Usman Alkali Baba has his job well cut out

Two months after securing for himself an extra-constitutional tenure elongation, Mr Mohammed Adamu was on Tuesday removed unceremoniously as the Inspector-General of Police. He was supposed to retire on 1st February but the federal government announced a three-month extension that drew criticisms. Adamu was in Owerri for on-the- spot assessment of the damage done by gunmen on the Imo State Police Command and the Nigerian Correctional Service facilities (where prisoners were set free), when he heard of his sack. He was immediately replaced by Usman Alkali Baba who has inherited an institution lacking in both morale and professional firepower.

While we congratulate Usman Baba on his elevation, the new IGP must understand that he already has his job cut for him. Beyond restoring a sense of order and credibility in the police, there is also an urgent need to improve on their capacity. As President Muhammadu Buhari recently remarked, soldiers who are principally trained to defend the country’s territorial integrity are now saddled with the responsibility of protecting lives and property within towns and villages because of police ineffectiveness. For this situation to change, Usman Baba must overhaul the entire structure and restore the police to its original mandate in a way that soldiers do not have to be pulled out of their duty posts to protect the ordinary man on the street.

This of course will not be easy. Everywhere in the country today, there is the pervading sense of fear and insecurity. The activities of Boko Haram, bandits, armed robbers, kidnappers and sundry other criminal cartels have combined to paint the picture of a country practically at war with itself. To worsen matters, there is a growing negative perception of the police due to the excesses of a small number of officers and men.

For sure, the problematic shopping list for the new police boss is inexhaustible. Most of the police stations across the country are in deplorable conditions. They lack basically everything. Yet for the police to live up to its responsibilities, it must be adequately equipped. A force entrusted to secure the nation cannot perform in the face of antiquated equipment and low morale. Therefore, for Baba to succeed, he will definitely need all the resources he can muster from the authorities and the support of the civil society. What this implies is that Usman has a huge responsibility on his hands as he strives to entrench discipline in police operations and restore the confidence of Nigerians. One sure way to do that is through community policing.

Ordinarily, community policing is not a new concept. The initiative is predicated on the belief that both the police and citizens at the grassroots who understand the culture and traditions of the community have a joint responsibility to fight crime. Under this concept, a synergy is built between the police and the locals they serve. This helps to guarantee the security of lives and property in the neighbourhoods by freely exchanging ideas, and promptly sharing intelligence and acting on such.

As we argued last year when the idea was first mooted, the public deserves to be educated on how this mode of policing will operate, whether it will be supervised from Abuja or coordinated by various state commands of the Nigeria Police or whether community police commands will be established in every local government area of the country to oversee the activities of the grassroots’ police in each local council or whether a special body will be founded to run the operations. The constitutional framework for safeguarding lives and property without which there can be no development rests with the police.

We wish Usman the best of luck in his new assignment.