The outcry that has greeted the surprise visit of President Jonathan to the Ikeja Police College, where he saw a hell of place and justified it, despite huge amounts of money pumped into the place and other police colleges in the country annually, was not surprising because the rot leaves much to be desired, writes Ohia Israel
On his way to ECOWAS meeting in Ivory Coast on the 18th of January, President Goodluck Jonathan made an unscheduled visit to the Nigeria Police College Ikeja in Lagos. The weeklong documentary by Channels Television, which exposed the dehumanizing conditions at the College, got the attention of President Jonathan, who as a result paid the unscheduled visit.
The report brought out the sorry state of the Police College Ikeja where people that are supposed to maintain law and order in the country are trained. The rot in the Nigeria Police College, as exposed, has left every Nigerian surprised. For instance, after the Police College documentary by Channels Television a lot of issues were brought to the fore on how money meant for all Police Colleges in Nigeria was embezzled and siphoned by those who are not only meant to keep the custody of these monies, but also to expend them judiciously.
DESERT HERALD gathered that the Presidency has ordered an immediate probe into how over N2 Billion (Two Billion Naira) released in the last four years for the renovation of Police Colleges in the country was spent. The probe is expected to cover several years of the rot in the police colleges.
This magazine gathered that billions of naira has been budgeted for the training institutions on yearly basis comprising the colleges for recruits, rank and file, the academy for cadets; and the staff college in Jos for the senior officers. A visit to all these institutions will reveal how inhabitable they are, as well as the complete dearth of facilities. This is more glaring when one considers the fact that in certain situations the trainees themselves are made to pay for certain things to work with.
There are also contracts that are being awarded on yearly basis for the renovation and rehabilitation of the training institutions, supply of basic equipment such as dormitory facilities and what have you but such contracts only exist on papers. In some cases where supplies were made, such would be replaced later with old ones by the contractors acting on orders from the above. It is also learnt that instead of using the money that is being given for boosting operations and enhancing professionalism in the police, these monies are channeled into undertakings and trifling issues that are not viable.
For instance, it was also learnt that the budget for the years 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, which are over two billion naira for the upgrading of the facilities in the police colleges and training institutions across the federation including Lagos, Kaduna, Borno, Enugu, Oyo, Rivers, Ondo, and Osun, nothing to write home about as they disappeared into thin air. This, according to our findings, is due to the fact that these colleges are just the same with that in Ikeja.
It is also gathered that these colleges and training institutions have from 2009 to 2012 received as budgetary provisions the following sums for upgrades: 2009 – N700 million, 2010 – N759 million, 2011 – N291 million, 2012 – N296 million. These put together gives a total of N2.046 billion.
For instance, in the budget breakdown of 2012, N52 million was provided for motorcycles, N203 million for vehicles, N310 million for vans, and N596 million for armoured personnel carriers; while also the police command proposed for N431 million for arms and ammunition, N84 million for video security surveillance systems in Borno, Kano, Oyo, Edo and Anambra states, N52 million for automatic fingerprint identification system, N84 million for forensic and DNA test laboratory, and N241 million for explosive ordinance disposal equipment for the anti-bomb squad.
Other expenses in the police budget include N295 million for anti-riot equipment, N450 million for bullet-proof gears, N243 million for “anti-terrorism equipment”, N165 million for security intelligence equipment, and N271 million for UHF walkie-talkies and rehabilitation of its outdated analog UHF communications system. The budget for barracks rehabilitation and construction stood at N585 million.
The Minister of Police Affairs, Caleb Olubolade and the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, may also be on collision course over the decay in the police colleges and the control of police funds. We gathered that the ministry has continued to ignore the terrible conditions of the institutions, though its budgetary provisions are made for them annually.
The Presidential Committee on Police reform called for the scrapping of the ministry because it does not enable the police to use its money as it deems fit, but the government has been reluctant to implement the recommendations. This, a source said, was attributed to the fact that the minister is close to the President and Jonathan would not want to hurt him by scrapping the ministry. For instance this magazine gathered that on April 4, 2005, Tafa Balogun was arraigned at the Federal High Court, Abuja on charges involving about N13 billion obtained through money laundering, theft and other sources. He eventually entered into a plea bargain with the court and property worth 16 billion Naira was forfeited to the government.
On April 2009, the House of Representatives Committee on Police Affairs invited Tafa Balogun, Mike Okiro and Mrs Farida Waziri to explain how the N16 billion allegedly recovered from Balogun got missing.
The whereabouts of these monies and property have never been successfully unraveled. Pundits believe that President Jonathan should constitute a task force to unravel the whereabouts of these funds and assets and give instructions that they be applied to the revamping of the Police College Ikeja as the monies were originally meant for that purpose.
In the late 60s and early 70s, it was a neat and prim place. From the outside, passersby craned their necks to see what was happening inside because a lot of activities were always going on there. At such times, the trainees were either being drilled or involved in one sporting activity or the other. At its gates were smartly dressed policemen with batons keeping an eye on those coming and going. They were firm and courteous. That was the golden era of our country’s foremost Police College, which many could not recognize from the Channels documentary. Those who know that place well will sob at its present state.
