Tonye Princewill

March 9, 2012

Lamentations for the Police (2)

Lamentations for the  Police (2)

CAPTURING a criminal in 1987 is one thing. Dealing with what we have now, is quite another. While Lawrence Anini, the infamous armed robber, fell to the rules which Osayande had reformed, learned and mastered, reforming the entire Police and preparing it for 21st century realities will prove trickier and more tasking.

Here, in summary, are his tasks: (1) Identify obstacles to effective police performance and recommend solutions; (2) examine the scope, standards and adequacy of training; (3) explore ways to restore public confidence; (4) identify misfits and non-performers; and (5) make any other recommendations for improvement.

Not mentioned is the methodology, for instance. The holding of public hearings or some manner to facilitate public interaction is critical and would go a long way to item (3) above —although conspicuously absent, the panel could probably act on its own volition. This would carry the people along and increase political momentum for full implementation of the proposed reforms.

Osayande is well-suited for his stewardship role. He is a veteran of the reform trade, having served on three previous panels—the Committees of 1995, 2000 and 2008—and is Chairman of the P.S.C. In summary, he knows his way around.

Some critics note that under Osayande (who has chaired the Police Service Commission since 2008) Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, was frustrated, humiliated and driven into exile.

But no one can blame Osayande for Ribadu’s troubles—which obviously originated from political headwaters, much higher upstream, than the P.S.C. Chairman’s office. The Ribadu affair simply exemplifies the treacherous political domain in which reformers must operate.

There are prescient signs that the post-Osayande era may not be Police business as usual. Indeed, the build- up of momentum for change is palpable. Nigerians have just about had enough; and the powers-that-be seem to sense this.

The legislature is setting the pace. Late last year, for instance, the Senate repealed the Police Act of 1943, which sanctioned the current colonial structure, with its emphasis on coercion.

Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, Deputy Leader, from Cross River State, promises that the new legislation will usher in different policing concept and practices. A Nigeria Police Service will replace the Police Force.

Also, a Police Council, consisting of the 36 states Attorneys-General (instead of Governors) will be placed under the Minister of Police Affairs.

It is my hope that the executive will step to the plate and ask themselves what they can do better as well. How are police pensions treated? Is it right that police officers on training are forced to make their own accommodation arrangements and can bomb squad officers at least have bomb squad equipment?

Added to the legislative initiative is the surprising activism of Mohammed D. Abubakar, Acting Inspector General, who was accused of improprieties during the Jos crisis.

Labouring under public suspicion, Abubakar came out swinging—issuing a flurry of directives designed, as he put it, to “pass down the…transformation agenda of the New Police Administration” and provide a “stepping stone for the reforms that will follow”.

He has set up eight in-house committees covering everything from “Public Relations” and “Anti-Corruption” to “Housing” and the “De-Congestion of Police Cells”.

The Assistant Commissioners of Police, in charge of Command Operations and C.I.D. got unambiguous marching orders: (a) Release immediately all persons held without lawful justification; (b) detain no one over 24 hours, unless under the law; (c) disband all investigative and operational outfits, such as “squads,” teams,” etc.; and (d) dismantle intra-state and highway roadblocks, especially in Lagos, Edo and the South East.

“I look forward to a Police Force peopled by respectable officers and men,” Abubakar said, “dignified by…selfless service,…respected by the public they serve and deserving of their wages…”.

I know the Acting Inspector General is a Muslim. But I am sure he would not object, to an honorific “Amen!”