by Samuel Ogundipe
“The Nigeria Police Force shall be under the command of the Inspector General of Police. And any contingents of the Nigeria Police Force stationed in a State shall, subject to the authority of the Inspector General of Police, be under the command of the Commissioner of Police in that State.”
– Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, 1999.
“More better, and honorary, for one to be an ordinary citizen than to be a milquetoast king bereft of any authoritative bluster.”
– An old, Yoruba, saying.
Policemen love roadblocks, because that’s where the money is. It is believed that mounting roadblocks is the second most lucrative racket in The Police, second only to the deleterious bribery/bail conditions that’s ubiquitous in police stations across the nation.
To put it luminously: The Nigeria Police Force is a cesspool of unmitigated corruption.
The Inspector-General of the Police Force, Mohammed D. Abubakar, 54, a conspicuously rare breed persona amongst The Police hierarchy, recognises the problem, hence, the pretext behind his decision to make dismantling all roadblocks in the country his first ordinance at the helm of the most relegated, not to mention the most despised, institution in the country.
On February 13, 2012, exactly a month after the most intensifying civil protests in the history of the Republic took place, the newly appointed Inspector-General of Police issued an unambiguous order following an emergency confabulation he held with other senior police officials at the Criminal Investigation Department arm of the Institution.
As usual, the reactions from the citizenry were mixed. While some viewed the new directive as a much awaited one and lauded the new IG accordingly; substantial majority of Nigerians were sceptical and swiftly dismissed the new IG as a barking canine that would soon grow weary, stressing that the such order is hardly new.
The sceptics, alas, were right: the order was enforced, but only for a very short period of time.
From a reported shooting-death of a commercial bus driver as a result of his failure to stop at police roadblocks at Imeko-Afon, Ogun State; to a crossfire that ensued between policemen and locals at Ohafia in Abia State; to round-the-clock blockage of Molipa-Odogbolu Road at Ijebu-Ode. Reports across the country seem convincing that our policemen are gradually returning to both highways and inner city streets. In fact, some reports show that the police have been on the road as far back as October 2012, about 8 months following the IG’s order, following a kidnapping spree that marred Ijebu-Ode.
A police chief at Zone II, the federal command in charge of Ogun and Lagos states, told me he’s not aware of the roadblocks but said the matter will not be treated with glove hands if established.
“Mr. Ogundipe, I don’t think this is true because I am just hearing about it from you now”, he says. “But let me call Eleweran”, the Ogun State command headquarters, “and I’ll get back to you by text message.”
But another police DPO from Ijebu-Ode area command confirmed the roadblocks but says they “needed to mount roadblocks to check the rising state of kidnapping around Ijebu.”
When I asked how many kidnapped victims have been rescued by the police since the command resumed roadblocks, he said: “their (kidnapped victims) families usually negotiate for their release and they will call us in later….” That’s the Orwellian way of admitting that the command has not managed to rescue one single kidnap victim.
I also asked him to confirm number of kidnap cases reported at the command in the first quarter of this year and if the commissioner is aware of the command’s activities, he unpretentiously answered: “I’m not sure. And we don’t need to brief the commissioner about everything, we have discretions.”
Perhaps they do. But the Constitution gives the IG utmost discretion over the activities of the NPF. It also went further to clarify that only he/she may delegate authority to police commissioner.
If the commissioner is not aware of the command’s ‘road blocking’ activities, as the officer claimed, then, by extension, the IG is not aware.
Therefore, it is now obvious that the Ijebu-Ode area command of the Nigeria Police Force is flouting the order of the Inspect-General of Police , and consequently the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
This would have been funny were it not for the egregious fact that the police is funded from the coffers of the federal government with monies that would have been better used to cater to the plight of the impoverished in our society. It is, however, emblematic of our police personnels’ insatiable hankering to be recidivist.
Our police constables are known to disregard orders from their betters: in the summer of 2001, then Inspector General of Police, Musiliu Smith, ordered policemen to stop mounting illegal roadblocks. The order became redundant long before Mr. Smith resigned in 2002. Ditto a similar command from his successor, Mr. Mustapha Balogun.
Mounting of roadblocks is a tactic the Police should employ only when absolutely necessary, following due approval from the Inspector-General. And no one knows this better than those that were formerly taught at one of the few police colleges across the country.
The IG was right to call for the dismantling of roadblocks because it would stymie the avoidable extra judicial killings happening on our roads, and would subsequently deprive them of the ₦50 kickback they extort from motorists, too.
This columnist believes that the Inspector-General of Police’s, M.D. Abubakar, February 2012 order has been rendered inefficacious by his men. Hence, he should either exercise his constitutional authority and issue a new directive for his men to end incessant blockade of roads, or tow the path of honour and tender his resignation letter.
A country with an undisciplined policing system is a banana republic.
– Follow this writer: @SamuelOgundipe