Herdsmen killings: Blame foreigners — IGP Arase
Inspector General of Police, Solomon Ehigiator Arase, just marked one year in office. In this interview to mark the occasion, he speaks on policing. Arase also shares his perspectives on the herdsmen's attacks in parts of the country, among other issues.
You recently organized a workshop on strategic policing for senior officers. What was it about?
What we did was the routine Annual Inspector General of Police Conference. What we have been doing over the years is having Commissioners' Conference where the IG will just talk to them and review events and patterns of crimes in their various commands. We believe that was not yielding results and we wanted a paradigm shift. The paradigm shift was that we should be able to identify tangential/current issues that are topical that we can interrogate, and that is why we came up with the custodial violence issue which has to do with accidental discharge and we also talked about succession planning.
As an organization, we are supposed to be engaged in succession planning. There must be a way where you share your vision and your aspiration with your officers; how you find a way of accessing their mental competence and readiness to assuming high responsibilities in the system. We just felt that we should bring in people who have done these things before. One of the speakers was supposed to be Garry. Garry was the head of police in Chicago where he had demonstrations that lasted for a considerable period of time which led to his resignation. So, we wanted him to actually share his experience with our officers on the dangers of abuse of police powers and professional use of firearms in trying to connect with members of the society.
What did you achieve during the Strategic Planning conference?
Most leaders at strategic level tend to intimidate subordinates and govern by fear; that is putting fear in them, and, unconsciously, we make them timid. We don't make them to open up. I don't want to adopt that management style. I don't want anybody to fear me. I want my colleagues to respect me for my professional intellectual depth. I want them to also imbibe that concept that you don't have to be tyrannical. What you need to do is to give them an avenue to open up to you, to be themselves. Once you do that, you will get the best from them.
What did you mean when you spoke about knowledge gap in the management cadre of the police at the Strategic Planning conference?
There are three levels in the Nigeria Police. We have tactical level which is the rank and file; we have the operational level (the Divisional Police Officers) and the strategic level which is from the Assistant Commissioner of Police and above. You will agree with me that if you are not knowledgeable, you cannot deliver.
There is a gap. Therefore, an organization must take a look at itself, look at the future crop of people who are going to be Assistant Commissioners of Police (ACP), Deputy Commissioners of Police (DCP), AIG and IG. They must deliberately start training them from the rank of the ACP, because that is where you are going to choose the managers of the force from. They are already managers. At that level, if the guys are not strong in terms of their professional calling; if they are not deep in terms of intellectualism, you cannot give what you don't have. You can only reach the height you want to reach if you know something.
Succession plan and geo-opolitical balancing/ federal character by the Police Service Commission, what is your take on them, especially as regards appointing the next IGP?
If you have one IG and seven DIGs and you also have about 16 AIGs and they are strong, they can hold their own anywhere in the world, is that not to the advantage of the system? If you have a crop of officers who are comparatively strong, and everybody does what he or she is supposed to do, the organization will succeed. But once there is knowledge gap, this will lead to dysfunction. But we will get there. I will expect that an AIG will be mentoring commissioners under him, the DIG will be mentoring AIGs and the IG should be mentoring the people under him.
The issue of misuse of firearms by police officers, what has been causing it? You have put a lot of strategy in place, yet it persists. What have you been able to identify as the cause?
Initially, killing as a result of arms misuse was prevalent and the strategy we adopted was very simple. I said no Nigerian, including policemen, is immune to the criminal justice system; you kill in Nigeria, you go for it. That has been my approach and seven officers, since that pronouncement, are undergoing prosecution and the incidences have reduced but we did not stop there. I also talked about applying psychological test. I am sure you were all there when we launched the testing packs.
Now, for medical doctors in each of the geo-political zones, I have directed they should move out so that once police officers are on parade and they want to go on duty; before we give them fire arms, we could do some snap checks which is supposed to act as a psychological prevention from what is going to happen because, if you know I am going to test you for the use of substance, the likelihood is you wouldn't want to do that and, if we discover that you use it, then we wouldn't give you fire arms and you face sanction. Secondly, we are beginning to migrate from the use of fire arms for patrols in main cities to stun guns. We have ordered for some stun guns. Even the people we are going to recruit now (10, 000); the main training we are going to give to them will be especially in the use of stun guns.
