The Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase last week inaugurated an innovation that will assist in detection of criminalities and Police brutalities, which Nigerians never imagined can be done in the Nigerian Police Force. The Officer in Charge appointed to oversee the outfit known as the IGP’s Complaints Response Unit (CRU), is Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Abayomi Shogunle. In this interview he explains what CRU is all about.
Answer-The is a community based complaint management system where citizens or members of the public’s concerns and queries regarding policing activities can be resolved and addressed in real time, 24 hours a day, seven days in a week, weekends and public holidays inclusive. You will recall that upon his assumption in office, IGP Solomon Arase rolled-out his strategic policing plan and part of it involves the use of cutting edge technology in policing activities in Nigeria; and also bequeathing to Nigerians the police force that Nigerians can actually call their friends. In doing so, one of the things the IGP has done is to establish the CRU which is the first of its kind in Nigeria where members of the public can interface with the police in real time.
Q-How would the CRU operate?
Answer-The CRU has launched multi-platform system through which such complains and queries can be received from members of the public. One of it is telephone lines. We have two dedicated telephone lines through which members of the public can call-08057000001, 08057000002. We also have a text message line, where members of the public are expected to send messages – 08057000003. Members of the public can also reach out to the CRU via ‘WhatsApp’ messenger on – 080570003. Another interesting platform is BBM. The BBM pin is 58A2B5DE. In addition, you can also reach CRU via twitter handle, and the twitter handle is @policing_CRU, or use facebook, www.facebook.com/npfcomplaint. You can equally reach the unit via email. The address is [email protected] or [email protected]. The website is www.npf.gov.ng/complaint.
By using these platforms, we are confident that members of the public in one way or the other can access one of these platforms. Let me state also that no platform will have preference over the other. Complains from all these platforms would be treated equally, on the base of first come. Once a complaint comes in, the person issuing the complaint will be issued with a track number, to show that your complaint has been received and is being looked into. We will also give the complainant a feedback or first acknowledgement within 24 hours. And in maximum of seven days, we are sure that we would give you a feedback on the status of your complain.
Q-Does the CRU have the trained manpower to do this job especially knowing the most cases of Police brutality, harassment take place in States and local levels?
Answer-Absolutely yes, and let me tell you how the unit is operating. We have the main hub here at the force headquarters. So all these platforms, reeled out are being mapped up by the FHQ. Once a complain comes in to any of these platform, we have three officers per state as base of their responsibility. By virtue of the office they occupy, they are going to serve as responding officers for the CRU in all the 36 states of the federation and the FCT. These officers are drawn from the Provost office, the office of Special Intelligent Bureau, SIB, and also the office of the Police Control Room. Now, when the call (complaint) comes in, the first officer here in FHQ that receive the complaint will contact either of these designated officers in the command to do three things; to verify the complaint, resolve the complaint and also to give the feedback.
These three officers from the command are carefully selected in the sense that every police station has at least one Special Intelligence Bureau officer operating in the jurisdiction of that police station. So once the complaint is passed to the OSIB, the OSIB can easily contact any of his operative who is acting within the jurisdiction. All the police stations in Nigeria, all the divisions have at least one OSIB operative. So when the complaint is passed to the OSIB in the state, he quickly passes it to the operative in-charge of that jurisdiction to take necessary action.
The provost is in charge of discipline. Once the complaint regarding activities of the police at the station or on the road gets to him, the provost marshal in the state is mobilized to move to the area, verify and take necessary action and give feedback.
For the control rooms, you know that is where members of the public in the states call when there is distress call, because of the control room in the state, if it is the case of distress call, we will pass it to the control room, and the control room will take the necessary action that is required.
Another thing we are also doing is that a special poster cataloguing the do’s and don’ts of CRU is being distributed to every police station across the country. The CRU poster says, do you have any complaints about any of our officers? Contact us 24/7 via all these means through which we can be contacted. All police stations must have this at the entrance of the police station or at the Canter, and it must be visible to all members of the public visiting the police station. It is waterproof, so if water falls on it, it will not get damaged.
We are sending these posters so that when members of the public enter a police station, they have an idea of how they should be treated. They can easily make complaints to the unit there at the police station; the poster plays supervisory role and serves as a reminder that any unprofessional conduct would be reported.
Q-Issues of bail & human rights abuse, can be reported?
Answer-This, as a matter of fact is the main crux of complaints we are looking forward to receiving. Just as it is shown on the posters, it is clearly written ‘bail is free’ even on two of the pictures, and we are going to have it hung in every police station. So we believe that this inscription further reinforces the stance of the NPF, and further makes the members of the public to be aware of the stance of the NPF as regard the issue of bail, as they are not expected to pay anything for bail. And members of the public are being provided with seven different platforms for everybody that encounters any form of difficulty and challenges in any police station or their interaction with the police to lay their complain to the CRU.
Q-Do you believe this initiative will be sustainable in the Nigeria Police Force?
Answer-As regards the sustainability of the CRU, let me say that in planning the process, we took clear cognizance about the issue of funding and considering the fact that government revenue is reducing day by day, and allocation for NPF is also reducing from time to time, we have considered the issue of cost. What I assure is that the cost of implementing the CRU is close to zero to the NPF and close to zero to the Federal Government of Nigeria, and close to zero to the members of the public that may be using these platforms. This is because we are deploying all existing technology. It is not as if we are paying for the technology we are using. Telephone calls, and mobile lines are already in existence as mobile lines are part of the day today activities of Nigerians, and from statistics, we have about 138 million Nigerians active mobile line subscribers. That means 138 million Nigerians can reach the unit through phone calls or text messages which is at no extra cost to them, because they use them daily. We also have 70.3 million active internet users and we have provision where they can e-mail us, and email are not costly; neither does it have any extra cost to the NPF. That means the 70.3 million can reach the CRU through internet and other social media platforms. So we believe that would take care of the issue of sustainability because we are not spending real money in maintaining these platforms. Also, the police officers who are manning this project are serving police officers whose remunerations are being taken care of by the police salary structure.
Q-Is there assurance that if a policeman is found wanting, the institution with punish its own personnel?
Answer-The logo of the unit, the motto or the slogan of the unit, says no to impunity. “No to Impunity” means there would be no sacred cows. Every complaint made, investigated, and if the officer involved is found to have acted unprofessionally, relevant and appropriate sanctions would be meted out through the appropriate means and mechanism of the force. Also on the logo, we have a smiling face; that is assurance that anybody who comes in contact with the unit, the level of professionalism that would be deployed in attending to your complaints, would guarantee a smile on the face of the person. If you also look at the logo, you will see the symbol of justice that means equality before the law, the rule of law. So in the activity of the unit, we will ensure equality, we would ensure the rule of law. These are values that the unit is taking so dear. Should there be any time the police dare to go outside these values, we should be reminded by the media and civil society organizations.
Q-As elections kick-start in Kogi and Bayelsa states, can Nigerians make use of these platform to capture police officers engaged in malpractices and intimidation?
Answer-If we look at the logo, we are going to see police colours, and what it represents is that CRU only receives complaints made against serving police officers and complaints regarding unprofessional conduct of police officer. What that means is that before CRU will take your complaint only when it is against a serving police officer. But that notwithstanding, there might be an emergency that you need the police to respond to; if such information comes in, we will get appropriate police units everywhere in Nigeria to respond to it. So those are the things, the unit is doing.

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