Inspector-General of Police States His Vision – But How Far Can He Go?

It was expected that the crux of the address by the Inspector-General of Police Usman Alkali Baba to his commanders yesterday in Abuja would be the fight against insecurity and how the police has fared.

It came to pass – the 23-point address listed the actions of police teams all over the country in the last couple of months.

However, the first main news that filtered out of the meeting was the suspension of tinted window permits for vehicles in the country. Well, this is not a new order. Different IGPs take decisions on tinted windshields as it affects them, it seems. I don’t have any vehicle with tinted windshield or windows so ‘e no concern me’.

But there are many issues he raised that seem to recur with every new IGP and one wonders why this is the case. What seems to happen is that once an IGP takes office, he makes pronouncements on the following areas:

  1. Dismantling of Road Blocks
  2. Tinted windshields permit or no permit
  3. Withdrawal of policemen attached to VIPs

And so on……..

But it seems that as soon as he settles down, all the orders he gave when he assumed office are jettisoned or forgotten and everyone goes back to square one.

Which makes us wonder, again, if the remarks by IGP Usman at his second conference with strategic commanders of the Nigeria Police Force held at the Peacekeeping Hall, Force Headquarters, Abuja would be different from previous orders, promises and pledges by police chiefs.

The IGP did say that such interactions with his team would be a vital component of his leadership vision, because they present unique opportunities to review existing and evolving security threats, evaluate strategies, assess the progress made in internal security operations, and undertake professional peer review in order to draw lessons that can enrich leadership at strategic level.

After refreshing the team with their successes in arrests, rescue of kidnapped victims, anti-banditry and anti-separatist operations, recovery of assorted firearms and ammunition during various operations nationwide over the past two months, he went on to give notice of several Dos and Don’ts which have always featured in previous IGPs directives.

  1. PARKING OF INDISCRIMINATELY SEIZED VEHICLES AROUND POLICE FORMATIONS

The IGP noted that police officers still unnecessarily and indiscriminately impound vehicles at Police Stations. He emphasised that Police facilities were not junk yards and must not be turned to one, and that such impounded vehicles create vulnerabilities which often engender attacks on police facilities. Accordingly, commanders, on return to their commands should undertake a major operation to clear all such indiscriminately impounded vehicles off their stations. Compliance to this directive shall be confirmed by the IGP himself in the course of his on-going tours to commands and any Departmental Head, Zonal Commander, Commissioner of Police or Unit Head that is found wanting will be dealt with.

 This is a good move because police stations located on major roads in our cities like Lagos are a major cause of traffic because the impounded vehicles parked around such stations constitute bottlenecks and prevent smooth flow of traffic. Some of those vehicles have been on one spot for several years – why are they still parked around such stations when they can be properly disposed off or returned to their owners? Many of the vehicles are seized and towed from accident scenes and the owners are deprived of their property for a long period of time.

  1. REPORTS OF ABUSES ASSOCIATED WITH USE OF SPY PLATE NUMBERS AND TINTED GLASSES

According to the IGP, SPY plate numbers are for official use of some categories of corporate bodies, while tinted glasses permits are issued under some statutory regulations. Unfortunately, he noted, several individuals have of turned the use of SPY Plate Numbers and Tinted Glasses into a status symbol and have fraudulently obtained such. There have also been reports that some criminal elements are also utilising them as cover for their nefarious activities. Henceforth, the issuance of SPY plate numbers and tinted glasses permits are suspended. The existing authorizations are being reviewed and a protocol to regulate the issuance of such permits will be evolved. In due course an enforcement mechanism that will enforce the standardized process of issuance of SPY number plates and tinted glasses will be implemented across the country. The Nigeria Police will work closely with the leadership of the Federal Road Safety Commission in this regard.

