If Mohammed Dahiru Abubakar, Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police, were to be in private competitive enterprise, his face would have become a recurring decimal on the covers of international magazines. This is on account of his significant policy direction he gave to the police force on assumption of office as the nation’s number one police officer. At first, he threw the idea of police check-point into the gutter which has now become a thing many cannot hide to praise. Still in conforming with international policing standard, Abubakar did not waste time to see to the welfare of the men and women of the force, especially the rank file and file. Today the story is fast changing and changing for the better. Though Abubakar emerged as the IG at a time Nigeria was witnessing an unprecedented security challenge in the country, yet, his leadership style seems to have been able to rise above the challenges. Recently, at his Force Headquarters office in Abuja, the IG sat with Loye Amzat, to discuss the journey so far. Enjoy it
How will you summarize over a year that you have spent as the Inspector General of Police of the country, how has it been so far?
Well if you ask me to describe it, I think it’s a glorious moment in the sense that what everybody wants to have is to reach the peak of his career and having reached there with a lot of expectations and a lot of challenges, I can say it’s been very wonderful and very crucial and hectic. But one sad thing is the loss of my wife, somebody who had always been there and he stood by you. She was my wife, comforter, a mother, a wife and a friend, who had been there after the assumption of office, she ought to be there advising you and while you leave her at home, she is praying for you, but she just died suddenly.
Not long after, while trying to take it as your fate as a man, who believes so much in God, I lost my mother, so you can see that while the challenges of the job are there, you face some other challenges like this kind of natural occurrences. You lost your mother, who had always been there. The challenges also include the security of the country, we have faced bad situations in terms of security, police stations are attacked everyday, policemen are killed, and innocent souls are killed.
One of the greatest challenges then to me was to restore hope and confidence in the minds of the police because the system can only work, when you are talking of safety and security of the country. If the police force cannot protect its own men, then it cannot protect any other person. So, in that respect, the greatest challenge to me was to create and restore hope and confidence on the part of the police officers to be able to go back to do those duties that they are charged to do by the constitution, and thank God we are able to do that, but not without sleepless nights, which we still experience, the burden is so heavy that they cannot allow you to settle to think about comfortability of any kind, even if the attacks are not there, one policeman is killed, one soldier is killed, one innocent soul is killed, you cannot just be looking, even if it is a motor accident not to talk of suicide bombing, attack by criminals or hoodlums. It has always been challenging, it has always been a challenging period.
With all these challenges, what are legacies you want to leave behind as an IG and what are the strategies put in place to ensure those strategies are kept?
Strategies have been around policies, I want to use this opportunity to thank Mr. President and the good people of Nigeria for given me this opportunity to be in-charge of the police. I have attended several courses on police management and several other courses. I have always looked forward to a well trained, well dedicated and combat ready police force for Nigeria that can take the challenges of security today and will be prepared to ensure the security of this country. A well respected police force that would be the pride of not only Nigeria, but the world and people would see us as the police force which wants to dictate to other countries of the world, and which is well equipped and highly trained and a police force that would serve the people of Nigeria and the country as a whole. A police force that is well motivated, well cared for and protected by the government, a police force that cares for the aged, the young, the old and the needy. These have always been my dream for the Nigerian Police Force because police force is the image of the people of a country. Any country of the world you go to you can be able to tell what they are as a people through the police force, so we must be looking forward to a kind of police force which reflects the larger mirror and image of the country.
Taking into consideration the nature of our country and system, when one IG comes, he cancels the programmes of the previous one, how do you want to ensure that all these things are kept at a minimum standard?
