The Chairman, Police Service Commission, Dr. Mike Okiro, in this interview talks about allegations of promotion racketeering in the police and policies introduced to set things right as well as Senator Misau’s allegation against the Inspector-General of Police among other issues.
What will you describe as the achievements of the PSC under your leadership?
The Police Service Commission was created by an Act of the National Assembly which is the Police Service Commission Establishment Act, 2001. Our mandate includes recruitment, promotion, appointment and discipline of officers in the Nigeria Police Force except the Inspector-General of Police. This mandate was carried out judiciously. I don’t have the statistics here, but we have promoted not less than 10,000 officers in recent times. In terms of recruitment, it is on record that we recruited 10,000 policemen into the force, which is the first time an agency in Nigeria carried out such an exercise of recruiting 10,000 personnel at a time. We equally disciplined officers but this is determined by the gravity of the offence. Some were dismissed, some demoted or reprimanded or severely reprimanded. In terms of other areas, Part II 6 (1e) of the Act says that the commission can formulate and implement policies that lead to efficiency and effectiveness of the Nigeria Police Force. For example, we look at the fact that some officers have been on a rank for a very long time, not because of their fault or because they were not performing their duties well, not because of the IG’s fault or the police service commission. By 1999, when the current democracy began, the police strength was about 80,000 in 36 states plus Abuja making 37 commands. We had three area commands per state and designated according to senatorial districts apart from Abuja and Lagos which had more area commands. Now, the police had grown from 80,000 to about 400,000. So we submitted a policy to the IG to expand the area commands. On the issue of promotion, we have also formulated a policy on how this should be done.
In view of the complaints that usually traced promotion-related issues in the police, what new parameters did you introduce to curb the corruption usually associated with the exercise?
When a list for promotion comes, we look at seniority and merit. You cannot leave number one and promote number 10 unless the number one had a pending disciplinary matter. On the issue of Inspector to Assistant Superintendent ranks, it is done on quota basis, so if I’m a senior in state A, and then, another officer is from state B and he happens to be the most senior in his state, I am also a senior but am number 40 in my state, and we are taking 10 per state, of course, you merited it. Since I don’t work in the force headquarters or the police service commission, I may not know the parameter that was used, so I would complain that my mates were promoted while I was not.
Do we still need to apply quota system or federal character parameter in the police?
We use federal character in three areas: during recruitment, inspector to ASP cadre and in appointment of DIGs. We can leave an AIG, who is very senior in a zone, maybe if you have another senior AIG in that zone who is given DIG. In another zone, if there is no AIG, a CP is picked as DIG due to federal character.
There have been complaints about delayed resolution of petitions and complaints against policemen by your commission. What are you doing to fast-track the determination of disciplinary cases?
When you have to deal with someone’s career, you have to make sure he is not unjustly punished and also ensure that the guilty did not go unpunished. So, we don’t hurry too much to take decisions. If a policeman commits an offence, he is queried and if he is in a division, he sends his response to the commissioner of police, the case would move to the AIG who would pass it to the IG. The IG looks at it and passes it to the force secretary who would recommend it to the force disciplinary committee, which I initiated when I was the IG. The committee would invite the policeman to defend himself and if it finds that he has a case to answer, it would write a report to the IG who will send it to the police service commission. The commission standing committee on discipline will look at the case and recommend to the plenary where all the PSC commissioners will sit with the chairman and other staff to look at the case. Apart from that, the commission has a specific number of plenary meetings per year as approved by the government; that is why it takes time. We have to ensure justice is done. We handle disciplinary matters at every plenary. In fact, it takes precedence over promotion at our meetings.
Why does the commission depend on the police force to probe allegations of misconduct against policeman knowing such investigation could easily be compromised?
On assumption as chairman, I established an investigation department headed by a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, the Commissioner 1. My idea was that there are certain cases we can take over, but somewhere along the line, it became difficult for us; we could not go round the country to investigate cases. If a case happened in Enugu or Sokoto, we don’t have the wherewithal to send our officials to investigate it – the travel allowance, transport fare, hotel accommodation and others. So, when there is a case against a policeman, we send it to the IG to investigate. There are cases we take from Kaduna or Abuja; there are some cases that we feel the officer involved could be invited but we find it difficult to invite a policeman from Lagos or Sokoto to come to the police service commission to make a statement. So, such cases are handed over to the IG to give us a report.
Do you trust the judgment of the police on some of these cases?
Of course, we do trust them. The police are the only agency in Nigeria that do what they called, ‘dog eat dog.’ We have the X-squad in the police whose duty is to go after policemen who have done wrong. They go after them, arrest and detain them, investigate and prosecute them and gain conviction. I have no doubt in my mind that they do adequate job and call a spade a spade.
