cannot control their emotions, training on capacity building, training on the use of firearms and also training on Police civil relationship is very important and I emphasise on the principle of democratic policing and emotional intelligence because that is the way to go. If this is done, things would be better. Even from the training institution, let them imbibe the culture because sometimes they are being dehumanised. The Police too have their right. They are human beings as well, but no one cares about the right of a Policeman. You know if Policemen are here, no one makes any noise. So I think Police too have their own right. Life is based on the principle of reciprocity, so the citizens and the government should appreciate the Police. The Police should know that they are there to serve the people.
Capacity building which IGP Adamu emphasised can only be achieved through training and these core areas that would engender this professionalism and to make the Police more civil. If you want to talk about community Police in Nigeria, they cannot survive in Nigeria now because of the lack of trust in the Police. Like I said, it’s a new colonial mentality because all along Police was established to protect the British government, the colonial government people. So the Police also have imbibed this attitude so the citizens see the Police as enemy. Government needs to know that the Police is to protect the citizens, they should not control the Police. Policing is key and central to good governance. In fact, Police is the lifeblood of any society. Without policing, the society is likely to collapse. The people don’t appreciate, but the Police is very important. In life, the thing that a man should strive for is life and property. The Police are people who protect life and property. So the government should please change their attitude.