Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday disclosed that he has directed National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) to carry out an upward review of salaries of policemen.
The president also stated that 10,000 new personnel are being recruited into the force, declaring that no administration since 1999 was as committed as his administration in reforming and repositioning the Nigeria Police Force and national policing architecture.
Buhari spoke Thursday in Lagos at the official launch of newly procured security equipment, including hundreds of patrol vans for the state security agencies by the Lagos State Government at the Parade Ground, Police College, Ikeja, Lagos.
‘‘In 2019, I signed into law the Act establishing the Nigeria Police Trust Fund, the first in the history of the Force, to provide guaranteed funding to support Police welfare, logistics and equipment.
‘‘In September 2020, I assented to the Bill amending the Nigeria Police Act, which was originally enacted in 1943.
‘‘This new Act, a vast improvement over the old one, among other things spells out the modalities for the implementation of a National Community Policing Scheme in Nigeria.
‘‘This new scheme will build confidence within our local communities and make them active stakeholders in the safety and security of their environs.
‘‘We are currently recruiting 10,000 new Police officers to reinforce our personnel capacity across the country. In addition to this, I have directed the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission to carry out an upward review of Police salaries and benefits,’’ he said.
He reiterated his directive to security operatives to shoot-on-sight anyone found to be wielding AK-47 and other assault weapons.
The President also vowed that his administration will act firmly and decisively ‘‘against any and all persons fomenting or carrying out attacks on our Police Force and other security personnel.’’
Buhari warned that ‘‘a nation that turns its Police personnel and infrastructure into targets of violence and destruction is a nation on the path of self-destruction.’’
‘‘As Commander-in-chief, my primary responsibility remains the security of the country and the safety of all citizens. Despite the many challenges we are facing, I want Nigerians to rest assured that we will secure this country.
‘‘We will secure our infrastructure, our highways, our communities, and our forests, and we will secure the lives of our people,’’ he said.
The President told members of the Nigeria Police that as the government strives to improve their welfare and capacity, the citizens equally had expectations from them.
‘‘First let me commend the Inspector-General of Police and the entire Force for the recent efforts to restore peace to troubled parts of the country.
‘‘I have charged the Inspector-General to leave no stone unturned in rebuilding the morale of his officers and men, especially in the aftermath of the mindless violence associated with the EndSARS protests, as well as the recent spate of attacks on Police Stations in some parts of the country,” he said.
He stated that the removal of service chiefs and the appointment of officers, who have been at the theatre of operation and command the respect of fellow soldiers will ease the insecurity in the country.
He described the security situation in the North-east and North-west as overwhelming.
However, he said the government was on top of the situation, adding that bandits are now being treated as criminals and are currently suffering heavy casualties but are unwilling to admit it for fear of losing their recruitment constituency.
He said: “Try and appreciate what the federal government has done. One, we have removed all the service chiefs and the Inspector-General of Police; made new ones. We allowed them to go round and see the problem. They have been part of it all the time but now they are in charge and we made sure that their priority is to make sure they bring normalcy. They have to accept the responsibility of their offices and perform. We are working very hard on this but we cannot give it much publicity so that we can take the criminals unawares.
“The problem in the North-east and the South-south we understand them, but the North-west, same people, same culture, killing each other, stealing each other’s cattle, burning their villages.
“As I said, we are going to treat them in the language they understand. We have given the military and the police power to be ruthless and you watch it, in a few weeks’ time there will be a difference- because we told them, ‘if we keep people away from their farm, we are going to starve and the government cannot control the public.’
“If you allow hunger to permeate the whole society, the government will be in trouble and we don’t want to be in trouble. We are already in enough trouble. I can assure you that sooner than later you will see the difference.”
The president reiterated his commitment to go after the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Eastern Security Network (ESN) by treating them in the language they understand.
He added: “I said it, and we will do it. My statement about speaking the language (they understand) is very simple. It is meant for all criminals in Nigeria. What it means for the IPOB is that I will go after them through the military and police and rid them of their criminal tendencies. I have no regrets whatsoever…”
On allegation that his appointments of service chiefs were lopsided as they did not reflect federal character, Buhari said he could not be forced to appoint unqualified people.
