In this interview with ADELANI ADEPEGBA, the Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Police Force, Jimoh Moshood, explains why the police have yet to make arrests of Northern youths who issued a quit ultimatum to Igbo living in the region and what the Force is doing to tackle kidnapping and other crimes
It appears that the security challenges in the country are overwhelming the police. Is that why you have been unable to effectively tackle crimes across the country?
It would be wrong for anybody to say we don’t tackle crimes effectively across the country. The police force is more sophisticated at tackling crimes and criminality. A lot of people have commended the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, for the landmark achievements we have recorded in this short period. You would recall that it was early this year that we ended the reign of Vampire, the kidnapper in Imo State and South South. The arrest of another kidnapper, Evans, is still fresh in people’s memories in which investigation is ongoing with a lot of revelations emanating from this. The police have recorded these achievements without any support from any external (security) agencies. We equally arrested the people who kidnapped the deputy high commissioner of Serria Leone. We can also recall the arrest of the gang members responsible for the kidnap of Ambassador Bagudu in Kaduna. The gang members who abducted the Turkish school pupils in Lagos have been arraigned in court. These are all due to the efforts of the Nigeria Police Force. We have also made significant progress in ending communal clashes even before the advent of the administration of IG Idris. We have done a lot of things that are significant to making Nigeria crime-free. It would be wrong to say we are overwhelmed because we are not overwhelmed. We are also introducing new strategies and measures to make the Force more proactive and to reduce crimes and criminality to the minimum. There is no society that is crime-free. Even after leaving the Garden of Eden, one of the sons of Adam and Eve committed a capital crime. We have improved seriously on our intelligence gathering because that it is the key thing. The IG also came on board with community engagement to get the buy-in of the people into the police activities and this led to the creation of the Eminent Persons’ Forum.
There are about 300,000 policemen and officers in the country, which means we have a ratio of one policeman to about 600 citizens. Don’t you think that is overwhelming?
We have over 300,000 personnel because as we speak, people are retiring and people are in training and are coming into the Force. We have not been able to meet up to the United Nations standards of one policeman to 400 people, but even at that, it is a benchmark, it’s a working figure. Nothing stops us from having two to three policemen to 400 people and that is why the IG made a request that the Federal Government should approve the recruitment of 30,000 policemen annually for a period of five years to meet up with the UN standards. If we have to meet up, we need about 150,000 officers and that is why we requested for the yearly recruitment and I know it’s being considered. The bottom line is, you don’t police in isolation: there is a strategy and tactics that should be employed. When you adopt certain strategies, you may need less than the number depending on the approach you are using to conduct your policing and that is why I said you can’t police in isolation. There should be developments in infrastructure such as having streetlights; there should be crime prevention by environmental design. When you walk the streets, most of the fences are very high and the neighbours won’t even know what is happening in the next building. Two police constables can police a whole street if it is lighted. But if there is no infrastructure in place, you would need 10 or more policemen to secure an area. That is why we are engaging with the people because this is very important. When the people have agreed to police themselves, it makes the job easier for us. You are your policeman; before anyone would police you, you need to be conscious of your environment. Proper town planning is essential because sometimes when a crime is committed, the police may not be able to identify the particular building because the buildings are not even numbered. If people are law-abiding, it reduces the number of policemen we would need to commit to policing, so people need to cultivate the culture of being law-abiding. To a large extent, we are doing our best and people should continue to have confidence in us.
If the police are not overwhelmed, how come you have been unable to deal with the killer Fulani herdsmen across the country?
It would be wrong for anybody to assume this because in the last one week, there has not been any major Fulani herdsmen/farmers clashes.
