THE CHALLENGES OF NIGERIA POLICE REFORM, CIVIL UNREST AND THE NATION’S DEMOCRATIC ADVANCEMENT By Chief Kenny Martins - Paul Ukpabio's Blog

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Tuesday, 8 December 2020

THE CHALLENGES OF NIGERIA POLICE REFORM, CIVIL UNREST AND THE NATION’S DEMOCRATIC ADVANCEMENT By Chief Kenny Martins

 

AN ADDRESS DELIVERED BY CHIEF KENNY MARTINS AT THE POLA NATIONAL DIALOGUE SERIES ON SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2020.


PROTOCOLS:

His Excellency, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, my friend and brother, and the Chief Host of today’s event, our revered panellists and all those who have played one part or the other to make today’s event a reality, I give you my sincere compliments.

 

INTRODUCTION:

CIVIL UNREST AND NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC ADVANCEMENT

This is our 21st year in continuous democratic Government as a Nation. This 4th Republic as it is fondly called may well continue to be the republic that will eventually make us a developed democracy in years to come. I give kudos to all those who have contributed one way or another in sustaining this nascent democracy which many pundits did not believe will succeed.

To achieve a sustainable democracy, you need to build the democratic Institutions, without which there will not be an authentic democracy, but democracy only in name. Some of these institutions include;

1.                 An independent Parliament

2.                 An independent Judiciary

3.                 An independent and vibrant  Press

4.                 An assemblage of vibrant Civil Society organizations.

5.                 A loyal Armed Forces to defend the frontiers of the state, and

6.                 A law abiding Police Force.

 

Civil protests in themselves are the means by which the citizens exercise their rights to freedom of speech and use that to show the areas where improvements in governance are required or to draw the attention of Government to the unacceptable actions of some of its personnel, agencies and policies.

 

Democracy was defined by Abraham Lincoln as a government of the people, by the people and for the people. That being the case, every citizen of the country has a share in sustaining the democracy. The best way to sustain and promote democracy is by obeying the laws of the Land on any relevant subject.

 

If you as members of the public desire to carry out a protest the constitution and the other laws allow you to do so, but the same laws prescribe the way and manner you should exercise your rights of free speech and public assembly in such a manner that your exercise of your own right will not adversely affect the other citizens of the country in the exercise of their own rights of freedom of movement and rights to property. It is when civil protests go out of the control of the organisers that it gives rise to civil unrest.

Civil unrest leads to a no win situation because the Law Enforcement Agents, especially the Police, are bound by law to contain the incidents of civil unrests and may take actions to prevent the escalation of the unrest which the protesters may deem to be an excessive use of force. In the end, the narrative of the force that the Police or the Army had used to restore law and order then becloud the original narrative of the Intention of those who organised the protests, in the first place.

 

THE CHALLENGES OF THE NIGERIA POLICE REFORM

The Police can be defined as a group of persons legally empowered by a Political Authority to enforce the laws and ensure the protection of lives and property of the Citizens within their area of jurisdiction.

The idea of a professional Police Force was first pursued by Sir Robert Peel when he became the UK Home Secretary in 1822. In 1829 the Peel`s Metropolitan Police Force was established for the Greater London area.

The history of the Nigeria Police Force started in 1879 with the establishment by the British Colonial Authority of what it called, the Hausa Constabulary, made up of 1,200 men, armed and trained as a Paramilitary Organisation, to intimidate the locals and force them to obey the laws of the colonial Administration.

Since then the Nigeria Police Force has grown in number to a strength of nearly 400,000 officers and men and have produced exemplary officers who have excelled in their service to the country and excelled each time they have served abroad in peace keeping Operations for the United Nations and other Multilateral Organisations.

However, there continues to exist in their fold some policemen and officers who are still operating with colonial format, and from time to time portray a negative image of the police to the wider society in Nigeria.

 

THE PROBLEM OF SARS

Because of the issues relating to the recent protests to #ENDSARS we cannot hold a discussion of this magnitude without making reference to the police unit called SARS.

