|Usman Alkali Baba|
By Emeka Oraetoka
When the news broke out on the 6th of April 2021, that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the appointment DIG Usman Alkali Baba as the Acting Inspector General of Police, many Nigerians heave a sigh of relive. They believe that at least, the fight against insecurity will henceforth be focused, from the Police angle. The removal of the former IG, Mohammed Adamu, one month to the expiration of the three months extension given to him by the President, didn’t come to Nigerians as a surprise because the under-par performance of the Police under Adamu, particularly, when viewed from the angle of the deadly attacks on Police formation and Correctional facility in Imo state, for which the former IG and the Governor of Imo state blamed IPOB for the dastardly act.
This writer was initially reluctant in throwing his weight behind Acting IG Usman Alkali Baba, but when Ordinary President, Ahmed Isah, flaunted his credentials on his Berekete Radio programme a day after Alkali’s appointment, it became obvious that the new Police boss has quantum of experience behind him. Another revelation by Ordinary President, worthy of mention here is the fact that Alkali Baba brings in practical management experience, having worked in many Police formation across Nigeria; he did excellently well, Ahmed Isah said. On the issue alleged shoving aside of DIG Moses Jibotoh, on the ground that he is a Christian from south, for Alkali Baba, a northern Muslim; a material from Richard Akinnlola II, that offered comprehensive details of the real position of issues that was posted on social media, specifically, Facebook, by Bestman Nze -Jumbo on his wall on April 8; completely took the wind out of the sail of mischief makers. Interestingly, almost three weeks after Richard Akinnola’s material, none of the online news outlets that have shouting to high heavens on how President Buhari has once again, schemed out south from occupying the post of IGP, has said anything about the issue. Armed with these impeccable credentials, only perpetual mischief makers can still doubt the ability of Usman Baba.
For avoidance of doubt, here is Richaed Akinnola’s material, as culled from a Bestman Nze-Jumbo’s wall on facebook, and being a patriotic and ethical social media influencer, it follows that the material in question is verifiable and authentic: “There have been a couple of comments, stating that Ag. DIG Moses Jibotoh ought to have been made the new IGP. I beg to differ.”What is fair is fair. There was no way Ag. DIG Moses Jitoboh could have been made the new IGP over and above the new IGP. They are no mates. Ag. IG joined the Force in 1988, while Jibotoh joined in 1994. In any case, it seems Jibotoh’s rapid promotion, could have been due to political patronage, having served as ADC to Goodluck Jonathan. Even when he became the president and was assigned a military ADC, Jitoboh was given another role in the Villa as the Chief personal security officer to the president. I recall that as ADC to the then Vice President Jonathan, he was a CSP and later promoted Assistant Commissioner of police in November 2010, while the current IGP was already a CSP when Jibotoh, who l understand is from Bayelsa, enlisted in the Force in 1994. This is without prejudice to the fact that the South East zone has been marginalized in terms of appointment into the position of IGP:”-Richard Akinnola II.
True to the opinions of independent minded Nigerians on Alkali’s good management acumen, and experience to back it up, he has rolled out 12-point agenda in his effort at repositioning the Nigeria Police. A quick look at the items in the agenda reveals the quality of strategic thinking behind the 12- items. To this writer the most penetrating points are: “Immediate recruitment of 1,500 lawyers with litigation experience to be attached to each police division/area command. They are to give legal flavor to investigations, provide legal advice and serve as police prosecutors”. Here, the era of kangaroo trail by the Police is gone for good; transparency and accountability will henceforth be seen in the Police because of this wonderful policy. “Increased allocation paid directly to each police division to run its operations”.
“Deduction of court awarded damages from the salary of any officer found to have abused human rights”. I can bet with my bottom dollar, #EndSARS protests would not have reared its ugly head if “Deduction of court awarded damages from the salary of any officer found to have abused human rights”, policy had been in place. Policemen accused of right abuse, wouldn’t have behaved unprofessionally if they knew such act will mean loss of income to them. Without sounding patronizing, this is perhaps the best point in the 12-point agenda because of its strategic emphasis on ensuring that citizens’ rights are not abused by police offers and men. There is no doubt that Police Divisions are the engine rooms of Police institution in Nigeria. It is without doubt that this important stratum of the Police is notoriously underfunded; so they are greatly handicapped in carrying out their operational activities. For Acting IG Usman Alkali to come up with the idea of Increasing allocation to be paid directly to each police division to run its operations, shows that indeed, he is a seasoned management scientist. Operationally, Police Divisions around Nigeria will now work with increased efficiency because of increased allocation to be paid directly to them.
In all honesty, Usman Alkali has churned out a 12-point agenda that is capable of comprehensively repositioning Nigeria Police for operational efficiency and effectiveness, however, this write feels that a 13th-point is needed and it is, the “Removal of pouch covering vehicles plate number, customized vehicle plate number and other impediments to clear sighting of vehicle plate number on Nigerian roads”. The policy of compulsory display of vehicle plate number by every Nigerian irrespective of status was first introduced by former Inspector General of Police, Sir Mike Okiro, but appeared abandoned by successive IGP.
