On the 8th of September 2010, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan surprised the whole nation and the security community, when he announced the sack of all service chiefs alongside the IGP and Director of SSS, and immediately replaced them with new ones.
The decision to change some of the service chiefs, particularly the Army Chief and the IGP was most welcome, as both of them had clearly demonstrated that they were not fit for the offices. The COAS for treasonable acts against the Nigerian constitution and the former IGP for clear incompetence and ineptitude. However, the choice of Mr Hafiz Ringim, a junior Officer in the hierarchy, as Acting IGP introduces a very grave and dangerous precedent into an already sick organization like the Police Force.
On the surface, it would appear has if all the nine people senior (DIGs Uba Ringim, Israel Ajao, Uzoma Declan, Haruna Ahmadu, Olusegun Efuntayo and Udo Ekpoudom plus AIGs Mrs Ivy Okoronkwo, Azubike Udah and Dawodu) to Mr Hafiz Ringim, are being punished alongside Mr Onovo for the failures of the Nigerian Police Force under Onovo’s leadership to deal effectively with any of the internal security challenges we have faced in the last one year, i.e. kidnapping and armed robbery, sectarian and religious killings, political murders, wanton abuse and extortion of commuters by police personnel on major highways and roads and in the last couple of weeks, disrespect for the judiciary. A critical and proper analysis of the police operations will reveal that none of these officers could be directly held responsible, as any IGP, whether competent or incompetent is like an Emperor over the Force, just like we find in all areas of public institutions in Nigeria. This writer has had the privilege of attending a briefing as a member of a specialized unit within the Force, to sit in a conference where the former IGP together with his “Management Team”, comprising the six DIGs and the Force Secretary met with a group of Foreign Security partners in the IG conference room. It is instructive to point out that for the whole three hours that the conference lasted, only the IG spoke on behalf of the Nigerian Police Force, not a single word or comment from any member of the “management team” was solicited or requested. We all sat through the briefing listening to our IG interacting with his visitors, at some point a couple of Officers on the Nigerian side were struggling to stay awake including the very senior officers. It is instructive to point out too, that Mr Onovo’s failure was predicted by people in the security community, but the warnings were not heeded by late President Yar-adua. In the days leading to Okiro’s retirement, many security commentators warned that Onovo, although first in line by seniority, wasn’t the best fit amongst the DIGs for the job, because he had competence gaps in field operations caused by lack of command experiences. His only stint was as CP Ogun for a very brief period, before he was posted to NDLEA as head. He returned after many years in 2001 to headquarters as an AIG, shortly after he was promoted DIG in 2002, and remained at HQ until he was made IG in August 2009. His operational deficiencies were further compounded by two major issues; one was his refusal to allow his more experienced DIGs have an active role under him. He was always afraid that they might outshine him and get noticed, secondly, he elevated Police contract to the fore of his agenda and gave it primary attention while crime fighting was secondary.
All the foregoing are necessary in order to expose the critical lack of thinking/analysis or perhaps debased parochialism displayed by the Presidency in appointing Hafiz Ringim as the new Acting IGP, thereby signing the death-warrant of an organization that has been on death-row for many years.
We have to consider also the white paper in the aftermath of work of the Police Reform Committee headed by Retired IGP M.D Yusuf and comprising sixteen other distinguished members of the security community. That committee, after many months of deliberations and spending tax payer’s money, made many recommendations. One of the major highlights of that report was the one on appointment of IGP which states that in the best interest of the Police Force, Society and Country, SENIORITY AND MERIT must be uppermost in choosing all future IGPs particularly where there is no case of established misdemeanors against any officer in contention.
Let us now subject the appointment of the new Acting IGP, Mr Hafiz Ringim to the scrutiny of this litmus test to see if it can pass as a Nation building decision.
FACTS OF THE MATTER:
• Mr Hafiz Ringim was officially number ten (10) in the Police hierarchy at the time he was appointed Acting IGP, which means he jumped over nine (9) other officers in reaching his current post.
• In the top ten list, he was the least qualified academically, as his highest Educational qualification is an Advance Diploma, while the nine officers before him have at least a University degree, a couple of them actually have Masters degree. He enrolled in the force as Cadet Inspector with a School Cert, while the nine Officers he jumped over each enrolled as Cadet ASP because of their University degrees.
• Was he demonstrably better than all the Officers he jumped over? A very simple look at all the Officers and their previous postings and achievement in crime fighting will reveal the injustice in his appointment. His last posting, until his appointment as IGP was as AIG Zone 9 which comprises Abia, Imo, Enugu, Ebonyi and Anambra State. The Zonal command was at Umuahia, Abia State. On the day he was appointed Acting IGP, banks in Aba, Abia State, had not operated for a week, due to the challenge of armed robbery. It was under his watch that four journalists were kidnapped in Abia State, till date, do we know the people who kidnapped the journalists?? Do we know where they were kept while in captivating? Oh I forgot, the journalist have being released, no wahala, life can go on. In more serious countries, Mr Hafiz Ringim will be accounting for his cluelessness and ineptitude in Zone 9, and not sitting in the comfort of the pent-office of Louis Edet House as IGP. By contrast, the nine Officers he jumped over didn’t have such glaring operational encumbrances; most of them had very measurable achievements in crime fighting in previous Command and Zonal postings.
• Were his remaining service years longer than that of the nine individual Officers? The answer again is no, because he has only two years left in service, while all the people he jumped over have more years than himself. Infact, two of the now retired six DIGs each have five (5) years left in service, another two have between three and four left, while the AIGs ahead of him all had more time left in service.
What are the implications for the Police Force if his appointment is ratified?
It is the considered opinion of this writer that the decision if approved by the Police Council and the National Assembly has the potential to:
• Effectively rob the Police Force of almost twenty (20) years of service, thereby greatly undermining the capacity of the Force to properly groom it’s next generation of Officers, as the six DIGs have between them that amount of time left, but they are being forced to retire voluntarily, so as not to suffer the indignity of saluting and reporting to their less qualified junior.
• Undermine productivity, efficiency, commitment and dedication to service from henceforth, as it will soon become glaring to all the remaining Officers who are currently jubilating that there will be mass promotion, that there is no longer job security and guaranties for finishing careers even without any clear case of misdemeanor. Instead Officers reaching the end of their careers will concentrate more energy and Government time in growing their own private enterprise.
• Fuel more corruption in the force, as Officers now have justification to abuse their commission in order to quickly accumulate resources for their retirement. Although it must be noted that corruption and the Police are like Siamese twins, this situation will take it a whole new level, and the Force might never recover again.
What can be done to mitigate this potential damages??
• This writer believes that in the best interest of the Force, Society and Country, all men and women of goodwill with access to the President, should plead with him to reconsider the appointment again. Else historians will record this as another negative watershed in the life of the Nigerian Nation.
• I believe also, that the time has come for us as a Nation to start looking at the workability of State or Regional Police as part of a truly restructured federation. This behemoth called the NPF is not working, changing the IGP and sacking all his immediate subordinates is too cosmetic.
Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!