By Mike Okiro
Continued from yesterday
Thereafter we were able to stem the tide of crime and insecurity in Lagos. The scenario changed. I took proper charge and recorded resounding success and restored law, order and security in Lagos.
Now with population explosion of the county, expansion of cities and increase in police strength without corresponding attention to armament, the issue of shortage of arms is rearing its head again.
The neglect of the police and the demand of essential equipment and materials for work have been on over the years. I cannot adequately state what was obtainable before my entry in the police. But, in 1980, as a young officer, an unconfirmed Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), just fresh from the Police Staff College, I was made Divisional Crime Officer II (DCOII) for Port Harcourt Division, after my one-year attachment. Later I was posted to Oyigbo Police Post to take over from an Inspector of Police, the Station Officer (SO), who was proceeding on a promotion course. I took over a Peugeot station wagon as a staff car, I did not use it because I already had Peugeot 504 GL with air condition, tinted glass, which I bought with vehicle advance I got while a Cadet ASP in the Police Staff College. I took over a Land Rover jeep, a Bedford lorry and a Mercedes 911 lorry. This was a mere Police Post headed by an Inspector of Police in 1980. Juxtapose this with the entire Lagos State Police Command. When I arrived Lagos State in 1999 as a Commissioner of Police, I did not inherit a single lorry or effective patrol van in the whole of Lagos. As a consequence, when Oodua People Congress (OPC) clashed with the Hausa in Ketu Mile 12 Market, I was handicapped. I had no lorry to move my men to the scene. At a point, after wallowing in despair and frustration, I decided to damn the consequences. Thus, I drove to Oshodi where I commandeered two Molue buses, ordered the commuters out of the vehicles and forced the drivers to drive to the Police State Headquarters with the two buses, I was able to convey my policemen to Ketu to control the skirmishes. Of course, the inevitable happened. One of the Molue buses was badly damaged and the owner took me to court claiming damages. I used the chairman of the Lagos State Command Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC), Elder Falana, to plead with the man saying that I did not use the buses to carry my wife to the market neither did I use them to carry my children to school, but to protect the lives and property of Lagosians. After much entreating, he forgave me and withdrew the case from court. I took over the corpses of 30 policemen in various mortuaries in Lagos. My predecessor had no vehicle, no funds, same for the families of the dead policemen, to convey the corpses from Lagos to their various homes for burial. So, he abandoned them. Based on this, and coupled with the Ketu incident, I passionately appealed to the IGP for vehicles and he allocated four lorries to Lagos State Police Command.
The carnage and destruction in Ketu were mind-boggling because there was no quick response occasioned by lack of mobility. The exponential decline of police mobility from 1980 to 1999 at the expense of the citizens was worrisome.
Policy somersault a la police
Sometimes, the police are their own enemies, a carryover from the wider Nigerian society, very useful programmes, policies and projects initiated or commenced by predecessors in office are abrogated discontinued or diluted at the expense of the force or the country.
I was appointed IGP in June 2007. By November of that year X-raying the security imbroglio around the world vis-à-vis the insurgency enveloping our immediate West African neighbors, I concluded that it would be a matter of time before Nigeria would be equally enmeshed in the global problem . To prepare the police, the key agency in internal security to take a proactive action in order to avoid this hovering calamity I established the Police Anti Terrorists Squad (ATS), got men well trained in Israel, Spain, Egypt and South Africa. These were countries with a ranging history of terrorism. I also established the Police Anti- Terrorism School in Nonwa, Rivers State and brought Israelis to train the police men there to reduce the exorbitant cost of training the policemen abroad. When I retired, the IGPs after me jettisoned the ATS claiming there was no terrorism in Nigeria.—POLICY SOMERSAULT. Where are we today? We have lost our internal security to terrorism.
Owing to the innate hatred for the police, I decided, as IGP, to foster a good relationship between the Police and members of the public. To catch them young from the grassroot I formed and inaugurated the IGP Football Cup . From the Police Divisional levels. Policemen played against the members of the public . Football teams were raised from there to the state command levels. The finals were played in Kano and covered and televised by Super Sports channel.
