•Govt duplicating police services not helping Nigeria
•Wants Mobile police returned to their original function
•Now every politicians wants a mobile officer even when he’s just talking
•Police will perform if you fund them
Umaru Abubarkar Manko, a Sociologist and Prince of the Niger in Bida, Niger state was recruited into the Nigeria Police Force as a Cadet Assistant Superintendent on 31st December, 1984 after his training at the Police College, Jos, Plateau state.
He served in various police formations/departments in almost all the parts of Nigeria. As a Commissioner of Police, he served in Abuja, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Kano, Kastina, Edo and Lagos respectively before he was elevated to the enviable position of Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG, a position he held until retirement. As a Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, he held sway as an uncompromising and principled crime- burster who, though with the support of officers and men of the command, brought crime rate in the state under control.
A recipient of several awards, locally, Nationally and internationally, Prince Manko was slated prominently to be named the Inspector General of Police, IGP, while serving as AIG in Zone2, Onikan, Lagos but for a shocking last minute twist of events which brought Ibrahim Idris Kpotu as IGP, contrary to popular expectations from many members of the force and beyond. Today, he is deeply involved as a top Manager in a private company. He bared his mind on the raging #EndSars protest and other issues concerning the Nigeria Police Force to our Crime Editor, Emma Nnadozie. Excerpts:
The wild #EndSars protests in the country, what do you think went wrong as a former Commissioner of Police and Assistant Inspector General of Police?
That question has different dimensions based on what side one is looking at it. Are you looking at SARs itself, or the protest about end SARs.
I am talking about the protest, how it started, the complaints against SARS.
Well, I think the grievances are genuine to some extent because SARs, as you know, was not a new phenomena. It has been there, and you know the circumstances that brought it. When we were having very critical challenges regarding violent crimes in Lagos, authorities then felt that we could have a force that could engage these criminals.
Let me also remind you that every Commissioner that served in Lagos and the DPO had one thing or the other to do with SARs because we made use of them first.
There were certain things that that outfit was used to achieve for the safety of the environment. But, of course, the whole thing derailed after the appointment of Idris Kpotu, when those who were not supposed to be were brought in, the structure was vandalized.
We now have probably a situation where the Inspector General of Police in Abuja was overseeing the activities of FSARS here and there, completely independent of state Commissioners of Police and that was where problems started, that has now become an embarrassment to everybody.
I think that the young men that started the protest should have listened to government after accepting their five demands, and I think that it was after that the infiltration came in.
The aftermath of that can just be imagined.
I think it was the infiltration of the criminals who were lurking around to take advantage of the situation.
How did you manage SARS as a Commissioner of Police in Lagos?
I was fully in charge. During our time, the Inspector General of Police didn’t say that a young man would sit in Abuja and control the activities of SARS in Lagos. So, I took responsibility of their activities.
Who was the Inspector General of Police then ?
MD Abubakar was the Inspector General of Police when I was Commissioner of Police in Lagos State.
So, I took command of Lagos State including SARs and we were able to give directives in line with our own issues. They didn’t undermine me, it wasn’t possible for SARs to outgrow the Commissioner of Police and we were able to give directions and also control their excesses.
From what we are seeing now, does it mean that Nigerians have lost hope totally in the police force?
I don’t think they should. They shouldn’t have done that. Every sector of the society has bad elements, and these elements if they are identified must be treated as such.
How do you look at Police welfare and funding, generally?
I think the government must take it as a priority. Police welfare is a function of funding and unless the government funds the police holistically, the welfare, the logistics, and so on and so forth, unless that is improved we will not be getting it right.
Of course with the establishment of police trust fund, that the IGP Suleiman Abba is heading, probably along the line, better things will come out of it. I know how prudent and committed the retired IGP can be. He will do anything that will enhance the police.
When do you think the decadence in the force started, was there anytime it was rosy?
Yes it was, when we came in, and even me who came in about 1984/85 can say things were better. You can imagine people who came before us. But I think the whole thing started deteriorating when the government stopped taking security as priority. And, I can specifically say that the unfortunate and very ugly situation that we find ourselves in now started rearing its ugly head around 1985. Before in the police stations, if you were going anywhere, you were paid your double allowances, leave allowance from Police stations, you had vehicles that are meant for patrol. Police men didn’t buy uniforms, but now police men buy uniforms. They even buy statement forms. Where they have vehicles, they don’t have fuel. Now you see a Commissioner of Police in a Hilux, so these are the things, the situation is deteriorating every day.
Let government come and rescue this very important outfit, it is not a good omen for this nation. Of course, internal security is the core mandate of the Nigerian police. Another agency including the military is complementary and it saddens my heart that the military are beginning to take centre stage in the internal security of the nation like Nigeria while you have an outfit that is constitutionally mandated to do that. Government must have a rethink of the Nigerian police force and do the right thing at the right time so that better things come up for the benefit of this country.
Do you think proliferation of units in the force is healthy?
