Mr Samuel Adetuyi is a legal practitioner and retired Commissioner of Police in Yobe, Kogi, and Rivers. who also served as the Force Secretary. In this interview with PETER DADA, he speaks about the current security challenges facing the country and the way out
With your experience in the security sector, what do you think is wrong with the Nigerian security system?
Well, I have read many things. People have talked about the community policing strategy and state policing without really talking of policing as it should be. We are in the 21st century and the digital age where technology has put man far above where he can ordinarily get. Policing in Nigeria is not technology-driven. We are still using the analogue method of policing, which is the stop-and-search method. Sometimes, they put rickety vehicles on the road; we all see this everywhere; or no vehicle at all.
You put three or four policemen on the road and you say they should go and check. What are they going to check? Absolutely nothing! You stop a car and the driver carries a gun, he will be a foolish man not to put it where you can’t see it. But take for an example, in the UK or in the US, where will a policeman stand on the expressway to say come and open your booth? And our leaders are the most travelled in the world. I can say that.
There is no President, or governor or deputy governor or National Assembly member who will not travel during their tenure. Do they see policemen in France, Israel, Germany, the US, everywhere, asking them to open their booths? That is what the government should be talking about and not community policing or state policing. What is community policing as a strategy? It is a mere symbiotic relationship between the police and the public.
How do you think that symbiotic relationship can be achieved?
First, the government must move away. It is a movement that is total and not the little things you are doing. Government sometimes buys 10 Hilux vehicles and they say they have equipped the police. In the first place, Hilux vehicles are not customised for police activities. Even if you want to come out, you first put out one leg and bring another leg. If you do that during an operation, you are killed, because the operation will not wait for you. There are customised vehicles that have been programmed that your coming out is swift. If that is put in place, there will be efficiency and people will appreciate the police.
In our time, I was in the mobile force and as a unit commander, I had eight to nine vehicles; the other three units had the same. Go round Nigeria yourself. Go to our squadrons, how many vehicles do they have? If we continue like this, in five years time, go and mark my words, you will see what our security will be. Here will be worse than Afghanistan.
Security is fundamental to any society. Look at the #EndSARS protest; of course, I am in support of it, but the protesters later carried it out beyond reasonable limits. They started killing policemen; some were set ablaze. Doesn’t a policeman have the fundamental human right too to live? And Nigerians say they should come back to the streets. If your son is a policeman, will you ask him to go to the road? We must change our attitude. Nigerians must first of all purge themselves of character that is seen as obscene anywhere in the world.
Many of the inefficiency in the police are not just starting. In your days, what effort did you make to change the system?
It wasn’t as bad as this when I was in office. One thing I continue to hammer on is that the police force is the only organisation that has a self-cleansing mechanism. If a policeman does something wrong and he is properly reported, he is picked out, identified and punished. How many security organisations do this? Some organisations will transfer that person away from the area, but the main thing is that the public first will not report any situation they are in. They will say when I report to the police, they will not take action. Have you taken any action yourself? There are entrenched processes of redressing your complaints. But instead of Nigerians to do that, they will say if I go to the police, they won’t do anything.
That is an irresponsible way of doing things. And that has led to all these problems. Secondly, the government has criminally neglected the police in terms of the wherewithal to do their job. Because there is no capacity, armed robbers know that the police do not have capacity. There are banks around here and you put one policeman or two policemen with guns there, is that not laughable? Do they see that abroad? A state like Ondo should have at least two or three helicopters, and not these helicopters that can crash anywhere, but combat helicopters that can go up anywhere, land anywhere and search anywhere. It is not about grandstanding.
The level of corruption is too much. Again, look at the rate of unemployment. In other places, reduction in unemployment is not the responsibility of state governments or the Federal Government. In Nigeria, a politician will tell you if I am elected as governor, I will create so many numbers of jobs. That is an irresponsible statement to make. I am not an economist, but I have read sufficient economics books to know that it is a private sector-driven technology strategy that eradicates unemployment. The duty of the government is to provide an enabling environment for business to thrive, but we create problems for ourselves.
