A lot of counter terrorism measures and anti-kidnapping efforts have been undertaken and have been result oriented and far reaching since the present IGP came on board. The IGP on assumption of duty told Nigerians that he is ready to lead the force through an intelligence base route and as a result, so many feats have been achieved. Nigerians woke up late last year to be informed of the record breaking capture of the two masterminds of the Abuja bomb blasts. The IGP said then that the suspects were apprehended in another failed attempt to undertake further attacks in the FCT. They were responsible for the three suicide attacks in the satellite towns of Kuje and Nyanya on October 2014, which killed a total of 18 people and injured 41.Also recovered from the suspects were 12 prepared and primed “home-made” explosives, concealed in soft drink cans, 20 electronic detonator parts and a large quantity of bomb making equipment. Credit should be given to the IGP for his crime bursting tactics which has paid off greatly to enhance the image of the force. Nigerians will not forget in a hurry how the former Presidential candidate and Secretary to the Federal Government, Chief Olu Falae was kidnapped by herdsmen and rescued by the IGP team who coordinated the aerial and land operations that was successful and led to the rescue and return of Chief Falae to his family.
Recounting his ordeal, Chief Falae said, “Those thinking Nigeria is a lawless place should have a rethink as the Nigeria Police Force and other sister agencies are everywhere to deal decisively with miscreants who intend to test the capabilities of the force”.
How the IGP led police to arrest and arraign the famous armed robbery kingpin who terrorized Agbarra, Ikorodu and festac towns of Lagos is still a mystery till date as the Inspector General of Police special Intelligence Response Team (IRT), who trailed them to a hideout in Benin city, Edo State for allegedly coordinating bank robberies over the years on this axis without being caught. He was feared and dreaded by many and he was known as millions. In 2012, a former Commissioner of Police, Umar Manko declared him wanted but was not captured until recently when the IGP intelligence response team swoop on him and his gang and today the environs where he operated can now sleep with their eyes closed.
Solomon Arase is walking the talk and doing as promised because he is leading the police by example as he spearheads most of these operations personally to make sure the perpetrators are brought to book and face the wrath of the law.
The rescue of the abducted Lagos school girls without ransom is yet another giant stride and another feather on the crime bursting cap of the IGP. February 29th, 2016, will remain ever green in the heart of Nigerians, after six harrowing days in the custody of kidnappers, the three abducted students of Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary, Ikorodu, Lagos breathed the air of freedom as the girls were rescued in Imota, another town on the outskirt of Ikorodu, after the intricate police moves that started with the arrest of one of the suspects. The girls, Timilehin Olusa, Tofunmi Popo and Deborah Akinayo abduction outraged the nation and provoked all and sundry, but the breakthrough came when the IGP Special Intelligence Team identified the picture of one of the conspirators on the registration Subscriber Identity Module, SIM of his phone, Emmanuel Arigidi, which led to the rescue of the girls.
The abduction of Ese Oruru on August 12, 2015, by Yinusa and the rescue and reunite of Ese by the police is still very new to Nigerians who will continue to thank the police authorities and those involved including the prosecution of Yinusa who is presently being tried in court for kidnap and forceful marriage. It would be recalled that Yinusa was a long standing customer of Mrs. Rose Oruru, a food vendor in Opolo, Yenagoa in Bayelsa State before the event took place.
However, Nigerians should not be surprised by the response of the Inspector General of Police to the Agatu mayhem, where the IGP visited to mediate between Agatu indigenes and herdsmen in Benue State to stop the killings including the wanton destruction of lives and properties. This unique role played by the IGP is a new development in fighting terrorism and internal boundary disputes within our communities. Infact, the IGP needs to be given a pat on the back for that spontaneous action and decision to initiate that move that has stopped the wanton killings today.
During the Interactive meetings in Makurdi, Benue State when he visited to mediate over the crisis, he canvassed a peaceful co-existence among the people of various tribes as a remedy and said his visit was a directive from the President and that we must not degenerate into social disorder and advocated for community partnership to help the police fight such crisis and destruction of properties in the future. The police chief, after listening to the aggrieved parties, went into closed door meeting with the leaders of religious and traditional institutions to proffer solutions and also immediately deployed additional mobile police teams to contain the crises which restored hope to the troubled areas.
When the present IGP came on board on the 22nd April, 2015, the anti-corruption drive was one of the 6-point strategic policy plan initiated by him to uproot the endemic corrupt practices in the force and reinvent the police for better service delivery comparable with 21st Century policing across the globe. The morale of the policemen was at its lowest ebb while the trust reposed on it by the citizens was also in a very bad state. According to several statistics by Amnesty International and other rating agencies, the Nigeria police was ranked as one of the highest in terms of the corruption index used as parameters. From the men at road blocks, highways, police stations, posts and other places too numerous to mention, it was all a foul cry from Nigerians on the pre-colonial endemic tendencies pervading the institution. A lot of cases are either compromised or tilted against the complainant for not showing gratitude or giving bribes to the IPO or officers in charge. Including shoddy investigations carried out by poorly trained policemen and so-on-and so-forth, the least is endless.
