Retired Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Solomon Arase

The recent spate of kidnappings across the country has once again exposed the incompetence of the Nigeria Police. Particularly galling is the resort by police to lies, to cover up the enormous institutional challenges, the police face, instead of asking for help. The most recent embarrassment, was the claim by the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Solomon Arase, that his men rescued Chief Olu Falae, kidnapped late last month, by marauding Fulani cattle herdsmen, in Ondo State. But, according to Chief Falae, the former secretary to the Federal Government, he was “let go the day after ransom was collected”, and the Chief spent four days with the kidnappers, before his release.

As a face-saving measure, after the freed Chief told the world what happened, the IGP released a statement, saying: “As professionals, it is our conviction that the unprecedented and massive deployment of police resources and men to support search and rescue operations put pressure on the criminals to release the elder statesman.” In essence, what the IGP subsequently admitted is that the police did not actually spring the Chief from his abductors, as he earlier claimed, but that the Chief was released following the pressure on the bandits, by the police.

So, why did the IGP release the earlier false report that his men had following the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB), successfully rescued the eminent Yoruba traditional ruler, from his abductors? Fear? Insecurity? Psychological disorder? Why the false claim? For this column, while the traumatised victim of the kidnap, deserve our collective sympathy, the greater sympathy goes to the police. Indeed, this column recommends that the federal government should set up a committee of psychologists, sociologists and related disciplines, to understudy the Nigeria police, and recommend ways to rescue it, from this cover-up syndrome.

As a rule of thumb, the immediate reaction of the police to any unwholesome or inefficient conduct, by any member of their rank and file, is to cover the tracks. That reaction is instinctive, even when the action is manifestly criminal, and abundantly committed in bad faith. The commonest and most gruesome occurrences are what is commonly referred to as “accidental discharge”. An ‘accidental discharge’, can roughly be described, as a terminology used by the police to justify, either a clandestine or intentional or reckless shooting of a victim, most times at police checkpoints, or at other police action spots, for insignificant or no just cause.

When such a shooting happens, the police authority will most times, without any investigation, even a wish washy one; issue a statement exculpating their own official, and indicting the victim. Nearly at all such times, the police public relations officer, will without any iota of guilt, lie that the shooting occurred in the line of their official, discharging his/her police duties. Where, however, arising from public pressure for justice, the culprit is hauled to account for the so called ‘accidental discharge’, the police will reluctantly change the story, and admit negligence of their official, without any reprimand for those who earlier wholesomely misled the people and the state.

This scenario is not a one-off occurrence, it is rather the standard practice. Perhaps the commonest explanation for such behavioural pattern, could be a sense of insecurity. Job insecurity? We know that until the advent of democracy, the police were treated like scums by the marauding military regimes. This hangover seems to have refused to go away, even with the advent of democracy, since 1999. The result is a police afflicted by low morale. While one can sympathize with the lower ranks, it is worrisome, if the highest ranking police official, feels it is necessary to lay false claims, apparently to keep his job.

The possibility of job-insecurity or any other form of insecurity affecting the integrity of the police officer, should be discouraged by the president and other high officials of state, who are in superior positions of influence to the police. Whatever makes the police feel or act inferior to their stature under the law of the country, should be tamed. In the Falae instance, while the IGP is obligated to obey the directives of the president to mobilize, to free the Chief; he should be encouraged to speak-up, if there are any impediments or challenges or limitations to his capacity to deliver, on the directive.

For instance has the governments at all levels, particularly the federal government, provided the requisite technology to the police, for it to be able to quickly track down marauders, as in the case of Chief Falae? Does the police formations have the latest Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, to track and pin point the location of the telephone signals, with which the criminals were demanding for ransom, for instance? Has the federal government provided the resources to train and equip special police squads that the IGP can swiftly deploy for counter-insurgency, anti-kidnapping and anti-robbery assignments?

If the Federal Government is remiss, in getting the police ready, to answer to nationwide emergencies; then it will amount to a presidential joke, for this president or any president to order the IGP to solve any criminal offence that embarrasses the federal government, like Chief Falae’s kidnap, within a time frame. Well, unless the IGP at his employment interview, had offered himself up, as a sorcerer, in addition to his other trainings.

In fairness to PMB, his government is not responsible for the massive fraud, represented to Nigeria, recently, as the installation of security gadgets, in major metropolises across the country, to aid effective policing. But to have efficient policing, across Nigeria, the best of men and materials, must be put in place, soonest.

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