Following Okiro’s footsteps, Lagos state Police Command under Hakeem Odumosu introduced the policy in the state. In January 2020, the command issued a seven-day ultimatum to owners and operators of unregistered vehicles in Lagos State to register their vehicles or face the full weight of the law."Also affected are vehicles with covered or defaced number plates, vehicles with fake number plates and vehicles without number plates. Also affected are “Users of number plates with special inscriptions like ‘Chief’, ‘Chairman’, ‘Ambassador’, ‘Baale’, ‘Iyaloja’, ‘Sarki’, or bearing personal names, among others, are required by law to register such customized number plates. Escort vehicles and bullion vans must also be registered. It is not enough to inscribe just the word: ‘Escort’ or ‘Pilot’ as it is not sufficient enough to track such vehicles."Vehicles displayed for sale in various car marts must have the dealers’ stickers conspicuously pasted for easy identification, according to the command.
The reintroduction of the policy on proper vehicle identification, that was initiated by Sir Mike Okiro and vigorously enforced during his era; by the Lagos state police command, shows policy continuation. Policy summersault has always been the bane of Nigeria. The three tiers of government in Nigeria have their fair share of policy abandonment. From Local to State and Federal governments, the sad story of policy summersault can be seen everywhere. Although, under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari Nigeria is witnessing a departure from the norm of abandoning projects started by previous administration.
The Acting IG is hereby reminded that one vital policy which successive police leadership at Louis Edeth had jettisoned since after the initiator, Rtd. Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro, left office, is the policy of compulsory enforcement of affixing registered plate numbers on vehicles for purpose of proper identification and security, irrespective of personalities involved. Although, the law provides that every vehicle in Nigeria must have registered plate number affixed in proper places on a vehicle. But today in Nigeria, privileged Nigerians and establishments are making mockery of this law, as they go about on vehicles without plate number, covered number, fake number or no number at all.
According to report, when Sir Mike Okiro was the Inspector General of Police [IGP], a bullion van knocked and killed a woman in Lagos State, and since the van had no registered plate number, tracing and tracking it became impossible. As a result of that incident, Okiro issued the order that all vehicles especially, those belonging to government establishments and officials, must have their plate numbers displayed at the appropriate places, and two weeks was given for everybody to comply.
The compliance to the order was total. Although few highly placed individuals and establishments flouted the order and equally got reprimanded. For instance, report had it that an escort vehicle belonging to the Bayelsa State government was impounded for covering its plate number positions on the vehicle. Even at the Abuja airport, the IGP, Mike Okiro, as he then was, impounded the escort vehicle belonging to Nigerian Immigration Service, for the same offence of plate number covering. It took the intervention of the Comptroller General of Immigration then, for the release of the vehicle, with a promise to affix the plate number. A senior police officer who came for a meeting at force headquarters had his vehicle detained for the reason that the plate number of his official vehicle was covered with a pouch. In a nutshell, the era of Rtd. IGP Mike Okiro witnessed obedience to the law that every vehicle on Nigerian roads moving with registered plate number affixed in appropriate places on the vehicles.
Upon the departure of Sir Mike Okiro, however, it became do as you like. Nobody cared about plate number again, especially in government establishments. The worst form of manifestation of the consequence of policy reversal occurred on June 16, 2011, when Louis Edet was bombed. On the day Force Headquarters was attacked, the bomber trailed the then Inspector-General of Police, Hafiz Ringim to his Maitama residence with Volkswagen car that had no plate number in appropriate places.
Report had it that he, Ringim asked the august visitor to follow him to his office. At the force headquarters, the same un–plate-numbered car made it to the IG’s car park unstopped. What saved the force headquarters building from collapse was that the eagle eyed traffic warden in charge of vehicular movement in the building asked the un-numbered car to park away from the IGs’s car. As soon as he moved the car few meters away from the official car of the IG, the bomb exploded. Information had it that when Okiro was the IG of Police, he created the existing car park for the IG and stationed a traffic warden there to enforce order. The traffic warden on duty on that fateful day, died in the course of leading the bomber away from the IG’s car park. It would have been catastrophic for the Police as an institution if Okiro had not created that car park and taken steps to ensure compliance, that only the IG’s car must be seen in the park.
It is rather disheartening that in the federal capital territory [FCT], most of the vehicles belonging to the Security agencies, particularly the Police are the worst culprits in the offence of non-compliance with plate number display. Some high ranking Police officers are also in the habit of plate numbers covering on their vehicles. Even in the FCT now, the number of vehicles without plate number appear to be on the increase. The dangerous implication of this trend of plate numbers covering with pouch or outright removal by officials of government establishments is that it could be exploited by criminal elements to perpetrate evil anywhere in the country.
Now that the Acting IG, Usman Alkali Baba has rolled out his 12-point agenda, this writer will like him to take the lead in bringing back this live saving policy, probably as the 13th -point. It will be fantastic, if he graciously sets up and dedicate a unit in Police headquarters to ensure compliance to this policy in all the states plus FCT. Hear the Lagos state police commissioner unassailable reason for the order in the state: “This enforcement becomes necessary considering the fact that criminal elements in recent past have devised means of operating with such vehicles to attack unsuspecting members of the public without any trace. A recent example was a case that occurred at Allen Avenue, Ikeja, where an operator of bureau de change was attacked, robbed and murdered by a criminal gang that used an unregistered vehicle, making it difficult for detectives to track the vehicle”.
To this end, this writer will like to appeal to the Acting Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, to consider the re-introduction of plate number display on every vehicle in Nigeria, as was the case in Okiro’s era; to bring his Agenda for effective repositioning of the Police to 13-piont Agenda. This will go a long way in improving the general security situation in Nigeria. This writer believes that it will also boost the fight against insecurity in Nigeria.
(Emeka Oraetoka Information Management Consultant & Researcher Wrote in from Abuja.E-mail: email@example.com GSM: 08056031187 09039094636.)