LAST week, few hours after President Muhammadu Buhari approved the appointment of Deputy Inspector-General Usman Alkali Baba as the Acting Inspector-General of Police, pending his confirmation by the Senate, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo performed the official ceremony decorating him with his new rank at the Vice President’s Conference Hall of the State House, Abuja. Baba replaced Mohammed Adamu, whose tenure had actually expired on February 1, 2021, but was controversially extended by President Buhari for three months, then cut short while he was on official duty in Imo State. The new IGP immediately set out to work, announcing his first set of appointments two days after President Buhari announced his appointment. He announced the reappointment of Mr. Frank Mba as the force spokesman and the reappointment of Mr. Idowu Owohunwa as his Principal Staff Officer (PSO). He also appointed Mr. Hafiz Inuwa, an Assistant Inspector General, as the force secretary.
To be sure, Mr. Baba’s coming as IGP inspires no song and dance among Nigerians, for whom it is just another act in the country’s theatre of the absurd. For one, Mr. Baba came on board amid mounting opposition to the ethnically lopsided composition of the country’s security chiefs. For another, his appointment came within the context of widespread and pervasive insecurity across the country, and in the face of false assurances by the government. Generally, it is quite troubling that since the return to civil rule in 1999, no IGP seems to have performed creditably, and to the admiration of Nigerians. For example, when, in January 2019, the immediate past IGP, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, replaced Mr. Ibrahim Kpotun Idris as the Acting IGP, it was a huge relief to Nigerians traumatised by the latter’s tenure.
It is a fact that the NPF has since independence in 1960 been struggling with the imperative of evolving from a colonial outfit of civil pacification into a truly independent security agency saddled with the responsibility of securing a liberated citizenry. When IGP Adamu came on board, we charged him to restore the sullied image of the police and avoid the pitfalls of partisanship which obviously ensnared his immediate and other predecessors. We also charged him to improve service delivery by making the outfit professional and courteous to the people, living up to the dictum that “the police is your friend.” Unfortunately, however, the expectations were never met. And, what is more, the police had no answer to the litanies of horrendous crimes by nomadic herdsmen, bandits and terrorists who more or less took over from the legitimate organs of the state. It must be said, however, that Mohammed at least had a calm demeanor and was less controversial in his utterances than his predecessor.
As IGP Baba comes on board, then, he will need to showcase and exemplify discipline, respect for constituted authority, respect for human rights and the dignity of the human person, and a willingness to make a departure from the factors that have hobbled effective policing in the country for ages. The country needs a force that will, in the words of former IGP Sunday Ehindero, “serve and protect with integrity”, and IGP Baba will do well to work towards actualising that objective. Besides, it cannot be a moot point that the colleges where the officers and men of the force receive their tutelage do not have to be torture chambers, and that better training of police personnel will ensure that the constant friction with the civilian population is greatly reduced.
We have not been persuaded to change our view that the force needs to recruit cadets from the top of the classes in tertiary institutions in order to improve service delivery and enhance courtesy and professionalism. It is certainly possible to replicate the modern policing system in Nigeria. Going by his antecedents, Baba is quite qualified for the top police job: what he needs to do is to avoid the pitfalls that led to the present sorry situation. With grit and discipline, he can make the required change. We wish him a great and successful tenure.
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