SOLOMON ARASE: NIGERIA'S NEW CHIEF OF POLICE
In Solomon Ehigiator Arase, the Nigerian people may have found a dependable square peg to head the Nigeria Police, after a decade and a half of a routine game of musical chairs in Louis Edet House, Abuja.
His sudden elevation from second in line in the police hierarchy as head of the Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department took the nation by surprise on Tuesday 21 April. The news sent tongues wagging in every direction about the possible cause for the sacking of his predecessor, the tough-talking, no-nonsense Suleiman Abba. In the same breath, Arase's promotion to Number One Cop in Nigeria raised delicate questions all over about the implications of his rather surprising and unusual appointment.
Announced by a lame duck Jonathan administration with barely five weeks to the end of its tenure, the appointment had the semblances of a proverbial Greek gift; wrapped in suspicion and reeking of intrigue. What was the imperative for the sacking of Abba? Was the president –elect in the know about the appointment of a new police boss? Will Arase last beyond May 29 as the 18th inspector general of police in the turbulent political history of Africa's most populous nation?
The grand posturing of Nigeria's ever contentious media analysts notwithstanding, the unravelling of this puzzle lies in the womb of time alone. Abba is gone, Arase is here-or as the rank and file may have it- “IG done go, IG done come.”
Solomon Arase joined the Nigeria Police in 1981, much to the dismay of his mother, the late Madam Mercy Igie-Arase, a school teacher who believed that academics offered a brighter future for her very brilliant son, than a career safeguarding the public peace and protecting the lives and property of citizens. It did not take long to convince her that “Solo” was embarked on a journey to self actualisation and national acclaim when, as part of the Nigeria Police contingent to the United Nations Mission in Namibia, he received a special award for meritorious service.
Typical of most police officers' career path, Mr Arase has multi-departmental experience across various arms of the force including operations, investigation, administration and intelligence. Rising through the ladder from the superintendent cadre to divisional police officer and so on, Arase excelled amongst his peers via a painstaking devotion to duty that showcased his brilliant mind and marked him for several taxing assignments such as secretary of both the Failed Bank Inquiry of the nineties and the Presidential Committee on Nigerian Police Reform (2006). A member of Nigerian Police Committee on review of the Nigerian Constitution/Police Act, the new inspector general is a repository of Nigeria Police history and development since the auspicious merger of the Northern and Southern police jurisdictions in 1930.
In the wide sweep of two decades, IGP Solomon Arase arrested into his academic kitty, masters degrees in public administration, law and strategic studies. As a lawyer, his specialty is in corporate management and financial law. In the years from 2002 through 2008, Arase was the principal staff officer to three different inspectors general of police: Tafa Balogun, Sunday Ehindero and Mike Okiro, a record in the annals of the Force.
A stint of study followed at the Defence College, Abuja, from where he garnered the tag of fdc that decorates his name and official photographs. Before then, of course, he had exhibited an abiding passion for research and academic writing through co-editing of the landmark publication, Policing Nigeria in the 21st Century. Postings as commissioner of police at the Lagos State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti (2008), and the commissioner of police, Akwa Ibom State (2011), followed the passing out ceremonies of the Nigerian Defence College.
By this time, the worrisome criminality of kidnapping and abductions for ransom had become a national disgrace. Speaking about this development at the time, Arase told journalists in Akwa Ibom that it was “imperative for the police to develop effective pro-active strategies and evolve vital partnerships needed to guarantee peace and security within the ambits of due process and human rights statutes.”
Accordingly, he had introduced in Akwa Ibom State, “more-proactive anti-crime strategies that are premised on the principles of 'Community Policing', 'Intelligence-Led Policing' and 'Zero Tolerance' Policing.”
“Due process and human rights” form the corner pegs of Arase's peculiar disposition to policing Nigeria. At Panti, he enforced extant professional standards to reduce the pre-trial detention period of suspects in the command. This remarkable improvement in the human rights record at Panti came via “the restriction of power to approve detention to only the DC and AC in the SCID.”
