While some welcome the initiative as a way to strengthen the capacity of police to deal with security challenges, others view the reform bill with suspicion
Omoniyi Salaudeen and Onyedika Agbedo
The recent killing of the former Chief of Defense Staff, Alex Badeh, has again brought to the fore the perceived vulnerability of the security architecture of the country and the imperative of a reform. This concern, presumably, informed the Senate’s proposal seeking an amendment bill for enactment of the Police Act 2018 sponsored by the Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah from Kebbi State.
Opinion of security experts is, however, sharply divided on the modalities to be adopted for efficient performance of the Police Force. While some welcome the initiative as a way to strengthen the capacity of the police to deal with the security challenge facing the nation, others view the reform bill with suspicion.
Eminent retired security officers who barred their minds on the matter included a former Minister of Police Affairs, General David Jemibewon (rtd), General Ishola Williams (rtd), a former Commissioner of Police for Lagos State, Abubakar Tsav, as well as a private security expert, Ekhomu Onu.
Others are the National Chairman of the UPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie and a Yoruba leader of thought and Afenifere chieftain, Ayo Adebanjo.
General Williams in an interview with Sunday Sun suggested that the Police Force should be divided into three structures instead of the Senate proposal seeking to reduce the number of Deputy Inspector General of Police from seven to one.
Such effort, according to him, amounts to treating the symptoms rather than the real problems.
His words: “First of all, we have to agree that the structure we have now is fundamentally outdated. And we need to deal first with that. All the Inspector Generals of Police have been the obstacle to making our police better. There is no IGP that has not left the police as a millionaire. We need to do a reform. We are wasting a lot of money on security, but we are not getting security.
“The former Chief of Defense Staff,Alex Badeh, has just been shot. What does that say of our security? Yet they keep on promoting people. To do what? The police structure should be divided into three separate organisations. If we all agree that there should be state police, then we don’t need an Inspector General of Police. If we need one, it should be an IG that is responsible for training and standard to make sure that all the state police and community police maintain the same standard. You call that one Inspector General, training, evaluation and standard. The second organisation for the police is the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to be headed by a Director General. The third one is the mobile police. The mobile police should have a commander. All these people will be reporting directly to the Ministry of Interior.
“Nigerians need to understand that promoting people to various ranks costs a lot of money. I have always said that the present police structure should be scrapped. You need to justify why we need seven Deputy Inspector General of Police. To do what? What is their responsibility? Does it justify the amount of money that is paid to them? Nobody bothers to ask these questions. Once they bring the papers somebody will just approve without thinking about the financial cost. Even at that, it doesn’t improve the security. All the promotion is not improving the security, they are just wasting money.”
Among other things, the proposed bill provides that the seven DIGs as currently obtained should be reduced to one, that the appointment of Inspector General of Police should be subject to Senate confirmation, that the tenure of IG should be pegged at five years.
The idea of appointing DIGs to man their respective commands was initiated by Jemibewon when he was the minister of police affairs.
The police through the IG, Ibrahim Idris, opposed the proposal, saying one DIG would not be enough for the police to function optimally.
Jemibewon while defending the decision to increase the number of DIGs from one to six during his tenure said: “There were good reasons we took it from one deputy IG to six during my time as minister of police affairs. And the reason is that it gives a greater room for appointment where you have to change somebody. I think they had better leave it to the police. Anything they want to do should be geared towards promoting competency and performance of the police.
“You don’t just change for changing sake, you change to achieve a higher level of performance. And I think those who are in the best position to suggest the change are those people who operate the system. If you have just one DIG, then you are not widening the scope. But when you have three or four, they go on specialisation. You could have one for operation, one for training, one for security and so on. Based on their performance, they always change positions. So, when you need to appoint a new IG, you look at them, you score them and give more opportunity than when it is one. If it is just one, the likelihood is that the deputy may be finding a way by which the top man leaves because he knows he is the one going there.”
He, therefore, cautioned the lawmakers against taking a decision that may be counter-productive to the operation of the police in the name of reform, urging them to consult with those directly involved in the affairs of security.
