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POLICE AGULU CONFERENCE:  Ikponmwen, ex-Army chief fires at IGP

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IGP Abubakar Adamu

…Army should stop usurping   Police duties

…Says NPF should forget image laundering, tackle capacity of men, equipment

FORMER Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier-General Don Idada Ikponmwen (retd.),  has lashed out at  the Inspector General of Police, IGP,  over his declaration   that  ”laundering” or “re-branding” the image of the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, would make it efficient, saying the police boss shockingly underestimated the problem at hand.

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Reacting to IGP’s comment at the recent Police Public Relations Officers (PPROs) Conference at Agulu, Anambra State, thus, ‘It is the realization of the bad image of the NPF that informed the decision of my administration to embark on image laundering activities to re position the Nigeria Police force.’

And IGP’s further remarks through his representative, Assistant Inpector General of Police, AIG, Baba Tijani, to wit, ‘Unarguably, certain indiscretion and perceived inaction by some personnel of the force as well as the security challenges in some parts of the country impact negatively on the image of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF).’  As well as his charge to the PPROs, ‘I urge the NPF image makers to do everything humanly possible to correct the situation.’

The retired army officer officer and attorney said the IGP’s comprehension of the meaning of laundering was faulty, as it means false presentation and whitewashing, positing. “The IGP should, therefore, discard the idea of “laundering the image of NPF altogether, because it portrays negative meaning to the public. Indeed no amount of re-branding would be sufficient to transform the NPF as it is today into a worthy asset for efficient national security management.”

He stated, “The approach of ‘laundering’ as a measure for correcting the anomalies in the NPF must be jettisoned because no amount of re-laundering will solve the core issues militating against the efficiency of the Force. Our view is that the questions of orientation, training, equipment, motivation, patriotism, manpower and adequate funding being very crucial should have been mentioned in the important Agulu Conference.”

Besides other suggestions on how the Police would get out of the present conundrum, he said the authorities should stop encouraging the usurpation of police role by the military, especially the army.

Little kudos

His words: “The first point I consider necessary to make on the IGP’s submission is that the IGP deserves commendation of Nigerians for publicly acknowledging the poor image of the force although the fact that the police have a bad image is actually a matter of common knowledge. The police boss deserves commendation because many a leader in Nigeria, today, would rather want everyone to believe that all is well with the organization under their control or purview.”

“This attitude of covering-up typical of governments and many leaders in our polity accounts for why the institutional problems of our government establishments, including the Police continue to defile solution. Therefore, this public admission of the IGP goes a long way to show that the IGP is a humble and courageous leader desirous of making a meaningful change in the NPF.

“The IGP harped seriously on why he embarked on image–laundering as a means of getting the PPROs to be more efficient within the overall security apparatus of Nigeria. I perceived the IGP driving the point that an improved public-presentation of the NPF as it is today would seriously improve the worrisome NPF image and by implication the security situation in Nigeria. For sure, no one can fault any attempt of the IGP to improve the image of the NPF under his watch,” he asserted.

The real problem

However, Ikponmwen opposed the police boss, saying, “I beg to differ that this assumption that the improvement of NPF image by hook and crook would improve the worth of the police security situation in Nigeria cannot be true. Thus, that assumption is tantamount to over-simplification, under-rating and downsizing of the nature and enormity of the NPF challenges.”

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“A casual reference to Wikipedia, or any dictionary for that matter, would reveal that the word “launder” means false presentation, white washing or superficial clean-up of the object in question, which objects in the present circumstance, is the NPF itself rather than the PPRO.

“The real subject of concern to the IGP and indeed to all Nigerians is not the image, but the way the NPF really and practically is, and not how they are made to look, or portrayed by Police authorities or Government of the day. It is compelling to make this point because, like we all know, a good material sells itself and hardly needs any advertisement.

“Let me put it succinctly that no one can package a bad or unmarketable stuff. Even if Government or NPF succeeds in such futile exercise, it would only be short-lived because fraudulent misrepresentation and deceit can only be short-lived. It, therefore, means that the marketer would eventually earn a bad name for deceiving the populace.

“ On this note, therefore, it must be clearly stated here that no matter how well the IGP pushes the issue of  ‘laundering’ or  ‘re-branding’, the fact remains that he would achieve nothing without first putting in place a credible and efficient Force, worth the re-branding,” he added.

What Nigerians want?

According to him, “Nigerians and the world at large are interested in seeing the NPF become a veritable law enforcement agency visibly capable of maintaining law and order throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Nationals and foreigners alike want law and order maintained and guaranteed from minute to minute, day to day and indeed around the clock.”

