BY KINGSLEY OMONOBI
Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Ehigiator Arase, in this interview, says policing Nigeria effectively is not about large numbers or building of a big technological operation laden with big machinery, but about tact, thinking out of the box and applying available, easy to acquire technology as well as training and motivating the manpower.
With security challenges and criminality facing the nation, what should the citizenry expect under your watch?
I have come in at a very defining moment in our national life and I know that the expectations are high. I have been in the system for quite some time too, and I have been in very strategic positions in the force. The Nigeria Police houses the best you can have in the system, but I think that what we have not been able to do over the years is to build on the capacity of our officers. So, one of the areas I am very interested in is trying to de-segregate our needs assessment and look at the areas where we should lay emphasis on, and give my officers training that would make them perform; be it administration operations, investigation or intelligence. Whichever of those areas we want to look at, we should be able to develop the capacity of the officers to deliver on their mandate.
The other area is our relationship and the public perception of the Nigeria Police. We have a negative public perception, whether rightly or wrongly. Perception is a subjective issue, but there are some certain things that members of the public expect a good policeman to do. They would not want a police officer to be corrupt; they would want him to be civil; they would want him to be polite; they would want him to treat Nigerians with respect. And if the tax payers feel their money is spent on you as of right, they will demand a lot of things from you. At the same time, we will be able to see how we can connect with the community.
There is no police force in the world that can perform without information from members of the community. So you must be able to win the confidence of the community for you to be able to get that information. I think it’s going to be a two – way thing; we want to look at our society, all the strategic stakeholders, the non-state actors and say, ‘look, this is your police force, you cannot go and bring a police force from anywhere else in the world’.
If you look at policing in Europe, America or Britain, they have gone through this process of redefining, remodelling and it’s not a fixed thing. Members of the public should also learn to be very patient with the police. I will give you an example. Maybe a murder case occurs. Nigerians are very anxious for the police to get it resolved and they don’t take into consideration the limitations that police are working with. When you talk about the depth of the average policeman, the professionalism, it is not enough for him to confront the issues he is dealing with especially since there is no technical platform to back it up.
If you go through central London in a period of maybe three to four hours, you are captured within the system, and in case anything happens, it’s just to zero in there. That is why the Metropolitan Police has 90 percent success rate in terms of homicide cases because you cannot do it and escape the eagle eye of their surveillance system. Intelligence is key and I don’t want a situation where people are detained unnecessarily.
I expect that my policemen are sufficiently trained to say if a case is reported to them they are able to gather evidential proof. In bank robberies for example, you can get records from the banks or corporate affairs; you assemble these things before you invite suspects. That way you limit the pre-trial detention period of suspects because if you invite somebody and keep him in custody and then start looking for evidence, the period you have kept him there is very long and the relations come and start asking for bail. Once they start asking for bail, the corruption circle is enabled because to grant that bail you start putting conditions here and there.
In the final analysis, money changes hands. So those areas where I know are capable of exposing my officers to corruption, I want to remove them from the system. I have already directed that on no account should anybody be invited to any police station when you don’t have sufficient evidence; if you have the evidence and you confront the person within 48 hours, you should be able to make up your mind if the truth is being told or you should keep the person in custody.
What do you have to say on the belief that compared to Nigeria’s population, the number of policemen is small and equipment not enough?
You can never have sufficient policemen to police 170 million Nigerians. People always brag about the United Nations ratio. Even that one you can only situate it against societies that already have a very good technical platform like the one i talked about in the USA and Britain. We don’t have the technical platform, so no matter what people try to do now, what you do is feasibility policing; your ability to do prediction policing where you position your men strategically so that you give that psychological reassurance that the society is being policed.
For Abuja for example, instead of dotting the whole streets with police officers, you can position strategically so that anywhere you go or by the time you are driving from Shehu Shagari Way to the other place, you see them at the junction; you go the other way, you see them at a junction; it does not presuppose that you have sufficient manpower and there is no police force in the world that would ever say they have sufficient manpower to police and that is why community partnership in policing is very, very important to win the confidence of the community; when you do that, half of your job is done. Somebody sees a person who has packed for a long period in a lonely street or somewhere, he picks a phone and calls the nearest police officer. But here most of us don’t care, as far as it does not affect you.
During your maiden address to police officers, you emphasized the use of technology. How do you intend to achieve this with the cash crunch facing the Federal Government?
I will give you an example. I set up the intelligence laboratory in the Nigeria Police. The intelligence department had become moribund after about 30 years of the excision of the NSO to form what you now know as the State Security Service (SSS). Since then, we have not been able to emplace a department to drive policing through predictive concept and it took us about two years to redirect what intelligence is all about.
