Retired Commissioner of Police, Emmanuel Ojukwu, served as the police image maker at the Force headquarters, Abuja, under five Inspectors- General of Police. He has, no doubt, seen it all in the corridors of power in the force. He had worked in operations, administration and training sections of the force. All these placed him in a vantage position to understand the inner workings of the force. At present, he is a security consultant in psychological services as the Provost of the newly-created Police Public Relations School in Lafia. Nevertheless, he, undoubtedly, is one of the deeply aggrieved retired members of the force as a result of poor remuneration and what he called ‘inequity’ in the force.
However, he defended the force stoutly over the raging public condemnation and stated unequivocally, that the police should be given the tools to work with. He spoke with our Crime Editor, Emma Nnadozie.
What do you think went wrong with the Endsars Protest?
I will say the police lost control of one of its arms, SARS. The police arm was operating on their own whims and caprices; supervision was lacking. First, SARS was domiciled in many state commands, after a while, the police command took over, it became domiciled in Abuja, and because of Nigerian factor, people in headquarters always see themselves as superior to those in the state command. So, CP state commands couldn’t really control them, and before you knew it, they went out of hand, and it is said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Giving them high power under the law to deal with violent crises, and the culture of violence we have in Nigeria has become internalized in our system as a result of military rule, people no longer want to follow due process in anything. They want to take immediate action. Those that have little issues such as domestic, civil and other minor cases, did not want to follow the due process of the law, so, they began to invite members of SARS who were available.
So, the boys directed their acts into areas that police should not be involved and had to apply violence on Nigerians, and things came to a head, when members of the staff who where available in almost all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria, began to interfere in the lifestyles of Nigerians.
Those who had good phones became their targets; those who did not “dress well” became their targets, those with dreadlocks, tattered jeans with individual preferences in a free society were abused, attacked by them. They began to profile young men that have laptops, so having a laptop in society became an issue.
A good number of people were killed, they unleashed violence on people, and things got to ahead. And the young men who where the bulk of their victims rose and asked for accountability.
Why was it impossible for the police to control SARS?
Not that it was impossible, a good number of SARS officers who misbehaved, and against whom members of the public made reports, were apprehended and cautioned by the police. Some had corporal discipline meted on them; a good number were dismissed and some of them were prosecuted.
But, then again, I said the police lost control, because there were so many reports about the misconduct of SARS personal, mostly from social media. When the police dealt with those erring officers, they do not capitalize on the social media by showing, telling the people how those officers were disciplined, and it made the police lose control, because, in the situation where the police keeps silence, the more their misbehaviour.
The perpetrator will keep doing it with impunity, thinking that he has immunity. The police did not read the handwriting on the wall to review the issue of misconduct in the SARS.
Now that it has turned out really bad, do you think it is justified to say that Nigeria has lost confidence in the police?
It is to whom much has been given that much is expected. Nigerians should not lose confidence in their police, because, they have not treated the police the way they should treat them.
The police act we are using up to this moment, is the police act of 1948 given to us by the colonial masters, who tailored the police to suit their whims and caprices based on oppression, subjugation of Nigerians. That police act, does not emphasize human rights.
And we Nigerians, since independence, have never thought it fit to give our police the enabling environment and law to operate. So, it is wrong for you to condemn the police when you have not provided the police a law for which they will operate on.
Also, over the years, Nigerians have seen the police as an enemy. They see the police as worst of the public service and illiterates. Nigerians have forgotten over the years that police men are no more illiterates. I joined the police with a master’s degree in 1984, and twelve years before I joined the police, there were policemen who were well educated.
Nigerians must have an understanding that the police is their police, every policeman is a bonafide member of this country, were born in this country, they understand the system in Nigeria, and also have their rights.
So, the more Nigerians tell the police they are bad or not educated, they will want to prove that they are not, they do have the rights to protect their own esteem. You cannot lose confidence in a system that you have not invested in.
The treatment they give the Nigerian police is very poor. That in spite of the level of insecurity in the country, we still do not prioritise the security agency, which is the Nigerian police. So, you cannot loose confidence in the police , because, you have not provided them with necessary equipment to operate.
So, they now involve the military which should be involved in protecting the territorial integrity, to delve in security issues, and military are not trained to handle civil actions. Anywhere they enter, they must kill a human being. And that was what we saw in Lagos recently. The governor or whoever, had no business of bringing in the military into a civil issue, and you see the expensive damage they caused, because they were invited without following due process.
I saw one past Senate president one day on TV saying the problem of Nigeria is Nigerian police. You see how he put the blame on the police, the blame that is supposed to be on them.
Who wants to know that the police are under-funded, or those police retirees are not fended for? Police stations were burnt, policemen were killed and all sorts of violence was meted on the police during the protest, such things have never happened anywhere in the world. How do you expect them to perform without good funds and materials? I want to be quoted properly that, Nigeria has not been fair to Nigerian police.
Do you think the proliferation of units in the force is healthy?
