In November 2017, a report conducted by the World Internal Security and Police Index (WISPI), and issued by the Institute for Economics and Peace, and the International Police Science Association ranked the Nigerian Police Force as ‘’the worst globally’’ in terms of handling internal security challenges. Of the 127 countries ranked, the Nigeria Police, headed by Inspector General Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, scored 0.255, behind countries like Mozambique, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Countries with chronic civil conflicts were not eligible for the index.
The official police response to the report was typical. Instead of introspection and self-examination, police spokesperson Jimoh Moshood banged out a statement that ignored the facts presented to buttress this ranking and instead tried to attack the credibility of the organization, their response reading in parts, “The report did not take into cognizance the significant improvement in the areas of capacity building, training and re-training of the entire personnel of the Force as provided for by the current Federal Government of Nigeria and other Foreign and Local NGOs which has greatly improved the efficiency and service delivery of the personnel of the Force throughout the country.’’
The 2016 WISPI report detailed dysfunction and deficiencies in the force that preceded the tenure of Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, who only just assumed office in March of 2016. But few Nigerians, if any, were surprised by the extent of the revelations. See Nigerians and the police have always had a tortured relationship. Sunday Ehindero, himself a disgraced former IGP, once revealed that a good number of the recruits who joined the force between 2002 and 2004 were criminals and undesirable elements.
Another former police boss- also tainted by scandal- Mohammed Abubakar painted a gruesome picture when he observed in 2012 that the Nigeria Police Force had hit rock bottom. According to Abubakar, “…police duties have become commercialized and provided at the whims and caprices of the highest bidder…justice has been perverted, people’s rights denied, innocent souls committed to prison, torture and extrajudicial killings perpetrated.’’
If any gains have indeed been recorded as claimed by the spokesperson’s statement, then the leadership of the police force isn’t the place to look, apparently. Just recently, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, the Inspector General of Police was the star of a hugely embarrassing video, one that suggested the dismal state of the leadership that is available to the force, already one of the country’s most troubled institutions.
At an official function commissioning the Force Technical Intelligence Unit in Kano state, IGP Idris was captured in a video clip painfully struggling- with little success- to read his own speech. The immediate police response claimed the video was doctored but his team hasn’t been able to produce the version that wasn’t tampered with.
Police is (not) your friend
It isn’t the first time that the Idris has been associated with behavior that is less than flattering and his tenure as IGP has not been reassuring to say the least. The murmurs of a troubling stewardship started bubbling just as soon as Idris was announced to take over from the departing Solomon Arase. Whenever a new boss is appointed, the retiring either hands over command to the most senior officer after him who continues in an acting capacity until the President sends his- they have all been male- name to the national assembly. Or a healthy portion of the top police hierarchy- In Idris’ case- seven Deputy Inspectors General and about 30 Assistant Inspectors General- are uprooted from service to make way for the new guy. This is to remove the awkwardness of a new IGP having to dish orders to his seniors. At the time of his appointment, Idris was an Assistant Inspector General in charge of operations.
President Buhari was still basking in the glow of his presidential honeymoon period and was able to rationalize Idris’ appointment by insisting that the former United Nations veteran scaled the ‘’integrity’’ test in flying colors. Detractors were quick to point out the coincidence of Idris being Commissioner of Police in Kano state during the election period that ushered in Buhari as President. According to the rumors, Idris was promoted to the rank of IGP to reward him for his role in scaring up millions of vote for Buhari’s All Progressives Party (APC).
Idris himself received no honeymoon period as the troubles began to mount almost immediately. Amnesty International put out a report detailing inhumane behavior and gross human rights abuses by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), an elite unit of the Nigerian Police Force set up to fight crime. Idris’ knee jerk response rejected the report as untrue, while accusing Amnesty International of bias.
