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Don't blame me for sack of 21 AIGs – Police IG, Idris

By The Citizen
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Until his appointment as the number one police officer in the country by President Muhammadu Buhari, not much was known about Acting Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris.

In this interview, Idris reveals a little about his career, some of the changes he is already making in the force and also explains why 21 Assistant Inspectors General of Police had to go following his assumption of office.

There have been allegations of corruption against past police administration in the country and issues of lopsided promotions. What are you going to do about it?

I was in Maiduguri last week and during questions time, a woman Inspector came forward and said people who used to salute her before, have now become her senior.

Before I travelled, last week to be precise, I also got a petition from the House of Representatives on police promotions. If you go through media reports, like some of my PPROs that have been monitoring reports, you would see concerns over police officers' promotions. I am sure you are aware that in my inaugural speech, I said we are going to run a democratic police.

I spent eight years in the United Nations and so, those attributes are already in me. We will run the police based on three principles of democratic policing worldwide-responsible, accountable and representative policing; a police that represents the community and meets their yearnings. I know the issue of promotions has a dampening effect on the affected persons.

The woman Inspector was close to tears while she was talking. I know how it feels because I was a Commissioner of Police for five years. Some officers, who became CPs, were promoted to AIGs under two years. So, I told them we had discussed the issue with my new management team and that we were going to investigate it.

We are going to set up a panel to look into it to be sure that the promotions were done in accordance with laid down rules of the Police Service Commission (PSC). The PSC is in charge of promotions from the rank of Constables to Deputy Inspectors General of Police (DIG). This is a constitutional issue.

Inflation of contracts is one of the allegations levelled against the last police administration…?

We have started auditing of police investments units. It is after that audit that we can take action. We are interested in the investment unit because every policeman from the rank of Constable to IGP contributes to it from their salary.

Every policeman contributes to these investments. These are people's properties and we have to make the units transparent and accountable. The day you're recruited as a policeman, it is cut off from your salary once the person is recruited.

We call it Police Insurance Scheme. The money is N370. 000. Every policeman, from the rank of Constable to IGP, contributes money to it. The money is for policemen. It's part of their 'property.' The other issue you mentioned is about corruption.

Honestly, I do not want people to feel I am witch-hunting anyone. Based on principle, if we have complaints, we will investigate them.

That I can assure you of. That is why I have stressed that we will run a transparent, responsive and representative administration.

Responsive in that if members of the public feel they were not properly treated, they can complain and we will investigate. I have heard so many rumours, but as a police officer, I must take decisions based on concrete evidence.

If someone comes forward and says he or she did a contract in 2011 and has not been paid, whereas, those who did a contract in 2013 and decided to forgo 20 per cent have been paid; we are duty-bound to investigate.

You were appointed as IGP when the country is battling serious security issues. What are you going to do to ensure the insecurity is contained?

I said something in my inaugural speech. When you analyse that speech, you'll understand a lot of things. We're trying to tackle criminality on our streets, neighbourhood and communities. We want to strengthen the Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS).

We are going to strengthen them by restructuring them. We'll put them in more effective structure, with proper supervisions. Number two, we are going to train them to respect the rights of individuals. We will teach them what to do and know what is right.

Three, we shall give them equipment to enable them to operate effectively. Part of our training will include picking resource persons from media and civil society organisations to train them. We are right now trying to curb incidents of violent crimes. Kidnapping and murder are part of them.

In Rivers State, I changed all Area Commanders. I also changed all SARS leaders and Mobile Police Force Commanders. I also carried out the same changes in Kogi State.

The rate of kidnapping is high in Kogi State. I removed these commanders, because the feeler we got was that some of them have compromised. Kidnapping has reduced in Kogi State since the changes.

Even in Rivers State, because I changed all the Area Commanders. Even if anyone wants to reach out to the new ones just posted there, it would take time.

The morale of rank and file policemen is very low. What are you brining on board? What is your four-point agenda and how are they going to work?

I understand what you're saying. If you had been at Force Headquarters on the day I was appointed, you would have noticed something. It was as if the place exploded. Much is expected from our rank and file policemen. I was touched by the jubilation I witnessed on my appointment.

Could it be, because you grew through the ranks?

I don't know. But I was a cadet officer. It's simply because they believe in me. To so many Nigerians, I'm a new face. But the truth of the matter is that I have been training policemen for years. I was a trainer at Police Mobile Force College in Gworza for five years. Most of the present police inspectors, the cadet inspectors, passed through me. They know my character.

