THE POLICE AND NATIONAL SECURITY
A former Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie, recently dissected the problems of our security agencies at a summit on national security in Abuja. He said the security outfits, particularly the intelligence community, lack the ability to provide necessary and authentic information, so that proactive measures can be taken against violent crimes.
Coomasie, an IGP for eight years, and member of the police reform committee set up by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, also identified corruption, low morale, poor equipment and facilities, and balkanisation of some of its functions, as part of what constitute the aches and pains of the police.
Having attained the highest rank in the police, the former IGP should know. While we disagree that creating bodies like the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Economic and Financial Crimes commission (EFCC), and others, are conflictual and an erosion of the authority of the police, we believe that better attention should truly be paid to funding, training, and to improving the calibre and quality of people recruited into the force, for optimal performance.
The Ministry of Police Affairs, according to Coomasie, has virtually hijacked the powers of the Inspector-General of Police. This is both shocking and alarming, and we urge that there be a scrupulous separation of duties and responsibilities between the Ministry, and the office of the IGP. They are meant to complement each other, and not be at loggerheads, so that the country can have the type of police that meets the need of the hour.
Equally germane is the issue of funding of the police, particularly in the area of overheads. In the 2008 budget, a provision of N12.2 billion was made. In 2010, it went up to N15.6 billion. But in the 2011 budget, the National Assembly slashed it to N5.5 billion, an amount grossly inadequate to maintain the 9,459 vehicles owned by the police, maintain the 120 Area Commands, 1,200 divisions, and 1,500 police stations. Unless we fund the police adequately, officers and men will not be able to adequately confront the growing sophistication of crime and criminality. The onus, however, is also on the police to utilise the funds it has been given transparently.
The quality of manpower in the police also needs to be reinvigorated, to cope with current demands. This is why we find it salutary that the Force is considering recruitment of graduates of higher institutions. According to Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade (retd), the Minister of Police Affairs, plans have been concluded to change the uniforms of policemen, and also restructure the organization. The current uniform, we concur, could be a lot better in terms of aesthetics, but beyond that, the man in the uniform equally needs a total overhaul, since the hood does not necessarily make the monk. The policeman should be seen as a total man, spirit, soul and body. His needs at these levels should be addressed to give us a worthy law enforcer, proud of his calling. Changing the uniform without changing the man would amount to mere window dressing.
At a time of serious security challenges as we are in now, the intelligence gathering capacity of the police should be enhanced, through adequate training both locally and abroad, as well as through the provision of modern equipment. We daresay our police still use probably the most obsolete equipment in the modern world. This should be tackled as a matter of urgency. Effective, timely intelligence is needed, if our security agencies, particularly the police, would not be caught flat-footed by criminals. It goes without saying that the mobile squadron, the anti-bomb squad, and the dog section, should be strengthened in view of the peculiar challenges in the country now.
More than at any other time, this is also when inter-agency cooperation is most needed. The State Security Service (SSS), the police, military intelligence, and others, should not see one another as rivals, to be outdone and outwitted. Rather, they should share intelligence, and collaborate for a safer and more cohesive country.
Over the years, the police has been the most maligned among the security agencies. It is time for a change, through improved capacities that will engender better delivery. Adequate funding, better equipment, improved quality of manpower, better intelligence gathering, and inter-agencies cooperation will get us there. It is only if the police fail after all these that we should hold the Force squarely responsible for performing below expectations.