For Nigerians, especially those who had found themselves at the mercy of SARS inhumane operatives, Idris’ comments were terribly disappointing as they amounted to a tacit approval of the various dehumanizing ways SARS officials had operationalized. It was therefore not surprising late last year when a #EndSARS campaign, seeking for the retirement of the infamous anti-robbery unit went viral on social media. These calls have mostly gone unheeded.
A most scandalous officer
Making a mockery of the IGP’s famed integrity background were accusations of corruption and abuse of office levelled against Idris by Hamman Isah Misau, the senator representing Bauchi central. Misau, a former police officer himself, who serves as Chairman, Senate Committee on Navy, alleged that the IGP had pocketed about N120 billion as annual bill for “unreasonably exorbitant special security services” rendered to private individuals, oil firms and similar corporate bodies.
Misau also accused the IGP of tribalism and obtaining millions in bribes from police commissioners in exchange for favorable postings. The IGP’s recent wedding to a junior officer wasn’t left out of the fray as the Senator accused the IGP of violating a problematic section of the police act. Article 124 states that
“A woman police officer who is desirous of marrying must first apply in writing to the commissioner of police for the State Police command in which she is serving, requesting permission to marry and giving the name, address, and occupation of the person she intends to marry.’’
“Permission will be granted for the marriage if the intended husband is of good character and the woman police officer has served in the Force for a period of not less than three years.” It continues. Supporters of the IGP claim that DSP Asta resigned her membership of the force before the wedding.
In response to the accusations, the office of the Attorney General of the Federation dragged Misau to court in a move that political watchers say is meant to divert attention from the weighty allegations. Idris was invited to testify, but went to court to challenge the power of the Senate to issue such summons. His request was struck out and so in the presence of his lawyer, Alex Izinyon, Idris appeared on the 9th of November 2017, before the ill-prepared Francis Alimikhena led Senate Ad-Hoc committee. Idris only read from a prepared speech and scurried under cover of his lawyer. He would go ahead to shun further summons by the Senate, prompting Senate President Bukola Saraki to label him ‘’a threat to our democracy.’’
IGP Idris would demonstrate this bad behavior even in the face of instructions from the presidency. Following the New Year Day massacre in Benue which claimed about 73 lives in Guma and Logo areas of the state, President Buhari directed the IGP to relocate to Benue to oversee operations that would wipe out the bandits. Idris met some government officials in Makurdi and flew back to Abuja days later. The killings continued unabated.
On a belated sympathy visit to Benue State, President Buhari admitted ignorance of Idris’ failure to act on his relocation directives. He confessed, devoid of shame, “I am getting to know this in this meeting. I am quite surprised, but I know that I sent him here.”
Idris was not publicly sanctioned.
This kind of behavior gives off the impression that for whatever reason, IGP Idris fancies himself above the law. This positioning, coupled with his tendency for flippant remarks, makes him dangerous considering the levels of power that he commands by virtue of his position. The reluctance of his superiors to put him in check makes him a genuine threat. The Police Service Commission which serves like a board for activities relating to the force states that in the matter of the IGP, the commission can only advise.
On his visit to Benue in January, Idris told state house correspondents, before conducting detailed investigations that the killings were as a result of communal clashes. “Obviously it is communal crisis, herdsmen are part of the community. They are Nigerians and are part of the community are they not?’’ he announced, a study in nonchalance. He would later apologize for this error in judgement.
Freedom of expression and the right of assembly are basic rights that are being threatened while Idris sits atop his throne. The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) arrested two journalists, Daniel and Timothy Elombah in Anambra state, ostensibly on behalf of the IGP, for publishing an unflattering opinion piece on the IGP on their blog, elombah.com. A federal high court sitting in Abuja awarded the brothers compensation to the tune of five million Naira.
Just like his predecessor, IGP Idris has needlessly politicized the affairs of the #BringBackOurGirls advocacy group by sending armed troops to interrupt their activities at the Unity Fountain in Abuja. Policemen under Idris’ watch have antagonized the #BBOG group, denying them their right to gather on several occasions. They have even gone as far as arresting and teargassing unarmed protesters, leading human rights activists to question the sense in deploying armed policemen to the site of regular peaceful gatherings while hot spots in various parts of the country remain unpoliced.
