Time To Listen To Gen Buratai
It’s time the country listened to its Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai. The General has time again complained that his soldiers were increasingly being called upon to engage in purely police duties. He wished that it were possible to get the police to relieve his men of these out-of-line duties. Hat way; his men could then be re-deployed to critical military assignments for which they were best trained.
The indication now is that Gen Buratai is not alone on this matter. Not long ago, a panel of highly placed elder statesmen and eminent personalities put together by the peace NGO of former Head of State, Gen Abdussalam Abubaka, vindicated the army chief.
The panel included retired top army generals, career diplomats, civil servants and other intellectuals. For two days, they brainstormed on how to sustainably tackle the challenges of insecurity in the country. Their verdict: the military, especially the army, should stop performing police duties.
Then enter Alhaji Lawal Bawa, a retired assistant inspector general of police. In an interview with the “Daily Trust” edition of edition of June 30th 2019; he was asked what aspect of police duties he would want reviewed. His response: “I am not happy that able policemen are being sent to become orderlies to politicians. That should be changed. The politicians use them as orderlies. That should not be”.
His question remains pertinent: “Why should elected officials need protection from the very people they say elected them?” if that does not shake you, what about this?: “Today, you see Even Criminals (caps mine) applying for police orderlies”. “I think that shouldn’t be and policemen should be allowed to do their job”.
It is clear that Gen Buratai, Gen Abdusswalam’s panel and Alhaji Bawa, all have one mind, and it is firmly bent against the “policecisation” of the military, especially the army.
In addition to guarding top politicians and highly placed government officials, you will find soldiers and policemen guarding companies and top company executives; some private educational and religious institutions, even palaces. You are also familiar with them as escorts to fuel tankers, sundry goods trucks, revenue task forces etc. and, as noted by Alhaji Bawa, you may even have heard of them providing security for some alleged heads of cult and criminal gangs.
Not done yet, you also have them manning check-points either alone, on in a mix of personnel under the name “joint task force” (JTF). This is where the soldiers come into close contact first, with their police counterparts, and secondly the public at large.
Now, if you ask me, the involvement of soldiers with their police counterparts in joint assignments, especially check-point duties, is probably the worst thing that has befallen the army. Why! Before our very eyes, so to say, we see the hitherto very disciplined, no-nonsense soldiers outdoing their police colleagues in abhor able petty knavery at check points!
It was so saddening watching them at check-points extorting N100, even N200 from hapless motorists. Public outcry and strident condemnations kind of jolted the military command headquarters. It is to their credit that the command headquarters raised to the occasion. They installed signboards at some army and JTF check-points urging victims and witnesses to report any extortion to the commands through the stated GSM numbers.
That, somehow, appreciably reduced the extortions. It did not stop it entirely though. But the damage had already been done! The extortion virus contracted by some of the soldiers from their police colleagues will take some immunizing t get rid of completely and restore their lost professional integrity for which they were held in high esteem. For the policemen at these check-points, they will need to reassure the public that they too still have professional integrity of some sort to be restored.
Now, how about the sheer number of policemen and soldiers deployed to checkpoints along some major inter-state highways? First, the check-points here in Rivers State for instance, there are three major inter-state highways: the East/West (PH-Warri), Port Harcourt-Owerri and Port Harcourt-Aba highways.
On any of them, the first two especially, you would before now, find as many as five check-points within a two-kilometer distance. Many of them were within stone-throw or shouting distances from each other. And whether they were manned solely by soldiers or by JTF, you would find at least, five of them at each check-point.
In such massive presence deterred the criminals that operated along those highways, it would have been bearable. But they didn’t. The criminals still operated as if there were no check-points.
In addition to all these, you have a situation where a National or State House of Assembly member or top Government official visiting his constituency or home with as many as three to four Hilux convoy of well armed police, military or JTF squad.
For the greater interest of the country, we can do without this gross abuse of our mainstream security agencies. It is time Federal and state Governments mustered enough guts to end this misuse of soldiers and policemen. With the obvious exception of the President, Vice President, Senate President and his deputy, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of the Country, Governors and their Deputies, the rest top government officials should look elsewhere for orderlies.
Properly trained and equipped, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps can fill the gap left by the policemen and soldiers, even though the corps is locked in mortal combat with all manner of sundry criminals and bandits bent on sabotaging the country’s economic infrastructure especially in the oil industry.
A second option is the private security organizations. Already, some business organizations such as commercial banks are patronizing private security firms. Such massive patronage will boost the private security industry thereby enhancing the country’s overall security blue-print.
Besides, a bustling private security business will be the necessary incentive for our retired and retiring top police, military, DSS officers plunge into it. And why not! Many are already engaged in non-security ventures like agriculture, marine and transport etc.
Come to think of it, private detective business is largely unknown in our clime. With good incentives and assured patronage, the business could flourish. Before long, private security training and educational institutions could add to our existing ones.
If the recent order to the military, especially the Army and the Air Force, to quickly wrap up the North Eat war is to be successfully executed, then there is every need to give immediate ear to Gen Buratai’s call for his men to be relieved of police duties as a matter of urgency.