Chief Mike Mbama Okiro
By Sheddy Ozoene
Last Wednesday, retired Inspector General of Police, Chief Mike Mbama Okiro assumed duty as the new Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC). It was a return to familiar terrains for the Super Cop who headed the nation’s Police high command from 2007 to 2009.
Okiro’s appointment has once again raised expectations from the Police Service Commission which is the civilian oversight body for the Nigeria Police Force. It has also reopened the debate over his tenure as IGP, the far-reaching reforms he instituted as well as the impact of the PSC on discipline and operational efficiency of the police. Established under Section 153 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the PSC has power to appoint, promote, discipline and dismiss officers of the Nigeria Police except the Inspector-General of Police.
Considering his track records in the Police Force and his reputation as a no-nonsense crime fighter, Okiro’s name will always go before him. President Goodluck Jonathan could hardly have made a better choice for the position which requires top-level experience and a high sense of integrity. Except for occasional public statements and fringe participation in partisan politics, the former IGP has maintained a dignified retirement. More importantly, he remains one of the few past IGP’s whose tenures are mentioned with some nostalgia.
He came into national limelight during his tenure as Lagos state police commissioner, and after his confrontations with the dreaded Oodua Peoples Congress, (OPC), which perpetrated atrocious acts against residents of Lagos State. His unprecedented crackdown on all sorts of crime and criminality that bedeviled the city then, coupled with his solo patrols in the dead of night, made him larger than life. It was a pointer to what he would eventually do at the police headquarters in Abuja, as IGP. Two important issues define his tenure as IGP: his introduction of far-reaching reforms which greatly improved operational efficiency in the Force, a determination to improve welfare of operatives and the fact that he left office without any scandals. This was significant considering the rot and lack of vision that characterized the tenure of his immediate predecessors.
It was no surprise therefore, that the announcement of his nomination by President Goodluck Jonathan was followed by public acclamation and commendation. It was a mood similar to that following his appointment as IGP by President Yar’adua in 2007. Within police formations across the country, expectations are high that perhaps for the first time, the PSC will wake up from its docility and take the front seat in restructuring and reforming the nation’s Police Force in line with contemporary practices. His 8-point agenda which he laid out shortly after he was appointed IGP by President Umaru Yar Adua in 2007, are still relevant today, even for the PSC. These included transparency, war on corruption, crime data upgrade, regular training, police public relations, human rights and community policing amongst others.
He comes again, at a time of great security concerns in the country. The menace of Boko Haram has forced on the nation, a declaration of emergency in three North-Eastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. He may not be going back to core police duties, but his antecedents are expected to bear heavily on policy formulation during his tenure in the PSC. Toeing a similar line this time, he pledged last Wednesday, to reposition the police force for greater performance, especially in curtailing emerging internal security challenges.
During his days as Police boss, Okiro was able to instill discipline and infuse better policing tactics in the members of the force. Though he has always been a stickler for discipline, he has had occasions to show great displeasure with acts of impunity. For instance, in August 2008, he had authorized the demotion of 140 senior police officers, including the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nuhu Ribadu. He had also reinstated a number of officers who had been forced into early retirement, and promised to provide improved pay, housing and equipment to the police.
Among his notable achievements as IG was the radical decision, perhaps for the first time in the history of the Nigeria Police, to remit monthly allocations directly to Divisional Police Officers in their respective formations without going through state commands that were notorious for withholding them. Although the laudable housing projects which he embarked upon, got mirred in controversy afterwards, it is obvious—at least from the eye-opener that is the rot at the Ikeja Police College, that the Force can no longer continue to house its institutions and personnel poorly and expect good results.
While it is easy to say that Okiro’s wealth of experience stands him in good stead to act the oversight for the Force—a duty that includes accounting for police actions and abuses-- the arguments for reform and restructuring of the police in line with modern trends across the world makes his choice more compelling. There is no doubt that a more purposeful Police Service Commission will contribute more positively towards a better police force in Nigeria.
Born on July 24, 1949 in Oguta, Imo State, Mike Okiro holds a degree in English Language from University of Ibadan, a Masters in Public Administration and an LLB. He joined the Nigerian Police in 1972. His operational and command positions include serving as DPO in several police stations, Member, Armed Robbery & Firearms Tribunal, Lagos State, Assistant & Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations), Lagos State and later Benue State. He received a double promotion from Commissioner of Police when he became Deputy Inspector-General of Police.
–– Ozoene is a media consultant based in Abuja