Merge Police, FRSC, NDLEA, Civil Defence to solve security challenges — Ex-IGP Abba — Nairalovers

As part of the efforts to find solutions to the insecurity that is plaguing the country, Nigeria’s 17th Inspector-General of Police, Suleiman Abba, who is also the Chairman of the Police Trust Fund, shares his thoughts with select journalists, declaring, among other things, that it is wrong to negotiate with criminals and explaining why kidnapping and banditry are on the rise. He also suggested that the Federal Government should merge the Nigeria Police Force, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), the Civil Defence Corps and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to solve the security challenges. Our Managing Editor Northern Operation, YUSUF ALLI, was there.

 

There is an upsurge in the level of insecurity in the country to the level that the police are now overwhelmed. The responsibilities of your board cut across welfare, equipment, capacity building and other things that could enhance their ability to perform. Unfortunately, it has been one year and we haven’t heard anything. What have you been doing?

Let me first admit the fact that it has been a year since the Board of Trustees of the Police Trust Fund was inaugurated in line with the provisions of the law. But it is not that it has been quiet since its inauguration. I hope you understand the provisions of corporate governance where responsibilities are shared in government. You have the board and you have the management with clearly defined responsibilities.

If you are talking about the board, it has done well, particularly by giving a level playing ground to enable the police to have the support of its budget to have modern equipment, training of its personnel and for it to be able to execute projects that would improve the welfare of their personnel. The board has gone very far. In fact, I’ll say it has almost succeeded in its mission as provided by the law. The board is responsible for putting in place the structure necessary for the take-off of the trust fund, and it has done that. We have the management that has been provided with the necessary staff. We brought in KPMG, and it was able to give us the advisory techniques that enabled us to form a modern structure of governance.

We have a structure wherein the board has committees to support the management to meet up with its own responsibilities. We have gone far enough to the extent that before the end of last year, we were able to pass the budget and also secure its passage by the National Assembly. We have done that as well to the 2021 budget. So, if we have done these to the 2020, 2021 budgets, including getting it passed by the National Assembly, I think the remaining is procurement, and procurement is mainly the responsibility of the management. If there are problems, we all have a stake, let us know, we can see where we can come in.

In specific terms, how are you addressing the problems facing the police?

Except you want me to repeat what I have said. Maybe you need to get to know how far the procurement has gone. Supporting the police cannot be done without disbursement of funds. Let’s say for training and retraining, this cannot be done without disbursement of funds, and other activities that are needed for the welfare of personnel. These are areas that are beyond my capacity, except you want me to find out and let you know.

So you are not pushing for procurement waiver in view of the urgency?

This I still repeat, only the management can answer you. I want to believe that if they have any problem in that regard, they would have referred to me. If you tell me that there are, I’m taking note and I’ll take it up.

The trust fund is supposed to get money from different places, including companies, Federation Account and all that, because the law is there. The budget is also not difficult to come by, but what about the money? Are you enjoying the cooperation of all the stakeholders? I want to say that you are not unaware of the problems of some of the governors who are of the view that they shouldn’t be deducting from the Federation Account for the Trust Fund. But I must tell you that since there’s a law for that to take place, it is taking place. And like I told you, we have done a budget and we’ll appropriate it.

Like how much?

If you want specifics, you will have to meet the management because the Secretary/CEO is the accounting officer that has the updated account of what we have.

Incidentally, some of the governors who are not cooperating are bearing the brunt of banditry and other criminal activities in their states…

I’m glad that you are the one saying it, because I have said so too. Some of them were protesting. Who is against the police? Who doesn’t want security?

Have you entered into dialogue with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum?

I have had meetings with the Governors’ Forum and the understanding is that we’ll use what we have. And then the deductions have not stopped and we’ll use funds judiciously. We have the responsibility to let all stakeholders know what is happening, and that’s why I received you this afternoon to be able to let you know what is going on. And as far as the Board of Trustees is concerned, we have done what is expected of us and we are to also support the management in that regard.

Is the management not supposed to be answerable to the board?

If you believe there are problems, then the onus lies on you to find out and you should let us know if there’s any. But I must tell you, if there are problems in procurement, from precedent, you should look for where the problem is coming from. It cannot certainly come from the board. We have passed the budget and we have given the management the wherewithal to execute their responsibilities. If they are having problems or if there were delays, you’re the one to find out and then let us know.

Does your board believe that all is well with the police?

