‘Don’t ask God to give you a light burden. Ask Him to give you strong shoulder to carry a heavy burden.”
–Bob Jones. Sr.
Tuesday’s appointment of Usman Alkali Baba as the acting Inspector General of Police (IGP) finally completes the ongoing circle of reform of the country’s security architecture by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The new order is a follow up to the earlier shake-up in the Nigerian Army, Air Force and Navy Commands in line with public expectation. For a prolonged period of public opprobrium that trailed the perceived abysmal performance of his former Service Chiefs, the obstinate president had turned a deaf ear until the security situation in the country degenerated. Only police formation was spared in that reform.
Alkali replaces Muhammed Adamu, whose tenure officially ended in February, but was extended by three months to give room for proper selection of a successor so to say. As usual, there are whispers that the order of succession might have been deliberately breached to give room for emergence of Alkali. Some of the cynics linked the premature purported retirement of former DIG Moses Jitoboh now 52 to the grand plan to impose a Northerner as IGP.
Intriguingly, Adamu was on an official assignment to Imo State along with the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, for on-the-spot assessment of the situation at the police headquarters in Owerri following the Monday attack by unknown gunmen, when the Minister of Police Affairs, Maigari Dingyadi, broke the news in Abuja. Shortly after, an order from the Presidency directed Osinbajo to suspend the assignment for an immediate decoration of the new acting Inspector General of Police, Alkali. The rest is history!
By this appointment, the ousted IGP has lost his purported bid to establish the legitimacy of his continued stay in office till 2023. Maxwell Opara, a legal practitioner, had in a suit: FHC/ABJ/CS/106/21 approached the Federal High Court, Abuja, to challenge the presidential order that granted the tenure extension, claiming that Section 215 of the Nigerian constitution and Section 7 of the Nigeria Police Act, 2020 cannot allow Adamu to continue to function as the IGP, having attained the mandatory 35 years of service in the force.
In his defence, the former IGP through his counsel, Alex Iziyon, had told the court that the new Nigeria Police Act gave him a four-year tenure, which would only lapse in either 2023 or 2024. He argued that his tenure would lapse in 2023, if counted from 2019 when he was appointed as the IGP or 2024 if counted from 2020 when the new Nigeria Police Act came into force.
Without pre-empting the final pronouncement of the court, the case is dead in vitro. While Adamu tenure lasted, Nigeria witnessed an unprecedented security challenge, including armed robbery, banditry, kidnapping, mass abduction of school children, among others. The carnage that followed EndSARS protest in some states of the federation is also a familiar story. The latest trend is incessant attacks on police formations by men of the underworld.
According to reports, the recent attack on Owerri police headquarters is the 7th in the last three months. Hardly had Osinbajo left the Imo State capital with top government officials who had gone there to assess the damage done to the police headquarters when the assailants struck another police formation in Mbano and set it ablaze and the next day another station in Mbieri, Mbaitoli LGA.
For Alkali, who is coming into office at a trying period, the appointment is certainly not a tea party. As the vice president rightly noted, hostility against the police is a psychological trend which must be fought head on to achieve effective policing of the country.
“The organization you are leading is one that is itself facing several challenges. Your officers work in extremely difficult conditions and some face the threat of super power by terrorists and hostile non-state actors while in the line of duty. There is no question, at all, that there is a lot to be done,” he was reminded by the VP.
While the new police chief has assured that he would “leave a legacy of policing with human face,” he must go beyond rhetoric and hit the ground running. He must carry out a holistic study of the current security situation in the country which is accentuated by the problems of inadequate personnel, underfunding as well as proliferation of arms.
According to the recent submission by a former military Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), an estimated over six million weapons are said to be in circulation in the country, while over 80,000 deaths and close to three million internally displaced persons are scattered all over the place.
Little surprise that the challenges of Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, kidnapping have remained largely insurmountable. In the face of the growing despair and despondency among the populace, it is, therefore, imperative for the new police command to do a review of its tragedy and work out a solution to tackle the multifarious security challenges confronting the country.
Usman Alkali Baba was born on March 1, 1963 in Geidam Local Government Area of Yobe State. He joined the Nigeria Police on March 15, 1988. Other than his Teachers’ Grade II Certificate from Teachers College, Potiskum, Alkali also holds a Bachelor of Arts (ED) degree in Political Science from the University of Maiduguri and a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) from Bayero University, Kano.
Until his appointment as the acting IGP, he had held several positions in various commands of the force, including Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in Yola, Gombe, Kaduna and Jos, Area Commander in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital as well as Assistant Commissioner (CID) in Kaduna.
He also served in Kaduna as the deputy commissioner (administration) and in FCT as deputy commissioner of police (investigation). He was also in the Staff College as a directing staff. He became a commissioner of police in January 2014 and AIG in July 2016.
He was promoted to the rank of DIG in November 2020 and was in charge of the Force Criminal Investigations Department (FCID) until his appointment as IGP on Tuesday. No doubt, his appointment into the position of the acting IGP is a dream come true; he would need God’s intervention to shoulder the heavy responsibility that lies ahead.