That is what is prevalent internationally and stun guns are very effective because they can incapacitate you temporarily without killing you. So we are also doing that but I think the incidences have reduced. They (policemen) know I will prosecute them if they try it (substance) and they don't want to dare me because they know I love them too and I have also put things in place to guarantee their welfare. I have built them houses, I have given their children scholarship and I am telling them if they do any of those things they won't be able to access those welfare policies I put in place. I will promote them too. So if I promote you, I give you houses plus retirement houses and I also take care of your children I expect that you should be able to say I have given you so much. So what is causing your emotional distress because sometimes most of these things are caused by emotional distress?
You are an advocate of intelligence led policing. What are the landmarks you have put in place to imbibe the novel policy?
Intelligence-led policing isn't restricted to technology alone. It is also not restricted to investigation techniques. The minute you adopt a style of investigation where evidence is assembled before people are arrested, that is intelligence-led policing. You can also use intelligence in terms of technical platforms you put in place and I have put sufficient platforms in place; that is why I can tell Nigerians, you can do your clearance certificate online, you can do your tint permit online, fire arm permit online.
All these areas that I have identified used to cause Nigerians discomfort, I have automated them to make them seamless processes and those technologies are up and running. They are things that can't be changed because they are institutionalized. We are also saying that, apart from intelligence policing, which will reduce pre-trial detention and also crowded awaiting trial prison cells, we can also teach them alternative dispute resolution. It isn't every matter that is reported that a policeman is supposed to start taking statements; that is my own take. If the matter is civil, why can't you mediate? If it is commercial, why can't you arbitrate and let them go? You just restrict yourself to those criminal matters.
Once the police learn to restrict themselves to criminal matters, you will discover that all the negative public perception that we usually have with everybody will be reduced because, when you don't go into matters that you are not supposed to go into, you don't create enmity for yourself. Even if you have to go into the matter, why don't you reconcile it and make them to become friends because if I mediate between two of you in a dispute, I have made a friend in you the complainant, I have made a friend in you the suspect. So, to me, it is a win/win situation. That is my own conceptualization of what intelligence, led policing is supposed to be like.
When you came on board, you made it clear that you won't tolerate corruption in the system. How far would you say the canker worm has been dealt with?
In my 35 years in service, the only thing I can say I am going to take away when I am leaving is my integrity. I want to keep it intact and those things I know will encourage corruption in the system, I am not saying that I have been able to totally eliminate them in the police, but what I am saying is that I have deliberately put in place structures that will discourage corruption in the system. Removal of road blocks, the establishment of the Complaints Response Unit, establishment of 'Stop The Bribes', all these are platforms that I have put in place to discourage corruption because if officers know that if they collect money they can be reported to that platform and action will be taken against them; if they know that they can be reported on the Complaint Response Unit and action will be taken against them, then it discourages corruption.
The roadblock was actually not a good crime prevention strategy; it was there and this is also an area where, to the public, as you know, was nauseating to see a law enforcement officer on the highway stretching his hand to a commercial bus driver and collecting money. A lot of people out there never believed that roadblocks could be away for one year. I think I have done my bit; it is left to Nigerians to interface with those platforms and also say 'no you can't intimidate us, we are Nigerians', so it is a symbiotic relationship; the people have to key into it.
The Federal Government recently directed the Police High Command to deploy officers to take over liberated communities in the North-East. How far has this directive been carried out? We later got reports that welfare issues are causing problems. What is the relationship between the police and the Civilian JTF in those communities?
As I am talking to you, the DIG Operations has been dispatched to the North-East. We have also moved in men and materials that will actually impact on their welfare; uniform, bulletproof vest, water tankers, ambulances; we have moved in a lot of things into those areas and I will be joining them next week to be sure that the deployments are properly done. What happened actually was that when most of those officers moved in there, the issue of their welfare was taken over by the state governments.