The entire program was at no cost to the Police Service, since we did not have money in the budget for that. The cost was bankrolled by some companies and public spirited individuals. Some policemen and some members of the public who distinguished themselves were invited to camp by NFF. As I retired the IGP Football Cup vanished.- POLICY SOMERSAULT.
To solidify and sustain the seemingly good relationship between the police and the high echelon of the society, the general public and the youth, I brought the police Marathon race which ran for two consecutive years before my retirement. The first police marathon race was sponsored by First Bank and the winner got TenThousand US dollar ($10,000), plus consolation prizes while the second was sponsored by DANA motors with winner going home with a saloon car. There were consolation prizes as well. The beauty of it was that many important personalities took part in the marathon, not to win prizes but to show and share camaraderie. The Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives and many members of the National Assembly, Chairmen and Managing Directors of various banks, some captains of oil industries, executives of corporate bodies, some civil servants, the crème de la crème of Nigeria, the high and the low took part in the marathon which was given so much acclamation and publicity, even outside Nigeria such that when I attended Interpol conference, the Head of Metropolitan Police London and Chief of New York Police met me individually, congratulated me on my initiative and took briefing from me on how I achieved the success . Since then police marathon races have been a yearly affair in London and New York; some agencies in Nigeria have also borrowed from the Nigeria Police to carry on that laudable program . Unfortunately, when I bowed out of office after two successful Nigeria Police Marathon races, the exercise died- POLICY SOMERSAULT.
As the IGP and having visited Scotland Yard in Britain I saw and embraced the wonders and marvels of technology in policing, especially the use of CCTV Cameras in London by the London Police. On my return, I convinced Mr President to install CCTV cameras in some cities. Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt and Onitsha . See my book – OVERCOMING SECURITY CHALLENGES . Federal Government then undertook the installation of CCTV Cameras as I proposed, beginning with Abuja as a pilot scheme . When the National Security Adviser (NSA) who was handling the project left another NSA abandoned it. What greets any visitor coming to Abuja these days is the vandalized wreckages of the abandoned CCTV camera project. — POLICY SOMERSAULT.
Evidentially, the most tragic and immediate repercussion of policy somersault is the bomb blast at the Police Force Headquarters. Several years ago as IGP I observed that many Nigerians especially VIPs were in the habit of driving vehicles without registration plate numbers or sometimes with covered plate numbers. Some crimes were even being committed with vehicles without plate numbers. The road traffic laws debars people from driving on a public highway without plate numbers. Envisaging the level of resistance I would encounter, I wrote the NSA and got his approval to enforce the law and gave Nigerians two weeks to comply. Thereafter I directed the State Commands CPs to enforce the law and Nigerians obeyed. Even I personally impounded vehicles belonging to a governor, a service chief , service commander and an AIG (now retired) when I saw them with covered plate numbers.
Sadly, when I retired, that policy was abandoned to the extent that a man driving an unmarked vehicle visited the then IGP in his residence. The IGP asked him to follow him to the office. The man boldly drove behind him in car without a plate number, passed through the security gate with the IGP , and parked his car behind the IGPs staff car in Louis EdetHouse – POLICY SOMERSAULT.
God in his infinite mercies saved a national calamity through my other policy on the parking of vehicles in the Force Headquarters . As IGP, I noticed that visitors often used to park their cars in or near my park or litter the FHQ with vehicles because of lack of a parking lot. So I built a parking lot and designated areas for visitors and officers according to their ranks and posted traffic wardens to ensure people kept to the order. On this fateful day when the man parked his car behind IGPs staff car under the Loius Edet House, the traffic warden insisted and forced the man to drive his car to the parking lot meant for visitors and even entered the vehicle to ensure he complied. Just as he arrived at the parking lot, the car exploded killing the man and the traffic warden. Many police officers and visitors were killed and vehicles burnt. If the vehicle had exploded under the the FHQ building, where the man initially parked, the building could have come down and cascaded into a tragedy of very serious dimensions . We could have lost many police officers, both senior and junior and maybe including the IGP himself. Thank God that my policy of ensuring that vehicles except that of the IGP were not packed under the FQH building was not equally abandoned.
