By Evelyn Usman
Upon assumption of office as the 18th indigenous Inspector -General of Police, on April 22, 2015, Mr Solomon Ehijiator Arase, came up with a six- point strategic policy designed for what the police would be now and in future. Going by his intimidating resume and experience, Crime Guard decided to put the performance of the scholar of police history on scale , with a view to ascertaining whether his words were matching with action.
Monday, February 22, 2016, was exactly ten months Arase came into the exalted office of the number one policeman in Nigeria . It would therefore not be out of place to use the template of his strategic policing plan to analyse the extent to which Arase and his management team have gone in the journey towards realigning the Nigeria Police Force to citizen’s expectations.
Anti- Corruption Drive
Corruption which is identified as the most critical factor holding the Nigeria Police Force back from the path of quality and professional service delivery has been one of the main challenges bedeviling the force . For instance, practices such as payment for bail even when it is clearly stated on the bail bond that bail is free, as well as the brazen extortion of commercial bus drivers by policemen in the full glare of the populace , have dented the image of what ought to be a revered force. Many IGPs have had plans of curbing this shameless act to no avail.
Crime Guard investigation however revealed that this act is being frontally tackled by the current Force Management, with the adoption of a three-pronged approach. First was to target and ameliorate the root causes of official corruption by introducing a number of welfare programmes. Second, was to strengthen and make efficient, all anti-corruption enforcement modalities, with the aim of identifying, isolating and firmly imposing discipline on any officer linked with acts of corruption , in order to act as deterrence to others. Third, was the involvement of the social media to involve the citizens in the monitoring and accountability process.
51 policemen dismissed
Interestedly , this strategy seems to have made head way , as statistics at Saturday Vanguard’s disposal showed that 51 policemen were dismissed from the Nigeria Police between May and November 2015 , over proven corrupt practices while 56 others awarded various punishments which included demotion.
These practices are still ongoing in some police divisions and commands across the country . However , in his determination to bring it to the barest minimal, Arase has charged his Monitoring Unit, X-Squad and the Provost Marshal to sustain the enforcement drive, while the Policy of holding Commissioners of Police, Area Commanders and Divisional Police Officers vicariously liable for such distasteful professional misconduct is still being reinforced.
Although road block was disbanded by former Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, four years ago, it was Arase who is trying to enforce the directive with Safer High Way Motorized Patrol Teams. Saturday Vanguard gathered that between May 18, 2015 when the initiative was formally launched and 30th November, 2015, over 600 patrol vehicles were procured and deployed under the Phase I and Phase II of the Scheme, with over 2,400 specially trained and well-equipped patrol officers deployed to the Scheme.
In additional, Saturday Vanguard gathered that a welfare system has been emplaced for all personnel of this special national patrol outfit.
Complaint Response Unit
The establishment of the Complaints Response Unit,CRU can be described as a positive and landmark initiative by the IGP , as it encourages citizens to monitor Policemen as well hold them accountable for their actions and inactions. Complaint on policemen conducts are sent. The CRU unit is monitored by policemen at the Force headquarters , Abuja and personally supervised by Arase. At the last count, Saturday Vanguard discovered that close to two thousand complaints were received from members of the public on its online platform; www.stopthebribe.com. . This platform has no doubt been an efficient mechanism for deterring some policemen from corrupt practices as well as for investigating erring officers, while communicating feedbacks to the complainants.
Poor welfare scheme for policemen has strongly been blamed for the corruption in the Police force. Since assumption, a total of 35,429 Rank and File policemen who had been stagnating on their ranks for several years, across all commands , have been promoted by the IGP and his management team,with the support of the Police Service Commission. A breakdown of this figure showed that 456 Police Constables were promoted to Corporals, 28,530 Corporals were promoted to the rank of Sergeant ,while 6,443 Sergeants were promoted to the rank of Inspector.
This figure according to Arase in a recent briefing, included personnel who have consistently risked their lives and courageously confronted insurgents in the North East.
In addition, over 5, 184 Traffic wardens said to have remained demotivated and agitated for years due to rank stagnation have also been promoted,while 995 senior officers from the ranks of Assistant Superintendent of Police,ASP to DIG also benefited from the promotion.
NPF Educational Scholarship Foundation
In addition to further improve the welfare scheme of policemen , the IGP launched the NPF Educational Scholarship Foundation on Wednesday, December 16, 2016 at the Force headquarters Abuja. The Scholarship he explained , was envisioned as an official intervention scheme that could support the attainment of the educational desires of children of junior cadre Officers while also reducing the temptation to engage in corrupt practices propelled by negative urge to meet the financial requirements for the provision of quality education for their children.
Three hundred and twenty five (325) children received scholarships that memorable day for education from Primary School to University level.
Housing Welfare Project
Also, several housing projects have reportedly been undertaken by the present Force leadership to provide low cost houses for policemen . To achieve this, the Police in partnership with the NPF Mortgage Bank are reportedly helping officers acquire soft loans to purchase these houses. The NPF Property Development Company was also recently established to oversee the development of Police housing projects. At the moment, Saturday vanguard learned that the UN Habitat Shelter Afrique, an International company, is building 25,000 houses in different States of the country, while the Police Housing Project has kicked off with one hundred (100) units of houses to be built in Enugu, Katsina and Edo States with 50 units in Adamawa State.
Human Rights/Intelligence -Led Policing
Aside corruption, the abuse of Police powers has been a major issue facing the Force. Instances of extra-judicial killings, accidental discharges which have sent innocent and harmless Nigerians to unprepared graves and illegal undue detention have become a recurring decimal.
In addressing this challenge, Arase has introduced a human right- driven, intelligence-led policing.
This approach as explained by him , “is designed to prevent custodial violence occasioned by the practice whereby arrest and detention of citizens are effected before evidence are adduced. Under the new orientation, evidence-gathering precedes arrest. This approach places a maximum premium on non-custodial investigation and guarantees that arrested suspects are charged to court as quickly as possible.
Lamenting recently that he inherited a Force that had often been accused by members of the public of extra-judicial killings, Arase attributed the resort to lethal weapons as a first line of response by the Police, as a major contributing factor. Consequently, in line with his vow that ‘no Nigerian citizen will suffer any injustice on account of my actions or inactions ’, he informed that the Force was currently in the process of migrating from the use of lethal weapons to electro-muscular disruption technology (Taser/Stun Guns).
If this is achieved, it will be seen as a revolutionary and unprecedented initiative in the history of policing in Nigeria which in the long run will effectively reduce fatalities associated with Police actions.
In what could be described as a move to equipping the Nigeria Police with the use of technology in relation to crime detection and prevention, Arase announced the use of the state of the art vehicles which equipped with modern technology to provide forensic support at scene of crimes. These vehicles he said, had been provided to Police Commands in every State of the federation and are currently being utilized.
But on whether Nigerians have begun to feel the impact of these equipment remains unclear. From the foregoing, Arase may be proud of his efforts so far. However, the challenges of the police force are still enormous and Nigerians appreciate the fact that the problems of the force cannot be solved overnight. Arase appears on course.