But it happened in Benue this week…
That was a pocket of incidents which was not like what we had previously. A security summit was held by the IG in collaboration with the National Traditional Council of Nigeria and Leadership newspaper recently in which representatives of farmers and herdsmen were present and others. It was a huge success for the Force because most of the underlying factors were discussed and a communique was issued which would be sent to the Federal Government for implementation. We have recorded successes in that regard in letting people know we are all Nigerians and we can live together. No matter the number of personnel you are deploying to any community, we need people to assist us to ensure we live together in peace. We had few clashes between farmers and herdsmen of recent, we have been able to deal with it. Due to the Economic Community of West African States protocols on movement, most of the herdsmen crossed the borders to graze their cows, but we are doing our best and very soon, herdsmen/farmers clashes would become history.
The pupils kidnapped from a Lagos school have been in captivity for about a month and the parents recently said they paid the kidnappers N10m and had not heard from them. Have the police forgot about the pupils already?
No, we haven’t. In fact, we have put resources together to ensure that they are promptly rescued. I wouldn’t want to disclose what we are doing for the children’s safety. At previous times, we discouraged people from paying ransom because when you do, you encourage the kidnappers. We are doing our best and in a very short time, the children would be re-united with their families. The IG has put in all the best and he is concerned; we can feel the frustrations of the parents, their anguish, but I want to assure that those children will be rescued and re-united with their families.
For every kidnap case that is reported, there are many others that are unreported, where ransoms are paid and/or victims killed. What are you doing to deal with this problem once and for all?
We have an action plan in place that has been set in motion by the IG to deal with kidnapping and other violent crimes across the country and this action plan is working, the fruits of which you have been seeing. We have ended Vampire’s reign and arrested Evans and series of other arrests have also been made in respect to kidnapping. I won’t disclose our strategy, we’re keeping it to ourselves. There is no way someone would be kidnapped without the matter being reported to the police. If they didn’t report early, they would report later and most of the successes we have recorded were due to the valuable information and the cooperation we received from the public and even from the victims. Recently, we paraded some kidnap suspects who operated along the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway and 28 others who operated along the Kano-Kaduna Expressway. We call for more support from the people. The IG has been active at Interpol conferences to ensure we share ideas and strategies and deal decisively with kidnapping and other violent crimes. Mind you, many other countries are consulting us to learn how we have recorded these successes. It is actually amazing to them.
Can you mention those countries?
No, I won’t reveal their names, but they are from outside Africa. They visited the IG to ask how we are resolving crimes despite the low security infrastructure. In developed countries, for example, you see lower fences which makes it easy to know what is happening in a compound, you have tarred roads which makes patrol easier; honestly, it was amazing to them. When I was in Darfur, a military officer from a southern African country asked me, ‘How do you do the magic of taming crimes in Nigeria?’ Then, remember that Nigeria does not have a national data of the citizens. So we are advanced, we are more sophisticated at tackling crimes in the country through detection and investigations.
Some people have alleged that when the relatives of top government officials are kidnapped, like the time the wife of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, was abducted, the police often deploy everything in their arsenal, including helicopters and so on, to find and rescue the victims. But when common citizens are involved, the story is different. Don’t common citizens deserve the same kind of treatment?
No, this is not correct, every Nigerian deserves security and our first responsibility under the constitution is the protection of lives and property. We don’t treat people on the basis of their social status. Maybe it’s because the media often sensationalise or give prominence to anything involving dignitaries, but we treat all the cases the same way. There are no two kidnap incidents that are the same; the circumstances and situations are always different. A pupil that was abducted in Karu on his way from school was rescued and re-united with the parents. We have always responded the same way regardless of the status of the victims. When I paraded Evans in Lagos, I told the press that his arrest was the beginning of the end for kidnappers.
Many of the kidnap cases involving schoolchildren in Lagos and Ogun states happen in riverine areas. Why is it difficult for the marine police to deploy units to patrol such areas or don’t the marine police exist anymore?