CP Hakeem Odumosu, the current CP Lagos State Command has begun to enforce the law debarring people from driving vehicles without plate number in Lagos. It is doubtful if he can achieve much since some people still cruise around from other parts of Nigeria into Lagos in vehicles without registration numbers. Enforcement on a national level is essential. Enforcement on a national level is necessary.
I conceptualized the Former IGPs Forum which was inaugurated by President Yar‘Adua in the villa when I was IGP. It was during this inauguration and based on my presentation that the President formed the Police Reform Committee headed by IGP M.D Yusuf, of blessed memory. The Former IGPs Forum was meeting quarterly to discuss and rub minds on security issues and on matters concerning the Nigeria Police Force. Since I left office and now become a member to the Forum we have met only three or four times, the penultimate one being the time IGP Adamu invited us to discuss community policing and the last one being the time we tried to settle the rift between him and the Chairman Police Service Commission. – POLICY SOMERSAULT
The police was left out in the national health insurance scheme (NHIS). As IGP, I tried to ensure the inclusion of the police in the scheme but was told that the police needed to deposit some money for the approval. I sourced for the fund through a provider. AIG Isusun , the AIG medical was handling it and we were at the verge of getting the approval before I retired. Other IGPs did not show interest any more – POLICY SOMERSAULT.
It was IGP MD Abubakar who came on board and made it effective. I am happy that the current IGP, Adamu Mohammed is now making efforts to carry it a step further to include retired Police officers and their families. I doff my cap for him.
The Nigeria Police had the Special Branch which was the intelligence gathering section of the Force. The government in its wisdom scrapped the Special Branch , formed the NSO and transferred the police personnel there. There was an unnecessary gulf between the NSO and the police in terms of intelligence sharing, the result of which was the Maitatsine riot in Kano in the early 80s because the NSO got the intelligence but not pass it to the Police, the agency saddled with the responsibility of internal security. Nigerians suffered for it. Because of this failure of intelligence that led to the Maitatsine, the Police decided to create their own intelligence gathering source. This gave birth to Security Intelligence Bureau (SIB) and Criminal Intelligence Bureau (CIB) both of which were ineffective and uncoordinated.
The issue of lack of intelligence sharing by relevant security agencies has been the bane of Nigerian security effectiveness. As IGP, through the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) I advocated intelligence sharing among the security agencies. When this did not come out fruitful, I scrapped the SIB and CIB and created the Police Intelligence Section in the Department of Investigation and Intelligence under a DIG. I posted AIG Ganiyu Dauda from Zone 1 Kano to head it because of his background in intelligence gathering. I equally sent many officers for courses in Intelligence both in Nigeria and abroad and later established the Police Intelligence School in Ilorin.When I retired and Ganiyu became a DIG the section was scrapped and the police officers I trained in intelligence gathering were transferred out. – POLICY SOMERSAULT.
It was IGP Solomon Arase who in his intelligence brought back the Intelligence Section and raised it to the status of a Department to make the Nigeria Police intelligence driven.
I am using these few examples of my experience to buttress the fact that the Nigeria Police is a part and parcel of Nigeria and will behave likewise. Many IGPs and CPs equally had their programmes and projects either scrapped or abandoned by their successors when they left office or were posted out.
The population of Nigeria is about Two Hundred Million while the strength of the Nigeria Police Force is three hundred and fifty thousand (350,000). The United Nations has prescribed the ratio of one policeman to four hundred (400) citizens for effective policing, using New York, the base of the UN, as a yard stick. When I attended a course in the US as a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) in 1985, I took the risk and boldness of a young rascal to go on a patrol with policemen in Precinct 42 Bronx, a violence prone area in New York. The US Police did not allow me to go on patrol with them because I was not covered by insurance .I had to sign a document extricating the American Government from liability if any untoward thing happened to me. I observed while on patrol with them that all the streets were well laid out and named; the houses were serially numbered. Each patrolman had a communication gadget linking him to the Precinct ( Police Station) and other patrol men; every police man had his own car; every house or apartment had a telephone. If anyone called the Police they would be there in no time.
