By Misbahu Bashir

Police spokesman, CSP Frank Mba, in this interview with Weekly Trust, talks about the abolition of roadblocks by the police, car theft and other topical issues

The Inspector General of Police Mohammed Abubakar recently abolished roadblocks yet, some people want policemen stationed along roads with high prevalence of crime

Well, so far so good; the dismantling of roadblocks has been a huge blessing to the Nigeria Police Force. There were some fundamental challenges that compelled the inspector general to take that action. We discovered that the roadblocks have lost their usefulness in all ramifications and have since ceased to be a means of crime fighting and were centres for harassing Nigerians. They have in the past become centres for extortion by policemen thereby affecting free movement of goods and people across the country. This is crippling our economy, our trade, commerce and social life. We also discovered that people spend long time unnecessarily moving from one place to another due to the roadblocks. Again, we found that various unethical conducts such as bribery, accidental shootings, assault and unnecessary confrontation between policemen and civilians take place at the roadblocks.

People thought that policemen won?t be happy when they were instructed to dismantle the roadblocks and thought there will be an upsurge in crime on the highways, but the reverse is the case. We asked an independent organization to conduct opinion poll within the police force on the dismantling of the roadblocks and it was gathered that 97 per cent of the policemen who participated supported the cancellation of the checkpoints. Most policemen said the removal of roadblocks has improved their dignity and they command more respect when they carry out motorized patrols. It was found in the opinion poll that motorized patrol is even more effective. Apart from that, we also conducted an online poll where we urged Nigerians to vote in support or against the policy. We discovered that over 89 per cent of those who voted supported the action. In all, we believe that we are actually doing what the tax payer wants.

People must also know that the concept of roadblock is not an effective way of crime prevention because the defects are so many. (1) the position of the policemen is known to the enemy (2) the number of policemen in any point is known and the hoodlums can predict the number of policemen immediately, (3) their firepower is also predictable because the hoodlums can drive through the area and count the number of policemen bearing arms, (4) the enemy can find the time you (police) resume and when you close making it easier for them to devise counter measures to beat security. They can devise alternative route and plan their operation to coincide with when the police will be changing duty or when they will probably not be on the road.

Do you have enough vehicles to conduct motorized personnel?

Obviously we are in need of vehicles, but the whole thing is to have a good vision which every good leader must have as well as ensure that his followers complied. If the police must wait until everything is perfect before we give Nigerians ideal policing, then there will be no policeman on the road. We cannot wait until our salaries are perfect; we cannot wait until they provide us with all the logistics. The good thing is that we are ready to work with what we have and demonstrated that over the last eight months. Sometimes the logistics are important but how you use the little resources you have is also very important. For instance, we understood that forty vehicles distributed recently for the highway patrol across the federation are of cause, not enough, but we are ready to put them to the best use and work hard towards getting more.

The public should give chance to the current police management to prove what they can do because already, you can see total turnaround and total transformation in our attitude, morale, crime fighting methodology and how we go about doing things.

What makes the new patrol vehicle different from others?

They are standardized patrol vehicles and customized for Nigerian roads, weather as well as the challenges of policing. They also have other security features which the public may not know.

The IG also promised to turnaround the Special Anti Robbery Squad saying they have become killer squads. People still complain of extortion, bullying and highhandedness by SARS operatives

The Squad has become a very important component to the police in Nigeria and plays prominent role in tackling violent crime including kidnappings. But we realize that not all personnel of the squad have live up to their oath of offices and not all of them have discharge their duty professionally and we don?t make pretences over that. One of the best ways to change the situation is for you to look at your areas of strength and weakness and see how you can improve; that is what we are doing. What we did in SARS lead to some positive changes in the Federal SARS and it is our desire that these improvement will be replicated at states SARS. One other thing is that the IG has ordered mass training and retraining of the SARS personnel.

We have also opened opportunities for Nigerian to have oversight on the SARS and other policemen. We expect Nigerians to know that we are their servants; they are our masters and as our masters, they must take interest in what we are doing and must made contributions. They must tell us what we are doing wrong and what we are doing well. That explained why the IG made public his dedicate de-mail addresses and phone numbers for people to forward their complaints. As I speak, plan is underway to release the telephone numbers of the assistant inspectors general in charge of zones, command commissioners as well as all the police public relations officers to the public. The Idea is to make the police more transparent, improve accountability and enhance the capacity of Nigerians to exercise oversight on the police. This will help us in the reform processes and get feedback both from the people and the police management. The public should make input to what they consider as their priority and report the excesses of our men to enable us take action either to prevent, redress, or to punish any acts of indiscipline. I want call on all Nigerians to help us bring to book all the officers who are found to have misbehaved.

Apart from the public, you must have an internal mechanism to keep an eye on your personnel?.

(Cuts)? We have and we get feedback day in, day out. We always punish policemen for unlawful acts. I am sure if you check with the Police Service Commission, you will find the lists of officers recommended for punishment. In the last couple of months you must have seen from the reports of the Commission the names of very senior officers who were out rightly dismissed, suspended and demoted. Those dismissals were not just from nowhere; they were a climax of a disciplinary process that starts from the divisional level to area command to the zone and finally to the headquarters. Suspected officers were subjected to scrutiny by the force disciplinary committee and thereafter recommendation is made to the IG who will either approve or adjust them before forwarding such recommendations to the Commission. The Commission will review these recommendations before taking a decision. So if we are not punishing them you will not be seeing such reports. I think the next time the force disciplinary committee will be sitting; I will issue a release to shed more light on the committee?s composition, functions and the processes it follows. The police force is the only organization that monitors itself apart from policing the public. The police provost unit, X-Squad and the IG monitoring teams were established to monitor the policemen which indicated that the police force is concerned with public safety; In fact the police organization is the only pan-Nigerian organization.

What are you doing to tackle car theft?

The IG recently put together a Special Taskforce on Heinous Crimes mandated to among tackle crimes including car thefts. The task force recently recovered 19 stolen vehicles in Kaduna after a tip-off. The new initiative was meant to tackle car theft with the support of the public. There is also the Special Taskforce on Anti Pipeline Vandalism which recently arrested pipeline vandals in Kogi state seized over 15tankers with illegal oil.

Ondo governorship election is around the corner, how prepared are you?

Police are making adequate preparation toward the Ondo elections including the training of personnel who will be involved in the election monitoring. The training cut-across all ranks to improve the capacity of officers. We held consultations at various levels and met politicians and non-governmental organization, just like what we did before the Edo state election. We shall remain impartial.

What is the position of the force on state police?

The Inspector General has already said Nigeria is politically not full-grown for the creation of state police

Source: Weekly Trust

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