Extra-judicial killings have also become a bane constituting a bad image for the police including over-invoicing of contracts, kickbacks, lateness to work while indiscipline among the rank and file has become a moral burden on the police institution.
These overbearing influence of corruption on the police over the years has made the police moribund in infrastructure, equipment and capacity building and has also affected every facet of the fabric of the society. Nigerians see the institution as one corrupt organ and as such, do not want to listen to or understand what the police man is about to discuss with him or her and what the needs of the police are, all due to this malaise. But with the coming of IGP Arase, he came with a template to analyse the extent to which this menace has eaten deep into police institutions and to nip in the bud this problem once and for all.
The journey to revamp and refocus the police force for better, efficient and effective performance must start now according to the IGP and he immediately decided to refocus, re-organize and realign the force to the citizen’s expectations. Corruption has been identified as the most critical factor holding the Nigeria police back from the path of quality and professional service delivery which has been one of the main challenges that has been frontally tackled by the Arase led management and as such, a three-prong approach was adopted and implemented. First of all, in order to reduce, ameliorate and target the root causes of official corruption, the IGP introduced a number of Innovative welfare programmes.
Second, it strengthened and made efficient, all anti-corruption enforcement modalities aimed at identifying, isolating and firmly imposing discipline on any officer linked with acts of corruption to act as a deterrent which of course, has paid off greatly as the police image is back on a positive in the hearts of Nigerians and the institution today is on the pedestal to revamping its battered image and lost glory due to the concerted efforts by the present management of the force.
Thirdly, the IGP is taking advantage of the strength of the social media (citizens forum) to involve Nigerians in the monitoring and accountability process and as such initiated and created some enforcement measures to curb this malaise once and for all.
Between May and November, 2015, the anti-corruption enforcement architecture put in place by the force leadership has led to the dismissal of a total of (51) personnel for proven corrupt practices while another (56) have been awarded various punishments. The IGP monitoring unit, X-squad and the Provost Marshal offices have been charged to sustain the enforcement drive, while State Commissioners of Police, Area Commanders and Divisional Police Officers are vicariously held liable for such distasteful professional misconducts.
Recently, the order to disband roadblocks has been effectively and widely enforced, with roadblocks now replaced with safer highway motorized patrol teams. Between 18th May, 2015, when the initiative was formally launched and 30th November, 2015, over six hundred (600) patrol vehicles have been procured and deployed under the phase 1 and phase 2 of the scheme. This initiative has made our highways safer and reduced the incidence of arm-robbery on our highways.
In additions, with the active support of President Muhammadu Buhari, over 2,400 specially trained and well equipped patrol officers have been deployed to the scheme. Plans are aground to expand the fleet and personnel of the safer highway patrol teams and to expand their operational coverage in a view to filling the void created by the order to dismantle road blocks nationwide and advance the concept of reassurance and visibility policing which are critical components for the IGP policing vision.
Nevertheless, as the result of the endemic corruption pervading the fabric of society, the IGP has initiated the welfarist policy as a major cardinal focus of his administration so as to curb the menace of this scourge once and for all. Equally significant, is that the welfare system has been put in place for all personnel of the force in order to shield them from the temptations of corruption in the line of duty. The good news is that corporate bodies are beginning to share the vision and have been committing to complementing the police leadership in meeting the huge welfare needs of the force. Of recent, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) donated a huge quantity of dry ration to the scheme giving kudos to IGP’s vision and strengthening the community partnership and the drive towards discouraging corrupt practices among officers while also extending the moral rights to citizens to demand accountability from their police officers.
Another major action of the police leadership to check corruption is the creation of the Complaint Response Unit (CRU), which is a positive and landmark initiative that encourages citizens to monitor the police and hold them accountable for their actions and inactions. Since its inception few months ago as an online platform that runs 24/7, the response and feedback from Nigerians has been very encouraging. This real time, social media based platform is unique and is supported by the British Government through the Justice for all (J4A) project, CLEEN Foundation and other NGO’s and has been another efficient mechanism for deterring officers from corrupt practices as well as for investigating erring officers, while communicating feedback to the complainants. As a result, the morale of officers and men is now very high coupled with their attitude to work at various duty posts. You will agree with me, that indeed, the Nigeria police is on the forefront to become a pride institution. Like Arase always says, he is determined to lead and leave an enduring institution that will become a national asset to the Nigerian people.
Given the support from Nigerians, the government and every stakeholder in the society not to give or take bribe including report any erring officer of the force, IGP Arase is on course to refocus the police to revamp its battered image and return Nigeria police to its past glory.
Omoba Kenneth Aigbegbele is of Citizens Watch Nigeria (CWN) and a consummate brand strategist.