Open Letter To Muhammadu Buhari: First, Ensure Police Reform

Open Letter To Muhammadu Buhari: First, Ensure Police Reform

A Port Harcourt-based architect, Ini Akpan Morgan, appeals to the president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, in his opinion piece. "The fact that I had so many of my social media contacts call in to congratulate me on Muhammadu Buhari’s success in the presidential election indicates that I have followership based on the various social media commentaries I volunteered. Therefore, I see myself responsible to many Nigerians who may think that I should call the new government to accountability," he wrote in his message to

Story highlights:

What is my business with Muhammadu Buhari being president?

No Nigerian of my age would deny the divine intervention we had in the death of Sani Abacha, whose democratic experiment in 1997 made it possible for lists of winners in general elections to be forwarded to Sumner Karibi Dagogo-Jack, the then-chairman of the National electoral commission of Nigeria (NECON). Before the recent general elections, an equal magnitude of such electoral fraud still persisted. This translated into a situation where Abacha was "endorsed" by all five registered political parties, known rhetorically to the late Bola Ige as the "five leprous fingers", as the only presidential candidate who should singularly fly their flags. Nobody minded the differences in ideology, manifestoes and derivative principle of the fallacies they professed. The fear of Sani Abacha was the beginning of political wisdom.

As a follower of Nigerian politics, I saw a Nigerian “Muammar Gaddafi” who was already in the making; definitely, the Libyan leader was a good friend of the late head of state. I was scared for Nigeria. Now that we have had 16 years’ experience at democracy, we can clearly see how pathetic was our political direction. Nobody’s death should be celebrated, though my own scripture says the day of a man's death is better than the day of his birth. I only saw in that event an opportunity for Nigeria to get her politics right with a fresh start.

Nigerians owe God the gratitude for Abdulsalami Abubakar, who chose not to consolidate for himself the political power that feely fell to him by consensus in June 1998. He is the mastermind of our present-day flourishing democracy. I use this opportunity to thank President Goodluck Jonathan for conceding his defeat at the latest presidential elections, against taking the advantage he had to scuttle the best elections Nigeria has ever conducted, saving our unity and brotherhood.

Nigeria has been stagnated by the fear expressed by her leaders — that of discussing the basis upon which the unity of our nation should be built. This is why we are yet to have a nation. Still, we have carefully managed our external operations as a country: the expression of a sustained socio-political geography recognized in the comity of nations. The rest, which is entirely internal, we base on individual convenience, stealing from each other by tricks, as practiced by our political class.

Refusing to discuss the basis of our unity is the beginning of the corruption we find in our laws: the very reason we are struggling with the rule of law and our political behaviours. This is the reason why political office-holders have resisted our institutions’ strength to continually exploit them for themselves, perpetuating their abandonment and the sustenance of their ill-health. This is the reason some Nigerians and ethnic jingoists believe President Jonathan was selfish for "selling off" the PDP to the APC and conceding in the recently-concluded presidential election. This is also the reason some of our governors behave they are doing the people they govern a favour by using a little part of our commonwealth that falls to them for development and pocketing the rest. Nobody cares how the ordinary Nigerian feels or what he will suffer if the right things are not done. We are also under obligation to thank God for who President Jonathan is, being the manifestation of divine favour and political possibilities; nevertheless, he was one leader who clearly showed he was not prepared for leadership when he refused to see when his time was up in 2011.

I am a patriotic, passionate, and law-abiding Nigerian. I am very emotional about Nigeria. I watched the inauguration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as President in 1999 on television in Maraba, near Abuja, with tears of joy in my eyes, induced more by Abdulsalami Abubakar, who intermittently raised his clasped palms to the people while Chief Obasanjo waved with both hands in his "hypo-white" agbada, with a green gold-embroidered cap to match. I saw the retiring general as my own big hero and looked forward to the prospering Nigeria he was handing over to Olusegun Obasanjo. I truly wished Obasanjo well.

Although nothing really happened in his first term, apart from the privatization and commercialization of government businesses which was anchored by Atiku Abubakar, howbeit that none of those acts clearly and cleanly affected the common Nigerian. Obasanjo was busy "Ajalaing" the world over, asking for "debt relief" and seeking foreign sector investment. He actually advanced our economy in a way, but he became a monster towards the end of his administration, raising very many hurdles and setting up blocks to cause friction for the succeeding administration’s smooth taking off (like what President Jonathan is presently doing, and I am tempted to say "Like godfather, like godson"). During this period, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo abused every inch of the law he swore to protect and harassed every Nigerian whose advice he saw as adverse to his personal interest. I recall his shameful political hunting of Atiku Abubakar for refusing to support the desecration of our constitution and the truncating of his "third term" ambition. This event led me to believe that Atiku Abubakar would be a better leader than Obasanjo could ever be. I also realized the monster Chief Obasanjo built the PDP to become, making the party churn out the highest number of leaders in a single administration. He made the PDP in his image, and I hated the party.

I have a political interest but I have never been a party man. I have expressed partisan interests but I have never given my allegiance to any political party. While Chief Obasanjo was bullying everyone he saw (Bola Tinubu, Solomon Alamiesiegha, Peter Fayose, Victor Attah), at a certain point, the governors took their report cards to Obasanjo in Abuja where he nationally televised and personally assessed them. I supported and enjoyed this, but it did not erase the impunity those acts were, because the president is not empowered under our extant laws to supervise state governors. On one occasion he sacked the director general of FAAN on national television for fidgeting when answering questions before him.