The board has no power to assess the police. This is not the Police Service Commission. This is a board that is there to do everything possible to support the police to function properly.

Do the police have enough support?

(Laughs) You are still asking me to repeat all I have said. You know, establishing a new organisation requires a lot of funds, and going by the law, the board has a lot of responsibilities in many regards — providing offices, providing personnel and passing the budget — and that it has done. Having done ours, you’re talking about procurement and disbursement of funds, which is the responsibility of the management. If there are delays…I hope what happened to NNDC is not what is happening to the management of the Trust Fund. It is left to the management to tell us. If the ministry is perhaps giving them problems, we should know and we’ll be able to deliver our responsibilities in that regard.

What about the recruitment of personnel?

The recruitment is of two types. If you go to Section 17 of the Act, it says the Trust Fund can source for personnel either by secondment or by appointment. Due to the state of things in the country, particularly at the time we came in when COVID-19 was on the high, the government had stopped recruitment, and I think that is still in force. In view of that, we were directed to go for secondment, and it is the secondment that I’m talking about.

So you haven’t recruited any staff?

Not at all. Those seconded cannot say they’re redundant. You’re employed in a ministry and you’re also seconded somewhere to do a job.

As the chairman of the board, you’re there to oversee the management. Are you satisfied with the performance of the management? To us, some of the things we are expecting to see are not there. So, are you satisfied as the chairman of the board?

I don’t believe it if you say nothing is happening. A lot is happening. I still want to tell you that procurement procedures in this country are a bit difficult, and that is why the Trust Fund is an intervention fund. It ought not to go through the same cumbersome procurement procedures that are in existence. But the board has a limit to which it can push its own wishes. We have done our own and we have even met with the Attorney-General of the Federation and he gave us his support by agreeing that the Trust Fund ought not to go through these cumbersome procedures.

Why can’t you ask for a waiver?

This is what I’m telling you. If that (waiver) does not go through, I think you’ll need to find out what is going on.

What we are saying is that as a board, have you written for a waiver?

Well, there’s no way you can do procure ment for security gadgets without a waiver. Certainly, there are waivers going on.

So, what is your assessment of the board and the management in the last one year?

Believe me, it is satisfactory. I know it is the first time they are getting involved in procurement. It is the first time they’re getting involved in the disbursement of funds, but I still want to repeat that if there are problems or delays, maybe there are interferences somewhere; maybe you and I need to check.

As an insider, can you suggest what needs to be done?

What needs to be done is: if they have problems, they report to the board.

Have they reported?

Nobody has reported any issue with regard to procurement.

As a former IGP, what is your assessment about police being presently targeted for attacks by hoodlums?

My general assessment of the situation where policemen are attacked is disturbing. It is unimaginable to me that there is distrust between the police and certain parts of the society, particularly a part that doesn’t have regard for law or respect for government; the part that doesn’t care about the security of their kinsmen and other members of the society. It is most unfortunate. The police in every part of the world carry the burden of protecting the lives and properties of the people. Sometimes, they pay the supreme price in doing so. I don’t see any reason whatsoever, I repeat, I don’t see a reason whatsoever that’ll be enough to make any part of the society, no matter how disgruntled they are, to be attacking police structures and sometimes even attacking police personnel.

What’s the solution?

The solution is that anybody involved in any crime at all should be made to pay for his actions. And I think that’s where we missed it. For almost a decade now, we have been having problems with organised crimes. Some of them we’ve been living with for a long time. I’m talking about armed robbery and perhaps kidnapping. Some of them are very new and that’s when we talk about organised banditry and other heinous crimes, including insurgent activities of the Boko Haram. We missed it because we’ve not taken the issue of prosecution seriously. People with criminal records, when I say records, I mean people who have gone into the crime, get arrested, get investigated are either being prosecuted very slowly or are not being prosecuted at all when in the actual fact of it, we should be seeing convictions; we should begin to call them criminals after conviction so that it’ll serve as deterrent to others. But that has not been the case.

When I say this, I mean it is this particular crime that I am talking about: violent and organized crimes. I believe that’s where we missed it. Unless we take this seriously, whether through an ad hoc arrangement or other alternatives, and it doesn’t require much, we will continue to live with these crimes. There’s what we call accelerated prosecution. Why don’t we do some kind of task force activities? We begin to prosecute them in an accelerated manner so that people will see that when you commit an offence, you pay the price. That is what is done even in the advanced world, and that’s why people respect the law.

