By Vincent Kalu
Mrs. Glory Egbuji, a lawyer and activist, is the executive girector of Crime Victims Foundations (CRIVIFON), with focus on support for victims of crime and abuse of power. For over a decade, she has been involved in training police on human rights.
She spoke with Daily Sun on the Police Trust Fund, of which the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, has sent the Bill to the National Assembly.
According to her, if the Bill becomes law, Nigerians are going to see a new police force.
The IGP is talking of Police Trust Fund (PTF), what is about?
It is a fund that the IGP is hoping would be set aside for the police to do their work, because the federal budget to the police isn’t enough.
Now, we are talking of fighting crime, most people don’t know the problems that the police face. They rarely get the budget for running the office.
When you don’t have enough (money), how are you going to set up a forensic laboratory, how are you going to build intelligence, how are you going to train the personnel, how are you going to do the basics that you need to fight crime? Year by year, they keep talking about the same thing. So, IGP Idris has been creative enough to realise that the security trust fund has been working somewhere, that is, Lagos, in terms of equipment for fighting crime and other support.
The trust fund was legally set up in Lagos, and corporate organisations were brought in to contribute towards crime fighting. They have been able to raise more than N12 billion. The IGP saw it as a model and, since it was established, they have been able to use it to achieve so much, including 800 vehicles, 30 APCs, over 1,000 AK-47 riffles, 1,700 bulletproof vests, one million litres of fuel, surveillance helicopters.
If you don’t have the wherewithal to do police work, you can’t go far. People don’t know that the police are suffering. People want to see the police work when there is no money made available to them, but it doesn’t work that way because they are not magicians.
What the IGP is fighting for is to make the PTF become a law. Even in other nations, police get support from corporate organisations. In this direction, a central fund will be established whereby companies are made to be contributing a certain percentage of their profits to the trust fund. It could also be part of their corporate social responsibility.
When this becomes a law and companies and others contribute to the pool, the police will use it to augment the inadequate budget.
When this is done, you will now see that the Nigerian police will work; they have proved to work excellently in a better environment outside the country.
Why are they not working here, do they have a standard forensic laboratory?
Cases like rape fail in this country because there are some basic forensic sciences that you need to prove rape cases, and some other things; but we don’t have DNA machines and many other things that science can (use to prove a crime). When they don’t have these, they make do with anything to make success and that is when they breach people’s human rights.
You have a case and they don’t have money to go for investigation, and they begin to demand money for the investigation and bail, and we complain. Look at the average police office, they don’t have enough money to power their generators. The money DPOs get to run stations are not enough.
The police have to protect life and property at all cost, no police head wants to hear that crime is on the increase, that is why the current IGP became creative to look at the system that works. If this becomes a law, there is fund to set up forensic labs even in every state, buy equipment, buy arms and ammunition, buy patrol vans, APCs and train personnel. They are not properly trained because of paucity of funds. You must constantly train police because, if you don’t train them, they may not know the emerging crime trend.
There is no hope that the police will get all that they need, so this trust fund will be like a safety net for them to run to. If it is well utilised and well managed, you will see a new, re-branded Nigerian police.
You can’t expect a person to work when you have not provided the necessary equipment, and people who are supposed to be friends of police are complaining that the police are corrupt and are not doing anything. Mr. Idris wants his men to have good names and dignity. Look at the police colleges, the police barracks, and most of the police personnel stay outside. What do you get when policemen are not in barracks?
People might ask, can’t the government fund the police?
They have tried for long, but the IGP is trying to be creative to see what the police can do. I have in my work with the police through the efforts of some companies, who wanted to demonstrate corporate social responsibility, built ultra-modern cells at the Lagos Police Command. You can see that corporate organisations are ready to support the police, and when you then make a law and set up this trust fund, there will be money in the pool coming from here and there.
How would you rate or describe the present IGP in crime fighting?
Because of my work with the police, I have passed through many IGPs. Mr. Idris came in from the background of Mobile Police, very good in operation, very strategic in his approach to issues. I’m seeing a lot of creativity in the way he works. This is the first time an IGP is extending a hand of fellowship to the civil populace. You take information to him and he listens. He is trying to see whatever he can do to lift the image of the police, and the way the police operate.
Money can make a lot of things happen and he knows it and has been striving to make sure that there is a fund for police to work; starting a new experiment, which has never been done before.
During his presentation at the public hearing on a Bill to establish a Police Trust Fund (PTF), at the House of Representatives, on July 11, 2017, he gave the picture of an IGP that is thoroughly perturbed about the sorry state of the force and passionately craving for a feasible, enduring and an all-encompassing solution to the variegated predicaments of the institution.
The challenges hindering impressive performance of the statutory responsibilities of the police force are legion. It has 340,000 personnel expected to protect a population of 180 million Nigerians. There is the need for least 155,000 police officers for the next five years. With this addition, Nigeria can meet the United Nations-approved ratio of one police officer to 400 persons.
Mr. Idris has realised that the best way to approach the funding of police is through trust funds. It is going to be on frontline charge from the state and local government as well as the business community.
This fund he is pursuing will go a long way in the history of the Nigerian Police, and everybody believes that this fund is an idea whose time has come
As someone involved in training police personnel, how would you describe the crime situation in the country?
The crime situation in the country has been increasing because of some factors. When the economy goes down, crime increases because people want to survive. This leads to survival crimes. So, people devise all sorts of criminal means to survive. The type of crimes you have today were not the same 10 years ago. Then, robbers masked their faces during robberies, but these days, people rob without masking. In Nigeria, there are many crime types coming up and the rate is getting higher, more so, the fear of crime has become very much. Wherever the fear of crime is all that much, it affects the quality of life.
The crime rate has been on the increase, but since the current administration came in, we are not hearing much on Boko Haram, as we used to hear before.
But on the other hand, kidnapping, human trafficking, Internet fraud and other crimes increase on a daily basis.
However, the fighting of crimes has greatly improved with the present IGP.
In criminology, what we call survival crimes exist here, because the economy went down, it brought about high unemployment, and the young people who are full of energy, if you don’t get them gainfully occupied, they can then occupy themselves with anything, including crime, cults, and other illegal activities.
How can the police live up to the challenges of the new crimes?
We react to crime in this part of the world, and that has been very unfortunate. If you fight crime by being reactive it doesn’t help. The police are reactive to crime. If you want to nip crime in the bud, you have to go beyond being reactive to the other side of intelligence gathering, information gathering, community policing, so that you research into what is going as the economy is changing, just as it is done in other climes.
IGP Idris is trying to move into all these. He wants to move away from just being reactive to real crime fighting, which involves intelligence gathering, involving the community, and information gathering because even the most civilised police in the world cannot work without information.
When we build intelligence as part of the police and we work with the community, and get information, we can do much better than is currently being done. This is what Mr. Idris is doing. Since he came on board he has been making conscious efforts to move towards partnering with the civil populace, meeting with traditional rulers and people so that they can give information to fight crime rather than sitting down and waiting for the crime to happen and then react. When they react, it doesn’t help to fight crime.
The best way to fight crime is to use intelligence, and when you do this you would be able to do much more and you can even nip the crime before it takes place.
Since he came on board the IGP has been making efforts to change the reactive nature of crime fighting by our police.