By Bala Ibrahim
According to history, the Nigeria Police Force was first established in 1820. In 1879 a 1,200-member armed paramilitary Hausa Constabulary was formed. In 1896, the Lagos Police was established. A similar force, the Niger Coast Constabulary, was formed in Calabar, in 1894, under the newly proclaimed Niger Coast Protectorate. To date, the Force has had 21 indigenous Inspectors General, starting with Louis Edet, to the present one that was appointed in acting capacity in the first week of April this year, in the person of Alkali Usman Baba.
Successive leadership of the police have made efforts at reforming the force, with the most recent being the disbandment of the ENDSARS, or end the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which followed the suspiciously politically sponsored protests, that compelled President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the disbandment on October 12 last year, citing horrific abuses of human rights, including extrajudicial killings.
But as the public came to realise later, the problems of the police are not limited to the alleged excesses of SARS, they go far beyond that. Because after the disbandment, issues continue to rear their ugly heads, compelling the call by some sections of the country for the return of the dreaded squad.
The problems of the Nigeria police are centred around corruption, which came consequent upon nepotism, institutional weaknesses such as inadequate manpower, insufficient education and training, inadequate equipment and poor conditions of service. Pursuant to these, the public continue to hold the police as a foe, rather than a friend.
Since April, when he stepped in as the new sheriff, Alkali Usman Baba has embarked on salient but silent reorganizations, that seem geared towards repositioning the Nigeria Police for improved performance and restoring the glory, dignity and morale of the force.
Traditionally, for administrative ease, the Nigeria Police Force is divided into seven administrative departments, with each headed by a Deputy Inspector General of Police, DIG. The departments are: Finance and Administration; Operations; Logistics; Force Criminal Investigation Department, FCID; Training; Research and Planning; and Information and Communication Technology. Only recently, via a Presidential approval, the department of Intelligence was created, also under the headship of a DIG.
Rather than go with the convention of dropping the inherited DIG’s and seeking presidential approval to appoint new ones, Alkali reshuffled and retained them, with specific orders on service delivery that would be monitored.
Also, pursuant to the primary purpose of policing, which includes the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of the law and order, the protection of property and the enforcement of all laws and regulations, the police, as law enforcement officials are expected to play extra important roles in our communities.
IGP Alkali was quick to realize the imperative of reviving these roles, through silent but salient reposting of tested and trusted hands. Changes were made in commands and the Headquarters, with the dissolution of some offices, adjudged to be irrelevant for effective and efficient service delivery.
A visit to Louis Edet House, the Force Headquarters, would tell even the blind, that the old order had crumbled, and the new boss has come with a new order for sanity in service. Many services, including the medical department, that is supposed to come only as first aid help, the PMF 46, that is supposed to be stationed strategically for rapid response from the outskirt, the SPU, that is for VIP protection, have been asked to relocate to appropriate places.
To restore sanity at the Headquarters, perhaps learning from the deadly Boko Haram attack that visited the place in 2011, when a suicide bomber in a car, drove in the IGP’s convoy onto the premises, with the intent of killing the then Inspector General of Police, IGP Hafiz Ringim, parking permits, which exclude officer below the rank of CSP from entering with cars are also introduced.
Other salient changes silently carried out by IGP Alkali include the disbandment of the IGP monitoring group in all the states of the federation, except at the Force Headquarters in Abuja, where the unit is also heavily downsized to a maximum of 50 personnel, to be headed by an Assistant Commissioner of Police.
Because it is his duty to ensure justice for the nearly 10 million criminal offenses each year, IGP Alkali took the IRT department by surprise on Sallah day, when he reportedly drove himself to their premises at the old abattoir, unaccompanied and unannounced. He conducted a roll call of all the arrests under them, in an effort to ensure justice to the accused, and fairness for public safety. Reports have it that in that singular visit, many suspects that were adjudged wrongly held, were released, while queries were issued to some officers for violating laid down the laws.
In a country like Nigeria, with a population of nearly 200 million people, and less than 200, 000 police to police it, most of them usually unarmed, but simply issued weapons when required for specific missions or circumstances, the salient efforts of IGP Alkali to bring sanity in service should not just be allowed to go on silently. They should be appreciated and applauded by all.
While condoling the country for the loss of it’s Chief of Army staff, on the 21st day, of the 21st year, of the 21st century, I herby say a big hurrah for saliently but silently strengthening the police service, to the 21st indigenous Inspector General of police, of the 21st century, in the person of IGP Alkali Usman Baba.