Smith’s pledge – The Nation

  • Can the new Police Service Commission boss transform the force?

Senate’s approval and effusive praise of President Muhammadu Buhari’s nominees as members of the Police Service Commission appears strange in the context of current executive-legislature wrangling. The embattled Senate President Bukola Saraki expressed the hope that the members would live up to general expectations.

At the head of the newly constituted commission is Mr. Musiliu Smith, a retired  Inspector-General of Police (IGP) who, as he took the oath of office, pledged to deliver a revamped police force that would be the nation’s pride. As he observed, Nigerians have long looked forward to a force that would be primed to serve the people, not just the party in power and the elite. This has been elusive over the years.

Mr. Smith’s immediate predecessor, Mr Mike Okiro, similarly elicited expectations of leaving a legacy of a great institution. His background as a former IGP made many believe he would make a mark. However, the legislator’s confidence in the new team might have been hinged not only on Mr. Smith who is believed to have had a distinguished career in the police, but the quality of other members of his team.

Justice Clara Ogunbiyi, another member of the commission is well respected in the judiciary. Called to the Nigerian Bar in 1976, she rose to the Supreme Court Bench in 2002 and retired in February. She left an indelible mark at the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court as incorruptible and erudite. Mr. Lawal Bawa, a retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police is, with Ogunbiyi, an Executive Commissioner. Other members of the commission, albeit in non-executive capacity are Dr. Nkemka Jombo-Offor, a medical doctor, management consultant and business man; Mr. Rommy Mom, a lawyer-activist; Mrs. Naajatu Muhammed, a woman activist and associate of Mrs. Aisha Buhari who had earlier turned down an appointment from the Buhari administration on the ground that she was not consulted before the announcement was published; and Mr. Braimah Austin from Edo State.

We hope the team would justify the confidence reposed in it by the president, National Assembly and the people. Nigerians deserve a police force that could compare to the best anywhere in the world. At the moment very few reckon with the civil force, with the military being called upon to tackle issues that should ordinarily be the police forte. Years of military rule saw to the relegation of the police force. It is today lacking in needed fund, equipment, adequately trained and exposed officers and men. The personnel are equally poorly remunerated and motivated, even in terms of office and residential accommodation.

Revamping the force is therefore a daunting task for a commission with limited constitutional powers and functions. It is limited to getting actively involved in recruitment, promotion and training of officers below the rank of the Inspector-General of Police. But, in recent times, the commission has failed to deliver on these responsibilities; when it’s not late in coming, it has generated resentment as juniors are believed to be promoted above their seniors. Beyond playing these roles, we hope the commission could influence the IGP, as operational commander of the force, and the Police Council, saddled with formulating policies,  to live above board.

We expect that adequate fund would be allocated to training and recruitment. Capacity of existing police training institutions should be upgraded. While the United Nations recommended a minimum of 300 policemen to 100,000 population, there are only about 178 in Nigeria, according to the INTERPOL. In Malaysia, there are 320, 515 in Russia, 540 in France and 524 in Turkey.

This is another opportunity for Smith, 72, to clean up his record, especially since he was prevailed upon to resign in 2002 by President Olusegun Obasanjo, following an unprecedented nationwide strike by officers and men of the force. He is coming on board again at a time that men of the Mobile Police just staged a street protest in Maiduguri over non-payment of their allowances for about five months.

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