“As a place where people are trained in the art of dealing with fellow human beings, nothing should be spared in ensuring that the trainees are in top mental, physical and spiritual shape, except if we want them to become animals on leaving the college. Indeed, with the kind of policemen we have these days, I say with all due respect that those being churned out from there these days are no better than animals. Who then should we blame when our policemen misbehave in public? Is it not those charged with giving them the best but who have cornered everything?” said a security analyst.
Speaking further he said “The College is in bad shape today because of the age-long corrupt tendencies of the police leadership and the institutions saddled with the task of ensuring that we have a good policing system. I believe that past Inspectors-General of Police (IGs) and the Police Service Commission (PSC) should be held responsible for the disgraceful state of the College. I don’t know if any of the past IGs passed through the College, but if there is an old student among them, he should cover his face in shame that his alma mater has gone seedy. The deterioration of the College started long ago and it must have been during the tenure of one of them.”
Asking rhetorically he said; “Many IGs would also have come thereafter without doing anything about the problem. The Channels expose seems like a bad dream to me and I have not stopped pinching myself to say that it cannot be true, that the nation’s leading police college is in such a sorry state. Is it that past IGs were not aware of this mess? Is the Ikeja Police College not under the IG? If an IG is not concerned with what is happening in a police college where the rank and file are trained, then what will interest him? What about the PSC? What are the functions of this Commission? Should it not also be interested in the training and welfare of policemen? Should it only be concerned about discipline, appointment and promotion of officers? The rot at the college has exposed the high level of corruption in the top echelon of the police. There is no doubt that in the police budget over the years, allocations would have been made for the college.
What happened to the vote? How was it spent, that is if it was spent on the college at all? With the situation on ground now, President Goodluck Jonathan should order a probe into how the police college got to this situation. The inquiry should go back to the last 20 years because from the look of things the mess didn’t just start yesterday. We must know those who drove the college to the ground and bring them to book.”
Speaking further he said that getting to the root of how the police top echelon nearly killed this famous college should be of more interest to the President than looking for those who granted Channels access to the College; “Those who invited Channels to expose the rot in the College have the nation’s love at heart. How can we say that we are the giant of Africa and have such a good for nothing facility as our police college? Is it not a shame? We killed the Nigeria Airways, we killed the Nigerian National Shipping Line, we ran the Nigeria Railway Corporation to the ground, and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation is virtually bleeding. Now, the Ikeja Police College is almost gone. Haba! What is wrong with us as a nation? Are we cursed?”
A look at the 1999 Constitution spells out in Section 214 that “There shall be a Police Force for Nigeria which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force,” underscoring its importance to a stable society. The United Nations has said that you cannot build a functional state without an effective police force and recommends a ratio of one policeman to every 450 citizens. Yet, the Police Force is grossly underfunded, while the National Assembly routinely raises its own votes. Since 1999, less than five per cent of the national budget has been allocated to the police, compared to 10.7 per cent in 1983. In 2001, Police got N4.8 billion; N8 billion in 2002; and N216.5 billion in 2009, rising to N293.5 billion in 2010. An analysis by a former Federal Capital Territory Minister, Nasir el-Rufai, showed that the total budget for the police sector in 2011 was N328.5 billion; N331.2 billion in 2012; and N309.65 billion this year.
Another report says N700 million was voted for the eight police colleges in 2009 and N759 million in 2010, falling to N291 million in 2011 and N296 million in 2012. These figures are grossly inadequate. El-Rufai observed that based on the budget of 2012, Nigeria allotted N1.6 million per soldier, N9.8 million per sailor and N7.1 million per airman. In contrast, the state allotted only N870, 000 to each policeman. So when you pay a cadet only N3, 500 monthly and put him through the humiliation seen on TV, you will unleash a sullen and dysfunctional officer with an inferiority complex on the society.
However, it is indeed regrettable that the President reduced a grave national malaise to a personal level. He failed to seize the moment to demand accountability from the police hierarchy, the Police Service Commission and the Minister of Police Affairs. It is also shocking that the Jonathan administration is so insecure that it is afraid to let the media freely report their findings at the Police College, Lagos.
The expose by Lagos-based Channels Television of the horrendous state of facilities at the top police training institution raises apprehension as to the capacity of the state to safeguard the populace. The immediate response of President Goodluck Jonathan too has deepened worries, rather than reassured Nigerians that security of the citizens is in competent hands. It is another confirmation of the depth of decay and depravity into which governance has sunk in Nigeria.
The President, as usual, bungled another opportunity to come across as a hands-on leader; his otherwise commendable unscheduled visit to the College turned out primarily to vent his anger on the exposure that he strangely interpreted as an attempt to “embarrass the government.” He told the commandant of the college, I.F. Yerima, “This is a calculated attempt to damage the image of this government. The Police College, Ikeja, is not the only training institution in Nigeria.” He repeatedly asked the dumbfounded police chiefs how a TV crew gained access to the school.
