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Published by Tribune on Tue, 31 Jul 2012

THE Nigeria Police Council recently confirmed Mr M.D. Abubakar as the substantive Inspector General of Police. As the nation's No1 police officer settles down to work, there is no doubt that he has an herculean, albeit surmountable, task before him.HITHERTO, in an acting capacity, Mr Abubakar ordered the abolition of checkpoints and admirably sustained it. Over two decades ago, when the then Inspector General, Alhaji Aliyu Attah took over, one of his first acts in trying to redeem the Force's image was the abolition of checkpoints, but it took only a few weeks for the 'toll gates' to reappear and in larger numbers. Several others have also tried to abolish the check points turned toll gates without success.GOING by the number of check points in the past, there should not have been any form of robbery in Nigerian cities, but this was not the case. Pundits have always held the opinion that checkpoints are of no value in the battle against crime in Nigeria, and open record gives the conviction backing. While there were hardly any case solved at the checkpoints, on the contrary, there have been numerous stories of atrocities allegedly committed by policemen who manned them. THE efforts of the incumbent Inspector General, at cleaning up the stable, are well-known, even if they have seemingly yielded little positive results so far. Just as no medicine is too bitter or too painful to cure a cancer, anything done to create a new and efficient police force for Nigeria is welcome.THE contentious issue of 'charge' for bail, is a more intricate matter. Even when the various police commands either denied or asked the public to report such illegalities to the authorities, it is well known that an innocent suspect who does not want to be subjected to torture by other suspects in a police cell will pay up. THE Inspector General should issue both a press statement and a police circular, to be displayed at all police stations, that, in any case, not involving bodily harm, in which the suspect is directly involved, such a suspect should be granted bail on a bond issued by a person who owns landed property in the area. In the alternative, any practicing lawyer should be allowed to sign the bail bond. ON the issue of arms and ammunition, once all officers and men of the force are accommodated in government constructed quarters and barracks, it would be easier to keep a proper record and control over the issue and return of arms to the armoury daily. It is hoped that if the regular policemen are off the check-points, apart from the occasional distress calls, and very rare disturbance of the peace, there will be less need for them to be issued with arms and ammunition at such regular intervals as to make it difficult to control the stock movement. It has to be accepted, that as a result of large scale unemployment and visionless education, lack of disciplined leadership on the part of well-placed Nigerians, among others, the crime wave in Nigeria has escalated in recent years. There is, therefore, the need for setting up mobile police patrol armed units that will be provided with bullet proof vehicles, not pick-up vans. It is unfortunate that a similar idea conceived by former Inspector General, Mr Sunday Adewusi, was not allowed to be concretised after his retirement. The hardened criminals of today are armed with sophisticated weapons, and the security forces dealing with them have not only to be equally armed but better protected against bullet hazards.THE logistics of the movement of the patrol units should be nationally coordinated to cover all major highways and outlets from every urban center, as well as along some identified routes in each urban center, not necessarily on the major streets. They should have effective radio communication with other units in the country, to alert them on the possible movements of suspected criminals. They should not have any semi-permanent or permanent checkpoints. The occasional stops to check suspected vehicles should be so ad hoc in nature that neither motorists nor suspects can anticipate their movements. The employment and welfare of the police personnel have to be under constant review, as well as their training. ONE aspect which has to be given proper emphasis is that of public relations. Through courses and seminars, policemen should be reminded of the need to treat the average citizen with courtesy. British residents and visitors are at ease approaching the policeman for assistance and guidance, and are prepared to cooperate with him in giving useful security information when necessary. So it should be with the Nigeria Police.IN setting and prioritising his agenda for the nation's police, we urge the IGP to take into consideration the crucial issue of professionalising the Force. There is the need to put to an end to incessant altercations between the police and the public, 'accidental' shootings of innocent citizens, corruption among the officers and men of the Force, police/other uniformed men clashes, sophisticated bank robberies, problems of poor equipment, to mention but a few. While we support the closure of checkpoints, there is need for constant stop and search operations to stem the growing tide of criminal activities on the nation's highways. Latest developments, show that armed robbers have taken advantage of the absence of policemen on the highways, particularly the Lagos-Ibadan expressway to perpetrate their criminal activities. We recall that the IGP promised a regular patrol of the highways to prevent criminals taking advantage of closure of checkpoints. This has not really been implemented. THE police must also put an end to extra-judicial killings often emanating from the refusal of victims to pay bribes. THE Nigeria police have to tackle some problems simultaneously in the deployment and equipment of its men. WE wish Mr M.D Abubakar well in his new substantive national assignment.
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