My ability to train the officers to know that they can always ascertain the trends and patterns of crime, crime mappings in their various states and divisions and area commands has improved investigation a lot. For instance, as I sit down here, with the intelligence department that we set up some 2 years ago, we can give you statistics of kidnapping cases, the manpower wastages by operational loses; we can locate and tell you where those crimes are prevalent; what are the types of crimes that are prevalent in those areas. When we talk about technology, you think about warehousing a big building like this with heavy machines. It is not so, it is about thinking outside the box. We said we were going to set up intelligence lab, we got a server, we got computer systems, we trained the men, we gave them phones, put them on Skype.
So all my information collectors in all the states of the federation, once they get information, they send it to me and it hits my intelligence lab. The intelligence lab., the boys there who analyse start drawing the graphs, putting it in intelligible form so that if you are going to my office, you can see it being expressed both graphically and otherwise. So, when you talk about technology driving this thing, it is not about something too big, it’s about the mindset of the officers who are going to operate the system. If crime has become scientific and technological, then the response to it is for the officers who are supposed to respond to it to be mentally mobile
. They should be in a situation where they should be able to think outside the box. The technology I am talking about is very simple. We migrated from intelligence laboratory, from finger printing, in a short while, into an automated system where we want to give you your character certificate. What does it cost us? A laptop, a camcorder, the biometric machine. I now said how many cases do they report in the force on a daily basis; on a weekly basis?; because when I came I said ‘you are not going to investigate land cases; commercial transactions; you are not going to investigate civil cases because those are the areas you carry people, you lock them up and another person is somewhere demolishing the person’s house especially in Lagos’.
Reform is something people always react negatively to, the men there, some of them went haywire; they wrote some newspapers. I have asked them not to move anywhere to go and investigate cases. I said I am going to open a case tracking and analysis centre. I got the UNODC to fix the thing there. So, for any case that is reported, I endorse it to them, to go into that case tracking and analysis data base centre.
On weekly basis, as they complain I was not allowing them to do cases, I would roll out the statistics of the cases given to the SFU, the federal SARS, general investigation and ask them to give me the report on those cases because it is not enough for you to take a case, obtain statement from the complainant, obtain statement from the suspect, you release him on bail, you close the file and keep it somewhere. We insisted that all cases, whether you are going to categorise them as malicious, vexatious or something that can be prosecuted, must be carried out to their conclusion and technology is there in the Force CID, in the intelligence department. So when i talk about platform, it is not something that you conjure from the moon. The small technology that you need to perform effectively as a police officer is easy to access.
Road blocks are a recurring decimal as far as the Nigeria Police is concerned. How do you intend to deal with this?
I have dismantled them. I have set up a taskforce with 12 vehicles for the six geo-political zones that are co-terminus with the ones that have been supervised by the various DIGS and all I have asked them to do is a very simple task, ‘I pay your bills, I gave you the vehicle, I fuel it and you go there wherever you see those road blocks, remove them from the highway and just note where they are and hold the commissioner of police responsible’ because I have already directed I will hold the Area Commander responsible and I will hold the Divisional Police Officer responsible.
Secondly, they are supposed to go to the cells to inquire when people kept there were arrested, for what offence, how long have they been there, do they meet the prosecutors’ standard of keeping those people in our facilities. We don’t intend to harass any policeman on the highway but you just have to say that these things are point of corruption. And corruption is intolerable, but then we are not saying we are going to leave the public space vacant, we have the Federal Highway Patrol which all the state commissioners are supposed to oversee.
So, in case of distress, the vacuum that may have been created by the removal of those road blocks, we have vehicles that have been given to all state commands, and I have also asked them to give me where those vehicles are located so that if there is any serious crime on any highway, I hold the commissioner who said he has deployed on those highway responsible. You cannot remove road blocks and say you are not going to police; it is our statutory responsibility to police the public space.
On equipping the police, the economic downturn that is outside is something I cannot speak about. I can only articulate the needs of the police but I don’t have the resources directly. We have other departments that oversight the police, the Ministry of Police Affairs, the Senate Committee; the Police Service Commission is for recruitment and discipline. Operationally, it’s outside the way but the ones that impinge directly on the operational capacity of the police is the ministry because they are the ones who keep our money as oversight function.
On corruption, a policeman is corrupt because he is not sure of the future. If he thinks that his future is not guaranteed, the tendency to be corrupt is high and also don’t forget that corruption is pathological. Once you are corrupt, if I put you where they distribute stationery, you will still steal it. We have areas where we can touch the lives of our officers especially the rank and file, we have a cooperative society, we have mortgage institution; we have the microfinance bank to dispense welfare programmes. In our works department, we have been able to attract the best brains we can get from the system; there are quantity surveyors, there are civil engineers.
Now we have an investment department; why can’t we get finance from our mortgage institution and the cooperative society and do direct labour stuff? Now we are going to build some houses for our workforce. We are thinking about two-bedroom apartment somewhere where they would not have to pay N2.5-N3 million if it is direct labour. We also have a scholarship scheme for children of the rank and file. If you have bright children, we can give scholarship to not more than two of them in police secondary school or any other place you want them to go to; the Turkish International School has given us a slot too. There are small things you can use to motivate your workforce.
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