SARS means Special Anti-Robbery Squad. It was a unit in the Lagos state police command, formed to combat the rising cases of armed robbery in Lagos state. The immediate cause was the killing of Col. Rindam of the Nigerian Army at a checkpoint in Lagos, in September 1992 allegedly by three Police officers. His colleagues in the Army thereafter chased after any Police personnel they could find, and as such, the Police Operations in Lagos State nearly ground to a halt. The void was quickly exploited by the notorious Mr Shina Rambo and other violent armed robbers, and they callously unleashed mayhem on the Lagos residents to the extent that nobody felt safe anywhere in Lagos State.

Following the reconciliation of the Police and the Army, the new Commissioner of Police, Mr James Danbaba requested permission from the Force Headquarters to form a special squad unit to capture Mr Shina Rambo and take back the streets of Lagos from the rampaging armed robbers. His request was not only granted but the young Superintendent of Police, by the name of Mr Simeon Midanda, who had effectively recovered the streets of Benin City and Edo State in general, from the armed robbers, was posted out of Edo state to head the Special Anti-Robbery  Squad in Lagos State. As a result of the successes recorded by the SARS in Lagos, the Federal SARS was formed to operate in the whole country.

In later years, precisely in 2008, that same Mr Simeon Midanda, then a Deputy Commissioner of Police was sent by the Police High Command at the instance of the Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to meet with me and to investigate the case of a wicked plot by my adversaries to assassinate me and frustrate my work at that time at the Police Equipment Foundation to reposition the Nigeria Police Force with donations of operational vehicles, houses and insurance covers for those who lost their lives on active duties.

According to Mr James Duddridge, the British Minister for African Affairs on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), SARS was being trained and equipped by the Government of the United Kingdom from 2016 to March 2020.

Since the United Kingdom Police does not have a SARS Department, it is not rocket science to assume that the said training were being conducted by the United kingdom Police Special Elite Operations Force, by the name of London SWAT, the Metropolitan Police Special Firearms Unit. This is perhaps the reason the hasty decision of the Police Authorities to Officially Disband SARS at the request of the protesters and set up SWAT did not go down well with the protesters because they believed rightly or wrongly, that SARS had just been renamed, SWAT. 

 

THE #ENDSARS PROTESTS

Even though SARS was tagged in the protest, in my own opinion, the protest was against the entire Nigeria Police Force and other Security Agencies who sometimes look down on the Civilian population and see them as sources of money making. This view is reinforced because, if the protesters were only protesting against SARS, then the protesters would have disbanded when both the Inspector General of Police and the President and Commander in Chief announced that SARS had been disbanded. Rather than go back to their homes, the protesters then reeled out a number of new demands including the sacking of the Inspector General of Police and other demands that are of a political nature.

It is therefore not surprising that some people like the Governor of Kogi State, Mr Yahaya Bello have expressed the view that the protests were politically motivated. As we speak, there are new reports that there is a crackdown on the leaders of the end SARS protests and the Bank Accounts of some of their sponsors have been frozen.

However, whatever their motivation was, the #ENDSARS movement during the eleven days that they carried out their protests around the country, displayed a rare courage to speak frankly to those in positions of authority and urged them to use their power for a rapid development of the country rather than for self-aggrandizement and enrichment.

There is however no justification for the wanton destruction of both public and private properties that occurred at the later state of the protests. The protest also helped to reveal the not so excellent decision of their Excellences, the state Governors of some of the States that hoarded Covid-19 palliatives in warehouses for no justified reasons, while their constituents were left in hunger. We saw also those who broke into warehouses and drove away tractors, tricycles and motorcycles to their homes as if to say that they were driving their point home to the Government. Arson and brigandage, however, have no place in a modern democracy.

I commiserate with all those who lost their loved ones as a result of the protests as well as others who suffered bullet wounds and other injuries during the protests.

According to the Inspector General of Police, 22 police officers also lost their lives during the protests. I commiserate with the Police High Command and the families of the fallen patriots and also with those policemen that were injured in the line of duty trying to keep peace around the country. We now know that some soldiers were wounded and others lost their lives during the protests. I commiserate with them and their families as well as the Chief of Army Staff.