When President Yar’Adua assumed the president’s office, he concentrated on dealing with political and economic issues. But time was limited for him to look into the PDP structure Chief Obasanjo left. Had Yar'Adua not died, he may have handled the distortions in the PDP better than President Jonathan has tried to do so far. The PDP has never been as divided as it is presently. I predict that if its trending destruction is not checked and halted, the Labour Party might come out stronger in the near future. I would have given this chance to the APGA, but the party’s body language is that of exploiting and exploring political convenience. The way the party lost all the seats in the National Assembly elections and overwhelmingly won all the seats in the State House of Assembly election in Anambra state is suspicious.

It was for the reason of President Jonathan that I voted for the PDP in all elections in 2011, joining majority of "our people" to vote "our own". It was not long that I realized that the one we called "our own" had his own. His ethnic sentiments and considerations ascended their peaks when he administered the Presidential Amnesty Program as an Ijaw resettlement and empowerment program. The Amnesty fund was monetized and tucked into the pockets of Ijaw youths. I rejected President Jonathan as "my own" from then on and have not regretted my decision.

I yearned for change even before the emergence of the APC as a political party and their slogan. I prayed for President Jonathan’s good health, the good speed and peace of his administration. But, breathing the stench he called "fresh air," I knew he was not prepared for leadership. When his wife held me up in traffic for almost three hours on a street in Port Harcourt, I prayed that the National Assembly found a reason to impeach him. I have never hidden my rejection of President Jonathan’s administration. So it was with much enthusiasm that I followed every step Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu took in the build-up to the merger of all minority parties for the single purpose of dislodging the PDP, and the rest is now a familiar story.

Buhari assured me when he received his Certificate of Return that he will give all Nigerians a voice in his government. I therefore can contribute to governance because he sees all Nigerians as his own. This is the privilege I don’t want to lose. At this time, I am expecting the president-in-waiting to start delineating his policy direction, to draw up the lists of his teammates and the offices they would oversee rather than occupy. I hereby submit my contributions to the president-elect.

Policy direction

Police and Civil Defence Corps reforms

This must be a priority for the incoming administration. Nigerians are tired of security men treating them as a conquered people. The situation where whips are used on citizens is not acceptable. We pray to see the Nigerian police and civil defence corps who respect the civil populace and treat them with human dignity during investigations. Police/civil defence training must elaborate on the superiority of the civil populace over those who wield guns, imbibe civil morality, behaviour and national patriotism. The process of investigating a citizen must ensure his fundamental human and civil rights. Questioning to unearth truth must be intelligence-based and by intellectual engagement.

Torture of citizens in whatever form should be seen as a failure in the relationship between the police and the citizens. A police census should be carried out whereupon policemen of lower rank are documented at the nearest divisional police headquarters (DPH) in their local government council areas, with their village heads authenticating them as indigenes. This would ensure their deployment to established units within their own local government areas.

The police census for lower ranks will weed out mercenaries planted in the Nigeria police by our political elites. Every community must be responsible for every lower rank policeman they produce. No police officer below the rank of an Assistant Superintendent of police II should be allowed to work outside their LGA of origin. They should be posted to oversee the operations of PUOs and PWOs, as will be recommended under this heading.

Bail must be free, not in words but in actual implementation. Bail issues should be removed from all DPHs. Bails in cases which get to the level of the DPH should be granted only by a court of law.

The concept of community policing must be redefined by the Buhari administration. Police duties must start and end with the ordinary people. If the people are not involved in policing, it cannot be community-related; it can only be establishment-promoting. I hereby propose a "command and staff" structure, for the purpose of effective logistics administration. The proposal embraces additional two formations to the police command structure: police unit offices (PUOs) relative to electoral polling units in the country, graduating to the police ward offices (PWOs), and to the present structure of DPHs.

In the proposed “command and staff” structure, the police high command takes charge of the "command" aspects of administration, and the local government councils/police, community relations committees (PCRCs) take charge of "staff" administration. Normal police activities and deployments will be the responsibility of the high command to the level of PUOs and PWOs, while police recruitments and remunerations at the level of the PUOs and PWOs will be handled by a police community relations committee (PCRC) in every ward of the country supervised by divisional police officers (DPOs) or their representatives in conjunction with the LGA administrations in the areas. Members of the PCRC shall include traditional rulers, youth and women leaders, DPO representative, and police officers in charge of the PWOs in the various wards of the LGA.

Funding should be provided from the security votes of each state government.

Authenticated and documented policemen would be posted to their own units and wards of origin. Where the number of policemen is in shortfall, local youths should be recruited and trained in police training schools for both formations.

While recruitment at the levels of PUOs and PWOs would be handled by the PCRCs, training, deployment, promotion would be handled by the police high command.

A patrol truck furnished with communication gadgets and an imprest account should be deployed and made available to each of the PUOs and PWOs. This can be handled by the states government.

Training and remuneration of officers will be sponsored and undertaken by the various local government councils and police divisions in the area through e-payment. This will be ensured by a direct release of funds to the LGAs. Commercial banks would be encouraged to open branches in all the LGAs in the country. Operational issues would continue to be under the existing police administration.

The benefits are the following:

The present police high command structure encourages waste of resources. The restructuring of the police should come with the streamlining of the police hierarchy:

Funds saved from streamlining the police hierarchy should be channeled into servicing the PUOs and the PWOs. It is expected that these two formations for the Nigerian police and Civil Defense Corps will employ almost two million personnel and cost about N50bn monthly, N600bn annually. This will make one security personnel from each of the security outfits to police 80 Nigerians, with a likely statistics of one armed man to seven criminally-minded individuals.

This is part one of Mr Morgan's letter to Buhari; you may find part two here.

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