They believe I can change their lives positively. Nothing dampens morale more than the fact that when you're due for promotion, you wouldn't be promoted.

We are seriously looking into that issue. Also, we are looking into issues of welfare. Immediately I assumed office, I called and asked the AIG while salaries are being delayed. But henceforth, policemen will receive their salaries before the month ends.

Last month, they received it before the end of the month. Most of them were happy. Usually, it was always a week or two weeks into the next month before they got salaries. We are going to continue to promptly pay them their salaries. Another issue of welfare is accommodation.

My aim is that every policeman should have his or her accommodation. To be sincere and frank with you, the former IGP tried immensely in that aspect. He tried on accommodation issue. Right now, all we need to do is to improve on it and have more houses. Right now also, we have received a lot of offers.

Barracks are temporary, but your house is yours. If you have a house, after retirement are being delayed. But henceforth, policemen will receive their salaries before the month ends. Last month, they received it before the end of the month.

Most of them were happy. Usually, it was always a week or two weeks into the next month before they got salaries.

We are going to continue to promptly pay them their salaries. Another issue of welfare is accommodation. My aim is that every policeman should have his or her accommodation.

To be sincere and frank with you, the former IGP tried immensely in that aspect. He tried on accommodation issue. Right now, all we need to do is to improve on it and have more houses. Right now also, we have received a lot of offers.

Barracks are temporary, but your house is yours. If you have a house, after retirement, you move into your home. But with Police Barracks, it's not like that.

We're going to approach the Federal Government and see how possible it would be for us to provide accommodation for our mobile policemen and other special units.

These policemen are the ones that are supposed to be in the barracks. The conventional policemen are actually supposed to live within communities, mix with people.

That's how they would be able to fish out criminals. All over the world, special police units stay in barracks. It's actually a government policy.

If the conventional policeman lives in town, the government is actually supposed to pay his rent. I was shocked when I went to lecture, some policemen last week and they told me that salaries of those residing in barracks are usually deducted.

They used to deduct the accommodation 'rent' from their salaries?

I couldn't believe it. We're going to look into it. It's absolutely wrong. If you're living in Police Barracks, you're not supposed to pay a dime. It's wrong! The government has paid for it.

The building itself belongs to the government. It's only when policemen go and rent houses outside, that government pay rent subsidy. I have promised to look into it. And if I find anyone at fault, the person would be held liable.

You have been a mobile policeman most of your life. When you came on board as the IGP, you instructed that mobile policemen attached to 'big men' should be withdrawn…

We are having problems in the Niger Delta, from Lagos to Calabar. I was in Calabar for five years. I have deployed men to Calabar, Port Harcourt and Lagos. Between 1990 and 1996, mobile policemen were in charge of oil pipelines. Our men used to sleep on the spot of those pipelines. We have where they stay at the pipelines, float stations.

The float stations seem to be right out from the waters. They take only their mattresses and police buy mosquito nets for them.

Those days, they protected the oil pipelines round the clock. My first visit to Niger Delta showed that police presence there is very scanty. We are looking at deploying policemen there and which policemen are we going to deploy there? It's mobile and marine policemen. We need a lot of mobile policemen to cover those areas.

This is why I said we're going to discourage mobile policemen to be used as guards. A mobile policeman is not trained to be a guard. PMF is a special unit and they act in cohesive manner, in a group. You don't scatter them to go and be carrying handbags.

The thing, however, is that wealthy people are always afraid. We are going to strengthen the Special Protection Unit of the Nigeria Police Force. They are the ones trained as guards. Yes, we're going to be coming out with more policies.

It seems you have changed all squadron commanders?

Yes! I have changed virtually all of them. Do you know why?

The reality is that while I was CP Mobile, I discovered a lot of things. The men told me that to become a mobile police commander, they have to pay N500, 000. To curb that, we decided to cut off some of these commanders.

They came, not to work or because they patriotic, but because they gave money to influence their postings and would want to recoup their money. We have changed them and we are going to restructure the mobile.

We are also going to train and retrain them. I have been in mobile for 17 years; I know what I'm saying. The mobile in the old days, is different from what we have on ground today. In those days, you can't see a mobile policeman on the streets. It was impossible!