Marine police are very efficient and if you remember the man that committed suicide in Lagos, the marine police rose to the occasion and recovered his body. Outside that, we have been intercepting and arresting militants during our patrol of the creeks, including illegal bunkerers. The IG has directed that they should reach out to the schools because it is our duty to secure the children. We are also parents, but when you site schools in the forest and you employ gardeners, labourers and you don’t even know where they come from, it is a problem. In the case of the Turkish school, two of the kidnappers were engaged in menial jobs in the school and that is why they knew the children who were of kidnap value. The IG has directed the commissioners of police and divisional police officers to meet with school proprietors. When you visit some schools, their security guards are aged men who are not active. The DPOs are expected to meet with them regularly to review their schools’ security system. It is quite unfortunate that some schools where parents pay millions of naira as tuition cannot buy a vehicle for their security guards for perimeter patrol.
What specific security measures should schools adopt?
First, the proprietors need to reach out to the police if they have not got deployment. If you go to some schools, you would see police deployment; the IG has directed the CPs to carry out deployment in schools, so we have worked out an action plan for schools protection. I wouldn’t want to reveal the details. I want school proprietors to know that it is important to meet regularly with the DPOs to review the security situation in their schools and to correct any security lapses. The fact is, people who provide information to kidnappers are part of the school staff.
Why don’t the police take care of their own? If the video of the bank robbery incident at Owerri had not surfaced online, the public would not have known that the policeman who survived and the families of the dead ones had been abandoned by the police.
Nobody abandoned them. The police have embedded in the Police Act what a policeman is entitled to if he dies or is sick. We also have insurance policy for those who die and it has been approved by the Federal Government. Every policeman is covered by insurance and the compensation is paid after death. The families of deceased policemen are being paid. You would remember that we distribute cheques to the beneficiaries during the monthly IG conference. Outside that, the burial expenses and other compensations are also borne by the police. It is not because the video went viral that we decided to take up the issue, we have always risen up to the occasion when the need arises for us to take care of our personnel; personnel welfare is very dear to the IG’s heart. He had directed that the deceased policemen be promoted posthumously and those injured should get free medical care and also be promoted. Beyond that, we ensure that the families of slain policemen are not allowed to suffer, we have provisions for their wellbeing.
Why did it take the police four months to announce posthumous promotions for the dead policemen and promised that their families would get their entitlements?
It doesn’t take that long to honour them. The fact is that there are procedures involved. The CP had written and the IG had approved the recommendation. Within a short space of time, they were promoted. Apart from the promotion, they were given commendation for acts of bravery.
Are you saying the families of the slain policemen have been paid their entitlements now?
I wont be able to confirm that, but I know they have worked everything out to pay them. All the medical expenses incurred by the injured policemen have been paid by the police force; for the insurance policy, it is the companies that would pay them.
Some people wonder why the police were quick to arrest Yoruba people after the Ile-Ife crisis and reluctant to carry out arrests after the quit notice given by some northern youths to Igbo people in the region. Why is that so?
When you see people killing innocent people, going after them from house to house, you cannot ask why were the police quick in arresting them. It would be wrong for anyone to compare the two cases. We had wanton destruction of property at Ife. Anyone drawing parallel lines between the two cases either on ethnic or whatsoever consideration is not doing the nation any good. We rose to the occasion during the Ife crisis and you know Ife and environs had been known for protracted crisis. We swiftly moved in and restored law and order and ensured that the perpetrators were arrested and as I speak with you, they are being prosecuted. When you talk of the Arewa youths, on the other hand, we are looking for them. Anybody who violates the law must be arrested. There is no basis for comparison between the two incidents.
Is there any move to arrest the Arewa youths?
I think I have answered this question. The IG has directed that no individual has the right to ask another Nigerian to relocate from or to any part of the country. Everyone has the right to live and do business in any part of the country and to have property as stated in the constitution. The IG has issued a warning, he equally directed the Assistant Inspector-General in charge of the zone and CP in charge of the command that they should do everything to make sure that the threat is not actualised.
There is a gang called Badoo in Lagos that has been killing people mercilessly and it has been getting away with the gruesome murders. Any hope for Badoo’s victims and potential ones?
