Osun election, corruption top Abba’s challenges
Like other sectors of the society, the police have battled corruption. This is one of the challenges facing the acting Inspector General of Police Suleiman Abba. Many will be watching out for how he handles the general elections, especially the Osun governorship poll, writes JUDE ISIGUZO
Some years back, a retired Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police was a Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in a police station on Lagos mainland. He made any policeman posted to his station to sign an undertaking that he or she would not be corrupt.
The retired DIG documented this undertaking in a file. On the other hand, he set a target for the policeman on how much money they were expected to bring to him at the end of every week. He warned his men to ensure that they were not caught extorting money from members of the public by the Police Monitoring Unit, a department responsible for arresting corrupt policemen, as he would deny them using their undertaking as evidence.
A policeman, who worked with the retired DIG, said: “Some week when we did not meet our target, we borrowed money from members of the Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and filling station attendants to make up because he would not listen to any excuse. All he cared about was his returns.
“Those that were caught in trying to meet with their target he denied them by presenting the undertaking that was signed by the affected policeman. He would go on to tell the Monitoring team how he hated corruption and corrupt policemen and that was why he made them sign an undertaking before they would start working with him.”
Corruption in the police, according to analysts, is the number one challenge before acting Inspector General of Police (IGP) Sulaiman Abba.
Favouritism is another problem analysts have identified as dragging down the force. There are police officers and men who have been serving in a Divisional Police Station, Mobile Police Squadrons, command, units and Departments for a decade. These officers are so rich that they have the money to bribe their superiors to leave them where they are serving. Abba should discourage such practice and ensure that all policemen under him and in his time should enjoy equal right. This will discourage corruption. Abba should also continue with the no road block order introduced by his predecessor as it has reduced incidents of accidental discharge, harassment and intimidation of members of the public on the highway.
Another issue the new IGP needs to address is that of covering up police officers and men who have been indicted for stealing from members of the public. Many a time, police officers had turned complainants to accused, converted belongings of a suspect while investigation is ongoing and are even indicted for kidnap and murder. Rather than punish these officers, some of them have even been celebrated and promoted. Cases abound. A former CP in Abia and Rivers states, who is now an Assistant Inspector General (AIG), was indicted while serving as CP Rivers for stealing three exotic cars belonging to an accused person while investigation was still ongoing. He was alleged to have converted one of the cars to personal use and sold the other two to his friends at a ridiculous price. The accused petitioned the Special Fraud Unit and the case was re-investigated and the CP indicted. But rather than punish him, the CP was promoted to the rank of AIG.
Divisional Police Officers have been indicted for allegedly killing innocent citizens in Lagos, Abuja and other parts of the country but at the end of the day, nothing comes out of the investigations. Abba should discourage this practice.
Welfare is one area Abba really needs to address and fast too. Policemen should be encouraged to make them see their job as service to humanity and not a licence to oppress, intimidate and extort members of the public. When the Chairman of Police Service Commission, Mr Mike Okiro was appointed as the 13th indigenous IGP, he wept on his visit to inspect police barracks in Ikeja, the Lagos State capital and Elere in Agege, on the outskirts of Lagos. Though the renovation of those barracks that he promised was never acted upon up till date, he was able to lay a foundation for a police estate in Idimu. A flat in the estate, which is supposed to be for junior officers, is being sold for N8million. Where the force high command expects the junior officers to raise this amount from is what only they can answer. Abba should learn to march words with action by renovating the barracks if he cannot construct new ones. Salaries should be increased; promotions should come as at when due; those on special duties should be paid their allowances and retire officers and men should get their entitlements immediately after leaving service.
Family members of deceased officers and men must be paid their breadwinners’ entitlement promptly. Abba should train and re-train his men and equip the forensic department in Alagbon to handle high level investigations.
The first litmus test for Abba would be the conduct of the Osun State governorship election coming up on August 9. Nigerian are watching and expecting that Abba will not be partisan. He should be objective in his dealings with all the political parties involved to ensure a professional conduct.
In a letter to the acting IGP through its national coordinator, Okechukwu Nwanguma , Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), a network of 46 civil society organisations committed to promoting police accountability and respect for human rights, said: “We are fully appraised of the fact that the tasks confronting you as Inspector General of a large police force are enormous and daunting. The challenge of managing such an unwieldy and centralised police force in a populous, complex and troubled country is made even more herculean by historical, institutional and structural problems, as well as other factors external to the force and, therefore, beyond your control as the chief of police.
