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Reminiscences with AIG Lawal Bawa (rtd)

Alhaji Lawal Bawa served as Commissioner of Police in Bauchi, Abia, Rivers and Delta states and rose to the rank of Assistant Inspector General (AIG)…

Alhaji Lawal Bawa served as Commissioner of Police in Bauchi, Abia, Rivers and Delta states and rose to the rank of Assistant Inspector General (AIG) before he retired. He was one of the early officers who joined the force with the rank of inspector when the Police Staff College, ikeja, was established. He recalls his life in the force and how he retired. Now a member of the Police Service Commission (PSC); he lives in Kaduna with his family; although he said all his children were all grown-up and the youngest of them is about 45.


You rose to become an AIG, may we know how you joined the force?

After I completed secondary education at Barewa College, Zaria, in 1961, I did not get admission to university immediately, so I picked a job with a library in Kaduna.

My school mate then, Ibrahim Commassie, came to inform me that there were openings in the police and that Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, was looking for northerners to take the positions. What happened was that some northerners did not meet the qualification for recruitment at the Police College, Ikeja, so they were looking for those that were qualified to replace them. That was how I joined the force.

So where were you recruited?

If you were to join the inspector cadre, it was to the Police Staff College, Ikeja, you went. Before then, officers were sent to countries like the United States (US) or the United Kingdom (UK) or Australia for the course. It was when the staff college was established that government started recruiting inspectors from school certificate holders. So I attended the course in 1968.

What was your best part of the police training?

I can’t remember that.

Did you play any game?

I used to play hockey and cricket.

You said you went to Lagos to replace some northerners that could not make it. Is it true northerners were given undue favour in terms of recruitment during the Sardauna ýera?

No; that was not it.

But you said it was the Sardauna that asked you to join the police.

Yes, the former Inspector General (IG) Kumasi only called to tell me that Sardauna said we should join the police and that was how we joined.

You just accepted to join because Sardauna said so?

Yes. Do you know who Sardauna was at that time in Northern Nigeria? We believed that whatever he was doing was for the good of the North and so whatever he said stood. It was not my decision to join the force. In fact, I had wanted to be a pilot. But when I was told that, “Sardauna ya ce,” I had no choice in the matter; that was all.

You once said Abacha gave you a ride from Kaduna to Kano when he was a lieutenant…

I was going for something in Kano and he saw me by the road and he said, “Lawal, let’s go, and I entered the car. It was from Kaduna that he gave me the lift. That time he was a lieutenant.

When he was head of state did you try to meet him?

Why should I? No, no, I don’t do things like that.

Did you serve at the mobile unit while in the force?

I did not. I started as a police inspector like I told you and when I passed out from the college, I was posted to Kano State.

I later served in Tiv land at the time the Tiv riot broke out. I was IC to the late Sani Wali, then Commissioner of Police in Gboko for about five months. After that I came to Kaduna and was posted to Jos. I came to Jos during the civil war, and at the end of the war, I came back to Kaduna in January, 1970. I was later posted to Keffi as Divisional Police Officer (DPO). From there, I went to back to Makurdi as Traffic Patrol Officer (TPO) as we called it in those days. From Makurdi I was posted to Enugu as a training officer at the Police College, Enugu. From there, I was posted to Police College, Lagos. In 1978 I was nominated to be a member of the Abandoned Properties Implementation Committee (APIC) together with then Major David Mark who later became senate president. Then in 1980 I went back to the Force Headquarters in Lagos.

Was that when you retired?

No; from the Force Headquarters, I was posted back to Enugu in 1981 as officer in charge of Criminal Investigation Department (CID). That same year, I was promoted to Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in the Criminal Intelligence Bureau (CIB). From there I was posted to Katsina as DC. Unfortunately, I didn’t last long there. I only spent 10 days, then was posted back to Makurdi, from where I was posted back to Kaduna as Commandant of the Police College, Kaduna. From commandant, I was posted to Bauchi as the Commissioner of Police (CP).