“The only way to winning the confidence of people is to have a police force properly executing its constitutional / legal duties with maximum proficiency and expertise. In other words, no such injunction as ‘doing whatever is humanly possible’ from IGP or any government functionary for that matter, would provide remedy to the NPF security lapses unless the real issue of capacity and capability of the NPF to discharge her lawful duties professionally and efficiently is first addressed. That is the required image making,” he asserted

Indiscretion/Inaction

Ikponmwen continued: “Now to the issue of ‘indiscretion’ and ‘perceived inaction’ by some personnel of the force vis-a-viz the security challenges in some parts of the country as asserted by the IGP. What appears to come out of the IGP’s statement in this respect is that the security situation in North Eastern Nigeria is traceable to mere indiscretion and mere inaction and that these are the causes of the bad image of the force.”

“It must, therefore, be pointedly stated, firstly, that it is not only in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria that the dangerous phenomenon of insecurity is prevalent. It is a nation-wide-phenomenon. Secondly and more specifically, let me add that the words ‘indiscretion’ and ‘inaction’ as dangerous threat to security in Nigeria is not peculiar to the North Eastern part of Nigeria alone. Thirdly, the poor image of the Police pre-dated the current waves of insecurity as witnessed in the North East and other parts of the country.

“Furthermore, the word indiscretion and perceived inaction tend to over simplify or whittle-down the real enormity of the lapses in the NPF operations. Without doubt, the reference to perceived inaction in the context of IGP’s address gives the impression that these ‘inactions’ are not actually real in the conception of the IGP. I believe that there is a wide gap between duty and discretion and this is so because, whereas discretion is a matter of choice, which is hardly sanctionable, a breach of duty is clearly reprehensible and punishable.

“In other words, these fluid uses of words like discretion and perceived inaction tend to show that the IGP failed to acknowledge the harm that failure to act properly by police personnel constitutes more serious problem in the law enforcement duties of the NPF than indiscretion and perceived inaction. It is unarguable that wrongful actions by men of the NPF have not received enough attention of the IGP.

“This aspect of the IGP’s statement, therefore, tends to water down the danger that wrongful actions and conducts, including different forms of criminality occasioned to the NPF and the Nigeria Polity at large. No one can pretend that members of the public are not aware that several culpable actions of the NPF personnel contributed seriously to doing damage to police operation and image.

“For example, is it not common knowledge that many dubious persons, including some foreigners have some senior police officers on their regular pay-role? Does anybody need proof of the fact that some senior police officers expect and indeed do get returns from the men they deployed to roadblocks and other assignments? Is it not an open secret that some bad police officers trade weapons and ammunition for money, thus aiding robberies, kidnapping etc? Have some police officers not been found practically involved in robbery and kidnapping? He said.

Willful culpable actions

The ex-army chief asserted, “Other culpable actions within the police organization that are within public knowledge include extortion of money from drivers, motorists, traders as well as prevalent embezzlement of funds meant for police operations, unwarranted and unjustifiable arrest along with criminal demand for bail-money. List of other condemnable actions include purchase of posting and deployments as well as politically motivated deployment of personnel, which is as prevalent in the NPF as it is in some other agencies of government.  I think these are more serious issues than indiscretions and perceived inaction that appear to be of more concern in the IGP’s declaration at Agulu.”

“Perhaps, the venue of PPRO Conference may not have been the best or only avenue for the IGP to express his approach to lasting solution to the problem caused by his men by their culpable actions and reprehensible conduct, which in fact is more serious problem of the NPF.

“One would have , therefore, expected that an IGP, frank and courageous enough to admit publicly that the NPF has bad image, to  the extra mile to harp on some major issues mitigating the efficiency of this important outfit under his watch. This is an issue, which would have been more crucial to the matter of attaining the required level of security in our country,” he said.

Vital areas of challenges

He stated, “Nigerians, without any iota of doubt, require an NPF that is highly professional, highly disciplined and highly motivated. Without these ingredients, our police cannot be trusted for delivery of the efficient service they owe Nigeria, which is maintenance of law and order as well as security of lives and properties which is central to their existence.”

He urged the government and NPF top brasses to address the question of proper re-orientation, stating, “It seems to me that the colonial mentality at inception, which informed the name of ‘Nigeria Police’ rather than ‘Nigerian Police’, is still holding sway. Some well-meaning senior police officers serving and retired have said so in the past in clear terms.

“The Police in Nigeria was established as a police to safeguard the interest of His Imperial Majesty’s government and his colonial administrators with emphasis on suppressing/repressing any local agitators or disobedience. Today, the orientation is practically the same with the general public belief that the NPF exists for the benefit of government, government officials and their privileged friends,” he added.

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Way out

His opinion: “We must start the re-orientation of the NPF with changing the name to Nigerian Police; that is how the idea and psychology of a police for the people would emerge and eventually take root. The NPF must know that the police exist for the safety of every Nigerian as well as every resident of Nigeria.”

