Lafiya/Abuja/Katsina — President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday directed the chairman of the Police Service Commission Mike Okiro to purge the Nigeria Police Force of top officers who do not merit their ranks.
Jonathan gave the directive at the State House in Abuja after swearing in Okiro as the new chairman of the Police Service Commission and five other members including Yakubu Mohammed, Justice Olufunmilola Adekeye, Aisha Tukur, Comfort Obi and Tonye Anyim.
Official figure of the Nigeria Police Force stands at 375, 000 but those to be affected by the presidential directive are those on the ranks of Assistant Commissioner and above.
The president declared that it is preferable to have inadequate manpower in the police force than to have 'viruses and all kinds of characters' there.
He noted that the performances of the police, military and paramilitary officers were abysmal because competence and merit were being compromised in promoting them.
"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 it is better for you not to have enough manpower than for you to have viruses and all kinds of characters in the police force," the president said.
President Jonathan disclosed that when the Force Headquarters was bombed in 2011, he was advised to sack all the police officers working there from the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police and above for ineptitude.
The president said he did not heed the advice, but he believed that apart from indiscipline in the force, top police officers were being promoted undeservedly.
"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 advice I got," he revealed.
He said he was told that if he swept the force that way, subsequent officers that would be posted there would sit up.
"How could the police allow their headquarters to be bombed by a very local group called Boko Haram?" the President querried.
After the bombing of the headquarters, then Inspector General Hafiz Ringim and six DIGs were retired.
But reacting to Jonathan's directive, former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Tsav, said he believed it was a ploy to plant election riggers for 2015.
Speaking to Daily Trust yesterday, the retired police commissioner said: "The president is targeting job slots for political thugs. This action will create vacancies for them to be planted in the force so that they can be put in strategic positions to aid the snatching and stuffing of ballot boxes in 2015," he said. Tsav also said the directive was targeted at discrediting Pari Osayande, the former chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC).
"The outcome is obvious - it is to discredit Osayande and make him look like he is incompetent; it is to make him look like he was the problem of the police. The president is targeting Osayande, to destroy him," he said, asking why this measure was not taken until now. But President Jonathan stressed his reasons thus: "I believe there are two things. One is the issue of discipline. 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 (PSC) responsibilities is to handle promotion. I believe with you (Okiro), only those who merit or deserve promotion should be promoted. Those who deserve to be disciplined or dismissed must be disciplined.
Jonathan also disclosed that five of the six senior Immigration officers recently presented to him for appointment as Comptroller General were not qualified, and were even supposed to have been dismissed from the service.
"Among them only one is qualified to even stay and serve. Others ordinarily are supposed to be dismissed from the records. I believe that the story of the Immigration is the same with most of our services. I believe that is why the performance of some of our military and paramilitary officers is abysmal, because the yardstick being used for promotion is not based on competence, merit and performance," he said.
The president said the Federal Executive Council, may in the next one or two weeks, look at the report on police reform in order to come up with a white paper.
"We give you privilege to look at 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," he told the new commission chairman.
Addressing State House correspondents after the swearing-in ceremony, Okiro said the Police Service Commission would look at the extant laws and see the areas where it is supposed to act to reform the police.
On why the police perform better outside, Okiro said:"The reasons are far reaching. One, you can find out that the environment is different, the people are different and also the equipment and all of what to work with.
"The Nigerian Police officers while rendering service outside this country under the United Nations they give them the wherewithal to do the work."
Okiro lamented that Nigeria police officers are not motivated to perform. "From ACP up they are not feeling very happy. Many of them have no houses, the morale of the police is quite low, they need to be motivated, and you have to look into what to make them perform optimally."
Police always the scapegoat -Coomassie
FORMER Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomassie has faulted the idea of retiring any police officer from the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police and above, who were promoted not on merit.
The former IG noted that "government is not serious about merit in governance", but regretted that "police is always the target" when government fails in its duty.
Commenting on the directive issued by President Jonathan, Coommasie said the federal government should concentrate on vital issues such as security and welfare of its people, saying these are the fundamental duties of responsible government as enshrined in the constitution but which government is ignoring.
"I always wonder why the federal government is ignoring vital issues and concentrating on issues that are less important to its people and the country. People are being killed in this country since 2009 and government failed to address the issue and instead is talking about minor issues," he noted.
"Nigerians are very much aware that PDP, the ruling party, has put this country in a total mess," he said.
"The US has recently declared that Nigeria is not a poor country that cannot develop itself. Where are the monies going? What is the government doing about the issue of corruption? What is government doing about insecurity? These are the kind of issues that government should address if it really takes the issue of merit with all seriousness."
He recalled that when he was about to retire he said: "I have done my best as far as police work is concerned and posterity will judge me in the future and look at what is happening in the country? Look at it now, government created many security outfits that we don't even need. So I wonder the kind of merit the government is talking about."