I cannot help but to remember the faces of the wives and young children of the fallen police officers as the then Deputy Inspector General of Police Mr Ogbonnaya Onovo and myself distributed the sum of N200,000.00 every month to the family of each of the fallen active duty police officers who died during the previous month, at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, proceeds of the Insurance cover made for the Police Force by the Police Equipment Foundation, to help the deceased families to have some food to eat before the processing of the entitlement of their departed bread winners, which is notoriously slow to process.

It was always a sober moment for me to see the then DIG Onovo holding back tears, and the little innocent children of the deceased police officers who did not know what the ceremonies were about, as they played with their peers and chatted with their mothers.

 

NEED FOR THE REFORM OF THE NIGERIA POLICE FORCE

Firstly, I will start by commending the President and the two branches of the National Assembly for the enactment of two very important Legislations, namely; the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (Establishment) Act 2019 and the Police Act, 2020 to address several aspects of the Police Reforms.

The Police Act contains so many modern provisions such as;

1) Section 32(2) of the Act prohibits the Police from arresting anyone based on a civil wrong or breach of contract.

 

2) Section 36 of the Act prohibits the arrest of any person in place of a suspect.

 

3) Section 35(2)(a, b and c) of the Act makes it mandatory on the police officer or any other person authorized to effect an arrest to inform the suspect of his rights to:

i. Remain silent or avoid answering any question until after consultation with a legal practitioner or any other person of his own choice.

ii. Consult a legal practitioner of his own choice before making, endorsing or writing any statement or answering any question put to him after the arrest.

iii. Free legal representation by the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria or other organizations where applicable.

 

4) Section 35(3) of the Act also makes it mandatory on the Police to notify the next of kin or relative(s) of the suspect immediately after the arrest of the suspect.

5) Section 37 provides that a suspect shall be accorded humane treatment. And a suspect shall not be subjected to torture, cruelty, inhumane or degrading treatment.

 

6) Section 60(1) provides that the statement of a suspect can be taken only when he wishes to make a statement.

 

7) Section 60(2) provides that the statement, where the suspect wishes to make one, MAY be taken in the presence of a legal practitioner or any other person or organization of his own choice, and

 

8) Section 64(1) provides that where a suspect is arrested and detained for more than 24 hours, if the offence he was arrested for is not a capital offence, his lawyer or relatives can notify any court that has jurisdiction to try the matter about his arrest.

Section 4 of the Police Trust Fund Act 2020 provides for how additional funds will be made available to the police from the Federal Government Revenue Account, levy on company profits, contributions from State and Local Governments as well as appropriations by the National Assembly.

Section 5(a to h) of the Police Trust Fund Act provides the objectives for the enactment of the Police Trust Fund Act which includes training and retraining of the personnel of the Nigeria Police Force and its auxiliaries inside and outside of Nigeria, and other objectives.

 

The first Police Trust Fund Bill, was in fact sponsored by my colleagues and I in the Police Equipment Foundation in 2008 with the assistance of Senator David Mark, the then Chairman of the Police Affairs Committee in the Senate and Engr. Doris Uboh, the Chairperson of the House of Representatives Committee on Police Affairs and their Committee Members including Senator Annie Okonkwo and Senator Paulinus Igwe who was at that time, an Honourable member of the House of Representatives. My Foundation sponsored the Bill to its 1st and 2nd Reading in both Houses at our own cost. Any person familiar with law making in Nigeria will tell you that it is not a mean achievement for a private organization to sponsor a Bill to the 1st and 2nd Reading.

However, the orchestrated crises in our Foundation led to our inability to see through the passage of the Bill. All subsequent governments abandoned it, until the present government that made improvements on it, pushed the Bill through Parliament and signed it into law at last.

 

POLICE FUNDING

You cannot talk about effective reforms in the Police Force without linking it with the effective funding of the Police Force.

