DIG Uba Bala Ringim, who retired from service in December 2010, talks about his experience in the police, challenges facing the force and the way out. Excerpt.
Weekly Trust: Maiduduri where you were once a Commissioner of Police has been under a very difficult security challenge in the last three years. What advice do you have for government on how to tackle the issue?
Ringim: We had a similar when I was there. All we did was to invite the leaders. We sat with them and asked what was there problem and we sorted it out. There were some people preaching the way they like. We called them and they said that there was freedom of speech and all that, but we told them not to abuse people. They were so good to me. They believe we were willing to listen. Late Malla Kachalla and I sat with them to discuss the problem. It is a simple thing. If you do not want to sit with them, then there is a problem. Without dialogue you can’t solve problem. Even there is a civil war; you cannot solve it without dialogue. You cannot solve war through war. It is not possible. People are enlightened. Call them, sit down, and discuss with them. You cannot force anybody. Look at the ASUU problem. Is it not dialogue that solved it? Even the Nigerian civil war, is it not dialogue that solve it? Call and ask them what they want and you reach compromise.
WT: What is the biggest problem facing the Nigerian police.
Ringim: The problem of Nigerian Police is as a old as Nigeria itself. There are three major problems of the Nigerian Police. First, recruit the best hands. Second, is the issue of training. You have to give police the best of training and three, is funding. The subsidiary one is welfare. If I know that I can take my child to a good school, hospital and all that from police welfare scheme without asking me to pay and my salary is for feeding and clothing, what will stop me from performing? The police are grossly underfunded. What the police are getting cannot last those three months if they want to use it judiciously. Training alone cannot be funded by the police. If the police want to use their entire fund for training without paying salaries and other allowances, it would still not be enough. By the time you recruit the best hand, give them modern training, fund the police properly and take care of their welfare, the police will function properly.
WT: What advice for the new IGP?
Ringim: In fairness to him, he is a seasoned officer. He has worked as Commissioner of Police in five states that are all volatile – Plateau, Abia, Kwara, Kano and Lagos. He was AIG Zones 2, 5 and 12 that is Benin, Calabar and Bauchi. All we need now are good lieutenants who will advise him. The IGP cannot do police work alone. Thank God from what he has said that he would decentralize power. He told me and the world that he will delegate power. He should get capable hands to do that. He is an action man and he will take action on everything.
WT: What about corruption in the force?
Ringim: Corruption is a disease. If you see the rating of the corruption index, Nigeria is there and the police belong to Nigeria. Though police officers are suppose to be models, however, the rate of corruption is not as high in the police as people will want to believe. It is mostly on the road where a bus driver gives policemen N10 or N20. People say corruption is top to bottom in the police, but it is not so. Some even believe that such monies go up to the police commissioner. That is not true. There are also honest policemen. If we improve the welfare package in the police, we will eliminate all this because if a policeman knows that if he is dismissed he will miss welfare package for his family, he will think twice.
WT: Looking back at the way you were recruited into the place back in 1979, do we still have the same recruitment process today.
Ringim: Obviously, you should expect some differences. Let me tell you one thing. When I decided to join, it was the DPO in Ringim that came to my house begging that since I applied, police authorities want to me to attend interview in Lagos. I came to Kano and they took me before the then Commissioner of Police, Mahe Bashir Wali. Ibrahim Babankowa was an Assistant Commissioner of Police then. He happens to come from Ringim. Do you know they gave me money to travel to Lagos by air? They gave me money for accommodation and feeding. We were about 60 who came from all over the country for the interview. Only 36 of us made it and out of the 36, only two of us came from the north. Myself and Umar Belliel who retired as Assistant Commissioner of Police here in Kano. The remaining 34 were from the south. After one week, they sent me a letter. The number of recruitment then was low but the screening was very thorough. The DPO wrote a comprehensive report about my family, all that and me before I was taken. Today you recruit about 200 at a time. The screening is just physical. The screening about family background is no longer there, because the government will say recruit quickly and these are the numbers we want and you call all those who qualified to come for interview. You find one thousand people coming for interview. You ask them to write this and write that. You do not have the time to go and find out about their family background to know what type of people they are. We have been asking them to start that checking on the family. I think they have started, because nowadays they require the village head to sign a paper to ascertain the character of the person. Police job is not about the physique and academic qualification. You need to have a very good character. It is the character that helps you more. No matter how academically qualified you are, if you have bad character, people will run away from you. The first symbol of government people see on the street is the police. If the police were dirty and corrupt, it would reflect on the image of the government. So, we need to have thorough investigation before you join the police.
WT: What was your most challenging job while in service?
Ringim: Operationally, when I was Police Commissioner in Borno State. That was at a time when armed robbery was at its peak in the state. I was Commissioner Police from 1999 to 2002. North East was very volatile for armed robberies. I had six axis to Maiduguri. They are the Kano- Maiduguri exit point, Maiduguri-Biu, Maiduguri-Bama and Maiduguri-Gamboru-Ngala and Maiduguri-Potiskum. All these axis were highly volatile. In fact, then if you going to Maiduguri-Biu, we just say pray that you come back safely, because there would certainly be a robbery. I had to device so many means to curtail the armed robberies. If you are in a luxurious bus, you would just hear sporadic shootings from nowhere and people will just be killed and their property stolen. I thank God that before I left there, I was able to bring the situation to the barest minimum.
When I was AIG, Force Secretary, it was a very demanding assignment. I had to deal with posting, promotion and discipline of senior officers. I was the Force Secretary for four years. And in those four years I came to the office everyday from Monday to Sunday and I close by 10pm. The only time I missed these schedules was when I travelled. Even When I was at the NIPSS, I still come around to do some work. I needed to do that, because I don’t want to be the cause of someone missing his promotion. I had to check all the papers, sort out the disciplinary cases and all that. So my computer operators had to stay with me from Monday till on Sunday for four years. I was the longest serving Force Secretary. None of my predecessors spent up to fours, at most two years. However, I am not the best, but I think I put in best in those years.
Culled from Weekly Trust