Sometimes ago, they shared TraderMoni and others. Somebody collects N5,000 and he will first go and eat with it. Things don’t work this way.
Some people say the number of policemen is inadequate to tackle insecurity in Nigeria, what is your take on this?
There is no doubt about that. Policemen are inadequate. But even if you post all the policemen in Nigeria to Ondo State and you are still using this primitive method the way we are, we will achieve nothing. That is why policing that will take us from this quagmire must be a holistic arrangement. An arrangement that is not just targeted at one reason, because there are many reasons. The public is not cooperating. There is not enough capacity for the police. Policemen themselves are bad. And I can tell you this although there is nothing for me to prove it. I was Force Secretary at a time, now it is worse than when I was a Force Secretary about 20 years ago.
During recruitment, politicians will bring different names. They have governors’ list, President’s list, National Assembly’s list etc.
When I was joining the police, I told you the process I went through. The first thing was to remove all your clothes except only the pants. They checked your legs; they checked your teeth and every part of you. When they were satisfied, they would go to the next step. They talked with you to know if you were somebody that could be easily rattled or somebody that could easily get angry, because they would ask questions that could make you angry. I didn’t know anybody to help me. If it is now, I wouldn’t have been a policeman. So, politicians must leave the police alone.
I can also say this. Let the Senate President or any member of the National Assembly come and tell us if they want to be sincere, how many policemen are attached to them in Abuja, where they live, or in their home states. Is that how it is supposed to be? No! I am the National Legal Adviser of the Association of Retired Police Officers; there was a day I took a letter to a minister and I met an Assistant Commissioner of Police in the minister’s office, and I talked to him and he said he was a PA to the minister. I said rubbish, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, who is PA to a minister? I would not do that. Even as an ASP, I wouldn’t be PA to a minister. An Assistant Commissioner of Police, who should be AC Operation, AC CID, AC Area Commander, working so that he can improve his service as a policeman, so that one day, he becomes Commissioner of Police. What is he going to learn as a PA? That is what you see all over Nigeria.
Are you saying the government is the problem of the police?
Government is the problem. It is a fact because if they appoint someone as the Chairman/CEO, very soon, notes will be coming here and there, and the man may not be able do his job, because he may be afraid of being removed. In the early part of our service, we had police dogs in Akure here, just at the back of the Police Officers’ Mess so that they could do more than what individuals can do. Police horses were all over the place. All these are now gone. They must resuscitate them.
It is time now to have fingerprinting. That time it was done manually. You took finger print on paper. Now, you can do it digitally. They capture your finger print and it goes straight to the computer and it can be used for several purposes. That is how policing should be and not that they just break into this office and stand on the road and say they want to arrest. Will the person who committed an offence be standing there? Is he a fool? When the police are even able to arrest, Nigerians should complement what they have done. They killed policemen during #EndSARS protests, policemen who were not SARS members. Don’t they have a right? No human right activist has raised any finger. I have not read anywhere that somebody condemned it. That means what they did to the police is right and you say the police should go to the road and be effective.
But the South-West governors have come up with Amotekun to complement the work of the police at the grassroots level, is that not a good initiative?
Of course, Amotekun is a good initiative. It is like having a security guard in your house; it will help the police to prevent crimes of housebreaking and stealing, and reduce the overall crime statistics. But my take on Amotekun, which I have expressed to the government, is that they should work in collaboration with the police and not that we have different bureaucratic structures. You have the Commander-General, you have Commissioner of Police; you have Civil Defence Commander; you have Road Safety Commander. You just create bureaucracy without any dividend. So, Amotekun is good but they must work with the police. My take is that they should not be in uniform all the time. They should be in the hinterland, towns and villages, sourcing information and giving information to the police.