On Tuesday, 58-year-old Usman Alkali Baba was named the Acting Inspector General of Police, taking over from Mohammed Adamu, whose tenure had expired in February. This was followed by his decoration by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo at the State House, Abuja, on Wednesday.
Not oblivious of the litany of security challenges confronting the nation and the weight of expectations by Nigerians from his office and the Nigeria Police Force he is to lead, Baba said the police under his leadership would improve the security situation in the country. He also promised to prioritise community policing.
Baba swiftly pledged to confront “increasingly complex and pervasive security threats” in the country. He listed some of those threats to include terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, secessionist agitation and sundry organised crimes.
“Much as the challenge of leading the Force to address these threats in the shortest possible time frame, restore security order, and return the nation to the path of national unity may appear daunting, I am inspired by the fact that from my extensive years of service, I can say that the Nigeria Police is endowed with some of the finest, courageous and patriotic officers who, undoubtedly, shall support me to advance the internal security vision of Mr. President.”
The new Police helmsman hopes to rejig Force operational strategies to achieve his goal but sought the collaboration of Nigerians to achieve the desired peace. “With all the inadequacies we have, we require everybody to be part of policing in this country. And that is why the emphasis on community policing will continue and the emphasis of collaborating with all other sister agencies will continue; we hope to have a better situation very soon,” he said.
Baba hopes to improve on community policing from where his predecessor left it, by practicalising it. “My predecessor has left it at the theoretical stage, we have started practicalising it but we have not gone far. All the methods of practicalising it have been put in place and we are going to continue with it in collaboration with other stakeholders,” he noted.
Vice President Osinbajo charged the helmsman to rejig the Force and make it live up to all the high standards of professional conduct and compliance with the Rule of Law. He also charged him to implement the Community Policing Policy, which had already taken off before his ascension. “One of the ways you can restore confidence and build trust is by implementing the Community Policing Policy, which has already taken off and reconceptualising policing as a task carried out in partnership with local communities and officers who are members of these communities,” Osinbajo noted.
Baba’s take-over of the reins at the Nigeria Police Force suggests a total overhaul of the echelon of the nation’s security agencies have now been completed. President Muhammadu Buhari, late in 2018, had appointed Yusuf Bichi to serve as Director-General (DG) of the Department of State Security Services (DSS). Bichi replaced Matthew Seiyefa, who was named Acting Director-General of the agency after the removal of Lawal Daura by then Acting President Osinbajo as a fall-out of a raid on the National Assembly.
Earlier in January, President Buhari heeded the call, albeit reluctantly, by Nigerians to change his service chiefs as a measure of improving the worsening security situation in the country. And in came a new set of service chiefs. Maj. Gen. Leo Irabor took over as the chief of defence staff, Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru as chief of army staff, Rear Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo as chief of Naval staff and Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amao as the new chief of air staff.
The changes notwithstanding, the security situation in the country has remained poor, fuelling renewed calls for newer or more result-oriented models of securing life and property across board. One of such models is the state and community policing, which has been canvassed at various times by many stakeholders and experts as capable of managing the pervasive insecurity riddle decisively.
As part of measures adopted to consolidate efforts aimed at improving the security situation in the country, the federal government recently approved the sum of N13.3 billion for the take-off of the Community Policing initiative.
On his part, the new Acting IGP has also stated his readiness to galvanise the Police to heed the call of many Nigerians to give vent to community policing as a way of tackling insecurity bedeviling many parts of the country. This is, perhaps, in furtherance of the recent recruitment exercise of special constables, also known as community policing officers, to be deployed to various communities.
However, Osun State Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, speaking on insecurity at the 2nd Annual Colloquium of the Sultan Maccido Institute for Peace, Leadership and Development Studies, University of Abuja, noted that Community Policing could not address the escalating insecurity in the country so long as it would be controlled from Abuja, instead of the states. Noting that the police was over-centralised to be effective, he canvassed state control of police.
“The nation’s conventional security agencies are overstretched and sorely underfunded. The Police once confirmed the sorry state of its manpower when it said the Force needed 155,000 additional hands to effectively police the nation. The nation’s security agencies, as presently constituted, are too centralised and too far from the grassroots to adequately provide the required security for the nation.
“Worse still, they are unfamiliar with the terrains where crimes take place. It is our belief that our people understand the topography of their communities more and can govern them better. The nation’s expansive forests have unfortunately become the hideouts of bandits, kidnappers, and other criminals,” Oyetola noted.
The governor observed that it was the inability of the central police to tackle insecurity effectively that led to the creation of Amotekun, a local security network in the South-west region, adding that with Amotekun, the forests of the Southwest were now better policed.
Though, he acknowledged the intervention of community policing, the governor noted that the intervention was inadequate as it is still being controlled from the centre. He said that the constitutional provision that assigned the role of Chief Security Officer to governors ought to have given them more powers to perform their responsibilities effectively.
Oyetola stressed that the issues that make Amotekun inevitable in the Southwest are the same in other regions of the nation, saying that other regions may wish to emulate the southwest with similar structures to rid their regions of crime.
“Our recent experience where the attempt to confront armed banditry headlong in the North resulted in their incursion into the Southwest and other regions that were erroneously perceived to be immune from the insecurity challenge is proof that each region has to be adequately policed for the region to know peace,” he added.
A member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, representing Oshodi/Isolo Constituency II, Mr Jude Idimogu, also supported the call for state police, saying it would reduce the rate of banditry and Boko Harm menace in the country.
While calling on the Federal Government to allow states handle their security architecture as governors are recognised as the Chief Security officers, he disclosed that the Lagos State House of Assembly and the state government were, in principle, yearning to have the state police come into full practice but for the fact that security is on the exclusive list in the constitution.
“The Federal Government has to agree with the state governments so the National Assembly can amend the Constitution in that regard. We need state police to effectively handle the present security situation. It is obvious that security cannot be left to the Federal Government alone,” he said.
Sometime last year, speaking against the backdrop of the worsening security situation in the country and the rift generated by the establishment of the regional security initiative, Amotekun by governors of South West states to tackle crime in the region, Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, admitted that the nation’s security system was inefficient and ineffective.
He highlighted the need for collaboration between the executive and the legislature to rejig the nation’s security architecture to make it more responsive to the needs of Nigerians, whose lives and property had become increasingly endangered.
Key among solutions that have been proffered to tackle insecurity by stakeholders at many fora is the creation of state police, in addition to such solutions as increasing the number of personnel across military formations and the police, reviewing the criminal justice system in such manner that it deters criminality and indeed overhauling the system of governance such that it reduces the preponderance of Nigerians living below the poverty line.
For the new leader of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, a decentralised police force remains a key factor in a federal system of government, and is also needed to reduce the burden of governance on the Federal Government.
According to him, if the country wanted federalism, it should not run away from the things that make a federation.
“For instance, the problem of Boko Haram could have been better handled if the country had a police structure that could keep track on the local people and identify deviants before they get out of hand,” he said.
Adebanjo noted that the unitary structure of the police is largely responsible for the growing insecurity in Nigeria as men and officers of the Police are largely strangers in their places of assignment.