Kassim Afegbua, a longtime spokesperson of former military dictator, Ibrahim Babangida found himself a victim of the IGP’s unwillingness to stay above the political fray when he was declared wanted after issuing a controversial statement criticizing the Buhari presidency on behalf of his principal. The IGP ordered Afegbua to turn himself in for “making false statements, injurious falsehood, defamation of character and for an act capable of inciting public disturbance throughout the country.”
In bad company
Idris isn’t the first police boss to drag the image of the police through the mud. From grand corruption, disrespect for the rule of law and a complete abdication of duties, the roll call of past Nigerian IGPs will hardly constitute material for an inspiring hall of fame. The first IGP to serve in the 4th republic, Musiliu Smith, was removed by President Obasanjo after junior policemen went on an unprecedented strike action to demand better conditions of service.
Smith was replaced by Mustafa Balogun who proved to be even more problematic what with his large appetites for embezzling public funds. After leaving office, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) brought 70 charges against Tafa Balogun covering the period from 2002 to 2004. Accused of laundering about 16 billion Naira, Balogun secured a plea bargain with the courts in exchange for returning monies and properties stolen. He was subsequently sentenced to six months in jail but spent part of it in the National Hospital, Abuja.
This year, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) went to court to resume the 16 billion Naira fraud case against former IGP Sunday Ehindero, accused of criminally converting monies donated by the Bayelsa state government to the Police Affairs ministry into personal use. Hafiz Ringim was fired in 2012 after the controversial escape of Kabiru Umar alias Sokoto, a Boko Haram kingpin and mastermind of the Christmas Day bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla, Niger State, while under the watch of a police team.
Ringim was replaced by Mohammed Dikko Abubakar, who had earlier on in his career, as Commissioner of Police in Plateau state, been indicted by a committee investigating the killings of citizens in the state in 2001. The Justice Nikki Tobi led commission submitted as part of its findings, ‘’The commission recommends that for his ignoble role during the September 2001 crises, which resulted in the loss of lives, the former Commissioner of Police, Plateau State Command, Alhaji M.D. Abubakar, be advised to retire from the Nigeria Police Force and in the event of his refusal to do so, he should be dismissed from the service.”
Suleiman Abba was for the better part of his stewardship, bending over backwards to accommodate the the presidency and then ruling party PDP. He showed this bias severally by withdrawing security aides to Aminu Tambuwal after the former Speaker of the House of Representatives switched his loyalties to the opposition party. And also when he failed to contain the reckless activities of Joseph Mbu, the controversial officer who took for himself, the powers to proscribe the activities of the #BBOG group.
It would seem that there is something fundamentally rotten at the core of the Police force that makes it impossible for genuinely decent persons to aspire to the peak of service. For almost two decades, the force leadership has merely been a clear reflection of what lies within. And what lies within is a snapshot of Nigerian society. The tolerance for infamy and zero regard for building strong institutions. As long as the presidency sees it fit to appoint malleable hands instead of thoroughbred professions with a taste for aggressive reforms, the force is likely to sustain the rot.
Ibrahim Kpotun Idris is merely the latest in a long line of officers who claim to secure the lives and properties of citizens, but pledge their allegiance first to the presidency that elevated them, and then to their selfish interests.
Nothing new to see.
Wilfred Okiche is a medic, reader, writer, journalist, culture critic, and occasional ruffler of feathers. One of the most influential critics working in the Nigerian culture space, his writing has appeared extensively in platforms like YNaija.com and 360nobs.com. Okiche has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and has had his work published in African Arguments, Africa is a Country and South Africa’s City Press. He has received trainings and acquired experience in multimedia and online journalism. He also appears on the culture television show, Africana Literati. He has participated at critic programs in Lagos, Durban and Rotterdam.