Every Inspector General of Police in the last 20 years of Civilian Administration on assumption of office had made an order, published publicly, for the closure of illegal road blocks on the National Highways because they are perceived by the public as illegal tollgates manned by the police. However, none of such orders had ever been complied with, principally because the Inspector General of Police has not provided his officers with sufficient logistics such as fuel dumps, vehicle repair facilities and office stationeries.

The living accommodation of the junior officers and the rank and file are nothing to write home about. Modern police officers should not work in a squalid camp in the name of Police Barracks. In this era of Information Technology, any Commander can rally his officers and men from his office desk wherever the officers and men reside in the area of command.

           

THE WAY FORWARD

1.     The police authorities must continue to emphasize to their officers and men, the need to respect the civilian population and not to look down on people because they are not clothed in government uniform.

2.     There should be equal opportunities for all young Nigerians with the passion for the police work to be recruited into the various departments of the police for which they are qualified.

3.     No amount of legislation will bring enough funds into the coffers of the Nigeria Police Force, to enable them to give the kind of service that the Metropolitan Police give to the London residents. This is because the Metropolitan Police have a staff strength of only 44,000 officers  but their 2019/2020 budget is 3.66 Billion pounds while the Nigeria Police with a staff strength of nearly 400,000 personnel has in the 2020 proposed National Budget, the highest ever allocation of 447.6 Billion naira. If you put both allocations in the Naira and using N500 as the conversion rate for the Pound Sterling instead of its N600 value at the parallel market, you will find out that the 44,000 officers of the Metropolitan Police will have the sum of One Trillion, Eight Hundred and Thirty Billion Naira to police the Grater London Area, which is not as big as Lagos State in one year, while the nearly 400,000 officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force will manage the sum of Four Hundred and Forty Seven Billion Six Hundred Million Naira to Police the whole of Nigeria with a population of 200,000,000 people, very much larger than the entire United Kingdom with a total population of only 66, 650, 000 or One Third of The Nigerian population. It has never happened in the last 20 years that any Department of the Federal Government of Nigeria, including the Nigeria Police Force got 100% of their budgetary allocation. The budgets of the Departments are funded each year according to the availability of funds to the Federal Government.

 

NEED FOR COLLABORATIONS

The Metropolitan Police in London is not immune to the issues of Government Budget efficiency, or lack of it. They make sure that their operations are not hampered by paucity of funds by vigorously partnering with the Private Sector to shore up their finances, including accepting donations, engaging in profitable investments and not stifling the efforts of the private sector in the United Kingdom who have something to contribute to improve the security of their country. 

The Nigeria Police cannot have the budget of the Metropolitan Police at any time soon, but they can partner with the Private Sector to redevelop some of their prime Real Estates scattered all over the Country and make regular earnings from the rents and provide their staff with much better accommodation than are currently on offer at their colonial era Police Barracks.

The Police should stop frustrating the efforts of well-meaning Nigerians like in the case of the Police Equipment Foundation who at their own expense raised a whopping sum of over Seven billion, seven hundred and seventy-four million Naira and spent the money with the full concurrence of the Police High Command on equipping the police. If not that State Governments have increased their support to their Local Police commands, the Police would have been in much more predicament than they are currently, financially speaking.

 

In 2006, I invited the former Inspector General of Police, Mr Musiliu Smith, to join us in the Police Equipment Foundation, but he informed me that he would have wanted to join, but he had been approached by the Lagos State Government to do a similar project in Lagos State. He however requested from me, the Blue Print for the Foundation, which I happily obliged him with. Today, Lagos State is better for it as they have continued to adhere to the principles outlined in the said Blue Print with their local adaptation in the running of their Lagos State Security Trust Fund.

When I heard that as many as 22 Police officers were killed during the End SARS protest, it became apparent to me that most of the deceased officers were controlling the crowd in such dangerous and volatile environments probably without the necessary body armour. This is sad because we imported in 2008 a consignment of top grade body armour for the Police to be given free of charge to them for the use of their personnel at a cost of over One Billion Naira in today`s calculation, but the Police High Command at the time refused to apply for the End User Certificate from the office of the National Security Adviser to enable our clearing Agent to clear the consignment for them at the Apapa wharf. With time, the consignment entered into demurrage and their containers are currently packed at Epe Lagos State by the Customs and Excise after their seizure while the poor officers continue to fight crime without body armour, simply because the body armour were purchased by a civilian organisation.  

