JUST LIKE MANY NIGERIANS, MIKE OKIRO, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE IS WORRIED ABOUT THE RECURRING SECURITY BREACHES ACROSS THE NATION. FOR OKIRO, THE SECURITY BREACHES MUST NOT BE TAKEN LIGHTLY TO PREVENT A LOOMING STATE OF ANARCHY. IN THIS INTERVIEW WITH YEMI ADEBOWALE, THE RETIRED IGP, WHO IS NOW A SECURITY CONSULTANT, X-RAYS THE CURRENT SECURITY CHALLENGES FACING THE NATION AND OFFERS TIPS ON HOW TO TACKLE THE MENACE.
Many Nigerians are worried by the recurring security breaches in the country. Just this week, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad headquarters in Abuja and the Command and Staff College in Jaji, Kaduna, were attacked by terrorists. What do you make of all these?
The attacks on these two high security areas are a sad note on the security situation in the country, taking into consideration that Jaji is a major military installation and the SARS is a high brow security establishment. We cannot take those breaches lightly. The situation is such that a lot needs to be done. The security agencies are doing their best within the purview of what they have and the environment in which they are working. One cannot presume that security agencies must do everything alone. They need the cooperation and collaboration of members of the public. You can’t sit down and expect security agencies to do everything alone. There must be cooperation from members of the public. The security of the country is not the responsibility of security agencies alone. The public must contribute and assist them to succeed. Every Nigerian should be involved. We should not just sit down and hope that security agencies will do everything.
Many Nigerians are of the opinion that the police and other security agencies are not well equipped to fight terrorism and other crimes in the country. Do you agree with this?
That is part of the point I was making. We have gone past the stage in our development where people use pen and thumb to do things. We now have computer-assisted mechanism to do whatever we want to do. Whatever anyone wants to do in this world now will be assisted by computers and other high tech gadgets. Our security agencies are not properly equipped yet to face the challenges of what we are having now. These criminals or terrorists or whatever you call them watch videos and visit the Internet to plan whatever they want to do. So, security agencies should be ahead of them, not behind. They must be ahead to succeed. Once this is not done, we will just be beating about the bush. For now, terrorist are ahead of security agencies. They don’t have the equipment and training to match these criminals.
Still talking about being ahead of criminals, it seems our security agencies are also behind in terms of existing laws for tackling and prosecuting terrorists. Just last week, the current IGP, Mohammed Dikko Abubakar, said he was not aware of the existence of an anti-terrorism law in Nigeria. Were you surprised?
Maybe he was not well briefed. I am aware of the passage of the law in 2011. I was invited to a television programme sometime last year to discuss the anti-terrorism law. We reviewed the act with Senator Umaru Dahiru and two other people. We talked about the flaws in the law and what security agencies should do with the law. That was after I left service. Probably he did not watch the programme or probably he was not briefed about the anti-terrorism law. We reviewed the law and one of the things I pointed out was that the law did not make provision for centrality of authority. It did not clearly state areas the National Security Adviser should take action or areas the police and other security agencies should take action. I pointed out that there should be a hierarchy or an overall authority. A situation where different security agencies are doing different things and reporting to different authorities does not make room for efficiency and effective operations.
Specifically, what do you think the government should be doing to assist the police in order to effectively tackle crimes in the country?
The government has been doing its best within what is available in its coffers. For the police and any other organization to do well, there are three essentials things needed. They must be properly trained. Welfare of the personnel must be paramount and they must be properly equipped. So, if any of these three is missing, the organization will not be able to achieve it aims, objectives and mission. Be that as it may, the police is just one of the agencies of government. Security is also key in governance. So, considering our lean resources, you should not expect government to put all our resources into the police. We have challenges from education, roads, agriculture and so many things demanding for funds. We cannot say that because security is faulty, police should get everything. If we divert the entire budget of the country to the police, it will still not be enough. Usually, I give this example, whenever I want to do a security comparison between Nigeria and advanced countries.
A relation of mine was a mayor in the United States. He visited me when I was the IGP; called a press conference and gave me the key to the city. So, I asked him about equipment for the police in his territory of about 30,000 people. He said the police there operate with ten helicopters in a city of 30,000 people. If we want to buy helicopters for Nigerian police based on this calculation, the whole budget of Nigeria won’t be able to do it. In our country of about 167 million people, If we want to have a one police helicopter to 3000 people, then the entire budget of the country won’t be able to do it. The point I am trying to make with this example is that the government cannot put all its money into the police. But essentials things must be given. The essential things that will make the police function within the confines of what is available to the government – good training, equipment and welfare
Back to the failing war against terrorism; it seems that there is a disconnect among security agencies as they battle crime, leading to very low success rate?
