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Why Policemen Are Not Popular With Nigerians —Alobi
Security consultant and retired Commissioner of Police, Federal Capital Territory, Barrister Lawrence Alobi, in this interview with BANKOLE MAKINDE, speaks on the way out of the security challenges facing the country. Excerpts:
What was the country like while you were growing up?
It was a beautiful country and keeping it beautiful lies in our hands. We need to change our attitude towards one another. We live in suspicion; we do not trust each other because of money and power. We are not concerned about how we affect the society. The country will be better if we can build good leadership and followership.
What did your parents teach you that really shaped your life today?
Two things have shaped my life: religion and moral background. My parents taught me to be obedient, to render selfless service, to be humble at all times and to be prayerful. My religion teaches me to obey God and serve Him and humanity at all times. We should live not only by word, but also by deed.
What informed your career choice?
I was recruited into the Nigerian Air Force, but when my aunt, with whom I was staying then, heard about this, she cried because it was the period of the civil war. She feared I would be killed. I learnt about the recruitment when I was working with Regent Hotel in Yaba as a steward. After I was recruited, I trained for three months. Then, I was posted to the East Central State. In 1971, I went with Isaac Ogbemudia to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), as a mobile police constable. I saw young men and women who were my age in the university. Then, I told myself I must also become an undergraduate. I never attended secondary school or any classes. I studied on my own, took examinations and passed by God’s grace. I was admitted to read Law at UNN as an evening student, but the powers-that-be there tried to frustrate me as a constable. So, in 1976, I went on study leave for four years without pay. At the end, I made Second Class (Upper Division).
How were the leadership styles of the Inspectors-General you worked with?
Mr. Tafa Balogun was a courageous leader. What happened to him notwithstanding, he was a leader with good qualities. He knew when to do what. His officers were bright and courageous. He is one of the best IGPs we have had in this country. He was assertive, intelligent. When Balogun came on board, there was a high level of crime, but he introduced Operation-fire-for-fire. My prayer is that God should guide the present IG so that he can transform the police, so that they could give value to the country.
How does the country get out of the security challenges facing it today?
The present situation is disturbing. All of us should be concerned about how to make things right. Terrorism was alien to our culture. We should find a lasting solution so that there can be peace and security in the country. Section 14(b) of the constitution as amended provides that, the security and well-being of the citizens shall be the primary purpose of the government. Also, Section 24 says that, it is the duty of all citizens to assist the government to maintain law and order. If you marry the two sections together, you will realise that security is the work of everybody, both the government and the people. We seem to believe that security should be left for the government alone, whereas the prime beneficiaries of good security are the citizens. If the country is safe, the citizens benefit. So, it is incumbent on us to assist security agents in maintaining law and order.
The insecurity we are facing today could be traced to leadership problem. Although Boko Haram has not said exactly what they want, I think their insurgency is a result of bad governance and bad leadership. When people are neglected, the consequence is what we are seeing today. When people are impoverished without hope, they resort to violence. Again, our borders are porous while we play the role of big brother. Everybody wants to seek refuge in our country. I learned that some arms and ammunition were intercepted in Borno State through the border. If our borders are well policed, some of these things will be checkmated because illegal importation of arms is a threat to security. The government should install CCTV cameras at our borders so that the movement of people can be monitored. Our borders should not be free to all. We do not have discipline in this country. We believe that breaking the law is gallantry, but it is not. It will be good for us if we learn to obey the law.
Let me also add that, the government should dialogue with all aggrieved persons because war does not bring any good result. When we dialogue, we hear our differences and issues are resolved amicably. Again, security agencies should come together and work as a team. They should not engage in a show of superiority; they are not competing. We are in a democracy; we should all participate in securing our country.
When you were the Commissioner of Police in Abuja, how did you handle the security situation?
Crime is dynamic and so is security. They change with time. In my time, we did not have Boko Haram. The situation at hand should determine the strategy that should be adopted. I believe in democratic policing where people participate in policing the society. The people should trust the police and give them information. The police should also make themselves worthy of trust. If the citizens cooperate with the police, they are helping them to perform better and it is in their own interest. The police is the principal law enforcement agency in the country. That is why it is important to empower them. Training is critical because untrained policemen are a threat to the society. Untrained policemen abuse human rights and use guns against innocent people.
If a policeman is trained on professional ethics, he becomes effective and the entire nation benefits.
Do you support the establishment of state police in the country?
Many people have said that we are not yet ripe for state police, but that is like telling a child not to start crawling because he will fall. We need to start something and learn from our mistakes. We adopted the presidential system of government, the American system of government and all states in America have their own police. So, there is nothing wrong with the establishment of state police in the country now. When you avoid doing something, the knowledge will elude you. We have tried federal policing and it has failed us. The federal and state governments should work together to empower the police. Policing should be in line with democratic norms and values, where human rights are respected and promoted based on the rule of law, accountability, transparency and consent.
The ideology of community policing should be based on police personnel living among the people. In developed countries, police personnel live among the people, but here in Nigeria, they live in barracks. The trust that Americans have for the police is high.
But in Nigeria, we do not have any respect for them because we are yet to gain their confidence and trust. Therefore, I advocate community, democratic and participatory policing.
Why do you think policemen are not so popular with Nigerians?
A system of government determines the kind of police system that is in place. During the colonial era, policemen were brutish, and human rights were abused. They were only interested in protecting her Majesty’s seat, not the people. Again, soon after our independence, the military came on board. Democracy was thrown overboard and the constitution was suspended. They came with draconian laws; human rights were abused. All security agencies were only out to serve the interest of the government.
The hatred against the police over the years is the hangover of the wickedness of the military. In order to have a police force that is loved, the personnel must imbibe democratic norms and values, respect human rights and uphold the law.Share