Against reports that recently retired top police officers were asked to report to nearest office of the Department of State Security, DSS, after being relieved of their appointment, some politicians, civil society groups and other stakeholders in the security architecture of the country have expressed fresh worries at the recent reshuffling in the police force.
They alleged that there might be other sinister motives behind the hurried retirement of police officers and the appointment of Idris Pkotum Ibrahim, a former commissioner of police in Kano State.
The Police Service Commission, last week Friday, approved the retirement of 21 AIGs who were senior to the new Actingnuns IG, Idris Kpotum Ibrahim, before his appointment. The retrenchment swept off majority of the experienced officers in the Force. The affected AIGs include, Bala Hassan; Yahaya Ardo; Irmiya Yarima; Danladi Mshebwala; Tambari Mohammed; Bala Magaji Nasarawa; MUsa Abdulsalam; Adisa Bolanta and Mohammed Gana.
Also affected by the retrenchment exercise were Umaru Manko; Lawal Tanko; Olufemi Adenike; Johnson Ogunsakin; Adenrele Shinaba; James Caulcrick; Olufemi Ogunbayode; Edgar Nanakumo; Kalafite Adeyemi; Patrick Dokumor ; Joseph Mbu and Sabo Ringim.
We reliably gathered that all 21 Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIGs, may have been debriefed by the DSS days after their sudden retirements. While some of them confirmed being invited, others denied. Some neither confirmed nor denied the report. But a top source in the police told the newspaper that the retired officers were invited to the DSS to be debriefed on what their future endeavors would be. “Government wants their assurance that they will stay in retirement and not join subversive elements or lend their expertise to any opposition to government,” explained a highly placed source who spoke to the newspaper. If the reports are true, government may well have two strong bases for such fear.
Maman Daura, current DG, DSS, strongly alleged to be a blood relation to President Mohammadu Buhari, was similarly retired from the spook agency, presumably prematurely under the previous administration of Goodluck Jonathan. Daura teamed up with Buhari in his election campaign period and later emerged the DG, DSS, an agency from which he was expurgated.
Secondly, Abdulrahaman Danbazzau, Minister, Interior, was similarly yanked off as Chief of Army Staff, COAS, while away on a UN trip outside the country. Danbazzau had then teamed up with elements of the opposition that coalesced into the ruling party, and has now become the supervisory ministry of the Police and other paramilitary agencies in the country. “It’s like some elements in government are afraid of history repeating itself. They want to be blindsided by some elements in the police when the time comes,” the source further explained the implication of the alleged DSS action.
But more unsettling for others, especially members of the political bloc is the choice of the new IG given some unclear incidents that surrounded his career in the last one year.
For instance, as former Commissioner of police, CP, Kano state, as at 2015, the new IG had to be leapfrogged ahead almost 40 other candidates who also are CPs. Even more confounding was the retirement of 21 superiors and seasoned officers to pave way for Ibrahim. But more unnerving, perhaps, were some significant incidents in Ibrahim’s career in 2015 leading to the emergence of President Buhari as head of state. Under his purview as CP in Kano, APC, the president’s party, returned 1.9 million votes with none voided. This was at a time the PVC reader hobbled votes in many states believed to be stronghold of PDP, APC’s opponent at the election.
Even more unnerving was the death of a resident electoral commissioner, REC, of the state, Mikaila Abdulahi. The REC oversaw the presidential and national assembly elections in Kano but died in a fire incident described as ‘strange’ by neighbours. Mr. Mikaila’s wife, Zulaiha; and two daughters, Aisha and Asmau; were also killed in the incident. According to the police report from Ibrahim’s command at the time, the INEC commissioner and his family died as they tried to escape through the window of their apartment.
The fire was suspected to have been caused by a spark in the family’s generator at about 4 a.m. and spread to other parts of the house and that the INEC Commissioner and his family tried to escape through the window of one of the toilets in the building but were blocked by a burglary barrier.
Neighbors reported Ibrahim Idris, the state CP at the time and the Deputy Police Commissioner in-charge of Criminal Investigation Department, arriving the scene almost on time.
Some neighbours, who declined to be named in news reports at the time for fear they might be harassed by the police, said the fire was strange, and suggested the police should not consider the incident an ordinary one.
“As politicians, we cannot leave these incidents as mere happenstance. Something sinister must be in the offing and it is our duty to point this out to you members of the press,” explained an opposition party chairman of a North Central state who begged not to be mentioned by name yet. He is of the opinion that Ibrahim’s promotion has direct correlation to his stewardship in Kano in 2015. “And it speaks volume of what to expect as 2019 approaches,” he added.
Network on Police Reforms in Nigeria, NOPRIN, a police activities watchdog believes that there are basis for the fear as expressed by the politician. Okechukwu Nwagunma, national coordinator of the group, said that every President wants to appoint an IG that will be subservient to him and serve his political interest. “It’s all part of the political calculation of every president to keep the police under their control at the expense of professionalism,” he said to the newspaper. For him, more than spelling dire consequence for opposition politics, the action reduces internal cohesion in the police.
But reacting to this fear, Balarabe Musa, seasoned politician and former governor, old Kaduna State, said the fears as expressed is rather premature. “Let us just take it as federal government has said that it is routine exercise and carries no political implication,” he told media.
If the exercise were routine as Balarabe puts it, then it may well fall short of existing procedure. Choosing an IG required that the Police Council, composed of the President, State Governors, the IGP and the Chairman of the Police Service Commission meet periodically and when vacancy existed for the office of the IGP, to consider and recommend a candidate from within the police force for appointment by the President. The appointment of Ibrahim, say critics, did not follow this procedure. Explaining further on the implication of the reshuffling in the police, Chidi Odinkalu, professor of Law, activist and former chairman, National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, explained that the situation is lamentable.
“Some things should be beyond politics. For me, the safety and security of the country is one of them. Under our constitution, safety and security is a primary responsibility of government. The only way to guarantee that is to put safety and security above politics. That means you have got to put them in the best shape possible to protect human lives. That has not happened in Nigeria for a very long time. The police and armed forces have been corrupted. But part of why all these institution are decayed is that our attitude to management of personnel resources is lamentable, absolutely lamentable,” Odinkalu said.
The professor of law and activist added that the action robbed Nigerians of experienced hands that would help protect Nigerians.
“Now you retire 21 people in the police, not the army, because you say because somebody below their rank has been appointed inspector general of police. And because of that you waste the careers of these officers who were expensively trained, and experts in many areas. There is no rational reason for doing that. The police is not the army where everything is done by command. In the police, you provide a service. You have someone like Ogunshakin, an expert in Financial crime at a level of expertise that is not easily available in the force. You retire him at time you are investing in fighting financial crime. You retire him because you say the person that is now IG is junior to him. But you have no replacement for Ogunshakin’s experience. This is what I find completely irrational. There is no calibration or relationship between what we do and what we hope to achieve in Nigeria,” he added.