*Blames Boko Haram on intelligence failure, *Corruption in police deep but not unstoppable
By Kingsley Omonobi, Abuja
Since his assumption of office as the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mr. Hafiz Abubakar Ringim, has been working round the clock to change the face of the force for more effectiveness and reliability.
The issue of corruption, he says, is the root cause of the ineffectiveness of the police and is one area he intends to address. Then, there are the issues of the 2011 elections and the Boko Haram crisis. He spoke with Sunday Vanguard on his strategies to tackle these challenges.
As the IG, how do you intend to confront corruption in the police?
The corruption index shows that Nigeria’s position has gone down four places, not just one, instead of going up but I sincerely believe that this is a collective responsibility. As Nigerians, we must put our hands on deck to address this cankerworm.
I will address the issue of corruption in the police, I am not dodging it. Since I became IG, I have seen a lot of things here. I personally have been approached many times by people, contractors, ordinary people, civil servants, people who ordinarily should have nothing to do with contracts, they come here and said ‘IG, we want to help you, we want you to buy this,’ useless, worthless equipment, that has no bearing with the police.
People have come, problematic payments that have been in court, for so many years ago, they want me to pay.
‘Cut it into two, take half and give us half,’ and this is government money. A contractor will come and he wants to invite you to Europe and America to see the equipment that you don’t need. Sometimes, he has not even tendered for anything but he wants to take you on an excursion to go and see because he thinks it is by taking you to Europe and America that he can impress you, he will pay your hotel bill, he will give you some money, that is how you will now come back and say the man qualifies, when he is not.
Since I came here, I have seen people coming here boldly to sit down and tell me, ‘IG, look, this is my voucher, 20 per cent is yours if you approve it.’ I will go back to another matter, auctioning of my vehicles. When I say my, I mean police vehicles, police exhibits. Auctioneers will send people to tell me, ‘IG, I have reserved this number of vehicles for you.’
What is the meaning of that? It is my vehicles. If I want it, I will take it. If you qualify, I will give you. If you don’t qualify, I don’t need to give you. Now, if you go down to the issue of N20 which is the basic sin that our boys are alleged to be collecting, and they are indeed, sometimes collecting it, but I say it takes two to tango. If there is no giver, there will be no taker. Check what I did in Abia, you will be surprised.
I have done my best to ensure that this cankerworm, particularly the one on the highway, is squarely addressed. Long distance drivers, short distance drivers, taxi drivers, lorry drivers, we have personally made efforts to give them our numbers. I personally have given them my numbers, and at every point police stopped them for no just cause, they have called me and I intervened.
That is to show good intention. But, there is no way I and my team can resolve this issue without you the journalists, the general public, and the police cooperation. The reform committee sought to address the issue of corruption in the police by trying to bring back the policy of the X-Squad. We have brought back the X-Squad and we are appointing assistant commissioners of police to be in charge of the six geo-political zones. We are going to fund them; we are going to provide them with the necessary logistics support.
But, all that will not address the issue of corruption. Every Nigerian makes that pledge that corruption will have no place with us here. Now, the police that I joined was the envy of many people. As a young policeman, I had arrested lawyers, judges, magistrates and company executives on the issue of corruption.
But now, you don’t see anything like that. It is very unfortunate. Now, to go back to your question, I have called for a meeting of all assistant commissioners of police in charge of State’s Criminal Investigation Departments and assistant police commissioners in charge of operations. Because, basically, corruption in the police goes around the Criminal Investigation Department and that of operations in the state commands.
I am going to have a meeting with them.
We intend to alert them of the current situation that has completely debased the Nigerian police. Someone called me the other day and said: ‘the military is now escorting officials with bank currency.’ I told him ‘yes, why will they not do so when you are not doing your job?’
I am convinced that the police definitely needs the current leadership that we are providing. We have good intentions, we are resolved and undeterred. We are not tainted, we are determined and we have the backing of the Federal Government, as well as the government White Paper to reform the Nigeria police. If you see what we are trying to do in the Mobile Police, it is all to address corruption.
My last address was to the squadron commanders, who I told clearly that they are corrupt. Most of them paid to be made squadron commanders and most of them paid to be made unit commanders and most of them paid even to be mobilised into PMF. During my time, there is not going to be anything like that, I assure you.
We will be open, we will be receptive and we will be listening. Wherever there is need for us to make a change, we will definitely do that. I want to assure you, we are determined, we know there is corruption in the service and we are determined to change it.
You just mentioned Abia State. Now kidnapping is a major problem in the country, particularly in the South-East. With your experience there and your position as IG now, what should Nigerians expect from you in tackling the menace?
Now, you will agree with me that this situation got to this level over a long time. It is very, very unfortunate that the police, as an institution, have been allowed to decay for a long time. We would systematically address the situation. It is not going to be easy. It is going to take a long time but we urge people to be patient with us.
