Arase and his dream Police Force
However, talking tough alone would not do the magic as the culture of deploying for cash is long ingrained in the system and would be very difficult to dislodge. A new orientation must, therefore, be imbibed by all officers and men to synchronise with the desire of the present administration for a decent, orderly society with no room for impunity.
It remains an open secret that over the years, the police service has been having a running battle with some of its personnel, giving the Force the image of a corrupt institution in which anything goes. Indeed, some senior police officers who ought to lead by example have also been a corrupting influence on the young ones, assigning them to untenable duties for pecuniary gains.
Now, Arase is targeting punishment for those officers in the cadre of divisional unit heads (DPOs) and other members of the senior cadre who engage in illegal posting of juniors. Moreover, he has cautioned policemen against abandoning duty posts at night because he observed that most of them disappear from duty about midnight. That is a very serious indictment of his men and it says a lot on recurring public complaints about laxity on the part of those who are paid to secure lives and property and why criminals might have been having a field day.
Officers who should make the rounds and ensure their men are on duty, the IG noted during a parley with officers and men of the FCT Command, Abuja, “go to sleep” and leave duty men on their own, mindless of the security implications for citizens. Arase has spoken but Nigerians wait for that day a DPO or Area Commander would, if and when he is caught, be severely sanctioned for deploying policemen illegally to unauthorised persons as he had threatened.
The IGP may even not need to wait to catch an officer because such illegal deployments are all too evident with policemen running after all manner of politicians, businessmen, even religious leaders now, of course for a fee as pre-arranged by superior officers. Worse still, wives of some of these persons also have policemen at their beck and call. This, to say the least, is a disgrace to the police uniform which is a symbol of the nation.
Ridiculously also some policemen fix private security jobs for themselves, working as escorts for goods in trucks belonging to businessmen or importers, all for degrading fees. What greater debasement of a nation’s ethos can there be?
It is not an excuse but the truth is that most policemen find themselves in dire economic straits arising from delayed payments of salaries or outright denial of entitlements by those who are privileged to be handling their allowances and incentives. Thus, they have become susceptible to all temptations. A former police chief was convicted of mismanaging billions of naira of the Force’s money and does not augur well for the image of the institution. Arase must avoid such pitfalls.
The police chief also touched on a sore fixture in the service: collecting bribe from motorists and other members of the public, a shameless act which he said “makes them look like beggars receiving alms…tips which do not translate into any tangible amount.” Daily collections on the roads (before the order dismantling checkpoints), of course, do translate to something tangible at the end of the day for the officers who indulge in it but at a huge cost to the image of the police and at a huge risk to members of the public whose safety is thus compromised.
It is instructive that illegal detention also attracted his comments. His advice to officers to “engage in arbitration and mediation instead of detaining individuals and demanding for surety for bail” sounds right. Bail, the police claim, is free but from all indication it is a good source of making money for an average policeman.
However, Arase’s reformist words are noted but he should follow up his plan for changes with decisive action. He has done well with the return of Safer Highways to which men have been deployed, splitting the SARS into two major units of operations and investigation instead of the previous arrangement whereby same officers cover both. He should do more and his moves should go beyond verbal directives. Monitoring and enforcement are crucial to success.
Incidentally, a couple of days ago, the House of Representatives took up the issue of inadequate policing and urged the government to ensure massive recruitment to enhance capacity as well as adequate welfare packages for officers. By the statistics provided, current carrying capacity is 370,000 police men to 170 million Nigerians.
This is an abysmal ratio for effective policing – grossly inadequate compared to United Nations’ recommendation of 222 officers and men to 100,000 citizens. Good enough, President Buhari has also ordered the recruitment of 10,000 officers on merit. But the matter of incentives to officers and men cannot be over-emphasised if citizens would get the best on civil security.
Nigerians are tired of institutional failures engendered by leadership inadequacy. If Arase makes a success of his assignment and avoids his predecessors’ failures with similarly promised reforms, history will have a rich chapter on him. Now he is still writing his own testimonial and he should keep his focus on that possible chapter in history.