In this interview, Monday Willie, an Akwa Ibom man and a retired Deputy Commissioner of Police took a look at Nigeria Police Force and opined things that can be done to move the force forward in the face of apparent challenges.
When were you enlisted into the Nigeria Police Force?
My name is Monday Willie. I was enlisted on 1st August, 1980 as a cadet inspector. I got in on merit. Before I rose to the position of a Deputy Commissioner of Police (Administration), I had worked in many stations and states. I was first posted to Imo State. Later, I was posted to Cross River then Akwa Ibom. From Akwa Ibom, I was posted to Abia State, Enugu, Ebonyi State, Taraba and Borno State where I retired as a Deputy Commandant.
What prompted you to join the force?
Nothing prompted me except good remuneration. As at then, there was good remuneration. It was the salary which prompted me in comparison to other uniformed organisations. I could have joined Fire Service but when they announced that of the police, I discovered that the salaries were not the same so I decided to join the force.
Can you mention thing that you do not like about the force?
Change is always a constant. The problem of the police force is always nepotism or what we call in Nigeria ‘man-no-man.’ You may be qualified for a post but you may not be given it. I could recall when I was to be promoted as Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), then somebody who did not have the appropriate grading was promoted before me. When we attended the interview, he came out and beat his chest that he was ready to make it. I never knew. I had the required grading and on top I was better. But I was not considered. Later, I was promoted. Such a thing makes some people not to like the force because when you know you are qualified and one who is not qualified is given an opportunity to lord over you, you won’t be happy.
What are the challenges facing NPF?
There is no how you would go to the force to investigate any administration and you would not see faults because human beings are not perfect. There are very many challenges facing the police force starting from poor welfare, dearth of equipment and many others. The welfare of men is the paramount factor for them to behave well on the road and avoid indiscipline. If they were given a good salary, some of them who have good thoughts would change and the name of the police would change as the police are always on the receiving end of any administration.
Are police properly motivated?
We are always in-between the different administrations. The public is not on our side and we ourselves are not on our side as well. In those days, we were given kits every six months for your welfare, but it is not done nowadays. Like in Uyo here, there is only one police barracks for the whole of Uyo carrying area command along. It is grossly inadequate for the men; and is exposing them to danger living among other people. If you go to the army, no soldier lives in the community. Soldiers all live in the barracks, but in the case of the police it is not so.
But for others, there are operational challenges- fuelling the cars, and who the driver is. There are a lot of challenges which are even known to a common man on the street.
If you are given opportunity to return to the force after retirement, will you?
If the management and top hierarchy would change their attitude, I can come back. I cannot recommend people to join the force. I cannot recommend my child to join the police force, except he joins from a higher cadre but not from ranks. If there is any Inspector-General of Police who can improve the force, I can have a change of mind. Some of them have been there and they have left with a lot of affluence as in the civilian rule and in politics. The whole system is corrupt not even the Nigerian police.
Does politics permeate the force?
Politics has permeated the force just like what happens now in our society. People were recruited last year and trained. After training, they were posted out. Along the line, politics overtook the whole thing and they were asked to come back. They said they were not qualified and it wasn’t done through the proper channel. Politics permeates everywhere from recruitment to posting, transfers and so on.
We came to meet IGP recruiting and appointing but along the line, people started opening books and came to the conclusion that the Nigerian Police Service Commission is supposed to be the one recruiting. It started even when I was an officer. From the Nigerian Constitution and Police Act, they always make reference to it was a sort of power tussle between the Police Service Commission and Office of Inspector-General of Police. But, according to the provision, it was given to the Police Service Commission.
Do you support disbandment of SARS?
Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) even right now they have been disbanded, it is just a change of nomenclature. I don’t think it should be disbanded. It is the people who brought problem to that unit that should be tried. Some of them – they know them – that’s why they said they should be tried, dismissed and prosecuted. So, the total ban of SARS is not necessary. SARS as a unit, we know, started like this. They were not formed in the sky. They started step-by-step until they graduated to become a formidable force in the police force. The dismissed people some of them are good ones so they would be in the society. They are not many, so they won’t pose insecurity.
Are you comfortable with the pensions paid to retired policemen?
Nobody is comfortable because even what is given to you in a month cannot sustain you for two weeks especially if you have a larger family. Even, a normal family of five- husband, wife and three children. At my rank, my pension cannot sustain me for two weeks. It is about adaptability. One has to adapt because you can’t do otherwise. My rank was Deputy Commissioner of Police, higher than Assistant Commissioner of Police.
The ideal thing is you should be given your gratuity not for it to be divided into parts. The Federal Government gave that duty post to some pension managers. They are the people paying us. Once money is transferred to them, then they pay us. The pension should be given to the beneficiary not passing through different hands.
Do you support Police Reforms?
One of the main reforms is training. That is the main thing. Apart from that, they are courses and trainings which if the policemen attend, it will be better for them. There is need for reform in recruitment because nowadays recruitment and appointment is not easy. But now, many cannot join the force as at before.
Is there a healthy relationship between the police and the military?
Those in the army would want to show that they are superior to those in the police. The police would want to stand their ground saying they are also uninformed and they are working under control. The military should exercise caution or train their men to be disciplined so that they won’t be serious clashes and casualties. Just as it happened in Calabar before, it took the Commissioner of Police and head of the Nigerian Navy time to resolve the issue. Even within the military, there is still that power drunkenness in them.
Is there need for government to involve soldiers in quelling civil riots?
I cannot speak for the leaders, but politicians like doing things they like. Concerning the Lekki Tollgate massacre, the army has come out to deny their involvement in it. The soldiers are not supposed to have been brought to the show. The protest was initially peaceful. The military are not supposed to use arms on unarmed protesters. There are other weapons that could be used not bullets or ammunition. If it is bullets, it could be rubber bullets, teargas or tear smoke. We don’t know what really happened that day and lives were lost.
What should be done to move the NPF forward?
Officers and men of the force should be promoted based on their performance. Nepotism should be stopped. People should be promoted on merit. Politicians should lay off their hands from the police force. The force has to be restructured. There should be training and re-training of men. College Instructors and trainers should be given higher remuneration.