We have good intentions; we have the wherewithal now because government has provided us the necessary funds. We have the necessary manpower and we have the determination. If you go to Abia and the South-East states, in particular, it is corruption that has brought this kind of situation.
If the leadership of the police in some of these places were up and doing, were functional, and were indeed, doing what they were supposed to do, if they were supervising the men under them, we will not be in the situation we found ourselves today. That is the reason we are looking at every sector of the police. We will soon finish with the reform in the Mobile. I am on my way to addressing the cankerworm in the CID.
We are going to redeploy most of them. By next week, we shall beam our searchlight on the CID and those that we find to have overstayed their usefulness, those that have not been able to bring about the necessary change, we will change them.
There is this controversy concerning the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps. We like to know, did you at any time call for the scrapping of NSCDC? Second, there is the issue of the Peace Corps. We thought government has ordered its scrapping. But they are still functioning. What is their status?
The Nigeria Police is an establishment of the Nigerian Constitution. Its duties, responsibilities and general mandate are clearly spelt out in the constitution and the constitution says there is only one Nigeria Police.
The Civil Defence Corps, on the other hand, is an establishment, with due respect, of the National Assembly, an Act of the National Assembly. Now, we observed that the establishment of the Civil Defence Corps is gradually conflicting with the establishment of the Nigeria Police. So, we raised a memo to government: one, to look at the establishment of the Nigeria Police as well as the establishment of the Civil Defence Corps and make sure that the mandate does not conflict with each other or overlap one another.
Two, we addressed this issue by advising government that the establishment of the Civil Defence Corps is an unnecessary strain on the budget of the Federal Government. We asked government to look into this. But, at no time, to answer your question, did I ask for the scrapping of the Civil Defence Corps. I said in London that this is journalistic mischief.
I never addressed the press on this. I am feeling embarrassed that this matter was discussed in the chambers of the vice-president, in council. There was no journalist. I wonder how this matter came out and became a public issue.
On the issue of the Peace Corps, government has scrapped it and they went to court, not only the Peace Corps, many of such mushroom outfits. They went to court, I believe in the rule of law, and the court has agreed at a time but they appealed and they are on that. We will see what the court’s final judgment will be.
On Boko Haram, there is the belief that many of the members are from neighbouring countries like Chad , Niger.
They are killing policemen, soldiers, etc, and this is causing sleepless nights. How can this be stopped?
About Boko Haram, seven, eight years ago, when we had a lot of armed robbery in the North-East, people were saying they were Chadians, Nigeriens. I was the commissioner of police for four years in Yola. We never arrested one foreign national participating in these robberies.
While not completely saying there are no foreigners involved in Boko Haram, these are largely our people. The issue of total collapse of intelligence in this country, particularly in the Nigeria Police, to my mind, is the bane of Boko Haram.
It is a shame that two years after the first attack and the killing of the leader of the Boko Haram, nobody knows where the Boko Haram is based, nobody knows the sponsors of the Boko Haram, nobody knows the leaders of the Boko Haram, nobody even knows the source of the arms and ammunition of the Boko Haram. But within the last two months, we have started making an inroad. We have reinvigorated the intelligence machinery of the Nigeria Police.
And, indeed, I am in the process of overhauling the intelligence outfit of the Nigeria Police because it is unfortunate that two years after this incident, nobody has information about these people. What I will assure the public is that sooner or later, we shall get to the bottom of this matter because it is a source of embarrassment to me personally.
2011 is fast approaching. How prepared are the police for the elections because there are over 150, 000 polling booths and if the elections must be free and fair, and if ballot box snatching, thuggrey must be stopped, the police and other security agencies must be prepared?
I want to assure you that the police force has done its necessary research even before I came on board, made necessary submission to the President and he has approved every request of the Nigeria Police. In fact, I have received over 70 per cent of the funding.
The necessary allowances and logistical requirements have been approved by Mr. President. This shows that the government is serious about the elections. Now, the police force, on its part, has trained over 10,000 policemen to be deployed for the elections. The United Nations, the British government, the US government, even the Japanese government have approached me to train manpower for the elections.
Everybody, they are all coming forward to help train manpower for the big event called 2011 elections. And, not only that, today, as you might have seen on my programme, I have called all the ‘AC Ops” in the federation. We are deliberating on the issue of general elections. This is to prepare them and to prepare their minds for the big event.
To go back to the reform in the Mobile Force, that is the reason we are sifting the chaff from the grain in PMF so that we will have sufficient manpower for the elections. And I want to assure the nation that the police will be in every of the 774 local government areas, in every polling station and every unit that will be established for the purpose of the elections.
On it also, we have other sister law enforcement agencies. The military will be deployed for essential duty, non-election duties.
The Civil Defence Corps, the Federal Road Safety Corps, the Customs, the Immigrations will be there, the Fire Brigade will be there. They will all come to lend support to the Nigeria Police.
By the end of the year when we will have finished with the primaries of the parties, we will begin to invite those law enforcement agencies for seminars towards harmonization of efforts for the elections.