President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Lagos, read the riot act to erring police officers, warning them against the use of weapons and excessive force on members of the public.
Buhari issued the stern warning while declaring open a three-day conference and retreat for senior police officers in Lagos themed: ‘Repositioning the force for the challenges of effective policing in the 21st century.’
Represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the president said it was the duty of senior and strategic leaders of the police force to ensure that impunity of any kind was discouraged and punished whereever it was found.
On the other hand, he also commended them for being one of the country’s proudest national assets, being the largest police force in Africa and for its role in peace keeping missions outside the country.
“The image of the police as an interlocutor of fairness, justice, and decency in the enforcement of peace, law and order must be maintained at all times in the interest of the credibility of the force as a whole,” he said.
Giving statistics of the achievements of the police, he said in the past 10 months over 2,348 armed robbery suspects; 1,412 suspected kidnappers; 694 murder suspects and 1,513 cultists had been arrested. Also, 826 kidnap victims were rescued and 1,660 firearms and 1,612 stolen vehicles recovered.
He noted that the retreat was appropriately timed as it presented a unique opportunity, not only to review internal security and policing issues, but also to acquire contemporary professional information and knowledge, undertake some peer review and build important networks needed to efficiently deal with current and anticipated internal security challenges.
He said: “Aside from the threat of terrorism in the North-east, we are currently combating a series of crimes that constitute significant drawbacks to our national security.
“These include banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, cybercrime, small and light arms proliferation and sundry transnational crimes.”
The dynamics of crime in the country, according to him, had over time become increasingly complex due largely to the impact of technology, global terrorism, socio-economic challenges and other security situations especially within the African continent.
He added that it was in response and in anticipation to these challenges that upon the inception of this administration, concerted efforts were made towards formulating policies that would re- engineer the Nigeria Police and ensure the restoration of the agency’s primacy within the internal security architecture of the country.
“In this regard, funding, limited manpower profile, professional capacity gaps and issues arising from the relationship between the police and the citizens were identified as challenges and are being addressed,” he said.
Lagos Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, pledged his administration’s support to provide the necessary wherewithal for the police in order to ensure safe environment for the populace.
In his remarks, the Minister of Police Affairs, Alhaji Mohammed Dingyadi, the conference coincided with Buhari’s determination to reposition the force with the establishment of Police Affairs ministry and the signing of the Police Trust Fund into law.
These measures, he said, were a clear testimony of the desire to take the force to the next level.
“The ministry under my watch has ensured the police are given state-of-the art equipment to help in combating crimes and criminalities,” he said, adding: “It’s also to enhance the welfare of personnel through the provision of conducive offices and residential accommodation so as to motivate them for optimum efficiency.”
He urged them reciprocate government’s good gesture by dedicating themselves to their jobs, saying the citizens looked up to them to serve and protect them optimally.
Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State in an interview with THISDAY, threw his weight behind community policing.
He said: “Our model for community policing is key and we are working very hard with the IG’s office. Don’t forget that when the current IG was AIG in Edo State, that was when we started working on the whole concept of community policing and that’s why one of the reasons I am here is to work with the senior management of the police in terms of providing security in the state.”
Earlier in his opening remarks, the convener, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, explained that the idea of the retreat was in furtherance of the policing vision, which emphasises capacity building as pathway to enhancing edge time police service delivery in the country.
“We intend to utilise this forum to undertake an egotistic evaluation of the current internal security threats and crime dynamics in the country, identify factors engendering crimes and project to the future,” Adamu said.