Home Opinion The IGP need not be a policeman

The IGP need not be a policeman

  By Owei Lakemfa
Nigerians are in their usual season of lamentation which follows the retirement or removal of an Inspector General of Police (IGP). Like a king  whose funeral requires human sacrifices, the exit of a Nigerian IGP also means the exit of the top echelon of the institution.
This occurs because traditionally, the President reaches  down the line of Assistant Inspectors General (AIG) to pick the Acting IGP and then the entire crop of Deputy Inspectors-General (DIGs) and AIGs senior to the chosen one are  compulsorily retired on the basis that discipline cannot be maintained if they are to work under their junior in service. This way, generations of highly  trained, experienced and usually, competent officers are prematurely retired. Since those sacrificed in this  periodic ritual will be leaving a vacuum, lower rank officers are quickly taken into an incubator and hatched to fill the DIG and AIG vacancies.
Solomon Ehigiator Arase, who was appointed IGP in April, 2015, retired this June and was replaced in acting capacity by AIG Ibrahim Kpotun Idris. With that, six DIGs and 21 AIGs – some of the brightest and best officers – senior to Idris were exited from the service.
So, to be elevated to the position of AIG or DIG  in Nigeria, has become both a thing of joy, and the sad reality, that almost all officers so elevated, no matter their age, brilliance or commitment, are on their way out. Therefore, the promotion  is both a career progression and a road to premature retirement. This was one of the fears when a young police officer, Nuhu Ribadu was airlifted by the Obasanjo administration from amongst his peers,  flown over his seniors and superiors and dropped amongst the AIGs in the country. In three years (February 2004 – April 2007), Ribadu was against Police guidelines, required training, constitutional provisions and good judgment, promoted four times; Assistant Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, Commissioner  of Police and AIG. That is a new promotion an average of every nine months. But for a change of government, he might have become the IGP and the largest tsunami in Nigerian Police history would have occurred as multiple generations of police officers would have been swept away.
But the  Yar’Adua administration on August 5, 2008 restored some sanity  by  demoting 140  very senior police officers including Ribadu who was demoted to a deputy commissioner. The Ribadu  case reinforced my belief that the appointment of the IGP which is political, should be by the Senate and  for a non-renewable four-year term.
The tenure is very important as IGPs can, and are sacked or retired at will leading to serious instability in the system. The country has had 18 indigenous IGPs, four of them; Etim Inyang, Ogbonna Okechukwu Onovo, Suleiman Aba and Solomon Arese  served for an average 14 months. Seven of them; Louis Edet, Adamu Suleiman, Sunday Adewusi, Sunday Ehindero, Mike Okiro, Hafiz Ringim and Mohammed Dikko Abubakar, served an average two years. Although he was barely two months in office as IGP when the Buhari administration came into office on May 29, 2015, Arase said he expected to be sacked any second. So he lived in daily trepidation that he would hear he has been sacked. How can an IGP give his best or plan ahead if he does not think he would survive the next 24 hours in office?
In other words, to be the Nigerian IGP, a DIG or AIG, is to be one leg out of the door. This lack of job security maybe responsible for some of these officers dabbling in political  matters and, to use a local slang ‘cornering resources’ to cushion their fall when thrown out of the service. The high turnover of these officers would also account for the huge army of retired police officers. So unwittingly, we have built an insecure  police  force led by vulnerable men and women, imbued with a sense of job insecurity, leading to some of them being attracted to corruption. Admittedly, this is also the  state of affairs in the Armed Forces.
However, part of the problem of the Nigeria Police, is that it is primarily, a force rather than a civil institution. Because it is the Nigeria Police Force, the institution is inclined to the use of force and military strategies, rather than civil policing. Given this chosen path, the police has lost focus and balance, and daily, labours to convince a skeptical populace that ‘the police is your friend’.
Modern policing is linked with  the ancient Greeks who called  it the Politeia meaning citizenship administration or civil polity. It was carried out by slaves who in Athens were known as the Scythian or rod bearers. Very much as they are known amongst the Yorubas as Olopa and the Hausas as Dansada  (those who weild the  baton). It was of course civil, but  where force was required, citizens were called to arms or the army used. The Romans adopted the Greek model calling the service the Politia. The French took it from there calling it the Police, the name that has become universally recognised.
A primary solution to our policing problems is to make it civil rather than a military outfit like the Americans, their gun culture and their Special Weapons Attack Team (SWAT). Making the Police civil will also weaken the  stiff opposition to local policing. Also to check the periodic sack of the police crème, we should adopt the system in our public service. The terminal level in the Civil Service is director. There are many directors, but the few who make it to be permanent secretaries, are political appointees and the fact that a junior director is so appointed, does not mean all the senior directors  are sacked, yet discipline in the system, is not compromised. Even if one of the permanent secretaries is made the Head of Service, it does not mean those senior in the service are compulsorily retired. An alternative to this is to appoint a retired judge  or conscientious Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) the IGP and make the  DIG, the terminal point. The primary duties of the Police are to preserve and enforce law and order, and protect life and property. The job of the IGP is basically to supervise the Police to carry out these functions. To do this, the IGP does not need to be a policeman just as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces does not  come from the military.

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