IGP ARASE,PLEASE CAUSE CHANGE IN THE NIGERIA POLICE

Most Nigerians agree that we need change in many aspects of our national life and national institutions. But in my mind, if there is one place, we needed urgent and revolutionary change, it is in the Nigeria Police( Force or Service). This is because Nigeria Police is fully symptomatic of what is troubling Nigeria and therefore, if we get the Police right, many other matters will fall into place. For example, our perennial low position on the Transparency International global  Corruption Perception Index (CPI) is influenced strongly by the pathetic picture of our Policemen extorting money from drivers in the full glare of the public. It must however be pointed out that this is an embedded culture of the Nigeria Police,which has long characterized the force, almost from creation. We often blame the colonial masters for many of our national maladies. Was this a carry over from the British Police? I have my doubts.
  This matter has troubled me for many years and I had taken a few actions to see if I could help stop this practice without any iota of success while putting my life at risk.First was as a primary school pupil in the early 60's in Portharcourt. We often passed through a Police Check point on our way to and fro from School. We often would watch as a lorry, or bus driver would be flagged down and while the driver was being interrogated, the conductor would run to a spot and drop some money. Perhaps they were afraid to collect personally then,unlike now that some Policemen, collect cash, count it and return change while everybody is on the queue, watching, waiting and cursing. Even as primary school pupils we felt there was something repugnant about this practice. So one day  we decided to raid the cash collection point. We succeeded in taking out the cash bank but before we could spring to safety, they caught up with us and beat the hell out of us and seized our school bags. Now when I look back, I thank God that the Police at the Check points or on patrol in those days did not carry alms, otherwise we may have been casualties of 'accidental discharge' or may have been charged with "unarmed" robbery.
 My second attempt was when one Inspector General of Police(IGP)came to town in the early 2000's blazing fire, threatening fire for fire . I was impressed. He said he would reform the police and curb corruption in the police. I fell in love. One Christmas season, I was driving my family home when I came to a police Check point somewhere between Portharcourt and Aba and I noticed a Policeman collecting money from drivers openly. I was stung. 'Is this man not aware of the campaign by the fire for fire IGP?'.I parked my car, ignored the protestations of my wife and went to talk to the policeman. 'OC, why are you doing this?, have you not heard of the warning of your new IGP ?' ' Na who be that?' he queried me. He then went on to answer his question' Na that thief? No mind the man. That one na thief. Me I no be thief. Na beg I dey beg. If you get , you give me, if you no get, I go let you pass'. I shook my head and walked back to the car to continue my journey. My visibly angry wife asked me what transpired and I told her. She thanked God that the man was calm and not agitated and begged me to stop risking my life, more so when I had her and the kids in the car.
 My third attempt was a few years ago when a well educated Igbo man was made IGP. I was thrilled and believed he would share my disdain for this demeaning police conduct. I went to him. After congratulating him and thanking God for bringing our 'own' person to this important post, I begged him to leave a legacy and etch his name in gold. I told him to do all in his power to stop Policemen from collecting money from road users in the glare of the Public. I explained to him what damage that was doing to the image of the Police and the Nation as a whole. I went further to assure him, that as the Chairman of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group( NESG) then, that I would use my influence in the Organized Private Sector to raise a foundation that would monthly, release an amount equivalent to all the money that the police would collect at the road blocks. I told him that the money could be released to state commissioners of Police for easy disbursement to all the formations. In otherwords, the police would not lose much if at all. They could be guaranteed a minimum of 'extra income ' contributed by the private Sector, whom they were serving, if only they would stop collecting 'egunje' on the roads. I was shocked that my IGP brother was not enthused by this my 'innovative ' proposal. I had hoped that he was going to ask me for a guarantee or would request that we passed the entire monthly allocation to the Headquarters for onward transmission down the line, so that no one would be left out. Rather, he went on to defend the Police, telling me that the Nation had the police they deserved. He turned down my offer and I was heart broken.
  In my submissions since then I have consistently asserted that we needed a new Nigeria Police. That if possible, we should dissolve this Current Police formation and create a new one from the scratch. My colleagues tell me it is not possible. But this regular decapitation of the top leadership has not worked and I still believe that it will not work. During the 5year reign of President Goodluck Jonathan, he had 6 IGPs, and yet it is debatable if there is any significant change. Every new IGP will entertain us with his wish list and some would leave the Police worse than they met it. And remember that I am focusing so far only on the matter of extortion on the highways and even on the 'low ways' where 'Okada' drivers and bicycle riders are the victims. I have not talked of crime prevention/ control or operational effectiveness. That is another major subject for another day.
 And this is why, I would wish that the new IGP Solomon ARASE would prove me wrong, that changing the IGP and a few DIGs and AIGs can cause a meaningful change in the moral tone and operational effectiveness of the Police. Perhaps . Given the circumstances of his appointment, in the twilight of this present administration , given the speed with which he was confirmed( less than 3weeks as acting IGP), given the actions he has already taken,and given the wind of change gathering momentum to be unleashed on the Nation, perhaps he could do the 'impossible'. I am pleased that he has harped on staff welfare as his primary focus. I pray that he truly means it and that he will pursue it. We have heard the stories of the wickedness in the Nigeria Police. Every year, so much is budgeted, yet little gets to the police stations. There was a time, you would buy your own stationery to write a statement in the police station. There was a time, we were told that Police men bought their uniform and booths from their meager salaries or from the proceeds of 'egunje' . I want to pray that IGP Solomon ARASE ( the man with three masters degrees) will bring these stories to an end. I pray that he, the Police service commission and the Ministry of Police Affairs will rehabilitate the Police barracks and make them decent places to live and raise normal children not 'barracks' children.
  I do not know what will happen when General  Muhammadu Buhari  assumes office. What ever may happen, IGP Solomon ARASE must use whatever time he has to leave a legacy. Short or long, let it be recorded that when he was the IGP, the Nigeria Police stopped extorting road users and stopped demanding and accepting money in the glare of the Public. After, President Goodluck Jonathan's unprecedented conceading  of defeat, that will be the next development that will surprise the World and raise Nigeria's Status and respect even higher. I am praying.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

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