CHIEF Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala, a former governor of Oyo State and retired police officer, in this interview by YINKA OLADOYINBO, bares his mind on the security challenges confronting the country and role of the Nigeria Police.
One of the major challenges facing Nigeria today is insecurity. What is your view on the problem?
The security problem in the country did not start with the administration of President Mohammed Buhari. It is a pity that the government before now paid lip service to internal security. We have not got the right the security architecture for the country. A lot of things are going wrong. The internal security of any country should be in the hands of a single force and in the Nigerian situation, the Nigeria Police should be in the forefront, and not the armed forces. We are not giving a prominent and proper place to the police in the operation of internal security in Nigeria. We should try as much as possible to bring the Nigeria Police Force to the front burner of the internal security of the nation. When you do that along with adequate funding, training and motivation, things will go on well. The army has taken over the job of the police and this has affected the security architecture of the country. Government should try as much as possible not to lay much emphasis on the establishment of armed forces formations but should emphasise the setting up of more police formations, more police station and more area commands if possible and they should engage in mass recruitment. Besides, the police college where people will be trained should be well-funded. We don’t expect the police colleges to bring half-baked police constables into the street because they will misbehave. Proper recruitment should be done and the prerequisite qualifications needed to work in the Nigeria Police should be followed. They should make sure that they obey the rules and laws of recruitment. For Nigeria to move forward on security, we should properly fund the police and training, as well as motivate the personnel.
But the argument for the involvement of the military in internal security is because men of the police are always overwhelmed during crisis. Don’t you think your suggestion can in a way escalate the problem?
It is not possible. The police are not overwhelmed and if we say they were overwhelmed, it was because they were neglected. If they are given their proper place in the security architecture of Nigeria, they will not be overwhelmed. No well-trained police officer will surrender his job to an army officer. We are trained to maintain internal security. It is the job of the police and not the army. If those make sure claim think the police are overwhelmed, let them give them the necessary support, the needed fund and tools to work with. It is the lack of logistics that is causing all the problems for the police. When you get to a police station, the personnel will complain that they don’t have statement forms for suspects. I don’t know the state of the Nigeria Police Printing Press. In our days, the printing press was there to print all the documents needed by the police. Crime diary, statement forms and other documents were printed there. But now, the police personnel buy their uniform. From constable to an inspector should not buy uniform. So, that is why you see some police officers in tattered uniform or different colours. It is also causing an identity problem. We can’t identify who is a proper officer and who is not a genuine police officer. So, the police are overwhelmed because the government wants them to be overwhelmed. If they are properly taken care of and motivated, they won’t be overwhelmed. When was the last time they recruited into the police? It is supposed to be regular so that as a set is leaving, another set is coming in. A constable should be properly trained for six months but there is no training. All the police colleges in the country are in a sorry state.
Don’t you think these issues bother on corruption in the Police?
We should define what we mean by corruption in the police. I want to say authoritatively that it is very difficult for anyone to embezzle police fund or use such money in a wrong way. There are mechanisms to check such abuse. In most cases when you talk of corruption, there is the ministry of police affairs that takes care of the police. The Police Service Commission (PSC) is for the promotion and discipline of the police, while the Inspector General (IGP) does the day to day running of the system. So, it is very difficult to embezzle police fund. If you say an individual is corrupt in the police as regards cases that are coming to them, that they take money from suspects, I won’t argue on that. But government fund cannot be misappropriated by any police officer. The money that is given to the police undergoes so many checks before it is spent.
Then, what do you think is the way out of the quagmire that the nation has found itself, especially on security issue?
We should start an immediate recruitment of constables and officers. We should get an appropriate strength of the police that will match our population. Secondly, we should get the funding of police right. Thirdly, when you fund them right, you will be able to take care of the welfare of the personnel and motivate them. If the police are highly motivated, nobody will talk of the force being overwhelmed. If a police officer is going on a special duty and he is sure of collecting his allowances and other benefits, people will be running over themselves to go for special duties because they know they will come back with all that is due to them. Motivation is very necessary.
How will you rate the involvement of governors, particularly in the South-West on security matters in their individual domains?
The governors are doing enough. No governor will want to have a state that is not safe. But they are handicapped because of the type of police they have in their respective states. It is unfortunate that we allow the ills of our society to reflect in the Nigeria Police Force. So, the type of society we have determines the type of police we have and that is what is making the police not to perform the way they should. The governors will not want to have any negative security issue in their states. They will try their best to maintain peace but, we should not forget that they are not in charge of recruitment. With due respect to the governors, I can say that when I was the governor of Oyo State, I spent on security agencies operating in the state more than the Federal Government that owns them. I know that the present governors will be spending money on security than what the security agencies are receiving from their headquarters in Abuja because they don’t want to find themselves in a security mess in their states. So, they are trying their best but the best may not be enough because the tools are not readily available for them; the tools are the policemen to be used.
The issue of insecurity has again brought the demand for state police to the fore again. Do you subscribe to the agitation for the creation of state police?
State police is very good; it has its advantages and disadvantages but unfortunately, we are not yet mature for state police in Nigeria because we use power unnecessarily and in that case, people may want to use the personnel to harass their opponents. We cannot afford to have state police now; things will go chaotic and haywire. There was a time a particular governor had problems with the Nigeria Police. Imagine if he had a state police to use that time, it would have been a war between the federal and the state police. So, no matter the mechanism they might put in place to synergise their operations, there will still be conflict. Also, the Nigerian army and the police are all federal establishments. You can see how the army has been killing men of the Nigeria Police; over a little thing, they will kill policemen. Now, imagine if it is situation between the state police and federal police, one will want to prove superior over the other.
What then will you suggest as the way out?
What I think should be done is that the police should localise its recruitment exercise. For instance, the police should recruit indigenes of Ogbomoso to work in Ogbomoso. The federal police should recruit people from their localities to work there. This will solve two major issues: one, if you are recruited from your society, you will be shy to get yourself corrupted, and two, such a person will know the area very well. In the police, local knowledge is very important. There is a topic in the police duty called local knowledge. If you have the opportunity of being an indigene of an area and you are posted there to work, you will have no problem working in that area. The system was practised before; the army stopped it. It was done for about three years and the army rubbished it because they felt they were not getting juicy postings, as everybody wanted to work in Kano, Lagos, especially in the commercial towns. What I think should be done is that after the recruitment, no officer below the rank of a Superintendent of Police should work in other people’s states.
They should be posted to their states. For instance in the case of Oyo state, a Saki man can be the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in Akanran; a native of Eruwa can be a DPO in Ido; they are all within Oyo State. Only the senior officers should be rotated. They are indigenes; they will think that one day they will leave the force and think about the type of police officers they would be called after leaving the force; the type of name that would be given to their families through their actions or inactions. If you take a Yoruba man to Goza, he will not be able to perform. He will be thinking of distance from Goza to his town. At the moment, people from Borno State wants to work as the DPO in Adeniji Adele or Apapa Port because they think it is juicy working in those places. It is very wrong. People that know the areas should be allowed to work there because they can communicate effectively with the citizens. If I am posted to the Northern part of the country and I cannot speak Hausa and I want to interrogate a suspect to my satisfaction, I will have to employ an interpreter. People should not be posted to areas where they will have a language barrier. So, we are not yet ripe for state police; it is good but we will have difficulties in making it work because of our peculiarity and our young democracy. We have tried it before and we know what they used the local police; they were abused and that was why they were scrapped.