By mid-last week, I encountered an old friend, a senior police officer. It was during the June 12 bunting. Heavy security presence where we were. It was understandable. In the euphoria of June 12 commemorative celebration, anything can happen, especially in Lagos where the fire to actualize MKO Abiola’s mandate burnt fervently in those haunted years. Knowing him to be a decent dresser, always dapper, prim and classy I was not surprised at his dazzling clean police uniform. His clean black shoes glittered under the mild weather as he acknowledged greetings from his junior colleagues who also looked very clean. It was the sporty and smart mien of the junior cops that thrilled me the most and I couldn’t hold back my compliments. He told me it’s part of the new-look police. He went into a brief but detailed litany of innovations being engineered by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar Adamu.
Without anybody bearing down their neck, policemen now operate with a consciousness that smart is the next big thing. I understand, there was no memo to that effect but ‘pregnant’ policemen are hitting the gym to trim. IGP Adamu, just by his leadership style, his disposition to physical appearance and predilection to compliment smartly dressed officers has triggered a new value culture within the police. Cops by virtue of their job ought to look clean and trim. Nothing enhances the halo of security and confidence than a smartly dressed and sprightly cop. I feel more comfortable running into smart-looking cops on the highway, byway or anywhere than being grilled for my ‘particulars’ by a scruffy, dirty cop. A clean cop inspires confidence in you and reassures you that your security is in capable hand. It’s simply psychological. We all love good things. We are attracted to elegance, panache and modishness. It’s easier to get friendly, gush into a throaty laughter and spurt into a paroxysm of excitement with a clean cop than with a shabby cop. It’s worse if such cop is shabbily adorned, and looking unfit for his brief, especially the pot-bellied and grotesquely rotund types. They just don’t help your sense of security. In fact, they constitute your insecurity, haunting your mind with ‘how can this one protect me’ hoodoo.
But things are changing. IGP Adamu is encouraging the obese cops to burn some fat. Besides, he is promoting intellectual policing by encouraging policemen to acquire knowledge as they acquire hands-on experience. I hear he is, more than any other IGP, ensuring that cops get trained and retrained. Modern policing is effective when there is a mix of brawn, brain and technology. Adamu is working the mill to get the right mix. And the cops are loving it. One can only pray that it translates to efficiency.
In the words of my friend, IGP Adamu who was confirmed last month by President Muhammadu Buhari “has banished the crude culture of arbitrariness among the cops”, insisting that due process must govern actions of his colleagues. He has also stopped the “abominable and condemnable” system of promoting junior officers before senior officers.
Unknown to outsiders, before his ascension to office as IGP, there was the flourishing of illicit purchase of ranks by Police officers. Ranks were up for sale and whoever pays the highest amount gets the highest rank. Other pecuniary and unwholesome practices included the buying of juicy postings by Police officers and blatant abuse of human rights. But his reforms goes beyond blocking the holes. He adds deterrence. Today, errant cops are being punished after investigation of their actions and culpability established. It’s all about being responsible for your actions. It is a way of taming the bogey of impunity which has over the years emboldened a few bad cops to act as overlords over those they were paid to protect.
He is enforcing the law within the law-enforcers. No policeman will detain a suspect longer than the period stipulated by law and go scot-free. And the police now know they could be punished for promoting and allowing malicious prosecution of suspects.
Without beating the gong about it, there is a quiet propagation of community policing. Not exactly where and how it should be but Adamu has galvanized the various police formations across the country to exert friendly and effective influence on their immediate communities.
In his maiden remark he did promise to promote the welfare of Police officers. This really cannot be over-emphasised. One niggling complaint among cops since the days of Louis Orok Edet, the first Nigerian to occupy the position of IGP (1964-1966) is poor welfare and poor reward system. Cases of stagnation of cops without promotion had been rife. Adamu is turning the screw on this.
In leadership you achieve greatness by doing little things and doing them well. The police have been a victim of leaders who failed to do the little things. There had been cases of IGPs who feasted on insurance premiums of cops. In some cases, money meant for housing were either misappropriated or brazenly stolen. Not this time. IGP Adamu is giving mortgage loan to police officers to own their own houses. In barely five months since his appointment on January 15, this year, Adamu has wisely avoided to travel the road of ignominy as did some of his predecessors. His actions in just five months have raised a new level of confidence in the police. But he must not stop thinking, working and innovating. Internal security is still a challenge. He must rally his troop to ride this tiger. Criminals are not ghosts. They are humans. He should get the police to engage more actively and frequently with their communities. If Nigerian policemen can go outside the country and excel, it means they can do even much more at home. What they need is motivation; a responsive reward system that makes it possible for families of cops who died in active service to be compensated with immediacy.
The IGP should also address the high casualty of cops in active service. A recent newspaper notice issued by the Police authority showed that 374 cops died in active service in 2012 alone. The notice suggests the number could be more. This is outrageously high. It means that at least one policeman died every day in 2012. Worst of it all, by June 2019, a good seven years after, the Next of Kins (NOKs) of these deceased cops are yet to be paid the Death-in-Service emoluments due to them. This is unacceptable. It’s dispiriting. IGP Adamu should ensure that all backlogs of entitlements for deceased cops are processed and paid. If a policemen dies in the course of his duty of protecting the rest of us, the very least we can do for such cop is to ensure that those he left behind do not go down with him. Paying their entitlements with urgency is one sure way to honour the fallen heroes. IGP Adamu has evolved a new regime of reforms, including transforming the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS), he should not drop his guard. And history would remember him for giving a human face to policing.