19 January 2005

Nigeria: Why Balogun Was Removed - Ehindero Assumes Office

Abuja — FRESH facts emerged to indicate that ex-Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr Tafa Balogun, whose retirement was announced Monday night by government, may have been another casualty of the festering Anambra political crisis as well as a power tussle with some top shots of the Police Service Commission (PSC) and Police Affairs Ministry.

But, chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Alhaji Nuhu Ribadu told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) yesterday that a staggering sum equivalent of about seven million dollars ($7million) was discovered in one of the accounts linked to him. He added that Balogun was forced to retire as a result of the commission's investigation of financial corruption charges against him.

Upon retiring, Balogun same day quickly removed his personal effects from his former office while his successor and acting IGP, Mr. Sunday Ehindero, resumed duty yesterday afternoon to a thunderous ovation from officers and men and promptly unfolded a six-point agenda targeted at re-professionalising the service with reorganisation planned for the Mobile force, among other things.

Presidency sources claimed that a direct fall-out of the Anambra political crisis had led to what was described as "an unnecessary struggle for supremacy between the former IGP and the Police Service Commission over control of police affairs in the country."

It was alleged that the Presidency was becoming increasingly unhappy with Balogun for actions which gave off an impression that he was only answerable to President Olusegun Obasanjo, who appointed him, and not to statutory PSC or Police Affairs Ministry.

Authorities of the PSC and the Ministry, statutorily empowered to oversee the police force, were alleged to have made strong protests to the Presidency over the state of affairs.

A source further alleged that matters came to a head when Balogun insisted that only police can discipline erring officers despite several petitions from the Anambra State government and other stakeholders over the alleged negligence and culpability of the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Felix Ogbaudu in the November 10-13, 2004 arson in the state. The Police Service Commission (PSC) had wanted to investigate it.

Some police top brass allegedly advised Balogun to obstruct same, insisting that only the police can discipline their officers.

In addition, it was also alleged that when the PSC sat a fortnight ago to approve the recommendations for the recent promotion of 20,000 police personnel, a particular top officer (names withheld) in the Anambra State Command fingered by the state government over the November mayhem was also recommended for promotion, but had six petitions hanging on his neck.

The commission was reported to have stood its ground that the said officer's case can be considered only when the petitions are disposed of, a position which former IGP was allegedly unhappy about.

Besides, Presidency sources claimed that a recent speculation which filtered to State House from unidentified sources at Force Headquarters to the effect that the PSC was about to allegedly unilaterally reverse the dismissal of several police officers, made government to begin to think that perhaps all may not be well with the running of the police force in the country.

The sources also alleged large sums of money kept in a private account in a Lagos-based bank and linked to Balogun which made government uncomfortable, as "a consequential but not the main reason" for his retirement.

Daily Champion learnt that the money allegation was never substantiated

Balogun's last moments at work on Monday at the Force Headquarters clearly indicate that his "retirement" caught him unawares, and probably came to him as a shock.

As at 2.00pm Monday, when sources close to Daily Champion placed phone calls to some of the top aides of the former IGP, the response was "the IG was in a meeting with several top officers as a follow-up to some special assignments given to some officers who went to Calabar, and other parts of the country."

Balogun reportedly packed his personal effect out of his former office on hearing of his retirement even as a formal handover was still being awaited as at press time, to his successor, acting IGP Sunday Ehindero.

But police sources revealed that Ehindero may after all only be a stop-gap IGP as he is due for retirement next year."

Ehindero, born in 1946, a native of Oka Akoko in Ondo State, enlisted in the Force as a Cadet Assistant Superintendent (ASP) in 1973. He holds the Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics, and another in Law from the University of London. He was appointed DIG in charge of 'A' Department in March 2002.

Police sources said he is known to be a very strict and apolitical officer.

However, despite his unceremonious exit, police sources said IGP Balogun, the Force's 21st IGP, will go down in history as one of its most educated and finest officers.

Speaking to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Hausa service on the corruption allegations levelled against Balogun EFCC boss, Ribadu claimed the former IGP was forced to retire on account of the charges which his commission was probing.

"It's the work we carried out which led to the government taking that decision," Ribadu said.

He said the EFCC could not give details until their investigation was completed, but bank officials had been arrested in connection with the case.

"As regards the measures we took which led to his resignation, we are thankful to God," he added

Ehindero's resumption which was marked later with a press conference saw Mr. Ehindero warning of doom for police personnel without professional background and saying motivation would be given to professionals to encourage them reach the peak of their career.

A seasoned lawyer, Ehindero, who after officers and men working at the Louis Edet House Police Headquarters, had chanted his praises and literally blocked all entrance to the headquarters on learning about his arrival, immediately went into a closed-door session with all his former counterparts, the Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIGs) before addressing journalists.

Ehindero, who had been briefed on the decision by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) to boycott all police functions because of the January 4 brutality meted out to its members during the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in Abuja, in an apologetic tone, stated that "policemen will be trained on how to treat members of the public."

"We will also look at our Mobile force. We do not need carpenters in the Mobile force. We will weed out those who are not supposed to be there. The management team will look into the composition of the Mobile force, with the view of totally reorganising the force," he said.

The new police boss expressed worry over the level of insecurity in the country, pointing out that the six-point programme which he said would be made public after he had discussed it with the DIGs, would help in advancing security.

Apart from these, the acting IGP, who expressed deep concern over what he described "as the problems that have tarnished the image of the police," stated that he would look into those problems and address them squarely.

He also said that investigation of reports made by the public on criminal activities will take a new shape aimed at achieving better results within the shortest possible time.

Giving an insight into how he came on the saddle, Mr. Ehindero stated that while he was at Jos attending to an official assignment, his predecessor, Mr. Balogun, saluted him in a manner that in retrospect, he felt Balogun knew he (Ehindero) would be made the new IGP.

"But, I can tell you I didn't have a whiff of the appointment. I came to work yesterday (Monday) like I do in my capacity as DIG. I never knew fate has something different in stock for me.

"With every advancement, there is responsibility. I believe I and other members of the management team have this collective responsibility and I want to assure you we can face the task and the challenges," he stated.

While appealing to the public to bear with the Police in their noticed shortcomings, particularly, on the issue of bribes, which he promised to end, Ehindero acknowledged that the police is "a mere servant of the public paid with tax-payers' money."

Promising that public discontent with the police which led to the burning of police offices in some places would end, he appealed for patience and understanding for misdemeanour by policemen, assuring that he would address the issues squarely.

Ehindero stated that with radical reorientation of the police intelligence unit, as well as other programmes to be put in place, "we will bring in place scientific investigation and we want to ensure that all our training institutions are well equipped."

Ehindero also promised to work with and respect the Minister of Police Affairs and the chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC).

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