“I think they should seek the advice of those who are directly in charge of the police affairs before embarking on such reform. They should seek their opinion on how they can make them perform better. I have done what I should do while I was in charge. Those who operate the system would be the best to make contribution to whatever changes they want. They should seek police advice. If police have rejected the offer, what else will I be saying”, he posited.
Speaking in the same vein, Tsav, said: “It is not advisable to reduce the number of DIGs to one. I think the current arrangement is better. On the issue of tenure of IG, the question of increasing it to five is not tenable because what the Police Act says is either you retire after 35 years in service or when you are 65 years old.
On his own part, Ekhomu maintained that no reform would be meaningful unless it is geared towards increasing efficiency and accountability of police chiefs.
His words: “We have had various police reforms since 1930 when the northern and southern forces were
fused into one Nigerian Police Force. And the goal all the time has been to improve the efficiency, performance and productivity of the police. The question now is how well is the police performing? It is not how many DIGs are appointed. The issue is how well the police are performing. What contributions are they making in the overall scheme of things. These are more germane issues to address rather than the number of DIGs.
“But the reality is that everything we are doing, we are always looking at the six geopolitical zones ever since the late General Sani Abacha divided the country into six geopolitical zones. The measure of performance is how well are the police detecting crimes, how well are they preventing crimes, what is the conviction rate, and how is the police perceived by the citizens? What is the response rate to distress calls?
“A security chief was killed on Tuesday in Nasarawa State. Have the police gone there to detect the perpetrators of these crimes? For me, it is not how many DIGs that are appointed.
“General Jemibewon’s point of view was conditioned by the fact that he
was coming from the military where they had GOCs assigned to different commands. But here we are 19 years on, what has happened to the effectiveness of the police. My answer is nothing, it hasn’t contributed anything. Who cares about the number of DIGs? I just need better policing. I want to see greater accountability; I want to see a mission focused that understands crime control, fear reduction, and upholding the human rights of the citizens. If something happens within the command of a DIG and is embarrassing to the police, he should pay the price. I read in the newspaper where President Muhammadu Buhari charged the security agencies to fish out the killer of Badeh. That is their job. And if they are unable to do that, they should be fired.
“Why should he remind them that they should get the killers of Badeh? It is so demeaning and so condescending a statement. The president doesn’t have to make that kind of statement. A few weeks ago, a bomber started sending mails to different people in the United States, including former presidents. Within four days, the person was nabbed. What do you think would have happened to the
head of FIB if they hadn’t caught the guy? They would have paid the price. “I think the current practice where
the IG wields so much power calls for a bit of concern. I don’t know which legislation covers the appointment of IG right now, but we know that the president appoints IG and it is confirmed by police council. I think that is okay. I know where the National Assembly is coming from. They want a say in the appointment of IG,” he added.
Chief Okorie, expressing his own view, said the proposed reform was an attempt by the lawmakers to appropriate the power of the Commander-in-Chief, saying the president must resist it.
“What the bill is seeking to do is to appropriate the powers of the Commander-in-Chief. The present constitution gives the Commander-in-Chief the powers to control the Armed Forces, including the Police Force. So, if they want to do that, they must change the constitution. The bill is in a very bad fate. It should not see the light of the day. And they know that the president will resist it. Why are they coming up with that kind of proposal,” he quipped.
There are also those who have punctured the argument of some political analysts that subjecting the IG appointment to the Senate approval would politicise the Police Force.
One of them is Adebanjo, who dismissed the fear as baseless and unfounded. Speaking with Sunday Sun, he said: “A situation where one person appoints the IG without the approval of the Senate only makes them to behave as if they are IGs of the party in power. Some people have said that it would politicise the police, has it not been politicised already? If the IG appointment is subject to the Senate approval, will the police act in the way they did during the recent killings in Benue State? The IG would have been removed. They would have voted him out. So, everything is already politicised.”
One point of view on which stakeholders agree on is the need to restructure the security apparatus of the country for more efficiency and professionalism. The differences lie on the appropriate modalities for achieving the needed reform.