How did your commission resolve the issue of illegal promotion allegedly carried out by IGP Idris?
There was no illegal promotion. Rather, what the IG brought to us was special promotion which we looked at and found out that some officers were skipped. When a list of policemen for promotion is sent to us, the police service commission will look at whether a policeman has a disciplinary matter. Is it according to seniority? You cannot leave number one and promote number 10. When the IG brought the list, we asked him to explain why they should be given special promotion. Special promotion is an incentive if you have done very well. Sometimes when someone is given special promotion, you find his colleagues clapping and congratulating him that he had done well. But you must give sufficient reasons why someone should be given special promotion, it is not illegal. We asked him to explain why those he recommended should be given the privilege.
Senator Misau specifically accused the IGP of collecting bribes, ranging from N10m to N15m from Commissioners of Police, State Mobile Commanders and Special Protection Units Commanders, for promotion and favourable postings. Did you investigate the allegations?
We asked him (Misau) to come and substantiate the allegations. We invited him, but he didn’t come. Who gave money, how much and to who, but he didn’t come. So, we just let the matter die because he couldn’t substantiate the allegations.
Are you saying the commission abandoned the investigation because Misau did not show up?
The matter is in court; so, it is sub judice to comment on it.
Are you in support of the suit by the IG, seeking an order restraining the Senate from investigating him?
I only read it in the newspapers. I have not seen the court papers; so, I cannot comment on it.
We would like you to clear the air on the allegation that people paid to the police. Can you tell us how the money is expended?
I wouldn’t know. I left the police nine years ago. I cannot say what is happening in the force. If someone paid monies to the IG, I wouldn’t know. So, I cannot say yes or no. But the issue is that in the police, there is what we call, private engagement, it’s there in the Force Orders. If you ask for private engagement, police would give you men, you pay. They issue a receipt, official receipt. One-third of the money goes to the policemen performing the duty; while two-third of the money goes to the police reward fund which the police use for other things. That is the much I know, that is the much I can tell you, but if the IG is collecting money, I can’t answer that.
What is the police reward fund used for and how is it being managed?
It is managed by the IG’s office for things concerning the police.
How are we sure the monies are not being utilised for the IG’s benefit?
I don’t know. I am not an accountant; I do not audit the money there.
When you were the IG, how did you manage the fund?
It was properly managed. We were using it for burial of police officials, welfare for the men and other things.
In what way could the National Assembly further empower the commission for better performance and strengthen PSC’s oversight authority over the police?
It is funding. When I was the IG, I set up an investigation department, but they have not been very effective because they can’t go and investigate cases because we don’t have funds for their Basic Travel Allowances. We only handle Abuja cases where they didn’t have to travel. We only invite senior officers who could afford to visit Abuja to expatiate on what had happened. What is affecting us is poor funding; the National Assembly can assist us in that area.
You recently complained about the delayed implementation of your directives by the IG. Would you like the National Assembly to grant the commission oversight authority over the IGs?
I can tell you my experience as IG vis-a-vis my relationship with the police service commission. There is a lacuna in the Act establishing the commission and in the constitution where the commission is saddled with the responsibility of recruitment, discipline and promotion of police officers. It is put there in brackets, except IG. They say power corrupts and absolutely power corrupts absolutely: it depends on the individual. An IG may feel he is not under the commission and decides to behave as he likes. Others may feel the job needs to be done, and relate well with the commission, but some may say, “I don’t need them (commission), there is nothing they can do to me.” It depends on the IG, and that is why I said there is a lacuna in the Act because if the commission feels strongly about an issue in the police and the IG refuses to implement it, there is nothing the commission can do about it.
Some Nigerians feel the IG is too powerful and that the police are over-centralised. Do you think restructuring and decentralisation of the force can empower the police to address the security challenge in the country?
You can’t decentralise the police. When I was the IG, I wrote to former President Goodluck Jonathan that we should restructure the police. I recommended that the six zones should be headed by the DIGs who would be assisted by AIGs. We would have more AIGs, more CPs, but that is by the way. In essence, there would be lesser clamour for state police by people who feel that Abuja is too far, they want the police to be closer to the grass roots. I said the DIGs in the zones can deploy officers in the zones and promote up to CSP within the zone. That is part of decentralisation. I also said the police budget should be divided into seven with six going to the zones and the seventh part to be handled by the IG at the Force Headquarters. That was the area they didn’t buy because the Force Headquarters didn’t like it and the proposal didn’t see the light of the day.
The Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions last year invited former EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, over alleged diversion of N1tn recovered stolen funds, but he did not appear. What sanction did you take against him for snubbing the Senate?
