Of late, Nigeria has waded in tumultuous waters in terms of security, the protection of citizen’s lives and properties.
From the Niger Delta militants to the dreaded Boko Haram terrorists and now the rampaging Fulani herdsmen, there has always been a threat to the seam of national unity which appears to be stronger than our security forces.
In addition to the lack of trust Nigerians have in the government’s will to protect their lives and properties, the nation’s police officers have over the years further tainted the security institution by extorting, oppressing and trampling on the rights of the citizens they have so failed to protect.
The Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, who just clocked a full year in office, in an interview with Vanguard Newspaper, spoke on his dreams for the Police Force, the plans to eradicate corruption and other steps taken that might actually make the citizenry gain a mustard seed-sized faith in the police again.
Bearing in mind that faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains- even that of insecurity!
Policemen to undergo psychological and substance abuse test before receiving firearm
Following many instances of trigger happy police officers ready to shoot at innocent citizens over flimsy matters, the IGP says: “Initially, killing as a result of arms misuse was prevalent and the strategy we adopted was very simple. I said no Nigerian, including policemen, is immune to the criminal justice system; you kill in Nigeria, you go for it. That has been my approach and seven officers, since that pronouncement, are undergoing prosecution and the incidences have reduced but we did not stop there. I also talked about applying psychological test. I am sure you were all there when we launched the testing packs.
“Now, for medical doctors in each of the geo-political zones, I have directed they should move out so that once police officers are on parade and they want to go on duty; before we give them fire arms, we could do some snap checks which is supposed to act as a psychological prevention from what is going to happen because, if you know I am going to test you for the use of substance, the likelihood is you wouldn’t want to do that and, if we discover that you use it, then we wouldn’t give you fire arms and you face sanction.”
Nigerian policemen would soon migrate from carrying guns to using stun-guns
As part of the plans to curb the trigger happy police officers, the Solomon Arase revealed that “we are beginning to migrate from the use of fire arms for patrols in main cities to stun guns. We have ordered for some stun guns. Even the people we are going to recruit now (10, 000); the main training we are going to give to them will be especially in the use of stun guns.
“That is what is prevalent internationally and stun guns are very effective because they can incapacitate you temporarily without killing you. So we are also doing that but I think the incidences have reduced. They (policemen) know I will prosecute them if they try it (substance) and they don’t want to dare me because they know I love them too and I have also put things in place to guarantee their welfare.
“I have built them houses, I have given their children scholarship and I am telling them if they do any of those things they won’t be able to access those welfare policies I put in place. I will promote them too. So if I promote you, I give you houses plus retirement houses and I also take care of your children I expect that you should be able to say I have given you so much. So what is causing your emotional distress because sometimes most of these things are caused by emotional distress?”
Police is embracing intelligent policing to make life more comfortable for Nigerians
It would appear that our own police force is gradually departing from its old and archaic ways and embracing more technology as well as intelligence gathering based investigations to make life easier for Nigerians. This is how the IGP puts it: “Intelligence-led policing isn’t restricted to technology alone. It is also not restricted to investigation techniques. The minute you adopt a style of investigation where evidence is assembled before people are arrested, that is intelligence-led policing. You can also use intelligence in terms of technical platforms you put in place and I have put sufficient platforms in place; that is why I can tell Nigerians, you can do your clearance certificate online, you can do your tint permit online, fire arm permit online.
Police would stop dabbling into civil and commercial matters
Furthermore, the police boss said: “All these areas that I have identified used to cause Nigerians discomfort, I have automated them to make them seamless processes and those technologies are up and running. They are things that can’t be changed because they are institutionalized.
“We are also saying that, apart from intelligence policing, which will reduce pre-trial detention and also crowded awaiting trial prison cells, we can also teach them alternative dispute resolution. It isn’t every matter that is reported that a policeman is supposed to start taking statements; that is my own take. If the matter is civil, why can’t you mediate? If it is commercial, why can’t you arbitrate and let them go? You just restrict yourself to those criminal matters.”
Police is curbing corruption
The sight of a policeman demanding for monetary incentives from citizens would not be new to anyone who has spent up to 30 minutes on Nigerian soil. The scourge of policemen demanding for bribes in the discharge of some duty that the citizens do not know about has been entrenched into the Nigerian setting so much that it has now become normal to see commercial motorists stretching their hands out ‘tipping’ police officers at checkpoints. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the corruption that has enveloped the security institution.
The IGP revealed the plans undertaken by the force to curb the excessive behaviors of the officers across the country: “…I have deliberately put in place structures that will discourage corruption in the system. Removal of road blocks, the establishment of the Complaints Response Unit, establishment of ‘Stop The Bribes’, all these are platforms that I have put in place to discourage corruption because if officers know that if they collect money they can be reported to that platform and action will be taken against them; if they know that they can be reported on the Complaint Response Unit and action will be taken against them, then it discourages corruption.
“The roadblock was actually not a good crime prevention strategy; it was there and this is also an area where, to the public, as you know, was nauseating to see a law enforcement officer on the highway stretching his hand to a commercial bus driver and collecting money. A lot of people out there never believed that roadblocks could be away for one year. I think I have done my bit; it is left to Nigerians to interface with those platforms and also say ‘no you can’t intimidate us, we are Nigerians’, so it is a symbiotic relationship; the people have to key into it.”
The herdsmen situation will never degenerate into Boko Haram-type
As expected, the police boss spoke tough on the rampant killings accredited to Fulani herdsmen across the country. He however had a new angle to the killings as he theorized that the rampaging herdsmen might actually not be Fulani…or Nigerians at that.
“This challenge is situated against the backdrop of what is happening within the African region. When you look at the period that these things are happening, you look at the crisis in the Maghreb, then you look at the flow of arms across our borders, what is happening is better explained.
“Our indigenous herdsmen, who we have been living with for many years, are law abiding people; so why is it that we have the attacks now that there are crises in Mali, Libya, Chad and all these countries where proliferation of fire arms is more prevalent in the system?
“So we have to look at it against that background. If they have indigenous collaborators or something like that, it doesn’t mean it will get to the level of Boko Haram. We will continue to monitor them, we will continue to degrade them; we will continue to amputate them.”