Indiscipline in the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) and how to turn it around, took centre stage when President Goodluck Jonathan swore in members of the Police Service Commission in Abuja on Wednesday.
The president, who said he wondered why the police image is bad at home, charged members of the commission headed by a former Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro to identify those issues that made citizens to lose confidence in the force.
President Jonathan pointed out that indiscipline and irregularities in staff promotion exercises were the bane in Military and Para-military services, and have adversely affected their performance.
He recalled the recent screening and review process for six candidates for the post of the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), and stated that most of them did not merit the position but deserved to be sacked from the service.
He said, “But I believe there are two things, one is the issue of discipline, and so one of the responsibilities of the Police Service Commission is to instil discipline. Another thing I believe is that people who have no merit to certain ranks are being promoted to those ranks. One of your responsibilities is to handle promotion. I believe with you only those who merit or deserve promotion should be promoted.
“Those who deserve to be disciplined or even dismissal must be disciplined. Few days back I did approve the new comptroller general of immigration, who brought the list of about six that were to be reviewed, some were sent from the ministry, some were picked from amongst the most senior.”
“When we reviewed the six, from my intelligent investigation most of them were supposed to have been dismissed. But those were the people that were being forwarded for appointment as Comptroller General of Immigration. Among them only one is qualified to even stay and serve, others ordinarily are supposed to be dismissed from the records.”
“And I believe that the story of Immigration is the same with most of our services. I believe that is why the performance of some of our military and para-military officers is abysmal, because the yardstick being used for promotion is not based on competence, merit and performance.”
“And that is one area I believe you will go into. People who are promoted to assistant police commissioner and above must merit the rank. If you don’t merit the rank you should be retired from the service because is better for you not have enough manpower than for you to have viruses and all kinds of characters in the police force” he said.
President Jonathan stressed that it was obvious that Nigerians were beginning to lose confidence in the Police Force.
“You will agree with me that Nigerians don’t have so much confidence in the Nigerian police but Nigerian police are good. The Nigerian Police that work outside under United Nations are highly honoured, highly commended and Okiro will agree with me. But once we come back home that is not reflected in what we do.”
“Even now that we have challenges you will see that, especially when the Police Headquarters was bombed, some people came to me and say Mr. President sack all police officers working in that place from Assistant Commissioner of Police and above, I did not sack any because of that incident. But that was the advise I got, that if you do that subsequent people that would be posted there will sit up. How could the police allow their headquarters to be bombed by a very local group called Boko Haram.”
“One other thing that we believe is responsible is the command structure of the police, which I will also urge you to look into it. The Federal Executive Council maybe in the next one or two weeks we are going to look at the report because we want to come up with a white paper on the police reform report.”
“But since we have just appointed you we give you privilege to look that document before we come out with a white paper. So that if there is a suggestion that you will bring, you bring it so that it will be part of the white paper since you are the one to manage the police.”
“It is only proper that you and I will think alike and be on the same page, because we need to reform the Nigerian police for a better service for us all. I believe with you working with the Inspector General of Police and other senior police officers, Nigeria police will be a better force.” President Jonathan stated.
Speaking with the State House correspondents after the swearing in ceremony, Mr Okiro assured that his commission will address the issues that are were hindering the optimal performance of the Police Force.
“We will look at the instant laws and see the areas that the Police Service Commission is supposed to act to reform the Nigerian Police force and if it is an issue that requires the handiwork and cooperation of everybody, the press, you people, Nigerians and the Police officers themselves have to open up their minds for reform” he said.
He said the police perform better outside because the environment is different and they had more equipment and resources to work with.
“It is not an indictment on the system neither is it on the Presidency or me. What we are talking about is that time changes, society is dynamic. What happened few years ago is not what is happening now. You know at that time there was no Boko Haram but there is right now” he added.