US embassy cable - 02ABUJA823


Identifier: 02ABUJA823
Wikileaks: View 02ABUJA823 at
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2002-03-13 11:12:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 000823 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/13/2017 
Classified by Charge d'affaires Timothy D. Andrews for reason 
1. (C) Summary:  The March 6 sacking of Police Inspector 
General Musiliu Smith and his seven Deputies (DIGs) sent a 
clear message of reform from the Presidency.  Through his 
newly minted Police Service Commission, the President is also 
challenging the police old guard by reaching below the seven 
DIGs he dismissed to find the new IG - a decision based on 
merit rather than seniority - and bringing up a new batch of 
second-tier managers.   This overdue move may presage 
much-needed reforms within the NPF.  End Summary. 
Out with the Old . . . 
2. (C) During a rare March 6 meeting of the National 
Police Council (which last met in June 1999), President 
Obasanjo discussed the administration of the Police Force 
with the country's 36 governors and the group agreed on the 
dismissal of Inspector General of Police (IGP) Musiliu Smith 
for his mismangement of the Force; he was present at the 
three-hour meeting and was fired at its conclusion.  Smith 
reportedly was caught off-guard but cleared out his office 
within hours.  Obasanjo announced his new appointment for the 
IGP position immediately after announcing Smith's dismissal. 
3. (C) While adjourning for a private meeting with Police 
Service Commission Chairman Okeke, President Obasanjo asked 
Governors Makarfi (Kaduna) and Nnamani (Enugu) to represent 
the Police Council in breaking the news to the media waiting 
outside.  Speaking extemporaneously, Makarfi declared that 
"in carrying out the planned reorganization and revamping (of 
the NPF) the government had considered it necessary to make 
fundamental changes in the administration of the police 
force."  Makarfi also stated that the NPF had always been 
given all funding it had requested, even more than its 
budgetary requests.  He noted that if the funding was not 
adequate, the managers of the NPF should have pressed for 
additional funding, which they did not do.  (Comment: Many 
observers see Makarfi's comments as a hint at corruption 
among Smith and his Deputies - withholding federal funds 
designated for rank-and-file salaries and allowances.  End 
. . . In with the New 
4. (C) The new Inspector General, Tafa Balogun, was until 
March 6 the Assistant Inspector General for the Kano Zone - 
one of twelve police zones (each comprised of three states) 
in the country.  By most accounts, he is a respected leader 
and is considered a reformer. According to the PSC Chairman, 
who has had several meetings with him already, Balogun is 
thoughtful, a "listener" and able to handle dissent.  The 
seven new DIGs, including popular former Lagos Police 
Commissioner Mike Okiro, are cut of the same cloth. 
According to Okeke,these seven were picked by the PSC and 
approved by the President during the private meeting with 
Okeke after the National Police Council Meeting.  These DIGs 
reflect the "federal character of Nigeria," with each of the 
six geo-political zones represented (one represented by two 
The new Agent of Change on the Block 
5. (C) Behind the scenes of this major reshuffle is the new 
Police Service Commission (PSC).  Enshrined in Nigeria's 
constitution, the PSC has been moribund since 1989 but was 
re-inaugurated in November 2001, after passage of the Police 
Service Commission Act in June 2001.  Comprised of seven 
members including a Chairman, the PSC is explictly charged 
with sole authority for the appointment, promotion and 
discipline of all Police personnel except the Inspector 
General (who is appointed or dismissed by the President). 
The Commission must have representatives from key sectors of 
society: women; business, media, and human rights NGOs and 
must include retired senior judge and a retired senior police 
officer.  The Chairman and Commission members are appointed 
by the President for a term of five years and can only be 
removed by a two thirds vote of the National Assembly. 
6. (C) The members of the PSC appear eager to push the 
Commission's mandate for reform aggressively.  In discussions 
with emboffs, Chairman Okeke and members Ayo Obe (head of 
Civil Liberties Organization) and Aisha Abdulquadri (lecturer 
at University of Abuja) have  mapped out a rough plan to 
reform the behavior of the police and make them accountable 
to Nigeria society.  Answering only to the President, the 
group can oversee the Inspector General in a way the Minister 
of Police Affairs cannot.  According to Okeke, the President 
wants the new Commission to have real power as an agent of 
change and he has shown this trust by supporting Okeke's 
choices in firing Smith's Deputies and appointing new DIGs. 
Okeke and his fellow commissioners will next month be given 
their first budget with which they plan to build an agency 
with a staff of 300-400 in order to carry out its mandate 
Precariously Perched: The Police Affairs Minister 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
7. (C) Bets are now on over how much longer Police Affairs 
Minister Steven Akiga - or his entire Ministry - will last. 
