The Muhammadu Buhari administration came into power with the promise of a full scale war on corruption at all levels. While many see the fight against corruption as being one-sided and a witch-hunt of the president’s political rivals, the truth is that now people feel more emboldened to expose corruption, whether for selfish reasons or for the greater public good.
In the latest bout of allegations and counter-allegations that have almost become routine in the public sphere in the Buhari era, Ibrahim Idris, the incumbent inspector general of Police (IGP) has been caught up in a web of accusations of corruption levelled against him by Isah Misau, a senator and chairman of the Senate Committee on the Navy. Misau accused the IGP of being unable to account for payments received from private companies and individuals for services rendered by the police, amounting to about N10 billion monthly. He also accused the IGP and the Police Service Commission (PSC), under the chairmanship of Mike Okiro, a former IGP, of receiving payments from police officers in exchange for favourable postings and promotions.
But in a shameful manner, the police, through Jimoh Moshood, the Force Public Relations Officer, responded by raising counter-allegations against Senator Misau, labelling him a deserter from the police force, while also accusing him of forgery, after Misau produced a retirement letter. There were other allegations of impersonation and attempts to discredit the senator who was equally accused of frequenting Indian hemp joints.
One can get lost in the sensationalism of the dirty back-and-forth between the senator and the police and miss the vital pieces of information worth pursuing in the ensuing drama. However, the issue of greatest concern is the matter of payments from several firms, including oil companies and private individuals which have been described as “internally generated revenue”. The police is not a revenue generating organisation and these payments are surely not being remitted to the federation account. A fact that may also be missed by many is that these payments cannot be new. The past IGPs would have been recipients of similar payments and the accountability of the money generated may have also been an issue in past times if this matter is properly investigated.
With this in mind, one would assume that the senator, who had been part of the police force, would have been aware of the existence of such payments in the past. It raises questions about why he has taken it upon himself to launch a specific attack on the present leadership of the police force. Whatever his intentions, which may probably be selfish, the issue is now firmly in the public domain. One only hopes that, as in many cases before this, the matter will not just be swept under the carpet as soon as public consciousness shifts to other matters.
Another telling point is the reaction of the police. The shame of the response of the police force is not only on the leadership of the force, but also on the entire nation as a whole. The ill-advised counter-allegation is, in many ways, an admission of guilt, and a very childish way of deflecting blame that should not be seen in such high offices. The horror of the situation was televised live when Moshood was engaged in a shouting match with the senator on Channels Television a couple of weeks ago. It was gut-wrenching to watch the shameless display.
To make matters worse, the PSC, which seems to be threading a bit more carefully than the IGP, has now cleared the senator of the allegation of forgery by confirming his retirement letter from the force. Even if it were found to be false, raising the issue after the senator raised accusations against the police is already indicative of irresponsibility on the part of the police leadership and that should not be taken lightly.
The police force in Nigeria is about the most corrupt public institution in the country. Public confidence in the institution has been dangerously low for as long as one can remember. That is why groups like the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) and many similar organisations thrive. The present IGP himself came into office in ostentatious manner by immediately accusing his predecessor of carting away choice police vehicles and leaving the runt for him.
Soon after, he was himself involved in a controversy over the questionable disposal of police vehicles and allegations of diversion of about N7.2 billion meant for the purchase of armoured personnel carriers and the renovation of around 102 police stations across the nation, all in violation of the 2016 Appropriation Act. The House of Representatives summoned him over these allegations but not surprisingly, it came to nothing.
Many more allegations have come to light that paint the IGP as a questionable character. Earlier in 2016, Sahara Reporters reported that senior police officers had accused the IGP of brazenly engaging in sexual trysts with subordinates, amongst other acts that make him unfit for his role. This indicates that he may not even enjoy the confidence of his own men and may have been an unpopular choice to begin with. The allegation of promotion racketeering against the IGP and the PSC may also have had a base in the recent appointment of Imohimi Edgar as commissioner of Police in Lagos State. It was an uncommonly fast-tracked promotion as he was just promoted deputy commissioner (DC) in April this year and then moved to acting commissioner within five months. Although, he is credited with the firm handling of the recent Badoo killings in Lagos, nevertheless, his appointment was far and above many of his superiors still left in the cold. It is also a practical affirmation of the allegations against the present police leadership.
The issue of private payments to the police is not a uniquely Nigerian problem. While it is generally not encouraged and met with raised eyebrows, it has unfortunately crept into many police systems. Recently, the UK police had to answer for private payments received from companies and communities which ran into about £20 million. The payments were said to have been occasioned by cuts in the police budget that drove companies to pay for the extra manpower in investigations, and communities paying to bring back police presence to areas where they had to be pulled out.
The difference here is that while in the UK the generated funds are applied directly to the visible and verifiable employment of more equipment and personnel, the Nigerian situation involves utilising men who are already answered for by public funds (estimated at about 10,000) to protect companies and private individuals – many of questionable character. The received payments are unaccounted for and instead, are added to the IGP’s slush fund for illicit spending.
The government needs to take formal notice of these funds and build a structure around its utilisation that promotes accountability and transparency. Receipt of these payments may not be a bad or unacceptable thing in itself, but after years of unaccountability, the allegations made by Senator Misau may have finally cast necessary attention unto this police “revenue”. Whatever his particular interests, the senator may have inadvertently done the nation a service. One would now expect him to hand over the matter to his counterparts on the Senate Committee on Police Affairs, while he returns his attention to the Navy where it ought to be.
As for the IGP, his fate lies squarely in the hands of Mr. President, who needs to do more in ensuring that his appointments match the declared zero tolerance for corruption. From the information now coming out against the IGP, it appears he may not be suited for such a role in a government that is serious about fighting corruption and restoring sanity to the country’s public offices. There is more than just smoke in this ugly episode and the members of the public now wait on Mr. President to put out the fire ravaging the police leadership.
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