The Inspector General of police, IGP Usman Alkali Baba, has given a new lease of life to the activities and operations of the hitherto moribon police marine Units .
This fresh breath to police operations by the police chief ,goes beyond the marine Units, as new cutting edge technology has over time deployed to the tactical squads .
Indeed, the Intelligence Response Team ,IRT is arguably one of the most vibrant and daring tactical squad of the Nigeria Police Force, owing to its ability to address high profile cases raging from kidnapping and robberies to a standstill as well ending the reign of terror of many criminal gangs in Nigeria.
For many Nigerians, especially those who were victims of kidnappers, the creation of the IRT was a welcome development to addressing the vicious circle of insecurity in the country.
These fearless operatives threaded riverine communities , forests and highways where criminals operated, leaving bloody scenes to show for their doggedness. They have also assisted Police commands to fight crime to a standstill, even at the risk of their lives.
To empower this tactical squad and others, the Police High Command introduced cutting edge technology to policing in Nigeria , a move that resulted in significant breakthroughs with more arrests of suspects and recovery of exhibits to show for it.
But findings have shown that the Nigeria Police Force which is the principal law enforcement and lead security agency in the country lacks modern day equipment in its forensic laboratory. The lacuna created by the absence of this modern day technology has hampered the Force at attaining its zest in investigation.
Most times, in the course of investigation of high profile murder, samples of evidence are taken outside the country where tests are conducted to help detectives in their investigations.
The poor or lack of forensic skills and equipment negatively impacts on the forensic investigation capacity of the police and other security agents.
By the way, forensic science is a critical element of the criminal justice system, as it entails examining and analyzing evidence from crime scenes and elsewhere to develop objective findings that can assist in the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of crime or absolve innocent persons from suspicion.
Sadly, this impediment tends to further complicate the mystery of unresolved murders in a nation where politicians, journalists, human right activists, including very senior Military personnel have been assassinated without any forensic clue.
Another major challenge to scientific investigation is the way and manner the collection of physical evidence such as fingerprints, hair, fire arms, blood and fiber and related trace evidences are handled at the scenes of crime by policemen, before they are taken to the lab where experts analyze them for the primary purpose of establishing an association among offenders, victims and other suspects arrested in connection with the crime.
Evidence can make a significant difference in criminal investigations and high profile murders, depending on the way they are handled. It will also go a long way to exonerating innocent persons arrested over a crime, or having innocent persons thrown into jails for offences they never committed.
IGP Alkali Usman’s efforts
However, when IGP Alkali Usman Baba mounted the saddle as the 21st IGP , he extended the use of cutting edge technology to both the conventional police and tactical teams. This was aimed at getting every policeman abreast with contemporary policing, considering the fact that the place of forensic science in policing can never be over emphasized in this present day, where crimes and acts of criminality have assumed an alarming dimension in Nigeria.
As a first step to addressing this major area of concern, he organized a Forensic awareness course on crime scene management sponsored by GIZ German Corporation ,Nigeria, in September last year, for Police Public Relations Officers who are among the first responders to crime scenes.
The course which held at the Police College, Ikeja, Lagos ,focused on Crime Scene Preservation, Crime Scene Cordoning, Personal Protective Equipment, Crime Scene Photography, Scene Sketching, Scene documenting, Exhibit packaging and Digital evidence
The objectives of the training themed ‘Crime Scene Management and conclusive Criminal investigations: The Role of Police spokespersons’ according to the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Usman Alkali Baba, included : To improve the strategic communication of PROs, to enhance the knowledge of PPROs in the area of forensic awareness of general crime scene management and to inculcate in PROs ethic and professionalism in handling crime scenes especially as first responders.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, the IGP, informed that while efforts were on top gear to boost the Police forensic, there was need to train the PPROs, adding that the workshop was coming at a time when the Force was implementing a new Manpower Development Policy, which among other things, focused on improving capacity of Police personnel across all ranks, in line with new policing standards and best practices.