Well, it has a lot of challenges from one administration to the other, but policies that yield good results, you can’t put them away. You can’t always think within the box, let’s go outside the box for a better command and for efficiency. What we are trying to put up is what we call the culture and tradition of the police and take note, police service is the same all over the world, it always depends on how you operate it and how you go about it. At the moment now, we are not introducing anything that is obsolete, we are trying to keep that culture and tradition, but at the same time, in tandem with the modernization operating the world over, which is the world standard because policy is not static, policy is scientific, you need scientific-based investigation, you need modern equipment to fight terrorists, so all we are doing is to ensure that those things that are supposed to be done to make the police force what it should be is done within our tradition. That is why we have ensured that welfare and well-being are paramount and key to me because you cannot give anything to anybody when your officers and men are not well taken care of and that is why we pay particular attention to general welfare and well being in terms of motivational factors that will make our officers to work. We may not have as much as we want to give, but at least, the little we can give, we give. You know you can have nothing to give a person, but you can give love, and care to show him that he is a human being like you and that you are concerned about his well being. It goes a long way and that in terms of our service that the pride of the service is, when you take a complement from a junior officer and the senior officer gives the complement back, in essence they are complementing each other, but for those who understands, that is how it is, but for those who don’t understand, they will say, I am the only one giving the complement, but all hands are up at the centre. That is why when I came in as the IG, I say the welfare and well being of junior officers was not so good, I look at the strata of the force, that of the rank and file in the force needed much adjustment, these are people who are in the rain, in the sunshine, people who suffer a lot in the day and in the night. I said we have not been giving them the attention they deserve, even in terms of promotion. Last year, we promoted about 25,000 officers, now 19,000 are being considered, and by the end of August, we would have promoted about 38,000 officers of these strata, and they are given their dues. This is when they will see that you are doing what you supposed to do as a leader. That is why we don’t have a special force like Fire for Fire and all that, it is out of the police norms, anti-crime patrol vehicles are anti-crime patrol vehicles because this is the culture and tradition of the police the world over. There are those who do undercover patrols and it is done all over the world, when you go off line, you create structures that would not allow the system to work. So, if you bring a professional, with this you put them aside. So, when you do things within the armpit of the service, you are not out of the book. The most important thing is that you want to bring the best out of your uniform.
The uniform you talk about, policemen have been wearing camouflage and we see you wearing it too, but it has not gone across board, is it funding that is delaying the process?
It will go round, remember we are just introducing it and why we had to do that introduction is that, all over, we go for international operations, we were in Liberia, Somalia, Mali, Haiti, Sudan, even at the United Nations, the Nigerian Police has a representative, so, everywhere we go, every officer at the place came with his official camouflage uniform, but the Nigerian Police did not have and we felt it was an aberration, why can’t we have since that is what they do the world over, we saw the need for it. Initially, we started with a test-run to see the viability and durability of it and we have tested it, and now we are making purchases, very soon everybody will have it. You remember when we introduced the blue uniform, and we said we cannot have segregation in the service, the segregation is in the shoulder that has to do with the rank, so it can never be in the uniform in terms of quality and the way it comes, there must be equality because we are all equal before Almighty God. Yes, we know we have our differences when it comes to rank, we went down to ensure that each of them has access to the blue uniform, which is better than the black one. Image is key, it gives a better concept and the IG is wearing the same thing, so it makes no difference.
The issue of welfare takes me to the issue of the Police College in Ikeja, Lagos, how much were you embarrassed about the expose on the college?
Well, embarrassment in the sense that it is not only the IG, every Nigerian Policeman should have been embarrassed because these are public institutions that have decayed over time, for decades, it didn’t happen in this administration, if they had been attended to, they would not be as bad as they are and probably, sometimes you see in the newspapers that police barracks are dirty, why are they dirty, they are dirty because they have not been attended to and they need a lot of money to fix. As I am talking to you, after the presidential visit, work is going on very seriously at the police college, I was there on Sunday and I can tell you that work is on-going there and Mr. President has promised to put all these things right. So, the embarrassment is not only for me as IG, but for every Nigerian that is particular about his/her country.
And you are confident that the whole thing would be normalized across board
I am confident that Mr. President would change it, as I am talking to you now; all those places are being addressed.
When you first came in, you made a very significant policy statement that police road blocks should be eradicated across the country and they were eradicated, you also say that those things should not come back, but we still see them on the highway?
It’s been fair, fair, in Lagos, and I am sure of that.
But, if you go, will they not return?
Road block should be a temporary arrangement; when you see an issue that warrants it, you put up a road block, this is the only country in the world, where you have to meander and manouvre and the public are always ready to speak about the law enforcement agents. I have never been an advocate of road blocks and I said the road blocks should go forever and to my mind and to your mind, do you think any IG will come up with road blocks and go scot free in this country because we don’t want to lose what you have enjoyed, so people would fight back. The fear then was that when we remove road blocks, Nigeria would be taken over by armed robbers, and I said it was not going to happen. The question is that were the road blocks useful, did armed robbers take over. Today, it is a different story, with armoured patrols in the country, we are okay, we said that what we required was motorised patrols, that is what we require, not road blocks. We told the commissioners of police to equip their patrol vehicles and we are buying more. We are just beginning; you will see more of us in terms of provision of security.