You were the CP in Bauchi when a riot broke out. What happened?

Yes; the Siyawa Crisis. What I did was to deploy policemen to go and stop it. We were able to stop the rioters because as you know, we don’t compromise. I’m sorry to say, but in those days, policemen obeyed orders. We were not tribalistic; we just obeyed orders; and that was what helped us to tackle the riot. It was an unfortunate experience.

From there I was posted to Abia. I can describe my experience in Abia as one of the most successful in my career. I was also CP in Rivers State for a short time, and in Delta State too for another few months before I was taken back to the headquarters. After spending two months hanging around in the headquarters, I was posted to Alaba as Second in Command (2IC) and I later went to the Staff College, Lagos, as commandant. It was from there that I retired.

Why did you describe your stay in Abia as most successful?

It was to me in terms of policy implementation.

Were there challenges?

Like I said, the police job is full of challenges. There were many ups and downs. As you are tackling one issue, another will come up. But I can’t recall any that was so special. The experience of the average policeman is similar; it is only the approach that may be different.

What were some of the ups?

There were many. But what I consider the greatest of all is that I served and retired successfully. I feel happy and accomplished. I don’t have any regret. Looking back, I’m happy I joined the force.

Now that you are in the PSC, what is your experience and the changes you are recommending to improve the police work?

As a member of PSC, our main function is to ensure that the police improve in terms of regulation of the law. The issue of promotion has to follow due process and based on seniority. Besides seniority, if you qualify, it means you have no disciplinary action against you.

If we are in the commission and a complaint comes that someone is being supervised by his junior, it’s our responsibility to know why. They have an IG so how did this happen? If we find out that there is no reason for that supervision, we will draw the attention of the IG on the regulation or law. So our main function is to ensure that the law is followed and fairness is done to all members of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).

So far have you been carrying out your function smoothly at the PSC?

Oh yes! We thank God for that. For example, before we came, some pilots, in the course of promotion, were demoted to general duty. When we came, we said, “Ah! They have to go back to the air wing of the force.” The air wing had been neglected for some time. So we intervened by bringing them back, and it is now revived and the wing is carrying out its duties.

Is it possible to restore the image of the Nigerian police?

What is wrong with the image of the police? When you come into the police force you swear to obey the rules and regulations of the force. Part of the rules is not for you to go and steal; once you do that you bear the consequence, and the consequence is that we have procedures of punishing offenders and we will ensure that this is done.

Have you any regret joining the police force?

No regret because I was a general duty police officer and went through the process and retired successfully.

What do you think can be done to end the insecurity in the North?

The police force is not the only body that can restore law and order in the country. Part of the functions of the police is only to ensure that people obey the law. But we are not the only ones to do that since the army is there. So I think if all the security services can cooperate and work together, they should be able to protect the country.

What aspect of police duties would you want reviewed?

I’m not happy that able policemen are being sent to become orderlies to politicians. That should be changed. The politicians use them as orderlies; that should not be. Why should an elected official need protection from the very people they say elected them? Today you see even criminals applying for police orderlies. I think that shouldn’t be and policemen should be allowed to do their job. The police should also look at the issue of accommodation because it is not good having officers living all over the place. Some are even living among criminals.

Those days, when there’s an emergency, because they were all quartered in the barracks, it was very easy to bring them together. The police should also look into that.

Can you remember the first car you bought?

How can I remember that? (Laughs)

Has any of your children taken after you to be in the police force?

No; and it is not because I don’t want them to join, but because they have no interest. I think the youngest of my children is about 45 years old. So how can I decide for him what to be.

What is your favourite food?

In those days it was tuwon dawa and miyan kuka, but now, due to sickness, doctors will say eat this and don’t eat that.

How do you spend most of your time now?

I’m 79 years old and if I don’t sit down and rest what else will I do.

Are you in touch with some of your classmates that are still around?

Some we meet by accident; as you know, many have gone, like Ibrahim Coomassie.


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