The victims must get justice; some of the Badoo boys have been arrested and they are in custody and we are still making more arrests. This brings to the fore the need for parents and guardians to keep a tab on their children and wards. We are dealing with the situation and we are recording successes. In the past three weeks, you have not heard about any single incident because we have changed our tactics. The police division under the supervision of the Lagos CP has been doing its best. We want young people to know that anything related to cultism or violence is unlawful and we are making sure that all such groups are dealt with appropriately.
Why do policemen demand money for bail when the Force has consistently announced that bail is free?
Bail is free and that is why we encourage the public to report to us or report to the senior officer at that station. That is why the IG has instructed that “bail is free” should be written at every station, in the investigation room, at the counter, in the DPO’s office. So if any policeman asks you for money, just point at the wall.
But that doesn’t just work…
It works. You don’t allow anybody to corner and extort you in the name of bailing somebody; bail is free.
And if somebody was cornered and extorted?
Report to us immediately; we would take appropriate action against the bad eggs who want to tarnish the image of the Force and we would not allow them. Quite a number of officers have been dismissed for involving themselves in corruption.
What are the police authorities doing about extortion of complainants by policemen before carrying out investigations?
This question relates to the previous question, but the fact is that no policeman has the right to extort for investigation or in the course of carrying out their responsibility of detecting crime. You would agree with me that we have less and less of this incident across the country because the IG has set the standards and everybody must key into it. He has warned the CPs to impress it on their personnel to desist from corruption and we have been recording positive results. The conduct of our policemen has improved.
Despite calls to end how some policemen harass youths in the name of hunting for “Yahoo yahoo” boys, it still persists. What is the policy of the police in stopping this?
Nobody is harassing them, policemen are not harassing anyone. We are just doing our work. In the course of our job, we are careful not to violate the rights of innocent Nigerians.
But some policemen have been accused of man-handling suspects…
We don’t manhandle suspects. It is natural for a suspect facing arrest to resist, especially the one that knew he was culpable and that is why the law has permitted us to use minimum force in ensuring the arrest, detention and prosecution of the suspect. Mind you, detention is not a punishment, it is not punitive, it is to ensure that we have the opportunity to carry out a detailed investigation into the matter at hand. So when suspects are taken into custody, it is to ensure that we get them to court at the appropriate time so that they don’t interfere with the course of justice. So, nobody is man-handling the “yahoo boys,” they should desist from criminal activities.
Policemen usually lament that they are made to buy their uniforms and other accoutrement. Why is this so?
This is hear-say, it has no substance. Nobody among the rank and file has complained to me that he bought his uniform because it is issued to them as and when due, periodically. We have a schedule of when uniforms are issued and every division issuing the uniforms take records of what they give out. No policeman is buying uniform, but if any policeman is saying that he bought his uniform, he should report to the DPO. So, policemen at the level of rank and file don’t pay for uniforms, but as an officer, you get uniform allowance which is already part of your emolument, so you are expected to go to the officers’ store and pay for your uniforms.
If the rank and file are issued uniforms, how come some of them dress shabbily, almost in tatters?
I disagree with you, policemen are not in tatters. You see them on the streets; they are smartly dressed because the uniform is the authority of a policeman. I disagree with you on that, but we are doing our best to ensure that their turnout and their conduct conform with the standards that is expected of them. We have a rule of discipline for any policeman that is found to be shabbily-dressed. If you dress in a way that doesn’t portray the Nigeria Police in a good light, you are dealt with appropriately. Uniforms are issued to them and they are well-dressed, even those in villages.
It is believed that low rank officers are given targets by some DPOs, which is why they devise many means of extorting money from motorists. What are you doing to stop this menace?
Nobody gives targets to anybody and that’s why I have said it is wrong for any policeman to extort the people while on duty. If you recover money during investigations, such monies are preserved as exhibit. So, if you go beyond that to extort people, that is completely wrong and we want members of the public to report such cases to us. Motorists should have all their vehicle particulars with them; ensure you don’t contravene traffic rules that could lead to your arraignment in court.