President Muhammadu Buhari last week appointed the Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG), Usman Alkali Baba as acting Inspector-General of Police.
He replaced Mohammed Adamu, who was removed unceremoniously.
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Baba, 58, was the DIG in charge of Finance and Administration at Force Headquarters. Before that, he was the Force Secretary.
His appointment came amidst worsening security situation in the country. A few years ago insurgency was the major security challenge facing the nation. Now, this has been compounded by kidnappings, banditry, farmers-herders crisis, armed robbery and cultism.
In recent months, a deadlier security challenge has manifested in the South-west and South-east. The situation in the South-east is the most worrisome. The outlawed group, IPOB, has stepped up its campaign of violence in furtherance of its determination to resurrect Biafra from the ashes, 48 years after the end of Nigeria’s civil war.
In the past one month, dozens of policemen have been shot dead and some police stations attacked. The most daring attack was the one in which the Imo State Police Command was bombed and the state prison headquarters forced open and hundreds of prisoners freed by gunmen. While all this was going on, IPOB began targeted killing of northerners.
The situation in the South-east coupled with activities of the Odua Peoples Congress and an ill-defined Yoruba militia led by Sunday Adeyemi pose a serious threat to the corporate existence of the country. These security challenges must be dealt with speedily.
It is an understatement to say the IGP has inherited a perilous security situation. We believe that he is acutely aware of the enormity of the task before him as well as the challenges that will constitute a drawback. The first challenge is the state of the police force. It is poorly funded, ill-equipped and the personnel lack proper training and good orientation. They have low morale while at the same time their reputation is poor in the eyes of the public. Policemen across the nation are viewed as cruel, exploitative, corrupt and incompetent. The EndSARS protest should be an eye-opener for the bosses at the Force Headquarters.
Also in terms of numbers, Nigeria is under policed. In the past four years, efforts to boost police recruitment have not succeeded due to atrocious quarrels between the Force Headquarters and the Police Service Commission over who has the power to recruit. While the quarrel continued, 10,000 constables recruited in 2019 could not be enlisted into the force. The Court of Appeal has now quashed that recruitment and the country is back to square one. It is important that the IGP initiates a discussion with the Commission to settle the issue.
The welfare of personnel is paramount to achieving success. Efforts in the past to improve the condition of service of police personnel have failed. The IGP should look into that.
The Police Equipment Trust Fund set up under former Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abba, should be made to work with despatch to provide the necessary working tools for the force. This will go a long way in helping the IGP to modernise the police and their mode of operation.
Community policing, which was launched with fanfare in 2019 in a few states, is yet to expand to cover the whole country. The IGP should ensure that this is done with minimum delay because community policing has the potential to complement the work of the force at the grassroots.
As Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said, the new IGP is assuming office at a very turbulent time in the life of the nation, he should, therefore, hit the ground running.
Nigerians are tired of excuses, they want to see action. Usman Baba should make the difference and he has barely two years to make that needed impact.