By Shina Philips

CRIME fighting in the modern world is fast changing and progressively evolving. The landscape of crime has so significantly changed that a paradigm shift in modern security arrangement is inevitable if the world must be kept safe and secured. The traditional line between local crimes and external aggression has become so considerably nebulous that an efficient internal security apparatus is dependent largely on an elaborate collaboration between the security agencies notably the police and the military. 

Joint operations of police and military personnel in intelligence gathering, anti-crime and counter-terrorism operations have become the hallmark of a new shift in paradigm in the world of security. While this is common knowledge to security experts, the ordinary Nigerian who can’t travel, work or sleep freely in recent times because of the threat of kidnappers, robbers, bandits and terrorists are solely looking up to the Nigeria Police to keep them safe.

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As an integral part of the nation’s internal security arrangement the commitment of the Nigeria Police Force to the security and unity of Nigeria has never been in doubt. As a public institution, every year, the Force loses gallant men and women in the line of duty; this notwithstanding, it has remained committed to the safety of Nigerians.

Unfortunately, Nigerians have continued to bash the Force because of the activities of a few bad eggs and an age-old stereotype which continue to becloud the massive transformations ongoing in the Force.  Fortunately, the Inspector-General of Police, Alkali Baba Usman, is turning the tide and a new Police Force is already emerging under our noses.

X-raying Nigeria’s Security Challenges: In the last two decades, Nigeria’s  six geopolitical zones have become swathes of varying forms and degrees of criminality triggered by an upsurge in the activities of an array of petty and oil thieves, pirates, cultists, kidnapping gangs, murderous ritualistic groups, cyber criminals, secessionists, militants, bandits and terrorists. The sheer number of these criminal gangs, their effrontery, the increasing sophistication of their operations, their use of top-grade military hardware and infiltration by influential trans-border extremists and ideologists have combined to stretch the nation’s security apparatus and unsettle the citizenry.

The Nigeria Police effectively curtailed the spread of cultism among youths in the Southern part of Nigeria. The killings and kidnappings which made the South-East unsafe a few months ago are gradually coming under security check as security forces are increasingly winning the battle against the ruthless Unknown Gunmen who have enforced a reign of terror in the region. There is much to achieve, but the success so far recorded is encouraging for citizens and investors.

The most serious threat to Nigeria’s internal security today is the activities of insurgents and terrorists ravaging the North-East and North-West. Experts believe there are close to 30,000  well-armed terrorists and bandits organised into roughly a 100 groups and very well-oiled with cash, extremist ideologies and possession of military-grade weapons and ammunition, including RPGs. These groups survive by attacking residents, organising kidnap 

and mass abduction of students, collecting taxes and levies from communities in exchange for protection from other bandit groups and carrying out raids on one another in a vicious competition for land, resources and dominance. Their stature and influence appear to grow largely as a result of their access to huge cash, seemingly inexhaustible cache of ammunition, mobile nature of their operations and their ability to thrive in ungoverned or under-governed spaces in the North.

Notwithstanding these security challenges, President Muhammadu Buhari will go down in history as one of the presidents whose administration has spent the most on military equipment in order to re-equip the nation’s military and make it formidable in modern warfare. The President has also approved an annual recruitment of at least 10, 000 new recruits into the Nigeria Police Force. However, Nigerians expect more!

A New Police Force is emerging

For me, the appointment of Alkali Baba Usman as Inspector General of Police in 2021 has turned out to be one of Mr. President’s most perfect decisions. IGP Alkali’s policy drive and strategies have shown him to be a man designed and built to lead the Force into a new era of policing in this generation. To close watchers of the police institution, the IGP has remained determined, goal-oriented and fully focused on his mission to make the Force more operationally strategic and more effective in policing activities.

Police officers are now more conscious of their interactions with the public because the dark days of police brutality and impunity are gone! The IGP has completely digitalized police recruitment through a transparent process which has been highly applauded. The training department, in line with the IGP’s vision successfully institutionalised the process, thereby removing unnecessary bottlenecks and barriers which often characterize the recruitment exercise in many of our institutions. 

Continuity is key: The appointment of a new IGP has always signalled a massive change in the top echelon of the Force. However, IGP Alkali Usman introduced several epoch-making innovations and retained a few necessary ones.   This expressly demonstrates his unique quality and sterling leadership style. His drive has always been to prepare the Police Force to face the challenges of a modern Nigeria. 

Training, retraining and capacity building: IGP Alkali Usman has approved several training sessions for officers in order to build their capacity to function in their roles and to fine-tune their skills to better function as professional police officers. The Conference and Retreat for Senior Police Officers, first organised in 2019 by Matchmakers Consult International, has grown to become an annual capacity building gathering for all senior officers from the rank of Commissioner of Police.

The last edition was held in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State. The IGP played a very active part both as a participant and as a Resource Person. In preparation for next year’s general elections, I understand the IGP has again approved the organisation of another edition in October 2022 to prepare senior officers for effective policing during the General Elections.

Effective policing at elections: Since assuming his role as Inspector General of Police, IGP Alkali has mustered the Force to police three off-cycle elections: Anambra, Ekiti and Osun elections. Characteristically, all three elections have been largely peaceful as a result of a change in policing strategy. Surprisingly, the IGP has achieved this almost effortlessly, thus giving Nigerians hope of a peaceful general elections in 2023.   

Rebuilding Police infrastructure and welfare: On assumption of office, the IGP had singled out the welfare of officers and improvement in education in the Force as a cardinal focus of his tenure. 

*Odunze, a public affairs analyst, wrote via: [email protected]

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