Lawrence Alobi was a former Commissioner of Police in the FCT. Since his retirement in 2007, CP Alobi has been a security consultant. In this interview, he says there is corruption in the recruitment process, and called for holistic reforms. Excerpts:
What do you have to say about the #EndSARS protests?
Equity protects the vigilant, not the indolent. If you sleep over your rights, justice will not come to your aid. The youths are not fighting for themselves; they are fighting for Nigeria. And in a society where people cannot question the actions of government, that society cannot advance. When a people become conscious that their leaders are accountable, it promotes good governance. That is why Chapter 2 (b) of the Constitution of Nigeria states that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.
Government has come to realise that the problem we have been facing is the total neglect of the Nigerian Police because the police is a critical agency for law enforcement and internal security. Right from the military until now, the police have become so frustrated--no equipment, funding, no welfare, no training and capacity building. Policing is technology driven and knowledge based. The police itself should be able restrain itself internally in terms of supervision, control mechanism in line with laid down guidelines and rules, and in line with democratic norms and values. All of these are focused to make the police a public-friendly police force.
What are the challenges of our policing system?
First, we must ensure that the recruitment is in line with the Police Act and that persons who are to be recruited and trained have to be physically fit, mentally sound, and psychologically stable too. This country, what has been destroying the recruitment is too much political influence. You have a recruitment now, you see list from senators, list from House of Reps, list from this, list from that. Sometimes, some of them are not even physically qualified. In this case, the IG's hands are tied. Sometimes because he doesn't want to offend the political authorities. So, the point is that we must give the IGP a free hand to recruit those who are fit and proper and qualified to render policing services to the country.
We train in line with police standards, and they will carry out their functions in line with democratic norms and values. So, this is the problem: undue influence from political authorities. When you insulate the police from unnecessary political control, the police will do better; the police will be more efficient. That is one of the things. And then again, those who are responsible for the recruitment should also be full of transparency. They must not be people who commercialise the recruitment exercise, collecting monies from applicants. That should be checked. We want professional, well-equipped, well-trained, and well-motivated police officers, who will be public-friendly and assist citizens too. When people are happy with police services, with police operations and performance, they will get public support and commendation.
With all what you have said, why are there still allegations of certificate and age falsification in every police recruitment exercise?
That is when the process of recruitment has been corrupted or given to people who don't have the capacity to screen, verify and confirm that these persons are fit and worthy characters; they don't have criminal records, and are physically fit for policing. Policing is a very strenuous job. It is not a job for weaklings. You must have the capacity, the energy. I think the process of recruitment should be transparent. And it should be based on men and women of integrity. The IGP should monitor the recruitment to ensure that people don't commercialise and corrupt the process.
There have been calls to use advanced diplomas as the minimum requirement for entry into the Nigerian Police Force?
The police have a system of verifying WAEC and NECO to ascertain whether those certificates were properly obtained. Five credits are for Constables, OND is for Inspectors, a degree is for cadet ASP.
What is the fundamental difference between your training in the Nigerian Police and the current crop of officers?
I was trained as a police recruit in 1968, and our training was based on equipping us to be loyal and dedicated police officers who will do their job with passion and commitment to be the best. What has gone wrong now is that the systematic process of supervision, visiting rounds, are no longer there. Also, the systematic process of reporting to the police station before proceeding to the beat, to be paraded and inspected to ensure that they are well-dressed. All those procedures and values are no longer there.
I am happy that the IGP has given directive to that effect that on no account should any police officer proceed to his duty post from his or her house without properly reporting at the station to be briefed, and given the rules of engagement.
What recommendations on the proposed police reforms do you want to see in the Nigeria Police?
The government should be sincere in this issue of police reforms. It has to be holistic, not cosmetic. Police welfare should be in line with international highest standards because outside the shores of this country, the Nigerian Police always excel but when they get here, the environment, policies are different.
Nigerians also should be patient with the police, especially with the rot in the police. In fact, in Nigeria what we are suffering now is the consequences of the long neglect of the police in all its ramifications, in terms of training, equipment, motivation, capacity building--these are the composite of that rot. So, if you fix it, the police can fix Nigeria, this is because the police are the first contact people see every day. You may not see other services in some places but you must see the police there because nations are built on law and order.