According to a constitutional law expert, Itse Sagay, “He didn’t care that those that are being trained there would come out to be of no use to the country…He was only concerned with the image of his government. That, to me, is a pointer to the character and attitude of those in government.”
Sagay is right. All the past IGs since 1999 should share in this shame. The police, the PSC and the commandants of all police colleges should be made to account for their stewardship. There is too much corruption in the system. This scandal affords the President an opportunity to scrap the Police Affairs Ministry, an unnecessary and wasteful bureaucracy that merely gulps public funds without adding any value to policing in the country. The ministry has lost all relevance, if it ever had any, and should be scrapped immediately. There must be a proper accounting of all funds released to the police by the federal and state governments, corporate bodies and individuals.
Meanwhile, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has said that while President Goodluck Jonathan’s surprise visit to the Police College in Ikeja last week to see the decrepit state of the training institution is commendable, the President again dropped the ball by his comments during the visit. In a statement issued in Lagos on Monday by its national publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said instead of using the occasion to tell Nigerians what his administration will do to uplift the training institution and many of its like across the country, the President chose to berate imaginary enemies who are bent on embarrassing his administration, and also questioned how Channels managed to film the rot in the College.
“Mr. President, those comments were totally unnecessary, and they put a damper on what would have been a great moment for you. A surprise presidential visit is always a good strategy for leaders to see things in their real state, without the usual window dressing that heralds scheduled visits. But it must be properly managed to achieve the maximum effect. Failure to make the best of that moment is akin to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” it said.
ACN said the expose by Channels shows that the media is alert to its watchdog responsibility, hence it should not matter how the TV station gained access to the college or who was behind it.
While the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) also has said that President Jonathan and the federal government would be playing the ostrich if the authorities of the Police College, Ikeja, Lagos, were witch hunted over the report by Channels Television, which exposed the rot and dehumanising conditions under which police recruits live in the institution.
It said the television station, its journalists and other media organisations that will follow up on the story must also not be harassed in any way.
CNPP said in a statement by its secretary-general, Chief Willy Ezugwu, that while the promise by the President to address the problem is commendable, it is disappointing that the exposé by Channels Television is being put down as an attempt to embarrass the Jonathan-led federal government.
The statement said President Jonathan should rather confront the problems of the Nigeria Police Force as an institution head on, instead of reading political meanings into what most Nigerians have always suspected: that a group of people feed fat on the money meant for security while institutions are allowed to rot.
“He should also find out why the minister of police affairs has never taken any tour of the police facilities in the country or why policemen are responsible for buying their own uniforms or why divisional police stations are responsible for fueling patrol cars. It is this kind of rot that has made officers and men of the police force unwilling assassins and robbers who mount roadblocks to extort hapless Nigerians and kill anyone who fails to pay up,” CNPP said.
This magazine gathered that Police College, Ikeja, was initially built to accommodate 700 students, but by the time the TV station focused on it, 2,554 of them converged on the campus like soldier ants.
The windows and doors of the male dormitory 10, which was built in 1940 by the colonial authorities, are damaged and there does not seem to be any move to fix them. Apart from the fact that there is no electricity, students there are bitten by bed bugs so much that their blood stains are on the walls! Since the dormitories have no good toilets, the trainee cops were recorded on video urinating at the back of the building where open sewers send out strong stench. Even at night, they send projectiles of their excrement against the walls. The female hostels are not better either.
The food that the students eat is not fit for pigs, not even prisoners. A canoe can navigate in the stew that our future policemen eat daily! Worse still, over 10 of them share the head of a fish. If it were the head of a whale or shark, it would have been a different matter.
The College, in the past, also boasted of an Olympic-size swimming. Unfortunately, it has become habitat for snakes and frogs. The shooting range where medals were won has also become decrepit. The library where trainees ought to learn the theories of their operations, according to the staff, has become home of archaic material and cobwebs. It was in 1970 that new books were procured last.
However, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission said that the petition from a rights group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) demanding probe into the rot in Ikeja Police College was receiving the requisite attention.
The group had in the petition asked the commission’s head, Mr. Ekpo Nta, to “urgently and thoroughly probe the spending for police trainees’ welfare for the past 10 years; it said it will help to establish whether the money budgeted to improve the infrastructure and conditions of police colleges and trainees’ welfare across the country have been spent as allocated or simply stolen, misused or mismanaged.”
In a petition dated January 18, 2013 and signed by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the group also asked the agency to “ensure that any suspected perpetrators are brought to justice.”
“Recent investigation and documentary by Channels TV showed, among others, that training facilities are in terribly bad shape; that the college is overcrowded (housing 3,000 people instead of 750); that student hostels are in dilapidated conditions and lack beds, mattresses and decent and functional toilets. The poor, dehumanising and deteriorating conditions of the Police College, Ikeja and other police colleges across the country seem to explain why the force has been unable for many years to provide adequate security for the common man and to effectively tackle crimes.”
“The inhuman and degrading treatment of police trainees, as shown by the Channels documentary, also illustrates the deep rooted corruption in critical institutions of government and public services that have been completely neglected for several years,” SERAP said.