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ANALYSIS: Alkali, Nigeria's police chief, grapples with familiar security challenges – Premium Times

Osinbajo decorates Alkali as Nigeria’s new police chief
The announcement of Usman Alkali as the 21st Inspector General of Police in Nigeria in April was greeted with mixed feelings in the hierarchy of the force.
Eyes had been fixed on the pools of Assistant Inspectors-General of Police (AIGs) and Commissioners of Police, which were placed in the selection scheme, going by precedent. The Deputy Inspectors-General usually depart with the IGP.
Instead, on April 6, the Minister of Police Affairs, Maigari Dingyadi, announced Mr Alkali, a DIG, as the acting IGP following his appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Two months later, on June 4, the Police Council under the chairmanship of the President confirmed him as the substantive IGP.
Mr Alkali, 58, was appointed to head an institution suffering from a battered image and confronted with a daunting level of insecurity.
Last Friday, the IGP marked his 150th day in the office. PREMIUM TIMES in this report examines how he has fared so far.
Barely an hour after he was decorated in an acting capacity at the State House, Abuja, by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the new IGP began a tour of agencies under the force. He first visited the Police Finance House temporarily accommodating the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (NPTF) in an unscheduled visit.
“The Police Trust Fund is my first port of call after being decorated as the new acting IGP to let you and members of the Nigeria Police know that the intervention of NPTF is highly needed and expected at this crucial time. The mission of the Trust Fund targeted at having a well-trained, well-equipped and highly-motivated Police Force will be supported by my administration with unwavering cooperation”, the new police boss said during the visit.
The IGP would eventually move to the Louis Edet Headquarters of the force where he was welcomed by a contingent of officers from the police formations.
The new police chief continued his tour the following days. He met with top officers from all the formations in the country. He also met with his former colleagues who had served as DIGs, AIGs and police commissioners.
From his first steps upon assumption office, Mr Alkali appeared determined to address familiar challenges. His earliest strategic policy direction was to find a solution to the complex nature of the security situation in the country.
Insecurity in Nigeria is worsening with all parts of the country battling one form of violent crime or the other, largely unabated.
Apart from insurgency, the current spate of banditry, kidnapping and secessionist violence is pushing Nigeria to the edge.
Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka has described the country as a war zone and the Sultan of Sokoto recently said northern Nigeria is the worst place in Nigeria to live.
But the new IGP said he has a clear understanding of the issues and pledged to join efforts with other security forces to tackle them.
Three days after his confirmation as the substantive IGP, Mr Alkali, at the second conference with strategic commanders of the police held June 7 in Abuja, gave a self-appraisal of himself in the two months he held sway in acting capacity.
In a statement addressed to the top hierarchy of the police, the police boss said between April and May, 686 high-profile suspects were arrested in various police operations across the country under his watch.

“The arrested suspects comprise mainly bandits, kidnappers, and armed robbers. They also include the principal suspects involved in the attack on his Excellency, Governor Samuel Ortom on 20th March, 2021,” he said.

Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom [PHOTO CREDIT: @ortomsamuel]Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom [PHOTO CREDIT: @ortomsamuel]
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state.

“Similarly, a total of 152 kidnapped victims, including the students kidnapped at the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, Kaduna have also been safely rescued by the Police during this period. Furthermore, 231 assorted firearms and 6,616 rounds of assorted ammunition were also recovered by the police during various operations nationwide over the past two months.
“In relation to our anti-banditry operations, the Police in collaboration with the Military, DSS, and local communities have successfully arrested 173 suspected bandits, while 68 others died during encounters with the Police in the course of search and rescue operations within the past two months.”
Despite the IGP’s award of a pass mark to himself, violent crime has not reduced in the country. Many Nigerians still experience and live in fear of kidnapping and other crimes.
Another major challenge Mr Alkali met on his desk upon assumption of office was the violence in the South-east believed to be engineered by a secessionist group, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Security forces have for several months engaged in battles with gunmen believed to be members of the ESN, the armed wing of IPOB.
According to government officials, the ESN killed dozens of security operatives and attacked at least 10 public facilities, including prisons and police stations, between January and June. The police said ESN fighters killed 21 officers in Imo State alone.
The IGP at the June event spoke on how the police were handling the situation in the South-east.
He said special intelligence by the police led to the killing of the operational commander of IPOB/ESN in the South-east, popularly known as ‘Ikonson Commander’, and his deputy, during joint operations with the army and operatives of the State Security Service (SSS).
“The South-east and parts of South-south, with the launch of the special operation code named ‘Operation Restore Peace’, was heavily guarded.
“On April 18, we put together our capacity to repel attacks by the secessionists as well as to undertake proactive operations aimed at disrupting their destabilising armed campaigns and with a view to restoring constitutional order,” he said.

The official said the intelligence gathered led to the arrest of dismissed soldiers that were providing military training and tactics to IPOB/ESN fighters.
He narrated how the police repelled several attacks in the region by suspected IPOB members, adding that several arms and ammunition were recovered.
Violence in the region has notably reduced to pockets of attacks though this was attributed to the re-arrest of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB.
Upon his confirmation as substantive IGP, Mr Alkali drew a roadmap for checking the trafficking in and proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW) in the country. Most of these weapons are in the possession of non-state actors who use them to perpetrate violent crimes.
Nigeria’s last military head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar, recently said that more than three million illegal firearms were in the hands of non-state actors in the country.
Mr Alkali said he would reinvigorate the Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) and the Special Tactical Squad (STS) through the deployment of experts and specialists to crack down on gun traffickers and local fabricators of firearms.
One month after the plan was launched, the base of a local gun fabricating syndicate was uncovered in Jos South Local Government Area of Plateau State, an official said.
The syndicate was fabricating AK47 rifles, the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, said in a statement, adding that even experts could hardly tell the difference between AK47 rifles fabricated by the gang and the original ones.
Mr Alkali also launched an innovative mechanism with which security personnel can identify locally manufactured firearms.
Addressing a yearly ministerial retreat in June, Mr Alkali lamented that inter-agency rivalry was limiting the capacity of the police to effectively tackle insecurity.
The retreat themed, “Strengthening Inter-Agency Collaboration and Organisation Efficiency” was held in Abuja. There, the IGP maintained that the friction constitutes a major threat to internal security and national cohesion.
According to him, the menace has been of concern to the majority of Nigerians over the years, adding, however, that the problem is not peculiar to Nigeria.
“It is a phenomenon noticeable among security agencies even in advanced democracies,” Mr Alkali said.
The police chief said the development accounts for budgetary wastage, duplication of functions, mutual suspicion and encroachment on legal and operational space by competing agencies.
He noted that the hostility was also exposing security agencies to public ridicule and confidence deficit in the discharge of their statutory duties. Mr Alkali regretted that misunderstanding between the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the force’s management over the yearly recruitment of 10,000 constables, saying it was affecting the vision of the leadership for an effective policing system.
The development, he added, had slowed down the attainment of the police’s strategic manpower projection plans.
One important issue the new police chief is yet to address is the poor remuneration of police officers which has been of concern over the years and has been blamed for some of the vices of the force.
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Nasir Ayitogo is a graduate of Theatre and Media Arts from Nasarawa State University, Keffi, where he also obtained a Masters’s degree in Public Relations and Advertising. Twitter: @nastogo

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