Abubakar Tsav, a retired Commissioner of Police says insecurity thrives because politicians armed various militias. He also warns against reading religious sentiments into the herdsmen killings and calls for adequate supervision of policemen to curb extrajudicial killings.
May 29 is the 20th anniversary of the return to civil rule in Nigeria, how do you think democracy has fared in terms of governance being of the people, by the people and for the people?
Democracy has not really fared well in the country. There is still high-level corruption, dishonesty and injustice. Majority of the citizenry do not feel the impact of governance and are living below the poverty level. One can say that we have achieved nothing whatsoever.
On the same day, President Muhammadu Buhari will begin his second term in office. What is your assessment of his performance in the first term?
Buhari met a lot of challenges in the country when he took over but he has worked and introduced certain reforms that if carried out religiously the country will be better than he met it. For instance, he enforced this Single Treasury Account (TSA) and it is helping the country financially. With the TSA we now know where our money is and can monitor where it is going. Before the TSA, the ministries, departments and agencies had several bank accounts and made expenses the way they want. With the TSA we have been able to develop and embark on meaningful projects that will improve the welfare of the ordinary people. In the past there was nothing like that, people were just involved in corruption and injustice. It is the injustices of the past that gave rise to the insecurity in this country today.
Critics of Buhari say he is pursuing anti-corruption at the expense of other vital sectors of the economy. What do you think?
The irony of it all is that Buhari is working to transform Nigeria all alone. The state governors are not helping him and in fact some of the governors are encouraging corruption by using their state’s resources the way they want. That is why many of the states are going nowhere. Buhari can only succeed when the state governors play their own part in developing their states.
The president is also accused of sectionalism, of being an ethnic and religious bigot and making Nigeria as disunited as it has never been. Do you agree?
I disagree with that postulation because people working with the president are of different religious and ethnic backgrounds. Moreover, when you are working in a system that is riddled with corruption, you will pick the best people you know you can rely on. I don’t agree Buhari is selecting people from only one region of the country. I believe that in every part of this country there are people who are qualified to occupy whatever position you are looking at.
Buhari said he picked his security chiefs based on merit, are we saying that there are no worthy officer from the South East where he did not pick from?
There are obviously worthy officers of South East, but what you must understand is that these appointments are done based on seniority in that rank. For instance, you can’t pick a junior person in the organisation and make him the head. The implication will be that all superior officers will have to retire. The security chiefs were appointed based on seniority and merit. In the Police for instance, if you select an officer of relatively lower rank because he is very courageous and good to become the Inspector General of Police (IGP), every officer senior to him will have to retire and it will amount to waste of training man power.
How will you advise him to strengthen national unity?
Buhari should strengthen the institutions charged with the responsibility of fighting corruption. The country seems disunited because people are not happy; they no longer have access to free money as they had in those days. If people are sincere and have the love of this country at heart, nobody will be talking about dividing Nigeria. All we need is to eliminate corruption and reintroduce justice in the system. What is causing problem in Nigeria is injustice. We should reintroduce justice so that anybody who breaches the law, no matter his position or status, will made to face the law and justice will be served.
Benue State and many others in the North Central have come under the siege of herdsmen in recent times. Why is the security situation so bad in the region?
The truth is that when you talk about herdsmen and armed banditry, we have more of them in Zamfara and Adamawa states where there are lots of killings. What is happening in my Benue State is that a religious aspect has been introduced into the whole thing. If you count the number of people killed in Adamawa State, it is more than those killed in Benue State. Expectations are that I should support my Benue State, but as somebody who is impartial, I support the whole country because I’m a Nigerian. Anything that happens in any part of the country should concern me, I should not be limited by a selfish interest of my state only, it will not tell good of me at all.
What do you mean by a religious aspect introduced into the issue of herdsmen in Benue State?
In Benue State today they call every Muslim Miyetti Allah. They even say I am an agent of Miyetti Allah because I’m a Muslim. It is unfortunate. People want to use religion to divide us. The slightest thing a Muslim does they will say it is terrorism, but if a Christian does the same thing, they will call it violence.
How do we resolve the herdsmen/ farmers’ issues in Benue, Adamawa, Zamfara and across Nigeria?
We should be fair to everybody and abide by the constitution which gives every Nigerian the right to carry out his lawful business in any part of the country. Government should provide a conducive atmosphere for farmers to carry out their activities because in Benue State we have no other source of livelihood apart from framing. So, when herdsmen invade our farms, it destroys our livelihood. To allow cattle herdsmen to roam about destroying out farms is very unfair. I think the best we can do is to abide by the grazing law which has been promulgated in Benue State. However, at the same time the government should create ranches. The herdsmen cannot create these ranches on their own, the government should allocate a piece of land anywhere in the state for the purpose. We cannot just tell them to leave, that we don’t want them because we have our people also living in other parts of the country. If they ask our people in their place to leave, it will bring anarchy and the country will become ungovernable.
In an attempt to address the insecurity, the military have been deployed to takeover internal security as the Police seem overwhelmed. As a retired Commissioner of Police, how can the Police be empowered professionally and otherwise?
The problem in Nigeria is that non-state actors have armed themselves. We have several armed militias today and the Police alone cannot confront them. In our time even the Mobile Police were only seen on the street when there was crisis, which was not common. But the country has become so tensed up now. Politicians have armed their militias and supporters, there are lots of firearms everywhere in the country now and the Police cannot deal with that alone. The Police know they are not well paid, they are not well looked after, their lives are not insured and they have no social security. So, when they (Police) go on security operations, some of them get scared and run away, some are killed in service and when this happens, his colleagues will ask his family to move out of his barracks accommodation so that somebody else will move in. In some cases when they leave, the allowances of the dead officer is not paid. The government should find a way of reassuring them and do something about the Police welfare and also provide them adequate equipment to work with.
Cases of the Police shooting innocent civilians are rampant today. Is it that policemen are no longer trained in weapons handling?
It is because there has not been sufficient supervision of policemen on the beat by the officers. The police should be well trained, well supervised and made to understand that they are meant to protect the citizens and not to kill them. It is sad that senior Police officers today have become armchair operators. During our time we go out to supervise policemen on their beat that put them on their toes. Then, again, the policemen themselves are culpable because before you shoot a gun you have to cork it; after you cork it, you have to apply the safety catch so that the bullet does not release itself. Then when you want to shoot you remove the safety catch and put it on either single shots or rapid before you pull the trigger. If a policeman ignores all these procedures and shoots then he is a criminal and should be dealt with.
The Acting Inspector General, Muhammed Adamu proposes use of stun guns for policemen in non-high-risk beat to check these extra-judicial killings. What are the implications?
The Police should be able to protect themselves before protecting others. If they go out without weapons and get killed, how then do they protect the citizenry? When you go out on operations you are also prone to attack. But if they create a means of trying to disable or demobilise suspects without killing them that will be good, but you have to take steps to protect the policemen carrying out these operations. During our time the Police were told to only shoot at the knees of people identified as trouble makers to demobilise them. Now, they shoot at the chest to disable the heart and lungs.
Let’s look at Police extortions from motorists too. It is alleged that the officers ‘settle’ or ‘make returns’ up the chain of command, as such there is no serious effort to curb the menace. Is that correct?
I will not know about that because I am not in the system. But if you find them doing what they are doing with impunity and without anybody checking them, then you can infer that they indeed settle their way up. If there is supervision of the officers on the road, they will be cautious and do the right thing. But if you do not supervise them, it means that maybe they are collecting for you.