He added: “You’re saying someone who has gone through military and police training all his life should not be appointed to lead the military or police department he works with just because we must balance appointments? What are you saying? The system didn’t restrict anyone from joining the military or the police, and if you decided not to join, we will not force you, but you too will not force us to bring someone who is not qualified in training and experience when it comes to leadership of these institutions just because we want to balance some appointments…”
On the appointment of Chief of Army Staff, Maj. Gen. Farouk Yahaya, Buhari stated that he could not just pick anybody because of seniority, adding that he appointed someone who has been in the military, worked and fought with the soldiers, and is well known to them.
He said: “When you look at NNPC, military, the people who have been there for 18 years or 10 years, trained in Zaria, or Abeokuta. They came through the ranks and because they served under all the circumstances and they gradually rise to that status. Those positions have to be earned. There are people who have been there for 10 to 15 years. When you join, you go through the programme and you rise through the system.”
The president also downplayed the concerns over which region will produce his successor, saying his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has the final say on whether his successor will emerge from the South or the North.
According to him, the APC’s recently concluded membership registration is designed to rid the party of godfathers and give members across board a say in the party.
“We should allow the party to decide. I have just told you that we have started from the bottom-up and I gave the acting chairman the end of June to submit a report on the convention we are going to conduct and then arrange the general election, all elections till 2023. We have started this from the bottom up so that members of the party will feel they are involved in decision making. Nobody is just going to sit in Lagos and tell them what to do. This is what we are arranging.
“Succession plan depends on the party. We are going to leave that to the party. The party will sit and make a decision by the constituencies that they won and so on. So, those who want to be president, they better join APC,” he said.
Buhari added that the controversial railway to the Niger Republic will be of immense economic benefits to Nigeria.
When completed, he said, Nigeria would benefit from the import and export trades of Niger Republic, which currently go through Benin Republic.
“How many rail routes do you have? You have to cultivate our neighbours. If you don’t, you will be in trouble. If you could recall, when I came on board, I had to go to Chad, Niger, and Cameroon, which was what happened with Boko Haram. If we were not on good terms with the three countries, Boko Haram would have done worst things to us than this. About Niger, our border with Niger is about 1,400 kilometres. On Niger, I have to tell you this: the Europeans in 1885 sat down with ruler and pencil and drew lines and I say I have first cousins in Niger Republic. There are Kanuris, there are Hausas, there are Fulanis in Niger Republic, just as there are Yorubas in Republic of Benin. You can’t absolutely cut them off.
“But the rail, look at the plan, if you watch the plan and why we are constructing the railway. Niger has discovered oil as you know and we don’t want them to go through Benin Republic. We want them to come through Nigeria. We hope that they will send through Maradi all their exports, through Nigeria rather than through Benin Republic.
“With the roads and the railways working, those from Maiduguri to Port Harcourt, those from Kano to Lagos and so on, definitely, if you make the infrastructure, road, rail, work, I can assure you that Nigerians will keep themselves very busy and they will leave you alone.
“But when the roads are not working, the roads are virtually crippled, people will have so much time to harass you,” he stated.
On how he will spend his time after his presidency in 2023, Buhari said he would retire to his farm.
“I have never avoided my farm. I still have got a number of cattle. When I leave, I will still, go to my farm daily. I will try and keep myself busy. Between now and then, I will keep on convincing Nigerians that I mean very well. I will make sure that the few identifiable problems that we have, security, economy, fight against corruption, we will continue to work on it, and as I said, visibly, we have made progress in the North-east, we have made progress in the South-south but I am overwhelmed almost in the North-west and they are going to get it very soon,” he added.
Asked what will be his legacy, he said: “I will like Nigerians to discuss it, I hope they will be fair to me. I wouldn’t like to say it myself. I will like Nigerians to try and spend time when we came, both the security and the economy, where we were for the eight years I may be around and try to look at it, I hope Nigerians will be fair to me. This is all I need.”