 

I know the streets of London like the back of my hand. Every day you move around in London, not less than 30 closed circuit television camera will capture your image. If you committed an offence or defied the traffic regulation, you will be traced and made to pay the fine prescribed for your action or even get arrested by the police, if you committed a crime.

However, those closed circuit television cameras that capture your image are not all owned by the Metropolitan Police. The large majority of the cameras belong to the Private Sector of the United Kingdom. 

Here in Nigeria, Billions of Naira had been spent to put central closed circuit television cameras in Abuja and Lagos. However, no single prosecution has been based on the evidence gathered from those security equipment to my knowledge.

The police must trust their fellow Nigerian citizens to assist in crime control. Imagine what will happen in the streets of Lagos, Abuja and other cities if the Nigerian Police Force will collaborate with the companies and individuals who already have closed circuit television cameras in their premises such that they can face one or two cameras on the streets and collate valuable intelligence for the Police on the movement of people around their neighbourhood.

Nigerians currently spend over one Trillion Naira per annum, providing their own private security in their estates, houses, and places of work, companies and recreation centres, because of the state of insecurity in the country.

They will gladly spend half of that sum to support the running of the State Police or Neighbourhood Watch when established, to take the bulk of the security work off their own budget.

 

Furthermore, policemen below the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police should serve at least in their geo-political zones if not in their home States because policing is more efficient if it is local, and done by those who are familiar with the population and the environment.

 

ADDITIONAL MOTIVATIONS

There should be adequate provisions for the children of deceased police officers who died on active duties including a housing subsidy scheme and scholarships funded by the Federal Government.

 

DEMOCRACY REQUIRES GOOD ECONOMY

Another element that is very important for the sustenance of a vibrant democracy is a vibrant economy. Democracy is very expensive to run. The only way that the government can find resources enough to maintain the huge institutions of democracy is if there is a vibrant economy that has enough good artisan and corporate job positions for the citizens in and out of Government establishments. In turn, Government will collect taxes from those who are working citizens and the companies where they work to manage the country in addition to the other sources of government revenue.

 

GOVERNMENT MUST ALLOW MORE PRIVATE SECTOR PARTICIPATION IN THE ECONOMY

Whenever the economy is not doing as well as previously, and workers are laid off from their places of work, there will be more incidence of civil unrests, until the government is able through its improved economic policies to bring out new programs that will absorb the working age citizens into gainful employment.

However, you cannot have a good economy if you do not have a peaceful environment, industrial level electricity supply and a stable monetary policy. Modern Governments have broken away from the do it all type of Government. They have now prioritised the strategic areas like Defence and Foreign Affairs, where only Government can participate, and have opened the rest of the economy to the participation of their citizens and Foreign Investors.

 

OUR ECONOMY SHOULD BE FURTHER DEREGULATED

Our economy is currently still over regulated. Take for instance the time and efforts it currently takes some of the State Governments with the proposal to establish export processing zones or building Deep Sea Ports in their states to be able to get the necessary certifications to do so.

If these infrastructure projects are allowed to function, they will absorb so many employable youths and reduce unnecessary restiveness in the country. Take for instance, the Tinapa project in Calabar in which the Government of Cross River State spent lots of funds to build and upon completion, they were told that the project will not be commissioned, because there was a legislation that needed to be amended. That legislation was not amended until the project went into debts and disuse.

 

THE INDEPENDENT POWER PROJECT (IPP)

At the same period, the Federal Government announced that it was going to do what it called the Independent Power Project (IPP). Many businessmen, including myself formed consortia with most experienced international companies and spent Billions of naira to fulfil the conditions of participating in the bids. At the end of the day the policy was stopped in preference for the policy of the Integrated Power Project (IPP) in which the Federal Government then used large sums of money to repair the old power installations around the country. At that time, our electricity generating and daily distribution was 3000 mw, today it is still only 4000 mw.