But we are descending into negotiations with bandits. What’s your take on that?

I don’t take time to think over it. I don’t see how you should negotiate with criminals, particularly those ones that are not ready to give up the trade. In any case, for most of the people talking about negotiating with criminals, which law backs that effort? To my mind, the only people that have the prerogative or capacity to forgive an offence can do so mostly after convictions. Justice is not just for the state. So, simply because you’re a governor, you don’t just wake up to say I’m forgiving this, I’m forgiving that. On behalf of the state, yes you can do it. But can you do it on behalf of the victims? You don’t have the right. Justice is for the three; it’s for the state, it’s for the victim and it’s also for the suspect.

So the stick and carrot approach will not work?

Absolutely! People who go into crime do not have ordinary minds like me and you. They have negative emotions. When you spill the blood of another person, there’s a tendency that you’ll do it again. The best for them is for justice to take its course. I have said it before and I will repeat it anywhere, I have the right to say my mind, ever before most people began to say it, negotiating with criminals is wrong. I served as a Commissioner of Police in Rivers State. I worked with a governor who never believed in negotiating with kidnappers. He’ll never allow those or anyone thinking that way to negotiate with kidnappers. And we were able to bring it under control through the use of the same force they used against innocent members of the public.

You’re calling for justice and that justice must take its course. But Nigerians are calling for protection. In your own assessment, why do the police appear weak?

The police are weak because it has been neglected for a long time. I served the police for 31 years. The kind of budget you hear does not get the same release. How can you perform? Alhamdulillahi (praise be to Allah) I got to the peak of my career and I could see funding was the problem. Where we are now, we have an intervention model to improve the budget of the police in an interventional manner. Where some of the procedures are meant to be taken away, we’re being allowed to sink into the same problem. The same purpose of creating this Trust Fund is because the procedures of getting it through the Ministry of Police affairs do not give the end result. But it’s the same problem the interventionary Trust Fund is facing.

So we are still in the same boat…

I have no problem with that at all, because we have the responsibility to let the public know and the responsibility to be transparent. We have to let everybody know what is happening and we should execute it to the best of our ability.

Why is it difficult to massively recruit people into the Police Force?

Thank you very much. There’s nothing difficult about it, particularly as we are aware that the government had given the approval for the police to recruit 10,000 policemen each year, and there’s always money to back that exercise. At least we have witnessed the performance twice. But unfortunately, in the third one, there was a disagreement between the police and the Police Service Commission. Incidentally, I’m one of those retired IGPs delegated to intervene between the two of them (the chairman of the Police Service Commission and the immediate past IGP). I think we were almost through with that with the former IGP.

But with the present IGP, we can get things done. I made sure I went with the present IGP in one of my visits to the Police Service Commission to persuade them to solve the problem. So, the efforts continue.

But if you want to solve the second most important problem of the police aside from funding, which is manpower, the most immediate thing to do is to merge organisations or government departments performing similar functions with the police immediately. This is the way you can improve the manpower of the police. Let me be direct: if you merge the Civil Defence, the Road Safety and the NDLEA with the police, you’ll be raising over 100,000 improved manpower of the police. That happens in all parts of the world. You can make NDLEA a department in the police anti-narcotics; make the Road Safety part of the Police Federal HighWay Patrols which the Trust Fund is introducing or convincing the police to reintroduce while we give them the necessary support. If you do that, you’ll see the change in the performance of the police immediately.

Will that not amount to dilution in terms of psychological focus? Because most people believe that the police need radical reforms and some of these agencies have lesser problems than the police.

Are you talking about lesser problems or you’re talking about performance? If you’re talking about performance, from the creation of NDLEA till date, would you tell me that the abuse of drugs and involvement or escalation of dealerships in drugs has not quadrupled? When a divisional police officer used to know that it is his responsibility to control the abuse of drugs in his area and to control the dealers in his area. The rate of raids was more and much more effective than it is today. How can you tell me that a department that has about 6,000 personnel can perform the functions of an organisation with hundreds of thousands of personnel?

When the control of drugs was in the hands of the police, every policeman felt he had the responsibility for the control and the abuse and sale/dealership of drugs. Are we talking about reality or we are talking about satisfying the wishes of the people who want us to copy what they see in ideal societies? Would you tell me that the withdrawal of police highway patrol to enable the federal road safety lay claim for the responsibility on the highway has not contributed to the escalation of crimes on the highways?

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