BRICKBATS between Isah Misau, a serving senator, and the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, provide food for thought. The integrity of the Police and their capacity to discharge their statutory responsibility have been brought to the fore with Misau’s allegation that the police collect as much as N10 billion monthly from corporate bodies and the rich for the special security provided them.
This translates to N120 billion per annum, much of it mainly from oil companies and banks. But the most intriguing aspect of this revelation is that there is no record of such funds, let alone how they are spent. Other allegations include promotion racketeering, where a junior officer needs to provide N2.5 million to the syndicate to bag a special elevation, deserved or not.
It does not stop at that. According to Misau, appointments to senior positions like Mobile Police Commander and Police Commissioner have also been compromised. They attract between N10 million and N15 million. “Some have attained ranks such as commissioner of police without operational experience; and this has led to a display of lack of capacity when the security of such states comes under threat,” Misau stressed. Besides incompetence, low morale and indiscipline are natural consequences of the abuse.
This is a bombshell; the illegalities were guarded secrets until now, unknown even to President Muhammadu Buhari. There is no concrete police response to these grave charges, save their habitual denial and the laughable recrimination that Misau, an erstwhile Deputy Superintendent of Police, was a deserter. Desertion is a criminal breach not brooked by security services, and carries severe punishment. It was an attempt to incriminate him. But the Police Service Commission swiftly punctured the smear campaign, stating categorically that Misau duly exited the service. A former IG, Mike Okiro, chairs the commission.
How far the police can go with their rebuttal of Misau’s torrential charges is of utmost interest to the public. In one breath, Okiro confirmed that the Police Act provides payment of fees for private engagement – security protection: part of the money is kept by the police, a fraction paid into police reward fund, just as policemen duty allowances are paid from it. Yet, in another breath, he underscored the fact that the police “are there to protect the people at the expense of government, not to generate funds.”
This Pandora’s Box was opened almost about the same time the National Bureau of Statistics, in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Narcotics, released the report of a survey conducted between June 2015 and May 2016, which ranked the police as the most corrupt among government institutions.
It bears repeating that Misau’s antecedents put him in a good stead to know developments in the Force. Apart from having left the service in 2014, his late father was also an Assistant IG. The N120 billion may be contested, what is not in doubt is that billions of naira secretly roll into police coffers and spent unaccounted for. This is the height of corruption in the Force that reduces to a child’s play, the graft case, which cost a sitting IG his job and earned him a place in jail a decade ago.
Therefore, a special enquiry at the behest of the President is imperative now, the same way he ordered an inquest into the activities of former Registrars of the Joint Admission and Matriculations Board last week. A Federal Executive Council meeting had shockingly reviewed how N8 billion was declared for the Federation Account by JAMB’s new management in nine months, as against mere N3 million annual returns from past heads of the agency. To leave the Misau-police controversy unattended to will amount to ridiculing the current anti-corruption drive.
No doubt, police under-funding is well known. In March, at a seminar in Lagos, the IG repeated the call for more cash for upgrading equipment, carrying out intelligence gathering and facing squarely the challenge of kidnapping. With the Federal Government’s failure to live up to its responsibility in this regard, state governors have became willing providers of needs of police commands in their domains. In Lagos State, for instance, the government donated 10 Armoured Personnel Carriers, 50 patrol vans, 200 bullet-proof vests and 100 walkie-talkies in October 2011. Some states donate 100 Hilux vans in one fell swoop. Banks, organisations and communities make similar gestures. Again, records of these donations do not exist, Misau squeals.
Such a complex and incoherent funding mix and the centralisation of the system fuel corruption, lack of transparency and accountability in the police. Apparently, Abuja has demonstrated that it cannot effectively fund the about 370,000-strong police force. These shortcomings underpin current strident calls for state police. Recruiting 155,000 more hands for Nigeria to attain the United Nations requirement of 1:400 policing ratio, as the IG muted, will certainly not solve any problem. One-third of the personnel will likely still be deployed to privileged individuals and organisations, since it creates an acre of diamond for police hierarchy’s rich harvest.
Abuja should get the message: the current system has abysmally failed Nigeria. The only remedy lies in decentralised policing as is the case in federal political entities globally. The United States, Canada and even unitary United Kingdom are models the country can learn from.