A former Commissioner of Police (CP) in charge of Borno State Command, Mr. Damian Chukwu, in this interview speaks on various national issues, including the worsening insecurity, State Police, and funding for the Force
Twelve years after, the Boko Haram insurgency is still raging. Give us your perspective on what may be responsible for this. What do you think should be done to arrest the situation?
We are still talking about recruitment of personnel; no emphasis on training. If you recruit one million policemen and you don’t give them the requisite training, you are just scratching on the surface. You are just wasting time.
If you recruit them, one million policemen and you don’t give them the adequate equipment for the purpose they are being trained, you are just wasting your time. I keep hearing them- ‘we are going to recruit 10,000 policemen every year.’
Recruit them and train them how? Look at the training institutions. In my immediate neighborhood, when I was the Borno State Commissioner, is a police college.
Go and look at the facilities there now. Even the (former) Governor, (Kashim) Shettima started doing something on his own, to improve on the training facilities. The present governor too has done a lot but, is it the same thing in other commands?
You talk of training, you talk of equipment, you talk of adequately remunerating them, paying them their allowances and all that.
So, when you recruit so many policemen and you don’t give them the requisite training, not just requisite training, train them in an environment they are likely to get the best from the training, then give them the requisite equipment. Else, you are wasting time. In your estimation, has the Federal Government funded the counter-insurgency war adequately, in terms of procurement of equipment and other needs?
I don’t think you will get enough information from me. At my level, the funding is nothing to write about. I don’t know what it is now but then, it was nothing to write home about.
And when you see funding the military and all that, nobody hears about funding the police and security agencies. We don’t know what is happening…
The police is not given its proper place on our present polity. As if to say with or without their role, the country will continue to perform.
The Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, recently said that the military was overwhelmed. Do you share that thought?
First and foremost, it is not even their work; this job of fighting insurgency. Insurgency is more of an internal security issue. It’s that of the police and other internal security agencies. It is not for the military.
This fund we are talking about, because of the complete starvation of the police, that is why the military had to come in in the first place.
And as a matter of fact, the military is overwhelmed and if the military that is given priority in terms of funding is overwhelmed, then what will you say about the police?
Many have alleged that some people in government and security circles have turned counter-insurgency war into a cash cow. Do you share that view?
I wouldn’t want to say anything about it because I don’t know. And, of course, I wouldn’t want to believe. I wouldn’t want to talk about that because you can only talk about what you know.
Those who are saying those things are speaking based on presumption. I can only talk about myself and those I know. And to the best of my knowledge, all the public officials I worked with when I was Commissioner of Police those times – governors and the rest of them, who are in public office, I never had cause to think in that direction. So, those who are saying that are just saying based on presumption.
Is it true that Commissioners of Police do not take orders from governors, who are chief security officers of their respective states?
As a Commissioner of Police in a State Command, you are deployed there by the Federal Government on the recommendations of the Inspector General of Police (IGP). In other words, the IGP is your immediate boss.
And as a commissioner of police in a state, you have a state command. We have a state security council with the State Governor as the chairman. When there is an issue of concern, the governor usually convenes a security meeting and in that meeting, he is the one that presides.
When he presides and decisions are taken, will you as a commissioner of police say you will not implement? And the governors are politicians.
Many of them have one or two political interests and when they come up with some directives, do this, do that, if you are not a commissioner of police with discretion, and of course, that discretion has to do with your wealth of experience; of course, the courage to tell your principal what is not right, sometimes, you go out of your way to do what is not correct.
As a matter of fact, in the police principle, if you are posted to a state as a Commissioner of Police, you are supposed to be working directly under the state governor, who of course, is the Chief Security Officer of the state.
So, any governor, who tells you that some commissioners of police don’t take instructions from them, are those who go out of their way to give instructions which you as Commissioner of Police consider as unlawful. And as a commissioner of police, I am not under any obligation to obey an unlawful order.
Sometimes, when they give you some naughty orders, you have to cross-check with the IGP, at least, to seek his advice and counsel. But most times, some governors choose their commissioners. They post some CPs to state commands and the governor will say’, no, I don’t want this one’.
And maybe a commissioner of police…is probably behaving up to expectations. Governors go to the office of the IGP or sometimes the presidency or sometimes chairman police service commission to demand his removal. Any governor, who says commissioners of police don’t obey them or don’t comply with their instructions, I think is not getting it right.
What would you be offering as solution to the raging insecurity across the country?
I left office over two years ago. What the situation was then, is not what it is now. I don’t what to talk now…
What measures could be taken to put criminal elements and their activities across the country in check?
Since the military is overwhelmed and the police, of course, are overwhelmed. In the interim, we can engage these local hunters, vigilante and the rest of others, or bring in even those of them who are ex-soldiers and ex- policemen. Give them training, equip them with the wherewithal, equip them with what they need, encourage them and let them go and fill in the gaps.
Now, the police is talking about recruiting 10,000, they have not started; they are still going through the preliminary processes. You put them on training. You train them for a minimum of six months. Within that six months, more and more damage would have been done.
We are not hearing anything about how to equip these policemen. I wish you can take out time to go round our police colleges to see what we have on ground.
I’m talking about the Police where I belong. What we have on ground in our training institutions is next to nothing. That will give us the proper type of personnel ready to combat the present trend.What is your take on the clamour for State Police, amid fears that governors could use it against political opponents?
Yes, that is one aspect of it, and the second one is that the existing Nigerian Police is not well funded and not well equipped. If now taken for granted and the state now starts forming their own state police, what is the guarantee that they would be able to fund it?
These are states that are unable to pay their workers. Some states, as we speak now, have not been able to pay minimum wage; the former wage of N18,000 not to talk of this one that is N30,000.
Is it these same states that would be able to establish and be able to equip and run a police force? Except when you want to say, have your own police and make it optional. To maintain a Police Force, you need serious funding.
The Federal Government that is a giant has not been able to maintain the existing one and states are agitating for their own police.