Solomon Arase, the Inspector General of Police is indeed a blessing to Nigeria. The I.G.P who is highly committed to the effective policing of Nigeria will be remembered for introducing accountability in the force. Under his watch the police have been metamorphosed from unfriendliness to open policing. Today, the fear of Complaint Response Unit, C.R.U is the beginning of wisdom to many men and officers of the Nigeria Police Force as Nigeria now has a way of seeking redress in case of abuse of power. The I. G grants audience to SECURITY MONITOR’s Assistant Editor Northern Operation, DIRISU YAKUBU where he traced his humble beginning to his current position
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, education and career in the Nigeria Police Force?
I begin this way! Who is Solomon Arase (general laughter)? I was born in Sapele to a school teacher mother in the old Bendel State. My father was a Polymer scientist. I completed my early education in the early 70s and thereafter proceeded to the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where I obtained a degree in Political Science in 1980. I did my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme at the Federal Ministry of Establishment in Lagos, after which I enlisted in the Nigeria Police Force as Cadet Assistant Superintended of Police. I have worked in all sections of the force: operation, mobile, intelligence amongst others. Intelligence, I must say is my core area of expertise and I have derived so much joy working in the intelligence section. I had the singular honour of bringing back the intelligence unit first when I was made Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) and later as a Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG).
What specific reform initiatives have you introduced since you assumed office as the Inspector General of Police?
I am always hesitant to write my own history; I think Nigerians should do that. Nevertheless, since you’ve asked me, I will mention a few of them. I have removed roadblocks from our highways because I believe roadblocks are not good crime prevention strategy. Rather, they were avenue for corruption and extra-judicial killings, accidental discharge and all that. I just came back from a function where my men were tested with the kiths we procured on drug abuse. It is when you get involved in drug abuse as a law enforcement officer that your judgment is impaired. After the removal of roadblocks, I set up accountability platform though which Nigerians can reach the police on various platforms-facebook, twitter, e-mails etc. What we seek to achieve through this is essentially for every police personnel to be accountable to the Nigerian state in the discharge of his or her responsibility. I’ve also established the safer highways to replace the troublesome roadblocks of old. Our patrol vehicles are constantly fueled because I believe if I don’t buy petrol to power these vehicles; then, what moral right do I have to berate a police officer from extorting money from hapless motorists? I also provide light food in form of snacks for our men to keep body and soul together while they go about the business of patrolling the highways.
Like I told you before, I have a very strong passion for intelligence and I believe that police activities should be intelligence-led. We don’t tolerate a situation whereby an accused is kept in police custody without evidence. Evidence will help you do investigation preparatory to commencement of trial and with evidence; time spent in detention will undoubtedly be less. Let me put it this way: I’m a strong advocate of restorative justice. I don’t want any Nigerian to suffer any form of injustice in the hands of my officers, knowingly or unknowingly. I have told my men to learn to distinguish among civil, criminal and commercial dealings, so when for instance a lady has a misunderstanding with her boyfriend and the matter is brought before us; I said to my men to adopt alternative dispute resolution-treat the matter as a domestic one and resolve same amicably. Why make statements in a matter that is largely domestic? Again, if one grabs your land, it is a civil matter. In such matters, the police needs not be involved, because we don’t sell lands. The Nigeria Police is now knowledge-based and this has greatly enhanced our professional competence since our assumption of office. The police cannot infringe on the rights of Nigerians. I was once a civilian and upon my retirement, I will become a civilian again. That said, the fundamental rights of Nigerians must be respected at all times; this is why we’ve infused human rights doctrine in the task of policing our beloved country. No officer should therefore rely on constitutional provision or Criminal Procedure Act to dump an accused in a cell, extort money from him and so on and so forth. These practices are not acceptable and if they are not checked; the same people whose hearts the police ought to win, would be ostracized.
