It came like a thunderbolt. The shocking news devastated not only the top hierarchy of the Nigeria Police Force but expectant Nigerians. Out of the blue, President Muhamadu Buhari announced the appointment of a seemingly ‘dark horse’, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, as the 19th Inspector-General of Police.
The announcement came amidst speculations over who will eventually emerge as a successor to Solomon Arase after his mandatory 35 years of service to the force. Initially, no fewer than five serving Inspectors-General of Police including some Commissioners of Police were touted as having been screened by the Department of Security Service, DSS.
The chess game
Among those screened were top contenders like AIGs Bala Hassan, Umaru Manko, Olufemi Adenaike, Johnson Ogunshaki and Adrenele Shinaba. In fact, rumour mill had it that while prominent Nigerians pleaded the case of tested AIG Umaru Manko, said to be a blue blood and possible occupant of the exalted emirship of his emirate in Adamawa State after retirement, AIG Aderenle Shinaba, was reportedly presented by APC stalwarts from the South West.
Leader of the force
On his part, Bala Hassan, AIG Zone 2, Onikan, Lagos was said to be the favourite of prominent intellectuals from the North who would like to showcase, for the first time, a first class brain as leader of the force. Another top contender, AIG Johnson Ogunshaki, was said to have been interesting.
Option of clean sweep
Then, the race took another dimension when news filtered out about the President’s conviction that a clean sweep in the force will be the best option. To this effect, it was said that he started shopping for an operationally intelligent and tested Commissioner of Police who would be given matching mandate to reform the force.
Suddenly, names of some serving commissioners of police started cropping up. Two of the commissioners said to be serving in the South-Western part of the country were noted as the favourites. One of them, though not from the South west, was touted as the chosen candidate by a former President of the country from the South and a South West Governor, well known to be a close associate of President Buhari. In fact, his choice was like a fait-accompli as almost all the officers who were on transfer in his command refused to depart pending when the announcement will be made.
Marginalization in the South East
Intriguingly, the long expressed issue of marginalization of the South East also came to the front burner. Stories went round that President Buhari will surprise many by picking either the serving female deputy inspector-general of police, DIG, or the most senior commissioner of police from the area as the new police helmsman.
Total turn around
Shockingly, the emergence of Idris has ushered in a total turn around in the force. In fact, it was like the long awaited clean sweep. Just in the wake of the appointment, no fewer than 21 assistant inspectors-general of police were shown the way out of the force in an exercise generally seen as a colossal loss to the force.
Besides, the AIGs so also six deputy inspectors-general of police, DIG’s, most were mandatorily retired with their immediate boss. Amongst the victims were most of the well trained, exposed and tested officers in the force. Many believe that their unceremonious exit will, certainly, create a yawning vacuum in the beleaguered force.
Prominent amongst the officers thrown out were Umaru Abubakar Manko, a former Commissioner of Police in Lagos State whose track records in crime fighting remains unequalled till date, Bala Hassan, an officer with a very sound intellectual base whose performances in different parts of the country especially, when he headed the elite Mobile Police Force, remains enviable; Kalafite H. Adeyemi, the only female victim, a lawyer and psychologist, she was the first female commissioner of police in Oyo, Osun and Taraba states at different times and also the first female assistant inspector-general of police at Zone 11 comprising Oyo, Osun and Ondo states. Adenrele Shinaba, Johnson Ogunsahaki, Edgar Nanakumo, smooth operator and achiever, Adisa Bolanta, the irrepressible and controversial Mbu Joseph Mbu and other achievers in the force. Most of these officers have been trained both at home and abroad with tax payers’ money and still have many years to contribute to the unpliftment of the force.
Voicing his opinion, the National Coordinator, Network on Police Reforms in Nigeria, Okechukwu Nwanguma stated; “We can’t continue the practice of retiring a huge number of active officers of the rank of AIG and DIG after the country has spent resources training and maintaining them, just because the President prefers a particular officer for appointment as IGP. The professional skills and knowledge they acquired are wasted because they are forced to retire prematurely before their due date or age of retirement.
“The pre-determined candidate of the President’s choice is promoted two or more ranks just to position him for appointment. His mates are left behind to grudge and grumble. This breeds disenchantment and disloyalty within the force and kills morale and professionalism among those who feel short-changed and left behind by this practice. The appointment of the IGP should not be left alone to the president and his political party to play politics with. The appointment procedure must be made competitive and transparent so that the most qualified and most competent candidate can emerge.”
Dr. Onah Ekhomu, the President of the Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria (AISSON) in his reaction stated: “I think it is a very unfortunate development, and the reason is that we have seen an increase in security breaches throughout this country in the recent time, at least since 2010, we have had increase in herdsmen violence, cultist violence, militant violence, kidnapping, armed robbery, there are so many you can’t count them.
“Certainly, we know that in the military, when a junior person is appointed those who are senior to him who cannot salute him are allowed to go. But right now, I think the interest of the nation have come ahead of this unhealthy practice of weeding out people who are still valuable to us.
“I looked at the names of the people who have been weeded out and I kind of cringe because these are officers who are well tested, who have worked hard. I mean this is a junior AIG who has been made an Acting IGP; these are the people he would have needed to solve the issue of crime. We can’t keep talking about the same issue and not do anything about them. Now you want to bring a bunch of people who will come and learn, top executive skills, senior executive management skills, for them to be effective. We can’t keep having these cases of a lot of Indians and no chips, and that is really unfortunate.”
Which way forward
Pundits are hard to decipher how police authorities would be able to settle the entitlements of these officers whose careers were unceremoniously terminated and when the experiences and exposure they garnered over the years are deeply needed. More so, at a time when the country is ensconced in series of security threats ranging from kidnapping, armed robbery, militancy, terrorism and many other vices.
A different music
Conversely, the new twist will open up wide opportunities for younger, upwardly mobile and intelligent officers who have been desirous of contributing their quota towards the upliftment of the force. Most of them will be elevated to enviable heights which they least expected so soon in the force. Regrettably, they would also be saddled with onerous responsibilities which they could have easily assimilated from their forebears who had been made scape- goats in the chess game of power in the force.
Security experts are hard put to explain if the evolving scenario will affect the much awaited change in the force. A change which many are clamouring will usher a new era where the hydra-headed monster – corruption- would be grossly checkmated in the force.
According to the experts, the unanswered questions still remain: Will it make bribery a thing of the past in the force? Will the rank and file stop buying their official accoutrements with their personal monies? Will it stop Nigerians from paying for bail? Most importantly, when will a reasonable monthly subvention be given to officers in the force down to divisional levels to facilitate their official responsibilities etc? (Vanguard)