Consequently, between November 2009 and June 2010, a total of 18,849 defendants were arraigned in 78 Magistrate's Courts across Lagos State, of which, only 2,675 defendants were remanded in Prison custody pending trial.
Expounding on this at a November, 2012 FCID workshop in Abuja, Arase- now an assistant inspector general declared, “The implication of this is that in cases that fell within the prosecutorial profile of the Police, reasonable efforts were applied in ensuring that defendants were promptly processed through trial in Lagos State by the police or released on bail.”
This, he revealed, was one of the strategies he adopted in policing Akwa Ibom State. “In furtherance to this, each division and area command compiled a compendium capturing the trend of crime, and profiling offenders. Crime mapping was also introduced in all police divisions.”
The entire package dovetailed to a philosophy of “intelligence-led policing,” to which Arase has been much devoted since the turn of the decade. In line with the recommendations of the Police Reforms, the Force Intelligence Bureau came into being as a complimentary arm of the Force Criminal Investigations Department and Arase moved from Uyo to Abuja as its first director.
The Force Intelligence Bureau is focused on gathering and analysing intelligence for the use of the police and sister security agencies. Speaking about this to the 7th Distinguished Lecture/ Symposium of University of Calabar Graduate School in April, 2013, Arase disclosed as follows:
“Intelligence-led policing aids in the identification of patterns of crime, identification of possible threats, profiling of criminal targets, and prompt deployment of security resources as a proactive action to diffuse such threats before it snowballs into major internal security challenges. It also aids in the judicious utilisation and prioritisation of police resources towards crime prevention and operational planning while engendering efficient crime prevention and reduction outcomes. The application of Intelligence-led policing strategies discourages abuse of powers of arrest and pre-trial detention. This is to the extent that police actions that usually account for pre-trial detentions would have been initiated and possibly completed through the application of intelligence practices before the arrest of key suspects.”
After its belated but salutary appearance on the Nigeria crime watch scene, the FIB- under the inspiring leadership of its pioneer director- embarked on a robust engagement with stake holders to prove its mettle and raise its profile as an indispensable force in the unfolding security challenges facing the nation. These efforts, says Arase, “ have been vital to the counterterrorism campaign of the Federal Government and the Force Intelligence Bureau has indeed, on a number of occasions received formal letters of commendation for generating processing and promptly disseminating intelligence that influenced major counterterrorism operations”.
At a February 2014 international seminar on the Imperatives of the Observance of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Norms in Internal Security Operations, Arase called for the full development of the capacity of law enforcement agencies “to identify indicators of future threats to internal security early enough and deal with such within the dictates of criminal law before they snowball into major national security challenge that will require the deployment of the state's cohesive powers.”
Under Arase, the FIB established the Force Intelligence Institute in 2013 to upgrade its capacity training of strategic intelligence managers. Furthermore, the Bureau established the Police Intelligence School in Enugu in March 2013, for the training of mid-level and junior-level operatives.
By December of the same year, nearly 1000 information collectors made up of junior and mid-level field officers including operatives from sister agencies like the army, air force, navy, customs, immigration, and prisons had been trained at the Intelligence School.
Says Arase: “The vision of incorporating operatives from sister security agencies is a strategic initiative aimed at 'breaking the wall' and engendering inter-agency trust which will in the long-run encourage intelligence dissemination between all security agencies concerned with internal security management in Nigeria.”
The above is a partial profile of the man who now heads the Nigeria Police Force, Africa's largest law enforcement agency; who in August 2014 rose to the rank of deputy inspector general, following the retirement of IGP Ibrahim Mohammad, and elevation thereafter of AIG Suleiman Abba to the office of inspector general.
***Pita Okute, winner of the 2012 Tuscany Prize for Fiction is co- editor with Solomon Arase of Policing Nigeria in the 21st Century, Spectrum 2006