No, it is not. The SARs issue I was talking about was a child of circumstance. I told you how the thing came up, once units of police complete their duties, they should go back to traditional policing because sometimes the creation of these units are for selfish reasons. That was why their value became useless.
It is also contributing to devalue the police service as a whole. But then the government should be held responsible for creating some outfits whose t traditional function is supposed to be police duties. We have the police, we have the civil defense and if you check the act of civil defense, you will discover it is a carbon copy of the police act. The money they would have used to reinforce the police force so that they can deliver better service is also been shared among these outfits that are created here and there. So, the duplication of these outfits, inadequate funding of the police and the sum total of it is security failure which we are witnessing. Government must also look at situations where some of these services can be maximized to have common purse for common purpose.
The Mobile Police Force, are they playing their roles effectively in the present circumstances?
Well, in spite of the problem that I have mentioned earlier, mobile police are supposed to be strike force. In those days when we came in, you hardly saw them on the pitch, they were for special reasons. But now, they are all over the place. Every politician wants to see a mobile policeman when he is talking or when he is going to do one thing or the other. So, I think the restructuring of the police if any, should also involve the fact that these mobile policemen are taken back to their traditional roles. When you have crisis that the conventional police cannot meet up with , you bring the mobile police. They are supposed to be a strike force of the police and do that urgently and go back to where they are. But you can now see them all over the place. You are even seeing soldiers doing what conventional policemen ought to be doing.
How do you expect that the the mobile police men should not also be seen?
I think it is a collective responsibility for every of us to ensure that what is right is right and what is wrong should be seen to be wrong and should be addressed.
Some people attribute the turn of events now to total failure of policing. What is your take on that?
I don’t think it is. If you have a problem with one aspect of an organisation, you don’t say the whole organisation is also problematic. If you give the police what they require to perform, after all they go out to other countries and shine, why are they not shining here? There is no magic there, the magic is that what they require to succeed, to work with are all available for them. So make that available here and see the results. I was in Lagos State as a Commissioner of Police, I worked with Babatunde Raji Fashola and I can testify that the Governor of Lagos State was so passionate about the security of Lagos State. And there was nothing we required as security outfits that was not made available to us. That was why we succeeded. I used to tell my colleagues that there was no magic in what we were doing. The magic was that we had everything we wanted to ensure that we succeed. The rest is left for you to harmonise your resources and that was what we did. So ,Nigerians should not see the police as a failure. It is not a failed institution. If I have another life, I will also like to come back as a police officer. So, I’m very proud as a Nigeria policeman. But you must make funds available for the police to succeed. Nigeria should not see them as an outcast, they are also part of the system. It is the system that is driving the surviving force. So, Police force has not failed and it will not fail but then the citizens must have confidence in the service so that people who are wearing the uniform having gotten what is required of them to succeed, will be able to do that.
The much touted police reforms, how do you think police can be reformed?
I have heard many people say state police is the way out. While I agree to some extent, I also want to put it on notice that state policing, in as much as it is a panacea to certain things, we also have what the previous IGs have started called community policing. I think for now, that is where the area of concentration should be. Let citizens take responsibility for policing of the areas where they live. If they can do that it will be better. We were doing that in Agege, Lagos. It was an example of community policing system. Once the community is involved in policing their environment and the reforms come with adequate provisions of funds, the personnel adequately trained with all the logistics available, they are good to go. They are Nigerians and this is their service. I think the citizens should be more involved in ensuring the policing of their environment.
The change from SARS to SWAT during the protest, do you think it was healthy, people are asking what is in a name?
They are not the same in the sense that they should not be allowed to operate the way they have been operating in the country. I gave you an insight into how the whole thing began. Maturity matters in many things. That young man, former IGP Idris, was just six months old as AIG, and they made him the Inspector General of Police in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. That was why he started creating all outfits and empowered this SARs that has become a problem now from Abuja. I always tell some of you that you must differentiate between the SARs we used to have and the ones that came in between 2015 or there about. That is the SARs that brought more damage to the image of service now. You created an office for SARS and have someone in Abuja to coordinate their activities? SARs is supposed to be the responsibility of the Commissioner in Police commands. Why creating a junior person in Abuja to start supervising? That was why they went haywire, doing that what they were not supposed to be doing and the Commissioners were not given the powers to contain their excesses. That was the problem.
Which other areas did former IGP then fail to address the problems of the police?
You have the one that they call monitoring unit, the same thing that was created like SARs,causing people to go to state commands to go and do things independent of the state Commissioners of Police. All these outfits that were created are the ones creating the problems that we are now seeing.
How can Police reclaim lost grounds, like the weapons they lost, the burnt stations worth millions, What is your advice?
There is no lost ground about it, the only thing is that, they have to assert themselves as an authority that are mandated to keep the national security. Once they are able to do that, they will start gaining confidence of Nigerians. They should not be ashamed of their uniform and they should not say because certain things happened, we are not going to do our duties again. They must do their duties as they are contained in the constitution and other relevant roles. That will give them opportunity to bounce back. After all, they have not stopped their salaries.