interviewBy Maryam Ahmadu-Suka
Kaduna — Alhaji Usman Faruk is a former military governor of the defunct North-Western state. He is also a former commissioner of police. In this interview, he says the creation of state police will lead to war among states. Excerpts:
Sir, what is your opinion on the call for creation of state police in the country? What do you think of the statement by General Babangida that state police will be good for Nigeria?
With my background as a former military governor and a retired police commissioner, I feel I am in a good position to speak on this issue. I read that former Inspectors General of police met with the president, and vehemently opposed the idea of state police. I support that view 100 percent. I do not agree with the views of Babangida because, although, he has ruled this country, he is in support of state police because he was never a political president. Even in the 50s and 60s, we had problems, and we saw the problems state police caused in the nation. The presidential candidate of the Action Group, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the presidential candidate of NCNC, late Nnamdi Azikiwe and others found it very difficult to campaign up north because of the influence of state police.
In the same vein, the Tafawa Balewa's NPC then and the Sardauna found it very difficult to campaign in the southern part of the country. Now after 47 years, we are lucky we have gone beyond that. The era of state police has ended, and for us to reopen it, it means that we have not done anything since then. It means national parties will not be able to campaign across the country. The second problem will be that if the Nigerian police commissioner gives an order in a state, that order could be nullified by the head of the state police. So, there will be continuous conflict. Point number three; which is the most dangerous is that once any criminal escapes from the Northern states to the Eastern states, he will not be arrested since the boundaries in the state will be a bar to any authority chasing him/her. It will also encourage war among states, especially when different political parties are controlling the states. These are the major reasons why state police should not be created. I know that we are having security problems, but the Federal Government should find solution to it.
Some people say that it is because the funding of the police has been handed over to state governments that the call for state police is being made. What is your take on this?
I am aware of this because only two months ago when there was an attack by members of the Boko Haram sect on the Divisional Police head quarters in Gombe, my home state, the governor appointed me to head the probe. And from what I gathered, state governments were spending a lot on security, whereas under the law, it is not supposed to be so.
All expenditures on security in the country should be borne by the Federal Government. Even where a state government spends money on security, it should be refunded. I was a governor for eight years, and we only spent money then if the situation was urgent. As a governor, if you have to spend money on security even during the war, you make a case to the Federal Government, and you get your money back. So, there is no reason to go back to the past. If we do that it will mean that whenever we have problems, we will do the same.
You have been a governor before. Had it been you were still a governor in this dispensation, how would you have tackled the security situation?
I would tackle the security situation as I tackled it before. After all we fought the civil war, and we did not ask the United Kingdom to come back and help us. During the civil war, I was a Federal Government official, so I was part and parcel of the entire saga. We did not borrow a kobo to fight and end the war, but today without war, we are in debt up to our neck because all the money is being spent on security.
Our streets are flooded with soldiers. In your professional opinion do you think this will help in tackling the security situation in the country?
I am not happy with the security situation, the check points and so on. But like I always say, I passed through the same period. It is simply the incompetence of the present government in running the country that is causing the insecurity situation. The authorities seem to be confused. They are incapable of saving us.
The Northern CAN called for the resignation of the president because according to them, he failed to tackle the Boko Haram issue, do you share the same view?
Well, that is their own way and they know what they are talking about. Even the Muslim Ummah share the same view. The thing is, if you are entrusted with running an institution and you find out that you cannot do it, what's the remedy? He should resign since he is incapable of tackling the problems facing the country.
How do you think the Nigeria police will be reformed in order to be able to tackle the nation's security challenges?
We are talking about state police because there is no money to run the police. The money is lying in someone's pocket. If the money had been properly utilized, the situation would not have been like this. In fact, I will recommend that security agents should be strengthened. Policemen in the country should be paid the same salaries with their colleagues who are on overseas service: that is the United Nation's service.
If Nigeria can fund the police in terms of equipment and salary to the level of the UN, they will perform. Secondly, the strength of the police is far below the Nigerian population. If Egypt with a population of 80 million, has a police force of 1.5 million, how can Nigeria with a population of 170 million have less than 300, 000 police on salaries that are not even good enough for servants of big shots in the society. The solution is to increase the salaries of the police.
I will also advise that in the next 10 years, we should have more policemen because Nigeria with its large population ought to have 3 million policemen in uniform, not only in uniform but fully equipped, well paid and well motivated. Recently, I learnt that a state government procured armoured vehicles at the cost of N80 million each and I saw at least five in Gombe State, all in the name of combating insecurity. It is not the responsibility of state governors to procure armoured vehicles for their states.
The implication is that if the state governments are allowed to run their own states, they will over run the government. That is why it is dangerous for state governors to fund the police.