We were not informed about it. We don’t take actions based on reports in the newspapers.
Mr. George Uboh, who wrote the petition, accused Lamorde of diverting 95 per cent of EFCC’s recoveries in foreign currencies. Has the PSC done any investigation in this regard?
It was in the news, but there was no formal petition or complaint to the commission; so, we cannot take him up on it.
What is the latest on the investigations you are carrying out on the petitions against Kano and Edo commissioners of police?
I cannot pre-empt the investigation, the Commissioner 1 is handling it and I have not seen the report. But the Edo CP has been removed and a new person has taken over the command.
Last year, you visited the Accountant General office, where you were informed of certain vote for monitoring the police but which was being pocketed by the then ministry of police affairs. What is the update on the situation?
I don’t remember.
Can you tell us about your achievements as IG?
My achievements as IG are numerous. As the IG, I introduced the anti-terrorism squad in the police and I trained the men in Israel, Spain, Egypt and South Africa. These are countries that had history of terrorism. Unfortunately, the government refused to fund us. Another thing I started was the police marathon race. The United Kingdom Metropolitan Police came to ask about it, now they do it every year. Also, the New York Police, and I told them how it was done. Unfortunately, after I left the service, nobody continued with it. I also introduced registration of all SIM cards in the country in order to have a record of every user. From experience, when I travelled outside the country, you have to register to buy SIM cards, so I found that we were not doing this in Nigeria and it was affecting the security of the country. Before I became IG, we had the police games, but it was not organised for eight years. When I became IG, I reactivated it. I also introduced football competition between police officers and the community to create a bond between the police and the public. I compelled the banks to install CCTV cameras in their premises as well as bulletproof bullion vans and bulletproof doors to reduce bank robberies. When I was IG, I made it compulsory. Banks were dragging their feet; they just bought mere pick-ups, but I said if any bank refused to get bullion vans or install cameras in their premises, I won’t give them policemen. Then, primary schools were safer than banks. I expanded the Mobile Force from 45 squadrons to 66, then created female unit in every squadron. I expanded the police schools to make them easier for policemen to educate their children. I introduced the use of AK47 rifles by policemen.
But people believe the police should not be using such a deadly weapon in the civilian space
Of course, policemen are daily facing deadly weapons from criminals and so, they need something more sophisticated to place them at a higher advantage.
How do you feel about the failure of your predecessors to sustain some of your ideas and innovations?
That is the problem in Nigeria, I call it policy summersault. There is no continuity. When someone introduces something and leaves, his successor comes and starts afresh and it is affecting our economy and development. I give you a typical example: a minister is appointed and he awards a contract, Abuja-Lokoja road, he paid the contractor mobilisation fee and the contractor starts work. Another minister comes and he feels Abuja-Nasarawa road is more important and he abandons the first contract. Meanwhile, the first contractor has not been paid. The new contractor is paid and another minister comes, who feels Abuja-Kaduna road is more important. We have abandoned projects estimated at over N5tn all over the federation. So, it is not just in the police. I also introduced biometrics identity card for officers that could be used like ATM card.
Which of the abandoned projects was dear to your heart?
The non-implementation of the biometric ID card, which made it possible for anyone to wear police uniform, generate an ID card and pose as a policeman, but with that biometric card, you cannot fake it. And the way we designed it, if you are out of the police, the moment you put the card in the ATM, it’s gone. I felt so bad the project was not implemented.
What is your take on the reports that the PSC chairmanship has become the retirement seat of former IGs? Do you support the view that the position should be thrown open to active career men and women?
Those saying that are talking out of ignorance. We are all Nigerians. The police service commission has had nine chairmen, out of which only two were retired police officers. So, how can they say the seat had been hijacked by police officers? That argument doesn’t hold water. And when you say it should be thrown open to active career men and women, that is for the President to decide. The commission chairman is appointed by the President and it is up to him to nominate any qualified person to lead the agency.
The PSC is yet to complete its headquarters almost four years after the building was initiated. Have you abandoned the project?
It is funding issue. When I assumed office, I made some efforts; I even took the Senate Committee on Police Affairs to the site. The NTA did a documentary on it and I wrote to the government cautioning that it should not allow it to become an abandoned project. It is difficult for the commission to monitor its staff because some of them don’t have offices, chairs, tables and they are spread among phase one, two and three of the Federal Secretariat. If you need an officer, you have to call him on the phone and if he does not pick his call, you don’t know where to reach him. I appeal to the government to give us enough money to complete the project. It will enhance our efficiency and effectiveness and enable us to monitor our staff.
What would you like to be remembered for in the PSC?
I would like to be remembered as the man who implemented the mandate of the commission. – Culled from Punch.