It must be an uncanny coincidence that at a time the Ministry of Police Affairs, Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade (rtd.), had cause to revisit the Mandate and Mission of his Ministry with a view to ensuring their steady implementation and realization, the ills and handicaps that have made the Police Force an unenviable agency of government were brought to the fore.
A television channel had, through a recent documentary, unveiled the rot at the Nigeria Police Training College Ikeja. It was a tear-jerking spectacle, the type that prompted an immediate visit to the college by President Goodluck Jonathan. Following the expose`, Olubolade’s Ministry and the authorities of the Nigeria Police have come under public scrutiny. Nigerians want to know why things are the way they are with the Nigeria Police. But Olubolade did not need this hoopla and uproar to speak out. His plans for the Nigeria police were already being implemented by his ministry before the sudden turn of attention to the police as an institution. For the uninformed, the Ministry which Olubolade presides over may well ago.
What could its role be when we have layers of authorities and institutions such as the Nigeria Police and the Police Service Commission whose responsibility it is to ensure that everything goes well with the Police establishment. But the creators of the Ministry of Police Affairs were, no doubt, well aware of this when they gave the Ministry the mandate “to administer the Nigeria Police in such a manner that it operates at the highest level of professionalism, dedication and discipline to ensure public safety and internal security of the country”. Given this mandate, the Ministry then fashioned out a mission “to formulate and implement policies, standards and practices as well as maintain institutions for the training, development and growth of a professional police”. In the light of the foregoing, it is to be taken for granted that the Ministry has a big stake in the affairs of the police.
It is therefore little wonder that Olubolade was summoned to explain the rot at the police college in Lagos. It must have been really odd confronting the Minister with the sour tale. I say so because the man was, at that moment, made to look like a victim of the gap between vision and its realization. But it may well have been that whereas the Ministry led by Olubolade had actually taken steps to ensure the growth and development of a professional police, those who ought to deliver on the mandate were still caught in the vortex of cyclical inactivity when the bubble burst. Before the uproar that greeted the decay at the Police College, I had the privilege of chatting with the Minister on his mission and vision for the police and the successes recorded so far in their implementation.
He gave a good account of himself. But you will appreciate the man better if you also take note of the boisterous hilarity with which he approaches unofficial aspects of his life. Even though he is not a police man, he appears too easily suited for the job of policing. He is the type that would stand on his feet and readily jump into a troubled arena with a view to taking charge of the situation. He is a super marksman who always proves his mettle at shooting ranges. The man believes that he shoots better than most policemen. But he does not just imagine that, he enjoys putting his marksmanship into practice.
His everyday relationship with the crime bursting aspect of the police has also brought out another side of him. The Minister says he enjoys traveling by road. But he does not do that for the sake of it. His immediate motivation is not the roomy comfort of his automobiles. It is the fact that road travels could bring him face to face with hoodlums, notably armed robbers and kidnappers. Olubolade likes to do battle with these benighted souls. He enjoys confronting them. Such encounters afford him the opportunity to train his gun at them. Only recently, he confronted a kidnap gang in Kogi State who wanted to abduct somebody.
The Minister’s convoy had run into them and the man immediately opened fire at them. They abandoned their vehicle and disappeared into the bush. Having missed them by the whiskers, the minister ensured that their vehicle was vandalized and demobilized. That is the way he likes to deal with armed robbers and kidnappers. We should confront them rather than run away whenever we encounter them. The minister says he travels at odd hours in order to encounter and confront the criminals. He does not think that we should call the police whenever we encounter these anti-social elements.
However, this disposition has not taken the minister’s attention away from his primary assignment – that of ensuring the development and growth of a professional police. Even though the rot at the police college Ikeja has largely come to be seen as the metaphor for the degradation that the institution of the police suffers, the Ministry was on the verge of delivering on its programmes for the police before the scandal broke open. For instance, efforts to professionalise the police have clearly been identified as resting largely on training the personnel, providing them with welfare packages and equipping the institutions in order to deliver on their mandate. These institutions, of course, include the police colleges, police academy and schools.
They need to be equipped for training in order to attain maximum efficiency. To this end, plans are already underway to have forensic laboratory that is critical in crime detection. But as the Ministry confronts these challenges, it has the onerous task of ensuring that it maintains a cordial relationship with the Police High Command. This is especially in the light of the fact that the Inspector General of Police reports to the president. But a certain balance has been achieved here. While the Inspector General normally reports to the president on operational matters, he reports to the ministry on other needs and requirements.
This has, to a large extent, worked well, thus making the Ministry the necessary link between the police and the Presidency. Perhaps part of his success story is that Olubolade does not have a fastidious idea about the police. That explains why he is not interested in assuming any position on the vexed issue of state police. His idea of the whole thing is that the police force should be professionalized. Once that is done, Nigerians can ask for any type of Police they want. His concern is that the existing police must be trained and made to perform. The police must be made to do their job in order to provide internal security.
Once this is done, Nigeria will stop deploying military personnel to jobs that the police can do. At moment, the country has been overtaken by bombers and terrorists. The challenge, he says, is to overcome this blight. Long debates about state police will not solve them. Nigerians should also imbibe the culture of reporting crimes and illegal possession of fire arms. Such a development, he says, will help the police in combating crime. This will in turn, bring about an improvement in the image of the police and restoration of confidence in the Police Force.