“NOPRIN and other civil society platforms have over the years continued to advocate for reforms aimed at transforming the police into a professionally effective, democratic, accountable and people-friendly service organisation which enjoys public confidence and cooperation and capable of meeting the safety and security needs of the community it serves. Over the years, the NPF has grappled with the problem of severe under-resourcing. We are also aware that budget allocations for the police are pilfered at various levels in the line of bureaucracy before they reach their final destination.
“A compromised and corruption-ridden recruitment process allows misfits and criminals to find their way into the police and continue to dent its image. The police force continues to parade a poorly trained, ill-equipped, badly paid and ill-motivated workforce that is prone to corruption and violence. Professionalism, effectiveness and integrity are hindered by political interference by political authorities that have no more than rhetorical commitment to police reform.
“However, while these external incapacitating factors are not within the control of the IGP, there still remains some space for any IGP who is genuinely committed to reform to show leadership. With determination, you can creatively exercise powers and ensure that things within your control in the system work well. We believe that with commitment and determination, you can improve in the areas where your predecessors have not fared very well. You can, for example, make it clear to police officers that their duty is to serve and protect their communities and not to prey on them. Police officers ought to be protectors, not predators. Human rights abuses breed public resentment and erode public trust and cooperation. You must constantly remind them of the ‘… obvious that the duties of the Nigeria Police Force are a direct consequence of the powers conferred on it by law. It becomes mandatory that the law must regulate the performance of its duties relating to arrest, detention, search, and seizure and the use of force. In other words, these duties must be exercised strictly within the limits prescribed for the Police by law. And any form of exercise of these powers which does not strictly conform to the prescriptions of the law can have unpleasant consequences for the Police Force (as a corporate entity, as well as for the individual Police personnel).’You can make it clear from the onset that your administration will not tolerate human rights abuses, corruption, disobedience of court orders, violation of the constitution and subversion of the due process and rule of law. As you settle down and familiarise yourself with your new office and the tasks ahead, we wish to draw your attention to some areas we respectfully think you need to pay particular attention. The NPF stinks and you need to demonstrate your commitment to sanitise it by addressing the following specific issues. Where necessary, we will illustrate with some specific cases which we had earlier brought to the attention of your predecessor, but which remain pending or unresolved. How you address these cases that touch directly on the image, integrity and operational efficiency of the police will be a litmus test to your commitment to leave the NPF better than you met it as IGP.
“You need to prioritise respect for human rights which impinges on police-public relations. You have to, perforce, vigorously pursue and promote an anti-corruption policy. Then, you must take seriously the issue of accountability for police abuse, corruption and misconduct. You must equally address, very seriously, the welfare of personnel. Failure of Accountability: Impunity for police abuses Lack of effective accountability measures to sanction and deter police misconduct accounts for the increasing number of cases of abuse and misconduct. One case, among the numerous, that illustrates impunity is the continued indefinite detention of Chinagorom Ihejiagwa by SARS Awkuzu, Anambra State in disregard of a court order. This is one of the several complaints which NOPRIN received and brought to the attention of police authorities but which has remained untreated.
“NOPRIN had written several complaints to the former IGP concerning these abuses by SARS, many of which have been reported in several newspapers. But the authorities have failed to address these complaints and the underlying causes of the abuses which make them routine. One of the very dangerous practices portraying the police in a very negative light and which you must address urgently is police contempt and disregard for Court Orders. You must take steps to change the attitude of the police to court orders. Ihejiagwa was arrested by SARS Awkuzu and has been detained since May 31, 2014. He has been denied access to his family members and his lawyers. The O/C SARS has also refused to charge him to court. He was arrested by one police officer attached to Awkuzu SARS and simply identified as ‘Pele’. Although ‘Pele’ accused him of buying a stolen vehicle two years ago and refused to ‘settle’ him, the O/C SARS, Awkuzu, Mr. James Nwafor later told Chiagorom’s brother that he is a ‘confessed kidnapper’ and that ‘we will kill him’.
“We call on you to demonstrate that the Nigeria Police under your administration will do away with the odious practice of shielding criminals and covering up crime and that you will show sensitivity to public concerns by responding to public demand for justice in this case. Please, do not allow this matter to be swept under the carpet.
“The issue of Police personnel welfare, you must make bold to make a strong case for an increase in the remuneration and allowances of officers. Salaries and allowances must be paid in full and on time. Those on special duties must be catered for in terms of their travel, accommodation, hazard and other allowances. Family members of police officers who die in line of duty must be treated with fairness and compassion. Their deceased breadwinners’ entitlements must be released to them in full and on time. They must not be thrown out of the barracks while the police force owes them their entitlements. You must also make bold to let the Federal Government understand your operational challenges and the need for the government to adequately equip, train and motivate personnel to enable them discharge their functions and effectively deal with crime and insecurity.”