As the nation approaches the 2019 general elections, the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria has set an agenda for the Nigerian Police, with the overall aim being for equity and fair play at the polls. Sunday Ehigiator reports
For the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), the appointment of the new Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, came at a critical juncture in Nigeria’s political history and with huge, but surmountable, challenges; the 2019 general elections.
In a recent press briefing, the National Coordinator of NOPRIN, Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma, said the IG’s appointment came at a time when public perception of the police and public trust had gone all time low due to the many unprofessional conducts, incompetence and scandalous allegations of corruption and disreputable conduct trailing the immediate past IGP Abubakar Kpotun Idris.
This he said placed a huge burden on the new IG to steer the police to the right path and restore public trust without which, the work of the police becomes very difficult.
According to Nwanguma, “the new IG’s appointment came at a time when Nigerians were getting very close to go to the polls to elect a new president and new members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Election campaigns were in high gear. The political atmosphere was highly charged and contentious, creating a state of uncertainty. The appointment came at a time when insurgency in the Northeast and violent crimes in other parts of the country are on resurgence. It is indeed a moment of great challenge, but also a moment of relevance.
“We also know that usually, every newly appointed IG in Nigeria faces the dilemma of either acting to support democracy or serving regime interest, especially as his confirmation depends on the president who appoints him. Some in the past have opted to succumb to partisan pressure throwing professionalism and public interest overboard. The pressure is not usually easy to resist. But it takes character, conviction and commitment to deal with.
“We know that the new IG, like others before him, will come under pressure from politicians of all divides to do their varying biddings, which may entail deviating from the path of professionalism, neutrality and integrity. But we also know that the new IG comes with a pedigree. He comes with an impressive credential and enormous goodwill. Expectations are very high on him to return the police to its lost glory.
“The very first acts by the newly appointed IG portray him as a lscrupulous and principled officer who is committed to professionalism and is determined to ‘clean the Augean stable’, erase the damaging dent put on the image and institutional integrity of the NPF by his corrupt and unscrupulous predecessor.
“His reversal of some politically-motivated transfers of some command commissioners of police hurriedly carried out by his immediate predecessor just few days to his exit; the appointment of round pegs in round holes in various strategic operational and administrative positions at the Force Headquarters are indicative of a man with sound management orientation.
“His decentralisation of the command and control of the notorious SARS, disbandment of the numerous other notorious outfits created by his predecessor whose activities led to increase in corruption and human rights abuse, and the initiation of a process of consultation with stakeholders on how to strategically and comprehensively reorganise the police are other commendable initial steps taken by the new IG.”
For the elections, Nwaguma said their expectations from the police involves fair play for all across board. He said: “As we draw close to the elections, the IG and his management team should ensure that Zonal and State Command, and Divisional Officers are vigilant, operate within established rules of engagement and monitor the activities and conducts of political parties, politicians and individuals to ensure that everyone plays by the electoral rules.
“The police should provide equal security and work with INEC to ensure that anyone who breaches the electoral law during campaigns or during and after the elections is arrested and brought to justice according to the law.
“The police should continue to work with strategic stakeholders including other security agencies providing complimentary elections security services, INEC, civil society especially in the areas of conducting security threat assessment and monitoring the electoral process, and the media.
“The police are the guardians of the rule of law. They have the greatest responsibility for safety and security which enables all stakeholders holders to play their various legitimate roles in the electoral process, and enable eligible citizens to exercise their franchise in a free, fair and peaceful atmosphere that guarantees the credibility of the elections.”
Commenting on the allegation that the recent redeployment of commissioners of police throughout the 36 states of Nigeria by the IG was politically motivated to rig elections, Nwanguma said, “Like I said earlier, the IG is a well principled man with clean records. He is one with commendable reputation, and I sincerely don’t believe he can ever be a party to such arrangements.
“Although, I still feel the timing for the redeployment was too close to election; and the new CP’s may not have the accurate time to properly understudy their new areas of operations, but I believe that, the IG is full of experience, and he must have had his reasons for doing so. Hence, I won’t subscribe to such allegations. I believe he did so in the interest of the general public, and to achieve a very credible and non-partisan electioneering; from the police. As you also know, policemen that would be manning polling units on election days, are undergoing special training as we speak. So, I seriously don’t think that there is any cause for alarm”.