Challenges about welfare are morally wrong, that is why DIG Operations is presently in Maiduguri. He is also going to be in Yobe, Adamawa. I am going to join them so we can work out the details. Some of them that are there are indigenous to those state commands. So the ones that we would take care of their welfare are those that are taken from the other commands and sent to that place to fill the gap. Ordinarily, those ones that are already there were displaced from their divisions and most of those divisions are liberated now. They have to move back into their divisions, their salaries are being paid; so we expect that they are not on special duty. It is those ones we take from outside North-East that are entitled to allowances.
Concerning the recruitment of 10,000 officers, what is the state of police training institutions and facilities? Can you cope with the volume in terms of adequate training? What assurance are you going to give Nigerians that the process will be transparent?
The 10,000 people will not be trained in one place. We have various training institutions around; we are going to send them to the six geo-political zones. Intervention in the training institutions is on-going, but I think the facilities are good enough to welcome them and, mind you, those 10,000 people we are going to recruit are segmented; some are going to be officers; so they will attend officers' camp training. Some are going to be medical doctors, some are going to be engineers, some are going to be pilots; there are different categories of officers and those ones are not going to be put together.
But the bulk of those recruited are going to be comfortable because we haven't recruited for the past five years which means that, by the end of this year, we won't have any Lance Corporal in the police. Anyway, the Police Service Commission is actually driving that process; we are just giving them technical support. That is why I said I am going to deploy technology into our system, polygraph test, drug testing kits to ensure that the process is as credible as possible. The criteria for choosing them are already known, they were spelt out in their forms; age, qualifications, height and then we have to be very sure of where you come from; your local government chairman, your district head, they should be able to guaranty you by saying this man is from this place and they know his family and they are respectable people and are not stealing people's goats in the village or robbers or cultist.
The police commissioners are there, the Federal Character Commission members are there, the Ministry of Interior is there, the police segment is there, the Secretary to the Federal Government is there; so there are representatives of everybody but we must spread it. Most of those that are uploading their details are about 30, 34 years old. All those ones are too old, we won't select them; so all those 700, 000 or 800, 000 you are seeing, a lot of them will be knocked out when the system meets them because when you don't meet that age criteria, you are sorted out; when your academic qualification doesn't meet up, you are sorted out. There will be exam; but it will hold in various states and, once we know the numbers we point them state by state and all the government people will do their own; the state will do their own so it will come from the bottom to the top. In any case, I never knew Nigerians liked the police this much that such gargantuan number (close to 1million) wants to join the force.
There is this talk of N18billion approved by government for the police and there are insinuations that the money is missing or cannot be accounted for. In fact, we heard the National Assembly is asking questions. What is the story if indeed there is such money?
The money is meant to pay salaries of the 10, 000 policemen; it is meant to feed the men when they are on training; it is meant to pay instructors when they go to school; it is meant to upgrade facilities in training institutions across the country; so how can the IG start sharing such money. The money which would be used to pay salaries, how can you touch it? With even the TSA policy, how am I going to carry such an amount of money? Do I have a trailer that can carry it and share it with people? Some allegations are just funny and you wonder what they are talking about. What I want to let you know is that the money isn't meant to be shared. It is meant for the people during their training. So you now recruit them and you don't pay them their salaries; you take them to training institutions and you don't feed them; you take them to training institutions and you don't kit them; their instructors and guest instructors you don't pay them their allowances? The money isn't meant to be shared it is already earmarked for specific things and it isn't something you can toy with.
Herdsmen attacks are assuming a frightening dimension. What are the police doing to tackle the problem?
This challenge is situated against the backdrop of what is happening within the African region. When you look at the period that these things are happening, you look at the crisis in the Maghreb, then you look at the flow of arms across our borders, what is happening is better explained. Our indigenous herdsmen, who we have been living with for many years, are law abiding people; so why is it that we have the attacks now that there are crises in Mali, Libya, Chad and all these countries where proliferation of fire arms is more prevalent in the system? So we have to look at it against that background. If they have indigenous collaborators or something like that, it doesn't mean it will get to the level of Boko Haram. We will continue to monitor them, we will continue to degrade them; we will continue to amputate them. – Culled from Vanguard.