Do we have enough police personnel, and if yes, how many are they?
The word enough is one big question, enough in what sense. But if you ask me, is it the quantum or the quality, I’m being professional now, is it quantum of what you have or quality. To me, the quantum of what you have is not better than the quality of what you have because you could have one million that are useless, but if you have 300,000 or 400,000 that are qualitative, who are patriotic and equipped and ready to do this kind of job. Yes, the number might not be as enough as you want it, as of today, we need more to be able to police the country in totality because there are communities that are hamlets that don’t have policing, they are just like five or ten kilometers, it could have been ideal that in any small community, there should be police presence so that we can adequality police our communities.
I actually asked that because there have been clamour for state police and all that
Are we ready for that, take for example, look at our cultural background and religious differences, look at our intolerance, I was in Jerusalem, Israel, if you go there today, on top of churches are small mosques, people go to the church and Muslims go to pray too, you will never hear them fight. In Nigeria, put a church and mosque together, you will see what happens. On ordinary issues like party, people fight. I will give you a scenario, you are aware, you see a governor and a senator fighting over certain issues, where there is state police, you think that senator will not go to prison? Once you have state police, there would be problems, we are not ripe for it, by the time we are ripe for state police, we would have been more politically mature for tolerance. Tell me one state in Nigeria where they conduct a local government election and the opposition party has won. You know why, who appoints the chairman of the state electoral commission, the governor. Now, imagine if a governor appoints the commissioner of police and pays all the policemen, which party will go there and be free, because you cannot be allowed. I was in Kwara State as a Commissioner of Police and a sitting governor would tell me, ‘I don’t want this person to enter this state,’ but I don’t have the power under the law to tell someone not to enter a state. Assuming I was employed by the governor of that state, I had to take the instruction or be fired. By the time we have state police; commissioners would be hired and fired regularly because he is going to take orders whether legal or illegal.
We have also witnessed cases where police and men of the Civil Defence fight on issues?
Let me tell you, that has nothing to do with issue of state police, everybody should sit down and respect his constitutional responsibility, there is a line, what are the duties of the police, what are the responsibilities of the SSS, what are the responsibilities of the Civil Defence Corps, Immigration and Customs. If any police officer arrests a smuggler, I would tell him to hand the suspect to the customs, nobody taught me customs or immigration jobs. All these things come about because we are trying to claim that we know better, but we don’t allow the police to perform his constitutional duties of protection of lives and properties, and investigation and prosecution of suspects. Others know their limitations, so why the fight. We cannot make Nigeria safe until we all collaborate, come into partnership and do things that are right. If you do your job, I do my job, we all together make Nigeria better and Nigerians happy and we will allow economic development to take place, it would be better, but we don’t, that is why we fight. The moment you overstep your bounds, you have the power to arrest, but you cannot investigate, so what do you do, you hand over to me to do my job as simple as ABC.
You mentioned the unified number Nigerians can call the police through, are they working
Nigerians can call the numbers, they are there. Who provides the number, NCC should provide it and the police will operate it, we have been making efforts to ensure the numbers are provided, I know it is a very great challenge to us, it makes it better if you can call 999 and you get the police and whoever you want to talk to.
Have you ever been harassed by hoodlums in the last 34 years?
Sometimes, you come across them, we go on patrols and we come across armed robbers. I have been arrested by the police severally because I live a very simple life, I don’t need to carry what I am on my forehead, it doesn’t make any difference to me because one day, you will leave the office, I want to be my natural self. So, I can drive myself and go anywhere I want to go, if you stop me and ask for my particulars, I will bring them out to you. If you ask me to come down and open my booth, I will come down and open the booth since I don’t have anything in my car, you can check it. But, sometimes, you meet overzealous officers, who don’t take yes for an answer, and they don’t know who you are and they even ask for money, later they come to realize who you are, so I have been arrested severally.
Do you have any regret so far?
Not at all, I don’t blame anybody, if I come back to this world, I want to be a police officer. To me, I have the finest profession in the world, serving people, all I wanted was to serve humanity and that makes me happy.