The IG’s position on these related issues have been trashed back and forth in the past. The ball is squarely in the court of the police on the matter. One IG comes and says you don’t need permit for tinted windshield so everyone should drive on. Another comes and says you need permit and so begins another round of rushing for permits because when you are accosted on the road, especially on the highways, there is no way you are going free unless you ‘settle’, depending on which IG’s directive is on ground. Can there just be one policy? Some cars come brand new with shields and windows tinted. Do we avoid buying such vehicles or what, in view of policy somersaults?

Allied to the issues of tinted glass and SPY plate numbers is the covering of number plates by some motorists across the country. As the IGP noted, this practice inhibits law enforcement operations and he describes it as intolerable. Consequently, Commissioners of Police are directed to arrest any motorist involved in this act.

This is a tough one because most of those who cover their number plates are either top politicians or those so-called VIPs who more often than not, have police assigned escorts. And the Commissioners of Police cannot be everywhere to implement this directive. Apart from politicians and VIPs, many criminals can conveniently cover their number places to confuse security agents or make their escape when they are being tailed. A full national intolerance of this practice is preferable, starting from the very top because for protocol reasons, number plates are expected to be covered for very top functionaries like the President, Vice President, Governors and Deputies as well as heads of legislatures as well as heads of diplomatic missions and military units – WHEN THEY ARE NOT IN THEIE OFFICIAL VEHICLES! In this case, only the front of the car is expected to be occupied by the driver and orderly, if the official is entitled to one. The flag will also be removed for ambassadors and military officers to whom the cars have been officially assigned. However, in our country, the owner of the vehicle sits in the back of the car and the number plate is covered. Trust us to have our own protocol system, different from that which is operated in other parts of the world.

IGP Usman and his Commissioners have their work cut for them on this matter.

  1. ROAD BLOCKS

​The IGP also said he has been receiving reports that some Commissioners of Police are still allowing the mounting of road blocks in their jurisdictions. For the avoidance of doubts, he stated, road blocks under any description or guise remain banned across the country and any officer found to be contravening this order will be held liable and dealt with firmly. He declared: “As law enforcement operatives, we must align our policing strategies to this societal dynamics, particularly, at this time that our policing functions are being built in the community policing model in which the citizens’ interests are prioritised. Road blocks as a policing model, is becoming obsolete and unacceptable. Hence, we are working towards enhancing our intelligence-led and technology-driven policing capability as well as strengthening the Safer Highway Motorised Patrol Scheme as an alternative to road blocks. Therefore, you are tasked to ensure that deployments within your commands are reviewed and your operations aligned to this new policing approach which discourages the disposition to limiting the liberty of citizens through road blocks which are known to be avenues for corrupt tendencies and other vices that widen the trust gap between the citizens and the Police. The X-Squad and Monitoring Unit have been mandated to commence a special operation across the country to enforce this directive”.

Another tough task for the IG to monitor his Commissioners and other officers, including even very junior ones who are known to set up illegal road blocks and use them to extort money from motorists and travelers. The police are not the only guilty party here. In several parts of the country, Customs Officers, Drug Law Enforcement, Road Safety, Local Government tax officers, Vehicle Inspection Officers and even Vigilante groups set up road blocks. The police is the most visible though and probably the originating that taught the others how to mount road blocks. Who knows – if the police can stop, others may also learn from them and stop. But how far can the X-Squad and Monitoring Unit go? Can they also avoid being compromised? Previous IGs have tried and the impression by Usman Alkali is that the Commissioners of Police are to blame when he said “Some Commissioners of Police are still allowing the mounting of road blocks in their jurisdictions”. Can he put sanctions in place for such erring Commissioners and others? Can the Monitoring Units override a Commissioner in his command area?

​As the Inspector-General of Police briefs his commanders and continues his duty tour of the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory as he has planned, we hope he will have the will to be able to put his vision of a better police force in place. His meetings and relations with officers and men in Police Formations across the country should help him to further engage with them and other strategic stakeholders in the course of policing Nigeria efficiently and effectively.

 

IMAGE CREDTI: npf.gov.ng

 

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