Back home with the strength of the Police put at 350,000, the story is different. The Nigeria Police is grossly understaffed and Nigeria correspondingly under policed. Understaffing has been a gradually deteriorating phenomenon in the Nigeria Police Force. As a young officer in Rivers State, in the early 80s, or as the Divisional police officer, Uwani, Enugu, every Police Division was self –sufficient and had enough manpower to handle its own affairs – investigations, operations, riots, protests etc. Unexpectedly, by 1991, when I became AC Ops, in Ikeja, Lagos, DPOs in Lagos no longer had men to handle situations in their Divisions. I then created the Quick Intervention Unit (QIU) as an ad hoc arrangement where every DPO posted two men on a weekly basis to my office (Ops Department). These men were used to form a conventional unit that was dispatched to any DPO in distress. It had its own shortcomings. The Lagos traffic prevented the unit from arriving on time in the division to save the situation while it was hot. On my return to Lagos as CP in 1999 the manpower situation had become horrible and unbearable. DPOs were hopelessly creaking under the burden of shortage of manpower owing to the fact that there was no police recruitment for five years ranging up to 1999 and the strength of the Police was abysmally low. Based on this, President Obasanjo ordered the Police High Command to recruit forty thousand (40,000) officers every year. Unfortunately, this could not be sustained due to the dilapidated condition of the Police training Institutions and inadequate funding. So the continuity of the recruitment exercise was stalled. As if this was not debilitating enough, ten thousand (10,000) officers were laid off in 2006. I succeeded in bringing back some of them when I was appointed IGP in 2007. During my tenure as Chairman Police Service Commission I discovered to my utter consternation that once again Nigeria Police had not recruited for five years going up to 2014 and had lost fifty nine thousand (59,000) officers due to retirements, death, dismissal etc within the five years and they were not replaced. I had to write a passionate appeal to President Jonathan and he approved the recruitment of ten thousand (10,000) police officers – a tip of the ice barge. The situation has not yet ameliorated; some police posts across the country had been shut down due to shortage of manpower. Recently, I was told of an area where there are seven secondary schools and a police post/ Division manned by seven police officers only. Can seven Police Officers deter dare devil kidnappers or abductors from carrying out their devilish plans? Can there even perform other police duties effectively.? What beat my imagination and the aggregate imaginations of all right thinking Nigerians is the fact that many unemployed young men and women are roaming the streets in search of jobs, some of them with criminogenic tendencies resorting to crime and heightening insecurity. Yet the Nigeria Police, an agency constitutionally empowered to protect lives and property are unable carry out their assignment due to lack of manpower.
Apart from shortage of manpower one other condition that has pushed the Police to have a lackluster performance is that of funding. The police has not been equipped as required because of scarcity of fund. As IGP, some items in the budget were not purchased due to lack of fund. Sometimes, we could not undertake any necessary or urgent budgetary program because there was no AIE or cash backing. It was based on this that I conceived the idea of Police Trust Fund, an idea that I borrowed from Governor Fashola’s Lagos State Security Trust Fund and lobbied excessively for it. It was finally approved by the Council of States based on my presentation. The Federal Government and the States were supposed to bring a percentage of their budget as first line charge to the police. Companies and financial institutions were to bring a percentage of their after tax profit also to the Police. The Federal Government warehoused their own contribution pending response from other areas . Surprisingly, politics came into it. Some Governors from the opposing political party went to court to stop it and it was stopped. We were looking for a way out when I retired; the matter went into a deep cooler. It is disheartening that no other IGP tried to bring up the matter again or continue from where I stopped –POLICY SOMERSAULT. It is heart warming that IGP Adamu Mohammed Abubakar and the government of President Mohammadu Buhari, GCFR have brought back the issue of Police Trust Fund and it is now operational. The police will soon have a new lease of life and Nigeria will begin to see the Police of their dream.