Are you going to take all the mobile policemen back to the barracks?

Obviously! That's what I have been saying. We are going to work on their barracks. We'll write to the state governments to assist us. A mobile police squadron, that doesn't have a barrack, is not mobile.

People blamed you for the sack of the 21 AIGs. We heard you said you couldn't work with them. What really transpired?

I want you to understand one thing; the Nigeria Police Force didn't begin and end with me. Same thing in the military in Nigeria and everywhere, uniform personnel have a tradition. Why would anybody say I'm the one that caused their sack or retirement? I mean its common sense.

It happened in the military, not long ago. When Major-Gen Kenneth Minimah was appointed Chief of Army Staff, how many officers were retired? You also need to understand, that what is causing such talks is because we are all human beings.

Imagine you are together, with your mates and government goes over you, to pick someone below you; there's no way you would be happy or satisfied.

It's a natural, human feeling. I didn't appoint myself. It was the government that appointed me. It's the government that decided to pick someone below, not me.

I however, guessed that government picked someone from below and retired the AIGs because the government wants police to have a focused administration and institution.

The Police Service Commission Chairman, Sir Mike Okiro, is a retired IGP. He said something. He went down memory lane. He knew what he was saying…

But Okiro allowed Onovo, his senior to work with him after he was appointed IGP?

No, I don't think so. I believe Okiro came after Onovo. Onovo only had problem with Sunday Ehindero. Ehindero was appointed, when Onovo was his senior.

Rising cases of kidnapping have become worrisome in the south west parts of Nigeria. Is there any immediate plan to check it?

It's not just South-West. It's all over Nigeria. Kidnapping should be attacked through intelligence. We are trying to build the capacity of the Police Intelligence Units. They have been trying. But we are going to build their capacity more. We don't want to leak our plans.

In my first meeting with the President, he said that anything I needed to enhance security in Nigeria, I shouldn't hesitate to write to him. I'm going to do just that. I'm going to take my time and go round the country, to check on each state and identity the peculiarity of the security challenges there.

Some policemen, posted to areas like Arepo in Ogun State, have nowhere to sleep and they complained they were not paid their allowances…

I don't know when they owed them their allowances, but two weeks after my resumption, there was an attack in that area. I personally signed the cheque for their allowances. I'm sure they have paid them. On the issue of special duty; it's clear they are there for special purposes.

If we tell them to wait while we build where they would live while on the special duty, it would be months before they head to those troubled spots. The regulation is very clear on the duties of the Mobile Police Force.

They are to serve as the striking force of the Nigeria Police. When you are in the mobile, you're supposed to be there just for three years; that's what the regulation says. But sometimes, because of requirements and because we need experienced people, some can be in mobile for years.

The point I'm making is that when you are in the mobile, you should be there round the clock. It also means that you can be deployed at any time.

As a mobile policeman, you don't have any right to complain. It's a voluntary work. When you're in mobile, you should be ready to be subjected to a lot of things. It's a requirement of the service. Like what happened in Arepo, if we want to wait to build tents, the community would be in trouble.

Arepo needed prompt security and we sent our mobile men out immediately. That's the major reason that unit was created.

When I was in Gworza, anything you see, you eat. You're trained to be hard. Anyone who joins mobile should be expected to meet the requirements. You move to particular areas when ordered and you don't complain.

Some police contractors have not been paid since 2000. Do you have any plan to pay them?

I won't pay them! The contracts were not from me. It wasn't done during my administration. What I can, however, say is that, if there are available funds to settle these liabilities, I would. If such money is available, I wouldn't pocket it, would I? God forbid!

You said policemen should declare their assets. Have they started responding?

I have declared my assets. I'm a policeman, so others should declare theirs. Every policeman must declare his assets. What's the big deal in a policeman declaring his assets?

Is there a deadline for such declarations?
Section 13 of the Code of Conduct Act requires that every civil servant declares assets. When I was working with UN, we used to declare our assets. It's actually one of the cultures I brought back from the UN.

It's compulsory and a legal obligation. I didn't even say rank and file. I said from ASP and above should declare assets. I have declared mine, others should follow. I lead by example. To ensure they do, I instructed that a copy of such declaration should be given to our intelligence office.

It's through there, we would get statistics of those that complied and those that didn't. We are going to enforce it. I however, haven't started taking note of the statistics. - Culled from New Telegraph.