The new Commissioner of Police for Akwa Ibom State; Mr. Solomon Arase recently assumed duties and spoke on his vision and the challenges of policing the oil-rich state. Excerpts:
What is the thrust of this meeting with the Press?
My vision is to commence a process of confidence building between the Police, and members of the Press; who occupy a strategic bridge, between the Public and the Police. It is my wish that this confidence- building; can be advanced towards a mutually and professionally beneficial relationship, which, in public interest, will be channeled towards enhancing the crime fighting ability of the Command.
You are barely a week old as the Commissioner of Police in Akwa Ibom; what should the people expect from you?
Akwa-Ibom state is strategic to the socio-economic configuration of this country. It is home to well-respected intellectuals, highly successful professionals and businessmen, vibrant youths and highly literate population. The state also boasts of a multi-billion dollar oil-industrial complex and a very vibrant economy. A state with such a socio-economic configuration will, naturally, be a tempting destination to organised criminals. The challenge of policing such a state is how to develop a policing strategy that will be potent enough to effectively address crimes and fear of crimes, while at the same time remain conscious of the sensitivities and rights of the highly literate populace. It is, therefore, imperative for the police to develop effective pro-active strategies and evolve vital partnerships needed to guarantee peace and security within the ambits of due process and human rights statutes.
In realization of this reality, my first task upon assumption of duty on Tuesday 6 September, 2011 was to immediately undertake a detailed assessment of the state of security in the state, review existing policing strategies and evolve a more-proactive anti-crime strategies that are premised on the principles of ‘Community Policing’, ‘Intelligence-Led Policing’ and ‘Zero Tolerance’ Policing.
But in the main, what steps are you taking before the entire strategies are put in place?
There are practical short-term initiatives that will form part of my overall strategies and visions as I settle-in to policing Akwa Ibom State. These strategies, the implementation of which you must have noticed across the state include: improved and visible presence of police operatives on the street in aid of the principle of re-assurance policing; improved deployment of undercover operatives to map out areas for monitoring of criminal activities, and intelligence gathering in support of preventive and operational planning.
We now have improved day and night Police Patrols and deployment of more policemen on Static Guards at identified flash points. Groundwork for a sustainable patrol and response mechanism is currently being worked out and you shall be availed of details in due course.
Today, we can proudly say that there is effective policing of the exit points and industrial/commercial centers across the state, and establishment of ‘pin-down points’ across the state with a view to bringing police service closer to the citizens.
We have also improved deployment of Policemen and Traffic Wardens on traffic management duties leading to a much improved traffic situation across the state.
Already, we are engendering robust public enlightenment and evolving partnership with members of the public and strategic public and private institutions with a view to advancing the principle of policing with public consent. Accordingly, very soon, I will commence an all embracing state-wide tour that will incorporate courtesy visits to identified personalities, and public and private institutions that are strategic to policing in the State.
In view of the sociological dimensions of policing; we are introducing social element to policing in the State. This will extend policing emphasis from crime control to provision of social support to citizens who are either in distress, or who are victims of crime.
Very importantly, we shall employ inter- agency approach towards crime management in the state and also strengthen the framework that will ensure smooth and confidential information flow on crime and criminal activities between members of the public and the police. In this regard, apart from assuring members of the public of absolute confidentiality, information leading to the prevention of crime or arrest of suspects will be appropriately rewarded. The confidential channel of passing criminal information is, accordingly; being streamlined and details will soon be made available to the public.
How can all these beautiful ideas work without well-trained personnel?
I agree with you that we need well-trained personnel. Capacity building based on purpose-built training and re-training programme is vital to modern policing. More so, modern policing is intellectual-driven. Hence, in the mid and long-term, series of local and internationally facilitated training programmes to sharpen the intellectual and professional abilities of officers and men of the Command and expose them to best policing practices will be introduced. Lectures touching on police-press relations, police-public relations, professional ethics, human rights, Criminal Law, Use of Arms, musketry, crisis management, alternative dispute resolution, judicial process, investigation procedure, among other topics will be delivered. The Command will partner with the Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Justice and local NGOs including Center for Law Enforcement Education in Nigeria (CLEEN Foundation); Access to Justice; Nigeria Union of Journalists, Nigerian Bar Association; and National Human Rights Commission. Furthermore, the Command will also explore links with the Human Rights Office of The Commonwealth in United Kingdom, the Metropolitan Police and the Harvard Kennedy School (Programme on Criminal Justice).
Having reeled out this laudable vision; what role do you expect the people to play?
The inalienable fact is that; the success of these principles is dependent on the consent and understanding of members of the public who, legitimately yearn for protection of their lives and property. On our part, I assure you, and indeed, members of the public of my determination and that of the officers and men of this Command to draw on our collective intellectual potentials and professional experiences to guarantee optimal police performance in the State. In so doing, we shall courageously pursue anti-crime strategies that will reduce crime in measurable terms and re-assure members of the public and international community that Akwa-Ibom is a safe and secured investors’ haven.
What are you expecting from the state Government?
Firstly, I must use this opportunity to thank Governor Godswill Akpabio for his unequalled and unwavering commitment to motivating the Police and enhancing our institutional capacity to effectively carry out our constitutional mandate and social responsibilities in the State. By his strong commitment to peace and security in the state, the governor has given meaning to one of the Fundamental Objectives of the Nigerian Constitution which states that ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government’. With the assured support of the governor and the cooperation, confidence, encouragement, and understanding the members of the Press in particular, and the public in general, I have no doubt that we can collectively, make Akwa Ibom State the most secured State in the country.