Police Reforms From The Top

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By Tonnie Iredia

Many events in Nigeria point to the fact that our people appear to take delight in leaving substance to pursue shadows thereby getting confused as to the way forward with our country.

It was an interesting encounter the other day when one caller in a phone-in radio programme complained bitterly about many alleged misdeeds of past governments in the country.

The caller got furious and became abusive when the programme anchor asked if those who had left office are the real ones, Nigerians should be talking about now! The call was abruptly halted when the anchor insisted on the need for callers to proffer solutions to the nation’s ills by raising viable reforms instead of blame-game.

The point must be made that a nation which always talks about the past is a classic example of one that can hardly make any meaningful progress. Instead of discussing enviable developments in other climes, that we should emulate, Nigerians have become experts in using examples of the past to validate today’s lethargy which can make our nation remain static.

The Nigeria Police Force is a good example of where reforms have for long been exactly the same thing as continuity. Anyone who joined the police in 1989, when Admiral Murtala Nyako was appointed to lead a police reform team is probably less than 4 years to retirement now; yet all through the years he probably heard of reforms daily without seeing any. Another police reforms committee constituted a few years after Nyako’s experiment had its assignment discarded by the Abacha administration in 1995.

In 2000, the Ministry of Police Affairs released a five-year development plan which outlined strategies for transforming the police. Two years later, a Presidential Panel headed by Professor Tekena Tamuno submitted a report that was never considered by Government. In 2006, there was another panel set up by President Obasanjo and chaired by former Inspector General of Police-Muhammad Danmadami.

In 2008, a fresh committee of experts led by another former Inspector General of Police, M. D. Yusuf, submitted a well-articulated report with 125 recommendations. These and others in a new report on police reforms by the Committee on Vision 2010 were again discarded just as no one can today vouch for what happened to another panel on same subject in 2012, headed by Parry Osayande, who was at the time, Chairman of the Police Service Commission.

With the above list, we should have since known enough of what to reform in our police without constituting new panels. It is obvious for example that the old order where police reforms ended with change of uniform never made sense.

In same manner, we have heard from so many lectures how the United Nations set standards of police numerical strength of operatives and their qualities with no one monitoring the issues from an implementation list that is vigorously pursued to its logical conclusion. Several sources have also highlighted how the Nigerian police is the least paid in West Africa. Is that also a subject waiting for another panel? If not, why then do we have a habit of throwing light on issues begging for attention, only to ignore them after much publicity on the subject?

Do these issues aptly inform the budget of our police?

Only last week, the media was replete with reports of certain hitherto privileged Nigerians from whom, police escorts were being withdrawn.

Why do the rest of us need to know of arrangements, signals and circulars concerning the withdrawal of unnecessary police deployments whilst our police remained largely understaffed?

Is it so as to make it a talking point or to give the nation the impression that something was being done about our police?

Were we similarly consulted or informed when the privileged Nigerians got the escorts or guards whose withdrawal appears to now require a transition timetable? I think it is only fair for the police to withdraw the guards which now exist as a symbol of office from all those who have them.

It should be done promptly without a panel or letting it take the same ceremonial span as the arrangements Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi state has been making in connection with his stale story of moving from one bogus political party to another.

Police should complete the withdrawals today and face more relevant and crucial issues such as attaining a visionary leadership because one area where little has been done about our police is empiricism in its leadership recruitment.

According to Sun newspapers, the tenure of the current Inspector General of Police IGP, Mohammed Adamu ends in less than 3 months.

It is time to take a critical look at the police and remind ourselves of the lack of succession planning in the system. The public perception is that the next IGP, all things remaining the same would be a politically correct officer. Once that is done, all those above the lucky appointee, no matter the number are forced out.

Such a template is unprogressive and ill-advisable. The way out in our considered opinion should be: first, there should be no talk about extension because the system would stabilize if every officer retires as and when due.

Government is however free to utilize IGP Adamu’s expertise elsewhere such as EFCC based on his impeccable credentials. Second, since the last two IGPs hailed from the north, attention should shift to the south now to get the best. This is to douse the ill-feeling of mistrust and geopolitical dominance in the polity.

In fact, if we allow the new Police Act to stabilize the system, such prescriptive criteria will easily fizzle out. Third, to ensure a fulfilling and impactful tenure, only officers who have at least four years to retirement should be considered.

This is no doubt a more empirical method of ensuring predictability in the system, leaving no one with a grudge of being prematurely rationalized from the system as was done temperamentally in the past.

An officer who tops the list at the end of the above exercise will be best positioned to take the police to greater heights provided, he or she has no complex to which ample energies may be dissipated on fault-finding directed at better academically qualified peers and immediate subordinates.

The new IGP must be a leader that meets the three-sided qualities of vision, passion and integrity clearly enunciated by Warren Bennis, the legendary American philosopher and foremost leadership theorist. Such an IGP must know where the organization is headed and the appropriate direction, placing immutable signs on the way to illuminate the only rational route for everyone to involuntarily follow so as to attain a unity of direction. For this to happen, an IGP deserves to be given the required authority and discretion to run the system.

Here, we ought to draw attention to the unnecessary distractions to which an IGP is subjected in Nigeria. Eight years ago, this column featured a poser which perhaps needs to be reiterated today: do we in all honesty really need a Police Council, a Police Service Commission and a Ministry of Police Affairs that would constantly flex muscles as to who is in charge?

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