In line with the operation of police, to create units, stations, formations to make the police face the duties of Nigerian police, which bother more on prevention of crime, arrest, detention and prosecution of criminals is not bad.
So, the IG is at liberty to create as many units as will help him to maintain internal security in Nigeria, because if internal security fails, he is to blame. There is no problem with units being created to solve problems
Where then lies the place of mobile police in the force?
The mobile police was created as the fighting force of the Nigeria police that will be between the military and police and and their name is Anti-riot- where they will quell a riot when the conventional police have not been able to do it, and when they fail to bring it into control, the police can now invite the military.
Why was the mobile police not used in the present circumstance?
I don’t know why the government did not deploy the police mobile force. But, I can guess; having regard to the cry of Nigerians to ENDSAR and Police brutality, the IG knew quite well he had to be careful in deploying the police mobile force, because, mobile force are not like the conventional police.
I do know that if they came before the protest began, they could have stopped the protest. And there could have been bloodshed and Nigerians would have cried even more, because for them to retain normalcy, they would have used approved means; smoke and fire.
If they had come immediately, it would have created more image problem for the police and reinforced the allegation that police was brutal. He resisted involving the mobile force as not to further fuel the raging fire. That was the dilemma of police.
What is your take on the much-touted police reform?
There have been three committees set up by successive governments in this country. I am aware of 2006, the German Army Commission of Enquiry gave us template of how police should be reformed.
The government accepted it, but what did the government do? Government was not sincere, and they kept the report in the shelves. After that, another government came under President YarAdua. He set up the Muhammed Yusuf committee, but the same thing happened. The government of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan came again and set up a panel, the panel gave their submission, but, nothing was done.
That trajectory shows that the government of Nigeria has not put their money where their mouth is. Because of the insincerity of government, they have created several units of security, just to remove the functions of the police.
This current government of Muhammed Buhari set up a committee to reform SARS. Human Rights commission also made their findings, but after that, government implemented nothing. It was during this current ENDARS protest that made them to go and open up that file.
The simple thing is this; police are not performing because of poor recruitment. The Nigeria factor always affect that: which is that Nigerian politicians always table their candidates to be recruited whether they qualify or not.
Over the years, the Nigeria politicians have bullied the Inspectors-General of Police to do what they want instead of what is proper; so much political interference. But, I must give kudos to the present government. Under their watch, we have the Police Trust Fund passed into law, training and retraining officers and now get top-notch equipment for the first time in this country.
How do you think the police can regain its lost grounds?
It lies on the police to do an internal appraisal on their operation, corruption, positions, and an appraisal analysis of their deployment.
The police need to do a rethinking, and open up even more and make the public understand her pains and hurts and lacks, and to seek help. The police also need to show or promote her strength and strong points and overcome her weaknesses.
The discord between Police Service Commission and police authority; what is your take?
It is quite unnecessary, but, it is going through reports now, which will be the final arbiter. But, I do know that there has been a good relation over the years between the police and the police service commission.
Both are creation of the Nigerian constitution, and both are peopled by Nigerians. I believe that the police service commission, knowing that it has not got the wherewithal to supervise the police force, have to show humility on their part to accommodate the police leadership in what they are doing. Every negative thing thrown against the police is not against the PSC, it is the police that wear the shoe and they need to dictate how this shoe will stop paining them.
Lastly, tell us about retired OJUKWU?
I joined the police in 1984 as Cadet assistant. I have served in over 26 states of Nigeria in the course of my duty. I have worked in operation, administration, training, I worked as a member of the Nigeria community policing n 2003 to 2008. In the course of that I had a better understanding of the headaches of the Nigerian police, in the course of studying police reforms.
I have also written books on the issue of policing. By the grace of God, I was able to be one of the commissioners of police in 2015, but, before then, I was Force PRO under five Inspectors –General of police. And serving under these IGs gave me further insight into the headaches of police leadership.
I have seen an IG weep over the problems of Nigerian police. I have seen an IG display temper, anger by throwing away his phone over persistent calls and disturbance from the National Assembly, and when the head is frustrated, the system is frustrated.
By God’s grace, I retired at age 60 in October 2016. I am happy I made it to the commissioner of police, which many of my course mates that started with me didn’t get to. But some got to AIG, two became IG. That shows you the disconnect and that there are issues in the Nigerian police. We have issues of inequity, injustice, imbalance and lots of frustrations.
Can you go into some of those issues?
I was the best in my set out of about 117, but, I didn’t get to the commissioner of police until I was about to retire. But, before I got to the AC, some of my course mates had become commissioners of police.
Now, that to me is inequity, because it is not justified. Nigerian factor came to play, and it will be foolhardy for people to expect to be happy in such a situation. Also, I am retired now and my pension is N73,000 monthly, having put in thirty-three years in service, having turned 60 years of age, and I joined the police as a graduate.
I have family to maintain. It is very frustrating, and so even the younger police officers are not finding it quite well. So, the police kill its best. Right now, I am a consultant on security of psychological services, because many policemen are hurting.