The Nigeria Police had been involved in Peace Keeping Operations across the globe. My first experience and knowledge of the Police going on peace mission was when, in the mid 80s, I knew that DCP E. N. Ifejika (now retired AIG) led a Nigeria police contingent to Namibia. They were assessed the best group in the midst of police officers from thirty –five (35) countries. Later another group of police officers went to Yugoslavia again on peace keeping and once again the police officers were adjudged the best. The same story of the Nigeria Police happened in Haiti and Liberia where the Nigeria Police contingents were appreciated and honoured by the citizens of both countries. They returned to Nigeria with certificates, honours, awards and gifts. As the DIG Operations, sometimes I represented the Inspector General of Police at a conference of IGPs and Heads of Police Organisations and Armed Forces (Army, Air Force, and Navy) from various countries at the United Nations Peace Keeping Training Centre in Ghana. During the conference it was announced that the tenure of the executive of the United Nations Peace Keeping Committee had expired and new officers were to be elected.
Riding triumphantly on the back of international popularity and respect for Nigeria Police Officers, I contested for the post of Chairman Police Committee of the United Nations Peace Keeping Executive. At the end, I was elected with a land slide victory over the Heads of Police from South Africa, Egypt, and Canada, thereby, becoming the first African to hold that post.
International Organizations clamoured and sometimes demanded the services of Nigeria Police officers for international engagements or to occupy offices. During his time the current IGP, Adamu was an elected official of Interpol, the first African to handle that post, because of his international repute as an intelligent, sound and hardworking officer.
When C.K. Aderanti ( now retired AIG) finished his tenure in United Nations as a Police Representative, the UN made a special request to retain him because of his outstanding performance. The Nigeria Police obliged.
It is sad to say that back home here in Nigeria, the story is a tragic one. Most unfortunate! Nigeria Police officers are hated, dehumanized, degraded and debased.
Even foreigners living in Nigeria join or imitate Nigerians citizens to ridicule, vilify and denigrate the Nigeria Police. An example will suffice. When I was the CP Lagos, the IGP endorsed to me for comments , a petition written against the Police by an Ambassador from one of the West European Countries. In the petition, the Ambassador noted that his mobile phone was snatched from him in his car by thieves at the Falomo Round About and the Police could not do anything despite the fact that there was a police station “a stone’s throw away “. He concluded by saying that his phone had not been recovered and that the Nigeria police was ineffective, that the IGP should do something about that. This conduct highly infuriated me and made me loose my cool and decorum. At this period, I was under intense pressure as I was given the serious assignment of securing Lagos without the required tools to do the work and so I needed to express my anger and frustration and to heap them on somebody. The Ambassador unwittingly offered himself as the willing and ready victim. I took him and his home country to the cleaners and I had no apologies for that. I broke all protocol and wrote directly to him. I told him that his country police and the Nigeria police went on peace keeping mission in Namibia and Yugoslavia on a common ,equal and level playing ground. Nigeria police stood out and was judged the best contingent. Nobody mentioned his country’s police . Who authorized him to give that myopic and biased judgment that Nigeria Police was ineffective? Secondly, I told him that Falomo Road About was about one and half kilometers Onikan police station, the nearest police station. If one and half kilometers meant “a stone’s throw away” then he lacked the knowledge of geography . With his glorified position as an Ambassador he should go back to school. Thirdly, I said I had checked with DPO Onikan who stated that the matter was not reported to the station. Could his country’s police take up a matter or recover a phone when the theft was not brought to their knowledge?. Fourthly, I accused him of racism. I told him he wrote that kind of uncouth letter to IGP because he found himself in Nigeria a black African Country. If he was in a European country or a white people’s country could he have written to that country’s Head of Police in that manner. Finally I told him that his home country was poor and was exporting their poverty to Nigeria. He as an Ambassador was supposed to be chauffeur –driven. The fact that his mobile phone was snatched from him in his car in a traffic hold up meant he wound down his car window, which also meant that his car was not airconditioned because his home country couldn’t afford to buy him an airconditioned car because of poverty. Hishome government in her poverty had nothing to offer the world except the heavy tax on her citizens. I sent copies of the letter to his home government and Nigerian Minister for Foreign Affairs. I forwarded a copy to the IGP and said that was my comment on his endorsement to me. About a month later the Ambassador was recalled. I didn’t know if it was for this or any other reason.
