Nigeria may lose well-trained policemen in 5 years- Ex-CP
Chief Samuel Adetuyi, a retired Commissioner of Police shares his thought with Line Editors on the rising wave of banditry in the country and how best to address it . Excerpts:
As somebody who has spent the major time of his youthful life in the Police, do you feel very sad looking at what is happening now?
As a Nigerian I feel double worried about what the situation is. My worry is not even about the present, my worry is about what will likely happen and a few time I have had the opportunity like this, I have told them ( I’m not a prophet) but people can mark my words, things are going to go worse than this, that is the truth; unless there is a paradigm shift. It’s not just these little little palliatives measures we are taking. There must be a shift in the way we look at security. In my humble view, I know that Nigeria doesn’t even know what security entails, what it means. Security is a very complex phenomenon it is not just the absence of robbery, assassination or crime, it is a total thing, something near utopian. Security goes beyond just crime. It is a total thing for us to be talking about security.
But this same Police we had immediately after independence secured the nation?
As at that time, you can look at the population of this country, the number of cars, buildings; and those things that were used are the things that are still being used today. That is one. I was the Divisional Crime Officer in A-Division in Akure in 1981, the table that I used is the same table that is still there. We had only two police Divisions; A Division and B Division. I was Commissioner of Police in Kogi State, I was Commissioner of Police in Yobe state. When I was the Commissioner of Police in those two states, 2003 in Kogi, 2004-2005 in Yobe state; the police headquarters were in temporary sites and I know they are still operating at the temporary sites. State created in 1991. That is the contempt that government has for police. This SDP building is what they are using in Yobe. So, Nigerians don’t know what security is all about. Those are the things that are creating the problems.
Those who are victims of kidnapping in the country, talked about the sophistication and the strategy of the criminals, it portends that servicemen are involved in this kidnappings?
Cuts in…Who are the servicemen? Because if you are talking about security, we have the army, the police, Airforce, SSS, Civil Defence, Road safety..
The question still come frontally to you, and that is when you look at the way they handle guns, those who had been arrested, the strategies and even anybody who has been a victim, you discover that when you are traveling, immediately you pass Police road block, few kilometers after you run into the kidnappers, and when you look at this conspiracy, they say there is a kind of synergy between the servicemen and the bandits. And the man who made this allegation is a former Director of State Security Service, Mr. Ejiofor. Are we likely to take his view?
As far as I’m concerned, that is a general statement. For me as a person, I don’t like talking about general statement which are not specific. But I can say when I was in the service for 35 years and of course I was not part of such behaviour. But I can’t speak for the Police because I don’t have data and I’m not competent to speak for them and they have not asked me to speak for them.
All I have said so far are my personal opinion based on my knowledge, my experience and what I see everyday. It’s difficult to say that policemen are part of it or are not part of it. People make general statement and it’s not helpful.
Including the statement made by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, when he said armed robbers have infiltrated into the police, was that a complimentary comment?
Well, with due respect to the elderstateman, our former President I’m sure he didn’t mean it from that angle. Because if he was a President and the police which is part of his government were recruiting armed robbers, then he was also responsible.
And if you have an IG or a police recruitment procedure and you found a fault and you could not deal with it, are you going to say you are a good President? You are a failure then.
That is why I say I don’t think he meant it, in any case the police is not an abstract from the society, they are part of the society.
In the UK if an armed robber was recruited, he is removed as you remove a ‘jiga” (worm) from the leg, and dealt with properly and other avenues for reoccurrence will be stopped.
It’s not about saying that police recruited armed robbers. That statement is too wide. With all profound and due respect, I still maintain that the ex-President didn’t say it or if he said it, he didn’t know the meaning of what he said.
You did say insecurity will worsen in Nigeria, what are we likely to face?
It’s a simple analogy . If you take your mind back to five years ago, you can see how it was then and how it is now, of course can predict what is going to be in the future. Let me give you practical example that can help us, I will continue to say it , because it is a matter of fact.
I was in US four years ago, specifically, Los Angeles, there is a road between Los Angeles and San Diego, it is 14 lanes, 5 lanes going, 5 lanes coming; they meet in the middle, then there are two service lanes right, two service lanes left. I was like about 30 minutes watching, and I bowed my head in shame for Nigeria. As a police officer, I asked myself where will a policeman stand in this 14 lanes to ask driver to come down and ask what do you have in your booth? Let Nigerians appreciate what is good. Where will a policeman or a group of policemen stand or a kidnapper stands in the 14lanes? You put a cocaine or AK-47 riffle in your car and then you drive round like that in 30 minutes or less you are caught.
This is why I said we haven’t started at all, and of course Nigerian leaders travel abroad, and they see policing there. They come back saying they should put a road block to search for arms and ammunition. it’s ridiculous.