Nigeria is currently generating and distributing an average of 4000mw of electricity per day. Each time the issue of electricity generation and distribution is raised in the last 20 years; government has always come forward with statistics on their elaborate installed generation capacities. Let us hope that the current collaboration between the Germans and the Nigerian authorities will lead to a marked increase in the power supply, because 4000mw worth of energy on a daily is too small for a country like Nigeria.

20 years ago, the Enron Corporation of USA brought some barge mounted electricity generators to Lagos and offered 14 units with the combined generating capacity of 1,400mw to Nigeria to improve the generation capacity of the country.

They even offered to change the fuel input from diesel to natural gas which we have in abundance, at their own cost. They offered to generate the energy for NEPA and to be paid according to the energy generated at a price much less than the prevailing market price. The barges sailed into Lagos in anticipation of the signing of the power purchase agreement, but it was not signed because there was a certain legislation that needed to be amended. The legislation was not amended until the barges sailed out of Nigeria, with the exception of the three units that were practically purchased by the Lagos State Government and mounted at Ikorodu. I know these details because I was a consultant for Enron and their local partner on the project.

Earlier on, my company had convinced the Enel Corporation of Italy to bring their facility that was at the time generating 5,000 mw in one location to come to Nigeria to reassemble the same at no cost to the Government of Nigeria. The Government was only to pay for the amount of electricity that was given to NEPA through their transmission lines. Of course, their offer was also rejected.

The electricity generation distribution then was about 3000 mw, today it is still only 4000 mw.

 

NO ELECRTRICITY, NO GROWTH IN THE ECONOMY

The sectors currently contributing more to our GDP are the extractive industries, the service industries and Agriculture, in which electricity supply can be operated by generators. The contribution of the manufacturing sector to our GDP in the 2nd quarter of this year is only 8.55%. When the big factories begin to work to capacity they will employ the youths of the country, then poverty will reduce and protests will reduce as well. Manufacturing impacts the economy in a big way because the factories provides livelihood to their employees, their suppliers and the distributors of their products.  No factory can run profitably on diesel generators. Only grid power can make the desired impacts.

What I do not know, howeve, is whether those who frustrated all efforts by the Private sector in Nigeria to improve the national electricity generation and distribution in the country will today be telling themselves that what we have today was what they desired all along, or will be telling themselves that things could have been done differently and better when they were on the saddle.

The mistake of the Power Policy probably gave the Federal Government the impetus to privatise the telecommunication sector with the auction of the GSM license in spite of the loud objections of NITEL in 2001. Today, everybody is enjoying the economic benefits of that privatisation and the investment in technology that has come to the country since 2001 because of that bold decision.

I am not a critic of the civil servants. They are set in the mould of protecting our citizens from foreign exploitation. However, in these days of globalised economies, collaboration rather than protectionism is the best way to develop our emerging economy.                   

 

CONCLUSION:

The Subject that we are discussing today is of very great importance to our dear country. Nobody is a repository of knowledge. On occasions like this when such a forum is provided for people to share their experience and proffer solutions to our contemporary national problems, the joy of it will be when we see concrete steps being taken to formulate appropriate policies by the authorities concerned from the advice and opinions of the distinguished Nigerians who have taken part in the discussion in this forum today. All of us want the very best for our country and all of us are stakeholders in this great country.

God has given us everything we need to be a great country; large population, large expanse of arable land, two major rivers and many more smaller rivers and streams, hundreds of kilometres of pristine coast line, the best weather in the world, large oil and gas deposits, gold and other precious minerals, a large and very educated workforce and members of the Armed Forces and security services that have excelled in all their international assignments.

All we need now is the ability to put our best feet forward. Those manning the various departments of our government at the Federal, State and Local Government levels must be persons who have the competence to meet the demands and challenges of their offices and people ready to give their required services to the nation.

Thank you and God bless you.

 

 

 

 

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