“To my mind, there can be no argument about the relevance of this subject of nationalist feeling among the personnel of the NPF as a pre-requisite for an efficient Force. Most Nigerians today have no sentimental/emotional attachment to the idea of Nigeria as our country. Many are unable to perceive clearly, what the country is doing or ready to do for them. It may be recalled that J.F Kennedy, Former President of the United State of America (USA) said, ‘Think not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country’

“Great as that idea sounds; I think that level of reasoning is too advanced for the average Nigerian as at today. The ordinary Nigerian does not believe that the country would do anything to save him/her. This is more reason governments at all levels must concentrate on ensuring that effort is geared towards building confidence in our people by letting them know that this country is there for everyone without exception.

“Thus, the NPF and indeed all security or law enforcement personnel must exude and bubble with this feeling of patriotism and loyalty as one of the major pre-requisites for a committed and devoted NPF. Every police officer must be assured that there would be life even after death; not just for himself/herself but also for his beloved ones after his/her death.

“Nigeria must be ready and able to quickly come to the aid of anyone who stands in danger of life or serious threat to property. For us in Nigeria, at least for now, loyalty of government/leaders must beget the loyalty of the citizenry. Starting this way, the laudable idea of J.F Kennedy would gradually evolve.

Training

The next point of relevance to the topic of re-positioning the NPF is the issue of training. The NPF personnel must be proficient in general police duties and yet ensure the availability of those that are well- groomed in areas of relevant specialties; the catchwords must be training and re-training all the time. There are areas that are of general nature for all police officers and areas of specialty like investigation,  which itself has further specialties like surveillance, forensic, hand-writing, interrogation etc. Such experts should be available in good number at all levels of Police commands in order to achieve desirable levels of expertise commensurate with modern day policing. No Police Organization can ignore the imperative of continuous training, within its regular members. This issue must therefore be of serious concern, which the police boss must pursue.

Adequate strength/manpower

“Nigeria is operating a police force that is well below the UN standard scales of one policeman to 400 citizens. The former IGP, Ibrahim Idris, in 2016, said the NPF needed to recruit 155,000 persons into the NPF for this country of 182 million people to get anywhere near this global standard. There is no evidence that the work force situation of the NPF has improved in any significant manner ever since. The ongoing effort of the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is therefore commendable and deserves follow-up and proper implementation by the IGP. Nigerians need the assurance that this is been done.

Equipping the Force

“Along with the issues of manpower and training, mention must be made of the outright danger of inadequacy of the NPF equipment. Today, most police stations cannot boast of adequate supply of stationery; not to talk about other important police hardware; the police task complainants to provide fund for same as prerequisite for addressing complainant’s problems; same for vehicle and other items seriously needed by the force. The NPF must, therefore, be properly equipped and funded and the equipment and funds put to proper use. The budget of N409 billion in the proposed 2020 Budget for NPF may well be inadequate, but the IGP must press the relevant organs of government for adequate funding of the NPF.

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Remuneration

“The need for high level of motivation which combines with other attributes for boosting morale (fighting/working spirit) in the NPF cannot be over emphasized. They must be paid a salary that can sustain them because a hungry police officer, beset with home problem of which he has no way of addressing, is a danger to the society. Beyond pay/allowance, authorities should cater for a police officer in the event of death on active service.

“Similarly, even those disengaged from service must be seen to live a standard of life not seriously below what he attained on active service and this must be reflected even in the pension payment of disengaged Police Rank and File. Here again, the President Buhari recent effort at addressing the emoluments of the NPF and other para-military services must be commended even as the IGP is also expected to keep up the pressure.

Good police administration

“The assurance of good administration is a sine-qua-non for the morale of policemen. The NPF needs to be well- administered in every sense of the word. Good administration includes proper dispensation of justice and fair play. There must be punishment for deserving offenders and reward for good police officers in fair and proper manner, but not at the expense of proper justice. In this connection, IGP should know when some interests deny interdicted personnel removed from service on some allegations their rights to return when their cases are eventually resolved in their favour by the courts. Such cases need the careful attention of the IGP and government for more reasons than one because it will point to good administration and aid morale,” he said.

NPF legal/Constitutional role

Ikponmwen maintained, “The role of the NPF as the main organ of law enforcement in Nigeria as entrenched in the constitution and existing laws must be upheld. Defense Operatives must not unnecessarily be made to take over the duties of police for no justifiable reason as their role is properly stipulated in section 218 of the constitution as well as in the Police Act.”

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“We must,  therefore,  note that the idea of government and leadership at all levels encouraging near-total usurpation of police role by the Armed Forces does not encourage the NPF to know and improve on their jobs and that such practices demystify and distract the military and diminishes the esteem of the NPF, which atmosphere cannot promote efficiency in the NPF.

“This anomaly which has prevailed even before the return to civil administration in Nigeria (1999) has gotten worse with successive democratic regimes since 1999; different democratic administrations have continued to rely on military force to sustain some of their illegalities and illegitimacy to the knowledge of the public,” he said.

Written by Vanguard, Crime guard department

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