The new acting Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba may have a long list of what he must do to earn the confidence and support of Nigerians.
Usman Baba, who has a long list of posting experience across various geopolitical zones of the country, was to many Nigerians, unexpectedly announced as the new head of the much troubled and battered Nigeria Police Force by the Minister of Police Affairs, Maigari Dingyadi on Tuesday.
According to the minister, the appointment of Baba was by President Muhammadu Buhari, who is away in London for what the presidency says is a ‘routine’ medical check-up.
There is no doubting the fact the new acting IG is coming at a time the police force is desperately seeking to reinvent itself on account of the crisis occasioned by the #ENDSARS protests of October 2020 and the current crippling insecurity in different parts of the country. The police is also currently beset by vicious attacks by gunmen in the South-East and the South-South geopolitical zones, with the attack and burning of the Imo State Police Command in Owerri standing out as a sore thumb.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, shortly decorating Baba, minced no words as he told him he was assuming leadership of the force at a critical time.
Osinbajo said: “You are assuming office at a very turbulent time in the life of our people. There are multiple threats to law, order and public safety.
“The role of law enforcement agencies, particularly that of the police force as primary agency charged with maintaining law and order, has never been more important.
“The police force is our institution of first resort, the first line of defence against crime and anarchy and the first sign of the strength of the state.”
The Vice President also told the acting IGP that the challenges would certainly test him.
The serious challenges facing the police in the country may, however, not be alien to the new police boss, as he made a passing reference to that on Wednesday, shortly after his predecessor, Mohammed Adamu handed over to him at the force headquarters.
He said: “You will see improvement on where my predecessor has left. I came in at a very challenging time. I know it. I recognise it and I will work on how to improve from where my predecessor has left.
“I have been a member of the management team. We have tried to do our best, but it’s not enough. There is room for improvement.
“Nigerians should expect improvement in the security situation. And Nigerians should also collaborate and cooperate with us. With all the inadequacies we have, we still require everybody to be part of policing in this country.”
Speaking further, Baba said he knows the expectation of Nigerians, promising to build a police force that shall make human rights a core element.
Nigerians have, however, called on the new acting IGP to urgently make the promised improvement in respect for human rights, discipline, anti-corruption and bribe taking by officers and men of the force and welfare central part of whatever he hope’s to achieve in the saddle.
According to them, he will be assessed based on the immediate needs of the people, and not on any other thing.
Tunde Kosoko, a movie director believes the new police boss has a daunting task in the area of security, insisting that the police have so far abandoned the task of securing the country to Nigerians, who have now taken to self-help. According to him, if Usman Baba is able to achieve immediate security through the police, he would have won the hearts and admiration of Nigerians.
“Insecurity is the greatest threat to Nigerians and Nigeria as a country. Nowhere is safe and the police have carried on lately as if they are helpless or overwhelmed. The new acting Inspector General no doubt has a daunting task in ensuring that Nigerians can sleep with their two eyes closed, that Nigerians can hit the road and travel to any part of the country without praying to arrive their destinations and become an addition to growing list of kidnap victims or attacked and killed by marauding bandits and insurgents.
“Securing Nigeria and Nigerians is urgent if the country hopes to grow economically. As it is, insecurity is impacting negatively on economic activities, as Nigerians now think twice before going about their businesses, especially those that require trips. In my profession, we do a lot of travels between the South-West, South-East and South-South. But if you invite me now for your film project outside Lagos and I cannot fly there, I will have to think twice. It is that bad”, Kosoko said.
A retired police officer, Aniette Akpan, in a chat with pressmen believes that if the new police boss can take care of the welfare of the police, most of the rot confronting it will be reduced to the nearest minimum.
“People keep complaining about the police, especially when it comes to bribe taking and other vices but they have failed to admit that these people work under extreme conditions. How much is the salary of a Constable or even an Inspector? These are people with families and when you think of the cost of living in the country and the need to take care of their family and educate their children, you will understand that they must have been performing miracles. I was there before and I know what it feels like.
“The state of the barracks is also an eyesore. At times, I wonder how human beings survive living in such environments. Not even people in villages are exposed to the kind of rotten and degrading environments policemen in the country live in. Something urgent has to be done to improve their living conditions and save the force if Nigerians and the new acting IGP hope to see something different and cheering”, Akpan said.
Also responding to a question on his expectation from the police boss, Chief Asiwaju Akerele, a property consultant, said Usman Baba should learn from the #ENDSARS protests and the riots that followed in building a police force that has respect for human rights, especially the rights of the youths to fully express themselves without being unduly harassed under the pretext of being fraudsters.
According to him, the bulk of the mistrust Nigerians have for the police at the moment is their highhandedness in handling the civil population.
“The new IGP must ensure that his officers and men adhere strictly to provisions of the law as regards the right of the people. The law says even suspects are adjudged innocent until they are proven guilty by a competent court of law. But here in Nigeria, even before you are arrested, the police threatens everyone like criminals. For them, everyone for whom they have a little suspicion is a criminal that must be handled as such, even there are no reasonable grounds for such.
“Revelations at the various police brutality panels across the country bears testimony to this, and the earlier the IGP puts a stop to this, the better for the force and the country. This is because the Nigerian populace already know that they are not powerless against a brutal police force and that they can actually call their bluff and shutdown the country, turning the heat on the aggressors. But certainly, Nigeria cannot afford another #ENDSARS episode again, so IGP Baba must do all he can to reinvent the police force with a new orientation that places premium of the rights of not just Nigerians but also suspects. Baba must make police brutality a thing of the past”, Akerele submitted.
Mazi Okechukwu, a security operative under a Federal Government maritime agency in Lagos believes the new IG must make discipline of his officers and men a top priority. According to him, one of the major problems of the police in Nigeria is lack of discipline, which he said has over the years affected their professionalism.
“I am a security operative and I can tell you that the police are mainly suffering from lack of discipline. Pay a visit to any police formation and do same to any arm of the military and compare the two. They are worlds of difference. In fact, you cannot compare them. There is almost zero discipline and because of that, professionalism has been gravely affected. So the new man must consciously instil discipline to achieve a professional police force”, Okechukwu said.