The Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, is not new to the system. He may be new on the job as the nation’s Number 1 cop, but he is a veteran of the police organisation. He knows all the potholes of a beleaguered security that has defied all previous reforms.
Mr. Baba is a chip off the old block. I hope this is an advantage, rather than a problem. It could be positive if, being a veteran of the force, he is able to bring his vast experience and first-hand knowledge of the system to bear on his new assignment. But it would be negative if he fails to utilize that deep knowledge to turn things around.
In his first major policy statement, the gentleman announced a 12-point agenda, which he plans to launch to rejig the system. Some of these policies are new, some are not so new, while some are recycled ideas that didn’t work in the past. Top on his agenda is the dismantling of all police checkpoints across the nation. Next is the immediate withdrawal of all officers attached to VIPs. These two policies are not new.
Previous IGs tried to implement them, to no avail. They didn’t succeed in the past because the ideas were not workable. First, you cannot dismantle police checkpoints when the prevailing volatile security situation dictates that roadblocks be mounted to check the movement of rampaging criminals, illegal arms and ammunition across the country. Two, to order a wholesale withdrawal of police personnel attached to VIPs is easier said than done, which is why previous IGs couldn’t implement the policy.
Despite the fact that the current police staff strength of about 300,000 is a far cry from the required number needed to meet the desired target, the VIPs in government who occupy strategic decision-making positions would not release their bodyguards, orderlies and other security personnel, even if the IG says so. That is because the law entitles these important public officers to adequate security protection, especially in an environment where public officers are a regular target of kidnappers and other violent criminals.
The challenge here is that, as attractive or imperative as these plans are, I dare say, I have serious reservations. First, similar plans by Baba’s predecessors didn’t succeed. Second, a combination of extant, institutionalized factors often frustrate good plans and intentions of government functionaries. Third, the police is a federal institution, but as strategic as we know they are to the security architecture, there is no money now to fund the federal budget. Again, there is the issue of institutional corruption in the police force, which has always frustrated any kind if initiative to reform the agency, going forward.
These are some of the horrendous challenges the police boss would be facing in his quest to make a difference. Now, talking about roadblocks, which he wants dismantled, that’s a tall order. Roadblocks are essential in an environment where criminals roam free.
We can’t afford to give kidnappers easy passage when they commit their heinous crimes. Roadblocks are a way to checkmate them. Corrupt police officers routinely abuse checkpoints, which, in local parlance, are called ‘toll gates’ by motorist because of the frequent extortion by these officers. But, compared to the benefits of having checkpoints, I would vote for their retention; the police authorities only need to combat corruption by those posted to man checkpoints.
The IG mentioned the provision of a pair of uniforms for his men as a vital necessity, among other welfare issues he hopes to deal with. Good point, sir. I pray he has the resources to carry out these laudable projects, in the wake of shrinking government revenue. To deal with this crucial matter of welfare, President Muhammadu Buhari may consider the launch of a National Security Trust Fund, like we have in Lagos, to augment government’s budget for the civil security agencies, like the police, Civil Defense Corps, and traffic control agents.
Budgetary constraints have been a major problem of our security agencies. Consequently, morale is low because of delayed promotion, lack of equipment, outdated arms/ammunition, unpaid pensions, etcetera. A National Security Trust Fund has become a logical imperative in this climate of growing insecurity and perennial skirmishes between servicemen and various criminal gangs who carry out daily kidnappings, robberies and cult-related killings across the country.
It is a welcome relief that Mr. Baba has listed justice in the police-public relationship as part of his 12-point programme. For too long, police personnel have got away with criminal behaviour, even when found guilty by the law courts, because of the difficulty of enforcing judgments against erring policemen. Baba’s decision to deduct court fines from the emoluments of any police personnel convicted of any crime by the courts is a good step toward whipping these officers into line.
Overall, the IG may find out that, being a federal security agency under the direct command and control of the President, his response to crisis might be severely constrained because of bureaucracy and the vagaries of funding. The intensity of the current demands of policing at the grassroots across a vast country like Nigeria would stretch him to the limit.
One only hopes that his tenure does not pass like those of the officers before him, with much motion without significant movement.
Weekend Spice: Praise me while I’m alive. The dead do not hear compliments.
Ok folks, thanks for reading; keep safe, COVID-19 is real. Stay motivated.
•Ayodeji, author, rights activist, pastor and life coach, can be reached on 09059243004 (SMS & WhatsApp only)