Words: Chiaka Orjiako, Photograph: Adah Clarence Ugbede
MA: Your recent appointment as inspector General of Police is one remarkable act, like never before in the history of the police force, taking into consideration time and events surrounding your appointment as the IG. What do you think must have necessitated your appointment?
IGP: My appointment came as a surprise to me. I have been in the system for over 34 years, I have worked in virtually all the departments of the Nigerian police force, and as a police officer it was a defining moment in my career.
MA: How prepared is the Nigerian Police force to perform their constitutional duty of maintaining law and order?
IGP: We have always been prepared, but the issue has been our strategic approach to internal security, and issues of social disorder. One of the areas I have easily identified is our approach to investigation. Sometimes, it brings us in contact with members of the public and that is where issues of corruption arise. The way we go about arrests, investigation, and prosecution has been faulty from the start. We don’t gather sufficient evidence before we start inviting people to our cells that leads to pre-trial detention, which I am allergic to.
I do not like our police keeping people in custody without sufficient evidence. So one of the things I have decided to do is, to ensure our men are sufficiently trained to gather sufficient evidence before they invite anybody to the cell. This training will fast- track restorative justice and will shorten the pre-trial period and filter out issues that are not supposed to be in the criminal justice realm, such as civil matters, commercial disputes and the likes. Such are alien to police investigation.
I also hope to introduce things like alternative dispute resolution to assure that non-criminal issues do not deteriorate into crises. When a non-criminal offence, for example, a failed commercial transaction is ‘criminalized’, and someone is kept in court, the issue of bail or no bail comes in, and this contributes and completes the corruption circle.
The issue of road blocks is a notorious one. In terms of crime prevention tactics, road blocks are no longer effective ways of crime control on the roads. You should only lockdown a highway if for instance a car is stolen. The dignity of the average police is lowered once you see him picking money from motorists as they head their way. There is no way the police force will be corruption free, but you can motivate them, you can encourage them, and assure them they are doing well.
Recently we launched 259 vehicles which will patrol on super-highways. In modern policing, we have what you call re-assurance policing. Re-assurance policing means, if you position vehicles strategically across the length and breadth of the country, any criminal who is coming doesn’t know where the next vehicle is. For law abiding citizens, when they see several police patrol vehicles on the road, it gives them a psychological assurance that our highways are safe.
The other strategy we are trying to outline is predictive policing, when you teach police officers how to crime-map their environment, teach them trends and patterns of crime, it helps a police to identify the types of crime that take place in a region well in advance. When you crime-map a state or a country geopolitically, for instance, in the South- South/South East kidnapping, arm-robbery, car-jacking, while in the North East, insurgency; your strategic deployment of your manpower should meet the various needs. Some officers are tactically good in dealing with areas of kidnapping, while others carjacking. For instance, in Benin, we dealt with a ring of kidnappers who were dons, and kingpins, some were top politicians.
There is no police force that can operate its mandate if it is not able to get information from the community. You cannot get information from members of the community if you are corrupt. Most Nigerians detest the police because they see them as being corrupt. However, information collected from the masses becomes intelligence, using the intelligence gathered, you can predict what types of crimes that can occur in one place or the other.
Once you are able to win the war of capturing the hearts and minds of the people, half the problem of crime in the society is already won. People will trust you and pick up the phone and call you in case of anything.
MA: Based on winning the hearts and mind of Nigerians, your appointment came towards the twilight of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, do you think you have enough time to perform?
IGP: One month is enough to change the perception of an organization, it’s not about how long you stay, it is about the ideas you are able to generate, and about the strategy, the vision and your aspiration. To me, in one month, if you have a clear vision, you can actualize it clearly.
MA: It appears Police welfare top your agenda?
IGP: I may not have the power to increase the salary of the police workforce, but there are things I can do that can motivate the police workforce. For instance, I make sure all the boys I send on patrol get at least water and some dry ration at least once a day. Such will at least give me the moral latitude to say “I have given our men this much, why should they collect money from anyone at the end of the day?” Such is welfare.
In addition, the police force has a corporative society, we have a mortgage bank, if our police behave well, we can award them by enabling them have access to these facilities. Corruption is a product of fear for the future. One of the things I have in mind to reward honest policemen, for instance, if they stay straight, we can reward them to access a mortgage for a 2 or 3 bedroom house worth 4- 5million naira, and more. It is very humiliating to be dismissed from the police force on basis of corruption, so with such incentives I believe corruption in the force can and may reduce.
MA: Where is the Nigerian Police Force today along with its contemporaries in the Sub Saharan African region, and what can you boast of in terms of equipment being the biggest and most populous black nation in Africa?
IGP: In terms of numeric strength, ours is the largest police force in Sub Saharan Africa, and in terms of historic precedence in the international arena, we have been able to pay our dues, but in terms of technical platform, we may not be the best. For instance, in comparison to South Africa, the entire Nigerian police force is a warehouse of just one division in South Africa. Due to the long apartheid regime, they have been able to develop an industrial base which hosts several industrial machinery. South Africa produces armoured vehicles and personnel carriers, they assemble vehicles, motorcycles and virtually all the soft-ware and hardware that a country may need is available there. I also understand they change their patrol vehicles literally every five years.
There are other countries in Africa you cannot compare the Nigerian Police force to however, such as Ghana, Rwanda, etc. You make comparisons with countries that are of the same size, similar landmass and economy.
MA: How do you consider the relationship between the average Nigerian citizen and the Police force as at today?
IGP: Presently, there is a very poor public perception of the Nigerian Police force. If you have an organization that is supposed to enforce the law, whether the laws are bad or good, the public may avoid that organization in fear. The police is statutorily there to enforce laws. Any organization mandated to enforce laws cannot be a favourite of members of the public. However, we are saying, you can enforce a law by adding a human face to it. Nigerians naturally do not like obeying the rules, they are also always in a hurry, thus sometimes, enforcing laws on them is not so easy. However, a police force cannot work without cooperating with the community. Nigerians need to empathize with the police force and be mutually respectful.
MA: What do you want to be remembered for?
IGP: I believe I have reached the pinnacle of my career. I should be able to replicate myself in as many officers as possible. I want to be remembered as an officer who held due respect for the rights of others, who impacted my environment in terms of security reforms, who respected Nigerians in general. I want to see a police force that can hold its own anywhere in the world, I want to see police officers who are mentally mobile, who are intellectually deep and who are professionally competent. That is the police force I want to leave for Nigeria and by the time I leave, I want to look back someday, and say I have left my mark on the sands of time.
Born June 21, 1956 in Benin, Edo State, Solomon Arase is the current Inspector General of the Nigerian Police Force. He attended primary and secondary school in Sapele, old Bendel State, and the Ahmadu Bello University from 1976 to 1980 where he graduated with a degree in Political Science. He has a Master’s Degree in Strategic Studies from the University of Ibadan. A lawyer, Arase also has a Bachelor of Law degree and Masters of Law from the University of Benin and University of Lagos respectively, and attended the Nigerian Law School and was called to the bar in 2000. He joined the police force in 1981, and until his appointment, was the Head of the Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department. Arase has served in various commands and formations of the Nigerian police, including being the Commissioner of Police for Akwa Ibom State. Also, he had served at the United Nations Mission in Namibia and is a Fellow of the Nigerian Defence College. Mr. Arase is due for retirement on June 21, 2016. He is married to a human rights worker, and together they have four children.