Yes, there is a disconnect; when I was IGP, I made presentations on this and I have continued to hammer on this, each time I make presentations. I have always been saying this; that there is no cooperation among security agencies in Nigeria. There is no information sharing among our security agencies. This is very bad. A situation where one security agency thinks that it is superior to other security agencies is bad. It hinders progress. The security agencies are working towards one goal – to provide security for all Nigerians. Despite the fact that they wear different uniforms, they went through the same basic training and diversified to other areas. I always use this example and I will keep using it, when talking about this problem of disconnect among security agencies. A situation where a State State Security operative in a place like Gombe comes across security information, he will pass it on to his Director General in Abuja who will pass it on to the National Security Adviser. The NSA passes it to the IGP who will then pass it on to the police commissioner in Gombe State. A week on two will be lost in this process. I would want to see a situation where the SSS in Gombe gets an information and quickly pass it on to the DPO, and swiftly work together to contain the situation. They should take action immediately and later inform the headquarters. But this is not so now. There is no cooperation among the security agencies. This has been a major drawback on the war against crime and terrorism. Criminals will not wait for you to come after them. A minute means a lot. There should be cooperation in all the states. You don’t have to wait until there is a meeting between the commissioner of police and the SSS chief, before taking action. That cooperation should start right from the grassroots. I want a situation whereby a DPO and the SSS officer at the local government will work together.
You said the entire federal budget cannot fund the needs of the police. So, what should government do to meet the requirements of the police?
I have said it and I will continue to say it. The government should try as much as possible, within what is available, provide the police with the basic things I mentioned earlier.
Some people are not even happy that security took almost 25% of the proposed 2013 budget
It is not still enough. Though, as I said, government still has other areas of need apart from security. But we should prioritise security. If there is no security, will they be able to work? If you lose security, you lose respect. Just as we are talking now, if there is no security, you won’t be able to stay here. Nobody will be here. It is not that the whole budget should go to security agencies; but there should be priority for security.
Looking back at the police you left some years ago, would you say that there has been an improvement?
I think the force is picking up again. At the time I came on board as IGP, the force was a little bit in shambles and I tried to re-build and re-focus it. Some who came after me did not continue from there. That is one thing that is bad with our organisations in Nigeria. When somebody starts something, a successor will jettison it and start something new. He might not finish it; another person will come and start something new again. It continues just like that. Not that we human beings are perfect. We can make mistakes. When a successor comes, he should look at the things on ground and move forward. But to just throw everything, is not good. That was what happened to us. A lot of the things we started were not completed; some abandoned. IGPs can be changed. They can’t be there forever. But there should be continuity of policy.
You tried you hands on politics after retirement. At a point, you were a senatorial aspirant in Abuja under PDP. You lost at the primaries. Why did you go into politics? What was the experience like?
Let me first say that man is a political being. You have to be involved in everything around you. I went into politics for few reasons. First, I wanted to keep myself busy. Two, I wanted to know what it is like, being a politicians. I cannot criticize a system adequately, if I don’t know how it works. If you get into an organization, you will know more about it. Criticizing from outside might be faulty. I went into politics and found out that my fears were right. I could not fit into it. This is because I came from a background where everything has guidelines and rules and regulations to be followed. But in politics, there are no rules. It was there that I found out about all sorts of deceit in politics. In Nigerian politics, two people will sit down telling each other lies. They will be fully aware that they are telling each other lie and will still agree and laugh together. When one leaves, the other one will tell those around that ‘look don’t mind him.’ I was not brought up that way. I was not bruised. I contested for a senatorial seat and lost the primaries. I am still with the party. Some people ran away but I stayed. Some other parties invited but said I won’t go. Some said I should come and take their own senatorial ticket but I refused.
Do you have plans to re-contest for Abuja senatorial ticket?
No, no. I told you that I have had enough experience. Let me just be a simple party member. That is what I want.
I learnt that you now work as Special Adviser on security to the PDP national chairman. Is this true?
Yes, that is my area of specialty
You went into politics to keep yourself busy. Now, you are out of it. What are the things you now do to keep yourself busy?
I have since found out that I have more than enough to keep myself busy, if I had known what I now know. I am now into security consultancy. I am always travelling. They invite me for seminars and lectures on security. I deliver papers. Infarct, my family thinks that I travel too much.