Akiga performed poorly in responding to January 31-February 1 
police strike, showing little sensitivity to the real 
grievances of the striking rank- and-file and instead 
blasting them as "mutinous" and vowing to prosecute all who 
participated.  He was further discredited when his belated 
pledge to release one billion naira to cover immediate salary 
and allowance arrears was not realized.  According to some 
observers, Akiga feels threatened by the new PSC, which has 
well defined powers in contrast to his vaguely articulated 
mandate, which appears limited to some control over police 
budgets.  He has tried to control the PSC through access to 
budgets and access to the President, but is losing.  In a 
recent meeting with the President at which the PSC was 
discussing its start-up, the PSC Chairman noted that he had 
written the President a letter on an important matter.  Akiga 
(also present) itnerjected that all PSC correspondence to the 
President should go through him.  According to PSC members, 
the President scolded Akiga, "Shut up! He can write me 
directly."  Chairman Okeke reportedly then offered Akiga a 
copy of the PSC Act so that he could determine the 
Commission's authority. 
Talking Tough in Lagos 
8.(SBU) Balogun made a symbolic March 10-11 pilgrimage to 
Lagos, the city whose name is synonymous with rampant crime. 
He visited various police formations, promoted eight 
policemen (among them a constable promoted to corporal, 
ostensibly for exhibiting courage in asking the new IG a 
question), and unveiled his agenda to reform the police and 
tackle insecurity.  His pep talk -- widely reported in most 
Nigerian dailies -- included promises to review the condition 
and well-being of the force and to revise promotion 
guidelines.  He also warned against corruption and exhorted 
the police to cultivate a more positive image in the eyes of 
a public long suspicious of their motives.  He promised as 
well to pick up the pace in the investigation of the 
assassination of Attorney General Bola Ige. 
9.(SBU) What made the headlines, however, was Balogun's tough 
talk on crime in Lagos.  In blunt terms, Balogun ordered 
police to give armed robbers "fire for fire" when under 
attack.  When facing armed criminals the new IG told police 
"not to waste time in firing back, don't wait for any order 
from anywhere."  (Note: RSO/Lagos sources report not less 
than two dozen policemen -- and perhaps as many as 50 -- have 
been gunned down by armed gangs in Lagos over the last month. 
End Note) He also suggested the use of tear gas and other 
crowd control materials as deterrents to violence. 
10.(SBU) We asked Civil Liberties Organization Executive 
Director Abdul Oroh for his interpretation of Balogun's 
forceful message on crime.  Oroh believes Balogun's remarks 
were intended to boost the morale of the beleaguered Lagos 
force.  Balogun's "fight fire with fire" message was an 
emotional reaction to the recent spate of attacks by armed 
robbers and police on the Ikeja airport road between the 
domestic and international terminals, occurred March 10 only 
an hour after Balogun arrived in Lagos. According to one 
ConGen Lagos source, the gun battle ended when the police ran 
out of ammunition and fled. End Note.) But Oroh noted that 
such remarks, particularly if they do not represent a shift 
in policy, could send the wrong signal.  Nigerian police are 
not properly trained, he stressed, and should not be given an 
implied green light to shoot suspected criminals with 
impunity.  Oroh said that the human rights community will 
monitor such developments, though he was confident that the 
new police leadership and the PSC would institute many of the 
reforms needed to improve police performance and 
The Strike That Wasn't 
11.(C) Comment:  March 11 passed quietly throughout Nigeria 
despite earlier pledges by groups representing rank-and-file 
policemen to strike over continued salary and allowance 
arrearages.  The sacking of IGP Smith and his Deputies 
appears to have been the major reason the crisis was averted, 
though continued discontent among the enlisted police staff 
will only dissipate when the billions of naira (tens of 
millions of dollars) are released to cover the arrears in 
wages and benefits.  For now, the police are willing to trust 
the new IG to see this through. 
12.(C) Comment Cont'd:  Smith had clearly lost the 
President's confidence with his botched handling of the 
January 31 police strike.  Under his three year tenure the 
police have continued to suffer from inadequate or irregular 
pay and poor discipline while reforms Smith promised in 1999 
were never implemented.  His departure and that of his 
Deputies - who many see as more responsible for the sad state 
of NPF affairs -- appears a victory for reformers in general 
and the Police Service Commission in particular.  The 
Commission was already butting heads with a recalcitrant 
Smith who would not give up usurped powers to appoint and 
discipline subordinates.  The new IG appears much more of a 
team player and more open-minded.  The transition paints a 
much brighter future for INL's Police Reform project which 
will need strong advocates of reform within and outside the 
NPF.  The PSC will likely become a major partner in this 

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