The fact is that we do not value our own people, Nigeria Police ,especially. A prophet is not recognized in his own country. Dame Comfort Obi pitiably sum up this attitude about us in her SOURCE MAGAZINE “we are in a country which treats its best like rags, a country which runs down its own, but turn around to claim the rejected once embraced by other countries which appreciate brilliance and hard work”
It is obvious that what you invest in the police dictates the type and quality of service you will receive in return. The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended )gives the Nigeria Police the responsibility of protecting lives and property of Nigerians and enforcing laws and regulations for which they are directly charged. Therefore, the police is charged with the preservation, enhancement, and protection of internal security. To neglect the police is to invite lawlessness, disorder, and ofcourse insecurity and this is what we have done over the years. The result is now staring us in the face and swinging over our heads like the sword of Damocles
The Nigeria Police is equal to the task and can give a good account of themselves given the enabling environment. The Lagos State Police Command which I took over in shambles as CP Lagos, later changed for the better and became a reference point and made me popular too.
Right from the moment I was empowered as CP Lagos to date the security situation in Lagos has remained good thereby making Lagos the safest State in Nigeria despite its complexities. Thanks to Governor Babatunde Fashola who established the , Lagos State Security Trust Fund that funded and equipped the Lagos State Police Command, making officers happy to work and put in their best. Those outside Lagos, lobby to be posted to Lagos. Despite the security woes in Nigeria, Lagos still remains the commercial hub, with a daily increase in commercial activities and constantly growing population and territorial expansion. What other states are losing, because of insecurity , Lagos is gaining. So a well equipped police is a performing police.
It is a notorious fact that the decadence which negatively affected the accomplishment of tasks by the police permeates the gamut of the entire Nigerian society, government owned organizations and agencies. I have written about the civil service and the police for some obvious reasons. In the first place I am the son of a Nigerian Civil Servant. I grew up as a boy to learn much about the civil service through listening to, hearing and observing my father. Secondly, I joined the Nigeria Police Force as a young man fresh from NYSC and I retired at the age of 60. This gives me the capacity and capability to write about both sectors of the government.
The police I met served and left can still perform and restore internal security as per their training and constitutional mandate if given the wherewithal. With this, proper coordination, cooperation and intelligence sharing among and with other security agencies we get out of the wood.
I do not and will not write about other government agencies or organizations. This is because I cannot profess expert knowledge about them. Even if I do, I do not have their exquisite mandate or locus standi to act on their behalf, though I am a Nigerian. They are capable of writing about themselves and belling their own cats.
I have always said and was rightly quoted as saying that security is a collective responsibility. It is not an exclusive preserve of any particular agency or organization. See my book –OVERCOMING SECURITY CHALLENGES. It is not the sole responsibility of government either.
It is the uncontrollable height of insecurity that has forced some distinguished and highly respected Nigerian gentle men and elders to sing cacophonic and divisive dirges. See my book, NIGERIA: THE RESTRUCTURING CONTROVERSY. All hands should thereforebe on deck. This is a period for National sober reflection to stem the tide of insecurity not the period for name calling and casting aspersions. Not a period when we will indulge in our usual fallacy of argumentum ad hominem , like “Who is Mike Okiro? Where is he from? What ethnic group or religion does he belong to? Why must we listen to him or buy his ideas? He did this or he did not do that in the past?”
The situation now demands concerted efforts and a clarion call for patriotism. We all including the government should think Nigeria first and put our house in order before it is too late. Otherwise !!!
• Okiro is former Inspector General of Police