This year’s Eid-el-Kabir came at a time Nigerians, especially those living in the North, were at their wits’ end over incessant kidnappings. Less than ten-year-old Islamiya pupils from Tegina in Niger State are still with their bandit abductors, College of Forestry Students from Kaduna, too. These are more known because they are students. Hundreds are in the hands of kidnappers all over the North minus a few states. It is amid this national malaise that Muslims celebrated Sallah.
Kidnappers negotiate openly with relations, and friends of victims, collecting ransoms before their release. Sometimes, couriers of ransom get detained and fresh negotiations open. In other instances, females abducted get married off to their abductors. Sometimes abductors request airtime, foodstuff, and motorcycles before releasing abductees. People are concerned as day after day it becomes glaring that the hoodlums are running rings around our police.
It is amid this that the Emir of Muri in Taraba State, Alhaji Abbas Tafida, took the bull by the horns and threw down the gauntlet. He threatened bandits, seen majorly as the foreign Fulani Bororo, with death if they did not leave his forests in 30 days. Immediately after the Sallah prayer, he took the microphone and said: “Our brothers, the nomadic herdsmen (Bororo) from neighbouring countries, you came to us to allow you to stay in our forest. We allowed you because you are our brothers. When you came, we welcomed you. We regarded you as fellow Muslims. But the question you must answer is, are you Muslims?
“This is a question we are waiting for you to answer. We deserve to know if you are Muslims. If you are one of us (Muslims) and you decide to stay in the forest, only to kidnap us one by one for ransom, stop it because your attitude is not acceptable to Allah. But if you are not Muslims, I want to tell you, like we fought the infidels before, we are ready to fight you with all our strength. So I have given you (Bororo) 30 days to leave my emirate. If we see any of you after the expiration of my ultimatum, we will kill him.
“I am calling on my subjects to know that and be ready to fight or else I will draw the line. We kill him without asking him what he came to do or ask his name or where he comes from. If we are going to be all killed, let it be. If we will all die, let it be. We will not allow bastards to come and kidnap our wives, take them to the forest and rape them or commit adultery with them. In one village, we have the report of a District Head who is conniving with these criminals. The police arrested and granted him bail and the people are watching him. I think such a leader is not supposed to be living among us. Are you crazy to allow such a person to continue to live among you? Listen to me, henceforth any person who is found to be conniving with these criminals, we will kill his mother, and other siblings.
“For the police, we expect you to do your duty. If you arrest any kidnapper and set him free, we will not accept that. We will direct our armed youths to go after the kidnappers. There is no way we cannot be free in our homes; and worse, we cannot sleep with our two eyes closed. I am calling on Ardos (leaders of Fulani) to stop these barbaric acts in my emirate because you all know who is carrying out these criminal activities. I want to reiterate that any kidnapper that is set free by the security will not be spared. All those responsible for maintaining peace in my domain should come together to end the menace or we know what to do. Peace be upon you.”
The emirate of Muri is known for its gallantry, having been founded in 1817 as a Fulbe Jihad state. It was briefly a de facto French protectorate between 1892 and 1893, under Governor Louis Mizon. It wound up as a province of the British Protectorate in 1901. Muri has produced emirs that do not mince words; they spoke their minds without fear. This trait was a subject of national discourse when, on August 12, 1986, Alhaji Umaru Abba Tukur, its powerful emir, was dethroned by Colonel Yohanna Madaki, the military governor of Gongola State. He became too strong for the Colonel to handle.
Ultimately, this thought of the emir is what may inform the actions of Nigerians as more public influencers think of mobilising the people to take their fate into their hands.
Talking about security issues and the police makes me sad over the travails of Deputy Commissioner of Police Abba Kyari. The man has posted significant achievements, cracking high-profile cases and bringing notorious criminals to justice. It is a pity if such a personality crashes ignominiously at the zenith of his career. He was flying beyond the skies with a future twinkling brightly, like the stars far above the sky.
Looking deeply and beyond Kyari, is there a reason a police officer trained and paid to arrest criminals will hobnob with them instead of remaining their nemesis? One may say lack of motivation, lack of proper training or absence of the weaponry/equipment or a result of being overstretched because of inadequate numbers.
In an interview with the Weekly Trust of 16 October 2010, a former Inspector General of Police, the late Gambo Jimeta said: “I think I’m qualified to talk about the development of the police force since independence because these are the exact years I have been in the force. The police force I joined fifty years ago was a highly trained and motivated one. We were very proud of our profession and we had a lot of support from the public who felt that we were there for them, to help them.
“We were well equipped; we had vehicles, laboratory equipment and we had everything that it took to run a modern police force. Unfortunately, since independence, we have been put along the line of what they call competing demands from other services in Nigeria. This has downgraded us and has brought us to where we are today, almost at a standstill.”
While we expect the police to risk their lives for us, yet they lack enough weapons and many criminals are better armed than them. Most police officers are treated shabbily, earning peanut salaries and can barely afford to feed themselves, not to talk of taking care of their dependents. A good number are homeless, with many squatting in slums. In such situations, the faint-hearted will cheaply compromise.
Even though 10,000 constables are to be recruited, the population of the Nigeria Police is less than 400,000. The United Nations (UN) standard for the police-to-population ratio is one police officer for every four hundred and fifty citizens. With the ever-growing population of over two hundred million Nigerians, according to the worldometer and about three hundred and seventy-one thousand, eight hundred (371,800) police officers, according to the Nigeria Police Force, the present police-to-population ratio in Nigeria is one police officer to five hundred and forty (540) citizens. Perhaps that’s why in 2017, the former Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, said that Nigeria needs to recruit 30,000 police personnel annually for five years to meet UN recommendations.
Even at that, the Police Service Commission in a report published by The Guardian stated that as of 2018, over 150,000 police officers were attached to VIPs and unauthorised persons in the country. Translated differently, every police officer attached to one VIP is denying at least 450 Nigerians access to police security and, by extension, the safety of lives and property across the country. This may be a conservative figure as despite the alarming rate of robberies, kidnappings, insurgencies, a then Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG), Zone 5 in Benin, Rasheed Akintunde said that over 80% of police officers are attached to either private business owners, multinational companies, corporate organisations and government officials while the remaining 20% are attached to their actual civic duties.
However, the number may not be the issue as the late IGP Jimeta, in that interview, said that: “A more equipped and civilised environment will require fewer police officers than the sort of situation we have now. The vast unplanned country and poverty-stricken and ill-motivated police force we have cannot do much. A well-equipped police officer will do a job that ten cops would do. One police horse for crowd control will do the job of fifty police officers. You see what I mean. So, the strength of the force is irrelevant to its capacity to perform its duty. It is not about the number, it is about skills and equipment available.”
According to some sources, the average amount paid per police officer attached to a VIP monthly is N75,000 with an initial documentation fee paid to the commission ranging between N250,000 and N1,000,000.
That means N11.25 billion is potentially generated every month from attaching 150,000 police officers to VIPs. In a year, at least N135 billion would have accrued to the Nigeria Police Force, which is about thirty-seven percent of the total budget allocation to the Force in 2019.
This amount, according to some experts, could pay the annual salary of over 132,000 new police constables, at an average salary of N85,000 per month. It can buy for the police 885 Robinson R44 Raven II helicopters, meaning that each of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory can own at least 24 helicopters each.
That money can buy over six thousand Toyota Hilux 2018, providing at least 165 police Hilux vehicles for each of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. It can also buy over one million, four hundred and seventy-five thousand (1,475,409) police bulletproof vests at N91,500 each.
But where is this money?