Nigerians, I plead your indulgence to engage ourselves in a dispassionate discussion as insightful patriots! None of us can really say a nation such as Nigeria would have known peace without a law enforcement security agency like the Nigerian Police Force (NPF).
Some of us acknowledge their positive roles in securing lives and properties. But out of judgments induced by prejudice, some of us have restrained ourselves from endorsing the positive perspectives in the performance of the Nigerian Police in maintaining public law and order. We forget easily that sometimes, cops do it at great risk to their lives and ultimately pay the supreme price; death.
We deliberately fail to appreciate them and prefer to cast aspersions and dark shadows on the Police, as good only as agents of Lucifer. These are the braggarts who dismiss the police casually, as “after all, they are paid with tax payers money.” But it means much more than this unfounded self-delusion. Who else in public service is not paid with taxpayers’ money in Nigeria?
But in spite of this cynicism about the NPF, anytime the NPF contemplate a strike, as frequently done by other professionals, including medical doctors, a traumatic coldness grips the nation. The phobia of a possible escalation of violent crimes keep many Nigerians indoors, once a strike is mumbled by the Police.
We have gracefully multiplied crimes in our communities which confer additional duty on the Police to resolve. Nigeria is constantly on the boil. Yet, we are not prodded to look at what it takes for the Police to effectively serve and protect us.
Unfortunately, we isolate and single out the police for assorted chastisements and outright blanket condemnations. We pour out poisonous venoms on their integrity, morale and spirit in the performance of their duties, instead of appreciation.
Of recent, reports publicized by two institutions- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) really almost drenched my heart. Both chronicled NPF as the most corrupt public institution in Nigeria. None mentioned statistics of high profile crimes the NPF has combated under the incumbent Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris Kpotum in the last one year.
That the NPF is not saintly is immutable and a fact known to me. But I still doubt whether it is the most corrupt in Nigeria. I saw the reports as glaringly attempts to diminish the crime-fighting efforts of the Police, by projecting more its presumed ugly side. It is crime fighting back, as those who cannot influence any Police leadership dubiously, as obtainable now, tend to castigate more.
But with the multiplicity and complicity crimes have hovered on Nigeria, IGP Kpotum’s reforms in the NPF has presented a police force that is alive to its responsibilities; disciplined and courageous personnel, with eyes fixated on integrity in consonance with the “change mantra”of the President Muhammadu Buhari regime.
We cannot continue to make the Police the weeping child of Nigeria. It is unconscionable, extremely uncharitable and unpatriotic. They deserved to be encouraged to excel by appreciating the efforts they are making to reform themselves in character and performance to spur them to do more.
As Africans and Nigerians, it is our belief that a child who manifests weakness at any stage of his advancement is encouraged and assisted by the parents to overcome such setbacks. We cannot have the Police of our desire if we continue to ridicule the reformatory efforts of a crack Police Officer, like IGP Ibrahim Kpotum Idris who has devoted time and energy to rebrand the Police in combating crime in our country. Even where such changes are observed, we prefer to stick to the negative profiling of the Police which has become part of us.
I am not a staunch Buhari advocate. But I do not believe the appointment of IGP Idris by President Buhari to superintend on the administration of the Police was just to fill the vacuum. The President was also knowledgeable about the rot and the decay in the NPF and the choice of Kpotum was informed by his impeccable records of service and competencies to salvage a security agency despised and disparaged to the point of losing public confidence.
IGP Ibrahim K Idris made it clear from the outset in interactions with various segments of the Nigerian community that the NPF under his watch would be administered on the tenets of best international practices, implanting a culture of integrity, transparency, accountability, the rule of law; as he maintains an eagle eye on corrupt practices. And that officers shall be compelled to abide by the stipulations of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) by declaring their assets, as an integral part of the reform of transparency.
I will not subscribe to the easy-going theory in the market place by some Nigerians that all leaders are the same. IGP Kpotum’s 10-year stint at the United Nation’s, (UN) Mission in Liberia and East Timor sufficiently exposed him to best practices of international policing. So, he could not have been merely excited to make empty promises. This can further be consummated on the verifiability of his integrity, earning him a Medal of Merit by the President of the Republic of East Timor in recognition of his meritorious service.
We find it much easier to say the Police Force is corrupt and, its implied meaning that they have also compromised crime fighting. Such disposition is way out of the way. This mindset does not allow us sight the healing process prevailing in the Police at the moment under the Inspector General of Police.
And in his nearly two years on the saddle, IGP Idris has enforced penetrative reforms in the NPF. He has been able to curb the age-long practice of drafting Mobile Police officers to protect politicians generally categorized as Very Important Persons (VIPs). It enabled him retain their training and expertise in combating violent crimes, communal clashes, ethno-religious upheavals and the array of public security disorders.
The IGP has also initiated an insidious spy squad to trail and expose erring and corrupt police officers for appropriate sanctions. And for the first time, the NPF is not shielding its corrupt or erring officers who act as cogs in its determination to battle crimes of all dimensions.
Citing far-fetched instances of the changes the reforms of Kpotum has done to the Police may sound like distant echoes. But from our almost every day experience with the present crop of police, unbiased minds can attest that Idris has been able to tame the tide of endless detention of suspects for days and weeks, without formal charge to court for trial. Officers in any Police station are usually jittery to detain suspects beyond the stipulated 24 hours without charging them to court or granting bail.
At the risk of flattery of the Police, today, we have a Police Force that has set its own internal disciplinary and punitive mechanisms against any officer who traduces the new creed of conduct as proclaimed by IGP Idris. Just recently, a Police officer in the famed case of the University of Port Harcourt suspected ritualist in Police custody, who escaped was arrested by the police itself and arraigned in court for official negligence.
Scores of Police men and women have suffered such fate under Idris . And the point must not be missed that no nation or institution is immune from defaulting elements and deviants, but the capacity to administer punishment deters others. So, many police officers have been sacked, demoted or dismissed from the NPF for misconduct.
Nigerians are aware how kidnapping for ransom had become a lucrative business among criminal and wayward youths in the country. Not long ago, the Police under IGP Kpotum napped the suspected billionaire kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, (aka Evans) who has an amazing network and terrorized Nigerians for years. With his arrest, the tempo of high profile kidnappings has lowered in the country.
We are today talking about brave cops, who no longer look back, but confront dreary armed robbers in action. The armed robbery incident on Zenith Bank in Owerri Imo State, which killed two police officers readily comes to mind. They had the option of abandoning their arms and ammunitions and scurrying for safety, but they patriotically executed the duty of defending Nigerians unto their graves. Nigerians are unanimous in describing these slain cops as brave and they are heroes even in death.
Until we unveil our caged senses to see beyond our peculiar fogginess, we shall continue to unfairly belittle the Police and by the break of dawn, we shall only discover to our national shame that we have security agents garbed in official uniforms, but very unwilling to protect us, because of our expressed ingratitude to their sacrifices.
By Philip Agbese
Agbese, a public affairs commentator and researcher writes from the United Kingdom.