And minus that, I heard people say the IG can not stop policemen attached with individuals. I challenge the Senate President let him tell us how many policemen are attached to him. I am sure there will be policemen attached to his house in Ilorin, his official quarters, there will be policemen everywhere attached to him and all the principal officers. Even the local government chairmen.
Check every government office holder, they all have a police man attached to them.
Can the IG truly remove all these policemen from them? He can’t do it because they are the ones in control, we are just pretending. You will see a Senator on the road not having plate number and put police light as if it is a police vehicle, What can police do? Nothing. If you stop them the policeman will regret what he did.
When they get to a road check point, they blow siren, what they are carrying, nobody knows.
And Nigerians want security, these are practical things. Sometimes on my own I go to some distance from a check point and watch for about 30 minutes to see what was happening. It was terrible.
At what point did the police lost securing Nigeria ?
It’s not the police that lost it, it’s the government, all of us. I still say and I stand to be corrected. I can contest it with anybody. The police that we have today, they are doing excellently well.
If you want to rate the police, you would look at the facilities they have at their disposal. If you put side by side facilities at their disposal along side their achievements they have done excellently well.
Because you can’t ask a man to uproot a tree and you give him a knife and you ask him to do it in 30 minutes. That is why I gave the example of what I saw in Los Angeles, that is policing. They have cameras everywhere.
Would you consider the police as a friend or an enemy of the masses?
I have not said the police is a saint. Most things we read in the newspapers are offensive and unprofessional.
In our time when we were trained, you couldn’t place your finger in the trigger gaurd when you are holding riffle . You could only place you hand in the trigger guard when you want to fire. That is when you have made up your mind to fire.
But I have seen policemen sometimes putting their fingers in the trigger.
In the process of correcting, you could hear a bang and that is it. The problem of insecurity in Nigeria today is not just the policemen of course we have bad persons among us. The same way we have bad Reverend Fathers, bad Journalists, terrible Governors, and bad Bishops.
If we pick only on the police, we are being uncharitable and we can never get results. That is why the members of the public must understand the police and try to relate with the police.
Proper things must be done to the police. A Police Trust Fund bill was sent in 2008, now we are in 2019, it is not yet passed. This bill would enable the police to have the necessary funds to purchase, train and renovate and like I also said there is a large room for improvement. If the PTF becomes an act, whatever budgetary allocation is made, there will be fund for the police.
Some said if the money is given to the IG he will not utilise it. I am not going to side any IG. But there are members of the legislature whose function is to supervise the IG.
Some people believe the police is over-centralised, that if we have state police, things would take a better shape?
Well, I do not agree with that, I hope it would be actualised because the first set of victims would be this set of people that are agitating for it. It is a feature of true federalism that there should be state police. It does not also means that problems would be solved, it may bring a different set of problems.
People are talking about governors saying they have police and they don’t have control over the police. That’s a very incorrect statement. How can anybody make that type of assertion I have read somewhere that the state government only spend money on police that they don’t control the police. That’s a statement that is very far from the truth. I worked with four governors so I can tell the truth.
I will tell you there is no commissioner of police that will not obey his Governor.
But there was an instance when the police barricaded the Senate.
I can’t answer that because I don’t have the data but the one I am saying now, I have all the facts because what made the government or IG to say put policemen there I don’t have the facts unless if you tell me the facts, then I will be able to answer. I can’t detain somebody who has not committed an offence. That is the only area where you say a policeman might disobey the governor or not cooperate with the governor. But even at that, a police officer who knows his onions will do it with discretion.
You shared with us your experience in America, why is it difficult for us to eradicate roadblocks in Nigeria?
If you are going to Abuja and between here and Abuja is it possible not to find policemen?
Cuts in..We have had it in the past. Before now sir we didn’t have roadblocks but from my own personal experience, when Christmas is coming we say we don’t want policemen on the road but policemen will now instigate crime.
What we are saying here is to give insight to the problem we are having. Let’s see how we can solve this problem and if by your publication, some solutions come, the better for the country. If somebody says police is corrupt I can’t say no and I cannot say yes. But I can answer for myself that as a police officer for 35years, I was not a corrupt officer. I don’t want to say that I didn’t benefit as a police officer.
But sir, if you are called upon, either by the governor or by the president to give a solution to Nigeria security challenge, what are the major solutions you will proffer?
The first solution is that government must create capacity for the Police, I gave example of the US, why can’t we do that here? We are in era of computer this is a digital age and we are still using analogue method. I don’t know how our governors and President go abroad they see other nationals coming here and they shake hands with the Presidents; they are just laughing at our President because how can you be a proud president and you see a country like this.
