By Kingsley Omonobi, Abuja
The Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Abubakar Ringim is usually unyielding. He has been adjudged as a no- nonsense officer who spares no blushes when he wants to act, especially on issues concerning corruption or the operations of the Nigeria Police that would bring about fairness and justice.
In Police circles, Ringim is feared as someone you cannot approach to do a bidding other than that of the general interest or welfare of the greater police force. His sojourn in the force which has seen him serving in almost all the critical operational departments of the force, and all the geo_political zones of the country, had prepared him for the position of IGP.
Little wonder he struck what is now referred to as the ‘master stroke’ of the elections when barely days to the commencement of the 2011 general elections and amidst fears from far and near that the Nigeria Police force which is the lead security agency for the elections, would be the outfit used to scuttle a free, credible and successful polls, through rigging, snatching of ballot boxes, intimidation, thumb printing and smuggling of already counted ballot papers; by redeploying all the Commissioners of police of the 36 states and Abuja, 48 hours to the polls.
There were also speculations that Ringim may be the ring leader of a larger plot by the Peoples Democratic Party, to ensure that the 2011 general elections were won ‘hook or crook’ following fears that the zoning debacle that pitched the Adamu Ciroma Committee against the Jonathan camp and the sudden rise of the support base of CPC Presidential Candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, could spell doom for President Jonathan.
Aside shouting over the rooftop repeatedly that he would ensure the organization of the best and credible election this country has ever had on the side of the police, which many took with a pinch of salt, the IG ensured that no stone was left unturned in making this a reality.
For the first time in the history of elections in Nigeria, no policeman was fingered for electoral offences. Politicians could not break through the tough barriers put in place by Ringim and this has to do with factors including the fact that all policemen and officers, about 370, 000 of them across the country, got paid uniform allowances without any one being left out or shortchanged, resulting in high morale for the performance of their duties.
Notwithstanding the case of Commissioners of Police whose redeployment were effected even after the IGP came face to face with the greatest pressure of his life, from Governors of the 36 states and Ministers who, of course, were mostly nominated by these governors, not to redeploy their CP’s, the IG went ahead to redeploy the Squadron Commanders of the Mobile Police and Anti_Terrorists Squadrons that are the officers charged with movement, safety and protection of voting and other sensitive election materials.
To many of the Governors, this was like putting ‘a clog in their wheel of progress’ and they countered it even up to presidency level but President Jonathan backed the IG’s strategy and it eventually worked wonders.
Another important aspect of the strategy of the IG was the decision to train and re-train about 140, 000 policemen of the rank and file on the correct and proper conduct of these officers during the elections. Following government’s decision to train policemen for the elections, proposals were made to train senior officers on the grounds that they would be the supervisors of the men, and of course, allowances would be paid.
But the IGP, knowing where past problems of police complicity lies, instructed that the training should be for the rank and file since they are the ones that will be at the thousands of polling booths scattered across the country, mingling with the people and controlling crowd. They were particularly taught how to be civil and courteous. At the end of the day, it paid off handsomely as these policemen and the voters worked in harmony.
During the week, the crusade of the IGP towards empowering the Police fighting capabilities, and eradicating corruption and corrupt tendencies took a new twist when he embarked on a whistle blowing trip to Lagos, Ekiti and Akwa Ibom states where he launched 6 Gunboats for the Marine Police in Lagos, 25 Patrol Pickups fitted with communication gadgets in Ekiti and take over of the Police Secondary School built by the Akwa Ibom state government at Ukana Essien Udim LGA.
Addressing officers and men of the Akwa Ibom State Command and indeed officers of the Zone 6 Command comprising Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers states, Ringim reeled out what seemed like a sermon by lecturing them on the new police force being put in place, which Nigerians were looking forward with excitement to having. “I have received reports of some policemen and officers getting involved in and instigating issues on account of ethnicity with the primary aim of causing religious, sectarian and ethnic cleavages. I want you to know that we are one, indivisible Police force, because as soon as we involve our selves in ethnic, religious and other unpatriotic distractions, we would derail”, he said.
Recalling that all other security agencies like the SSS, Nigeria Customs, the Immigration Service, EFCC, the NDLEA, the Federal Road Safety, NSCDC etc, came out of the Nigeria Police Force, Ringim said, “We are the grand parents of these security agencies in this country but we gave room for it to happen because of acts like this.
“So, I want us (policemen) to adhere strictly to the plans and letters of our founding fathers, that there should be one Nigeria Police force. We must not allow sentiments to becloud either our actions or judgment in whatever we do.
“There are still acts of misconduct, corruption and misdemeanor but the federal government and the Police hierarchy can no longer condone these acts. We are not saying the Nigeria Police is the only corrupt organization or the only one with corrupt personnel. But we will continue to cleanse ourselves so that the society will have confidence in us.
“Using myself as an example, I stopped the practice whereby AIG’s and Commissioners of Police who attend security meetings, flock to my house after such meetings because I feel we must be guided by good conduct”.
Continuing, Ringim who stated he was not preaching because he is not a Pastor or an Imam said, “Some of our personnel have lost their lives because we as policemen, are not ready to stand by our colleagues especially when there is confrontation with men of the underworld. We should strive to be good professionals.
“Another sore area is the aspect of lobbying for position or postings. This is very detrimental to the smooth operations of the force. We have seen many officers who lobbied for posting to death or ended up in trouble. Imagine a DSP went to the extent of paying a Babalawo to kill the IGP and his colleague simply because he wanted to become an ADC to a Governor. What is the guarantee that if he succeeds, he would be appointed ADC.
“Government is very concerned about the casualty of policemen because any day newspaper reports that our men are killed, it bothers Mr. President. I am more concerned because we are reckless, careless and we don’t pay attention to details
“A situation whereby a Policeman at a check point will see a truck coming and he stays on the road waving the driver to stop is dangerous and is archaic policing. Even if you are after N100 or N1000, if the truck has no break and you get knocked down, will that N1000 bring your life or your broken legs back?
Also the case of shooting at moving vehicles and killing innocent passengers or motorists simply because they refused to stop must seize. For whatever reason, you are killing innocent people. The usual excuse is that you are firing at the tires. What has the tires done to you? Please henceforth, don’t fire at moving vehicles.
“How do you know that the moving vehicle you shot at is carrying a criminal? Even nursing mothers have been killed in such instances. Is that what you were trained as Police officers to do? Worse of all is that most times, the supervising Inspector attached to these checkpoints, would be somewhere else enjoying himself while the men under him are molesting motorists.
“ The most important thing we are fighting now is removal of the NPF from the Pension Scheme”, he stated.