I am a very passionate person, dedicated to the welfare of my men and officers. I cannot begin to sermonize against corruption without putting a welfare policy in place for them. For instance, why can’t a policeman with 35 years of service under his belt been entitled to accommodation upon retirement? Now, we are building houses for them and they are quite affordable. After all this, I would be able to look at them in the eyes and say: I have built houses for you; give your children scholarship. Now, it is your turn to give back to the Nigerian nation for whom much is given, much is expected.
Yes, this policy, I recall vividly, started a couple of years back. So, what is novel about the one you are championing?
You are right but you know, everyone has his own style of going about things of this nature. Everything I do, I try to institutionalize. The scholarship for instance has been incorporated by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) so that even if I quit today, nobody would be able to reverse it. Every year, we give scholarships to the children of our fallen heroes. You see, when you do this, you invariably give them a sense of belonging which make them give their best at all times.
That brings us to the reforms at the Police Colleges! What have you been doing in the area of training and re-training of your men and officers?
The federal government is wholly committed to the professionalization of the Nigeria Police Force. Our colleges are being revamped even as the training curriculum has been tinkered with to reflect global reality. All these things I have been talking about-psychology, sociology, human rights, computer literacy, must be part of the training of the 21st century policeman. You can’t give what you don’t have; modern policing is about knowledge, intelligence and focus. The colleges are brazing up to these challenges squarely, I must add. Everything you want to do with the Nigeria Police from tint permit to police report/ extract can be done online now. I’m proud to tell you that the police today, is technology-driven as we want people to begin to see the police institution from a different perspective.
The insurgency which rattled the country for years claimed some of your men on active duty, particularly in the north-eastern part of the country. What happened to the families they left behind? Is there a policy in place to cater for the survivors of the fallen heroes?
We have an insurance policy in place that takes care of such things. The scholarship scheme I’ve instituted is to take care of their children too. The children of our fallen heroes deserve education or they would become social monsters if they are not trained. Time and chance happen to all of us. If these vulnerable children are trained, you never can tell how far they will go in life. They can become DIGs, IGs, Presidents and what have you. The father of the current President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Austin Alegeh, was my teacher at the Police Staff College.
Some of your barracks were bombed by the Boko Haram terrorist group in the last couple of years. What are you doing about rebuilding them?
The federal government is rebuilding them. I think the Victims Support Fund is helpful in this regard. We are moving more resources to those areas as a significant level of normalcy has returned.
The police got a lot of flaks recently over the Ese/Dahiru kidnap saga. Some commentators believe the police didn’t do enough to rescue the hapless teenager while some argued your men were handicapped? You may wish to throw more light on this?
It was just a misjudgment. Ese Oruru was kidnapped from Bayelsa and frisked away to Kano. My men arrived in Kano, identified where she was tented. They made their discovery known to the traditional authorities which ordered that the girl be handed over to the AIG. The sad news reached me about 48 hours. I agree that the police could have acted faster but it’s not a thing that was deliberate. It was a minister who alerted me that the saga was trending on the social media and I immediately called the AIG who confirmed the incident. You see, sometimes, the pressure of work can lead anyone to make mistakes. What is important is that such errors must not be allowed to occur again. I keep saying this: if you are an accountant, if you make mistake, you lose money; if you are a policeman, if you make mistake, you lose life. We have to be very careful to ensure that our judgment is spot on always.
What has been your most daunting challenge in the task of policing Nigeria thus far?
I will put it this way: policing in a democracy when you have to work with politicians, is quite a herculean task. You see, these politicians who believe the police force can be manipulated to achieve personal goals are enemies of the force and Nigeria. When we begin to see the police as a professional institution dedicated to the wellbeing of our beloved nation and her citizens; then the challenges will be mitigated. We have a group of politicians who are not very conversant with the policing culture, who believe every policeman should be a pawn in their hands like a yoyo. We have issues with such folks because for me, I have a job to do. My functions are cut out by the Constitution; sometimes, I hurt people but this is often not deliberate. I don’t want to dent my integrity but simply wish to walk away from the force with the conviction of having done my best in the course of my stewardship.