Baba said, “the Nigeria Police, under my watch, remains committed to well-thought-out and goal-driven partnership and collaborations, with progressive and positive-minded organizations such as the GIZ, targeted at enhancing the professional, structural and operational capacity of the Force. The Force would sustain this relationship and open new areas of collaborations, particularly ones touching on capacities on criminal investigations, respect for human rights, access to justice for citizens, improved transparency and accountability in policing actions, and other deliberate efforts aimed at strengthening citizens’ complaint response system.
“This workshop for Police Public Relations Officers is timely and unique in many ways. One of these is the contextual theme of the workshop which seeks to develop robust forensic awareness and knowledge for our Spokespersons. This in itself flows from contemporary public relations practice which identifies Police spokespersons across the world as one of the first responders to crime scenes. This is in addition to many other important roles played by Police Spokespersons in managing crime incidents throughout the investigative processes. These roles are germane to the pursuit of professional criminal investigations and the dispensation of justice to both the victims and defendants.
“This course also seeks to equip the participants with skills necessary for effective descriptive, analytical and strategic communication touching on criminal investigations and procedure. This in turn will enable them to acquire relevant skills to give appropriate responses to citizens and media enquiries into matters of forensic and evidential nature connected to ongoing criminal investigations.
“I have no doubt that the 3-day workshop would, among other benefits, impact Police Spokespersons positively, particularly in the areas of Strategic Communication and Crime Scene Management. In addition, participants of this course must be reminded that, to succeed as Police Image Makers, they must be versatile and have deep theoretical and practical knowledge of all aspects of policing, covering administration, operations, investigations, forensics, among others. Therefore, the quest for resourcefulness remains an integral part of the objective of this course”, Baba said.
Reactivates marine units
A further move by IGP Baba to embrace and respond to the implementation of new technologies in the Nigeria Police Force , was the reactivation of its Marine Unit, as its crime section has been digitized and drones acquired in a bid to tackle the new wave of banditry and kidnapping in Nigeria.
Speaking last week at the inauguration of the Special Protection Unit base in Onna Local Government Area of Akwa-Ibom, IGP Baba further disclosed that the Technical Intelligent Unit of the Force was fully functional to cope with new trends in crime and criminality.
He said: “Crime and criminality is a dynamic thing; it is not something that is static. It moves with time, it moves with modernization, it moves with technology.
“Nobody has ever told us that human beings can be stolen, now we see human beings being stolen and taken away and they’re asking you to bring money.
“That is a new crime which is called kidnapping. We know of armed robbery and now we started hearing of armed banditry.
“We just started training our 10,000 recruits effective last Monday and we have been able to change the curriculum to reflect modernism.
“Since we came we have gotten a lot, we have just been given 200 brand new pick up vehicles that are very strong, by the Police Trust Fund. We have made our Air wings very effective, we are proud of putting six helicopters in the air at one time.
“Our Marine segment has been reactivated, our Technical Intelligent Unit is working. We have acquired drones; we have digitalised our crime section. We have involved a lot of technology in our works”.
Aside his efforts in ensuring that the Nigeria Police under his watch use the available equipment at its disposal to tackle acts of criminality, IGP Baba is also focusing on training and retraining of policemen , with a view to keeping them abreast with modern day policing.
Senate urges FG to empower the police
There is however need for the Police to be provided with helicopters that will complement those of the Air Force in theaters of war.
This opinion was aired by the Senate Committee on Air Force last Tuesday, with a call to the Federal Government to empower the Nigerian Police if indeed security must be tackled.
Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Bala Ibn Na’Allah, who made the call while presenting the budget report of his committee to the appropriation committee.
He said: “There is nothing that prevents the Nigerian Police from getting some of these sophisticated vehicles and to be doing surveillance on these roads. It is not nice that it is not only when it happens that they rush there and then the kidnappers are gone.
“ But if there is a coordinated effort that the police will report to a scene , an aircraft can hover around there. This is because they cannot be faster than an aircraft. While the helicopter is hovering, the police should be able to have an idea of where those bandits or kidnappers are and then some helicopter intervention can help,” Na’Allah said.