President Olusegun Obasanjo on Wednesday sacked the head of Nigerian police, Musliu Smith, and other top brass of the force because of the climate of insecurity created by the threats of junior officers to go on strike alleging poor conditions of service.
Smith's dismissal and replacement by Adebayo Tafa Balogun, was announced after a meeting of the National Council of State, comprising governors of Nigeria’s 36 states and presided over by President Obasanjo. All six deputy inspectors-general of police next in rank to Smith were also sacked.
Governor Ahmed Makarfi of Kaduna State, who briefed journalists after the meeting, said the sackings were linked to the crisis of confidence generated in the national security apparatus by the moves of junior police officers to embark on their second strike in two months. A shadowy group describing itself as the National Union of Policemen (NUP) has circulated leaflets urging the police rank and file to down tools from 11 March.
"The federal government is determined to address the impending strike," Makarfi said. "In doing this reorganisation and revamping, we considered it necessary to make fundamental changes in the administration of the police."
A one-day strike called by NUP on 1 February, to press demands for payment of one-year arrears of allowances, was held in 14 of Nigeria’s 36 states, including the commercial capital, Lagos. Banks denied of police protection were forced to close and public feelings of insecurity rose at a time of increasing armed robbery and other violent crimes.
But the action appeared to produce immediate results when President Obasanjo ordered the release of four billion naira (US $35 million) to meet the welfare needs of the police.
Since then rumblings of further strike actions have not only continued in the police over other unmet demands but have also emanated from the prisons service and the armed forces. Last week several foreign embassies in Nigeria confirmed receipt of letters by an anonymous group, claiming to represent the rank and file of the police and the army, saying the safety of diplomats could no longer be guaranteed.
Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ibrahim Ogohi, in a statement late on Wednesday, urged the Nigerian public to ignore insinuations that the army may go on strike and reaffirmed the loyalty of the armed forces to Obasanjo.
"The diplomatic community is also assured of its security within the country," he added.
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