Since the last five years that we have been having various attacks, tell me one thing that government has put in place that is capable of changing what we have on ground. Absolutely nothing. You want a set of policemen to enter a Hilux Van and enter the bush and face robbers, that is suicide. In other climes where we are having similar major problem there will be combat helicopter customized to go into such operation, even their vehicles will be customized to go and comb the forest, if that has not be done, the government will now say we bought ten Hilux vans and they call cameramen to come and take pictures, hilux vans that are just personnel carriers and they will say go and face armed bandits, it’s suicidal. So, the policemen too, they have brains, they will go a little and stay somewhere and come back, that is the truth.
But when a police officer or a commissioner is kidnapped, police find solution to the kidnap.
Cuts in..How? How will they find solution? They will go and pay the ransom or in some extreme cases, maybe luck was on their way like Evans who was arrested by the Police, it was from what we read in the papers, it was just pure luck; the man who made the arrest possible was bold and came out to give the information. So, it is not about the police as constituted, honestly, and the truth again is that in the next 5 years the properly trained policemen would have left, go and write it down. We are going to see this, most of these people will soon leave, will you allow your son who made a first class or second class in Economics or Law to go and join Nigerian Police? When I was the Commissioner of Police ,I had a friend who came to me that his son didn’t obey anybody and I should help put him in the Police , and I said..imagine this is what people say that the irresponsible ones are the ones in the Police.
Honourable Commissioner sir, if you see some of the Police officers , 30% of them are graduates, that is a deviation from what police used to be, even from that picture, are you now saying the police cannot respond to the crime situation that we have?
Even the fact that somebody is a graduate doesn’t make him a better police. First, it is how you came into the police, what led you into the police. You must have passion, when I joined the Police, passion was there, as a one star or two stars officer, how can you say you give me money and I pocket it, I couldn’t do that. That is sacrilege. I’m not saying I am a saint but you wont do things like that because we knew what we wanted in the force. Of course Nigerian factors limited us, when you were supposed to be promoted they bring somebody from nowhere on top of you and what can you do. Even with those inadequacies, we were proud as police officers. I was a very proud policeman and I say it with passion.
In proffering solutions to all these extra-judicial killings in Nigeria, what will you suggest as a solution or do you support psychiatric test for police officers?
Truly, I do not blame Nigerians who dislike police, because it’s just like NEPA now, if you pay your bill you will want too have light, so, anytime they interrupt the electricity, you will abuse them. But you will not look at what problem they are facing that’s your interest, and truly it should be your interest. Every person in this country expects to have a good and efficient police. So, whether police have what they need to do their job or not is not their problem. But some of these extra-judicial killings as being said were not as large as it is. But, if an innocent person is killed, that is improper and it should be condemned. But sometimes, somebody who is going to face an armed robber I armed robbers are the people who will kill at a little opportunity, so if you are going to deal with them, you are going to be also vicious. And when you look at the facilities that you have and everyday how many policemen are being killed. They are human beings too; I am not saying extra-judicial killings are good, like the person they said was watching television.
If you put a policeman through that test, it would show negative that he has no psychiatric problem. But the condition under which he is working, that is what will create the situation that will make him to be behaving sometimes like a lunatic.
Sir, special anti-robbery squad is a serious challenge to Nigerians in the sense that they create more havoc than solving the security challenge and virtually all IGs have come to reform SARS, why will we having challenges with SARS in Nigeria?
That is what I was trying to explain, when SARS was introduced in 1989 , I was the force Assistant of Police in the state CID, of course, they were put in the position where they could do their jobs more than what it is now. As at that time, it was centralized at the Force CID, and every CID station has anti-robbery section. But they were properly equipped; they have funds to move around, they were bold officers who everybody knew can handle such assignment. But with time, I cannot say the funds that are available to them because I left service 13 years ago; but I just imagine that it may not be enough.
Now the question is this, some Nigerians think why can’t Nigerians carry ammunition?
When I was in charge of ACCID in 1984 that was what people were agitating for. But we found out that many people have double-barrel in their houses when armed robbers come, they give it to the robbers because it is not everybody that can handle double barrels. Even as if we are here and armed robbers come in and you have AK47 here unless you are very fast because once he is there and he says everybody hands up, if your hand goes down he knows you want to pick something, you are the first person to go. So it is about. Some will put the cartridge somewhere and the children will carry it and pull it ..Before you know it somebody is killed. That is not what is going to help us. Let us empower the police; let us create capacities for the police. And everybody must be concerned.
What about the aspect of intelligence, gathering, many Nigerians believe police have to behave like a seer who should be able to detect when a crime is about to be committed?
No no, if we are making speculations or theoretical, it would not help. Am saying that for everybody in this country, we must first of all be concerned about policing. Our actions or inactions, we must be concern about orderliness, let us reduce this lawlessness, it is the cumulative number of what we all do that creates a safe society or this is not a safe society. Is a tough thing, but the first thing that police must have capacity; when police has capacity, they must be properly supervised. And that is why the national assembly has committee on Police that is their duties. But if you have not given them capacity, what do you expect, nothing. That is the truth.