Premium Times (Abuja)

Nigeria: Police Corruption and Channels TV's Aborted Forum

opinion

"To me, it is the Police top shots that have been befuddled by corruption for many years that they do not care about the type of environment the newly recruited officers are trained."

Suddenly, there was the hype, then the hue and cries, and finally, a dead silence. Perhaps, the above summarises the entire story of the 'scoop' recently brought to public attention by Channels Television, a private television station that prides itself as a force to be reckoned with in the annals of broadcasting in Nigeria. The station has much trailblazing reporting to its credit, which has won it vast audience attention and several merit awards in the past

It is probably these ground breaking successes that fired the management of the station to engage in a very recent conspicuous investigative reporting. Dubbed corporate social responsibility by no other person than the loquacious John Momoh, the Chief Executive Officer of the station, the report centred on the rot that is the Police College in Ikeja, Lagos. The report came in snippets, or what media managers will easily refer to as promos, the forerunner to the main report.

These snippets took the form of showing the toilets, dormitory and the general hygiene of the college. From what I was able to piece together, the president's busy schedule did not permit him a chance to stumble on any of the snippets. Somehow, his attention was drawn to it. Thereafter, he requested for the clips. When he saw them, he was said to have been enraged and livid with anger. Barely a few days after, the President had a scheduled appointment in Ivory Coast, where he was to meet his other ECOWAS brothers on the 'war' in Mali.

As the plane taxied on the tarmac in Abuja before it finally took off, none of the members of the President's entourage had the slightest inkling that the President will be heading for Lagos en route Abidjan. Even when the plane touched down in Lagos, nobody, except, perhaps, the ADC, knew the President's final destination. By the time the President's motorcade got to the gate of the Police College, it was discovered that an "Owambe" party was in full swing on the grounds of the 73-year-old institution. That, in essence, means that an institution for State Security such as the Police College had metamorphosed into an event centre.

That was not the first time such event was being held in the college. While it may be difficult to trace the genesis of such events, it may also be difficult to ascertain how much must have accrued to the College or some private pockets in the past through the staging of such events in such a sensitive place. In these days of bomb blasts everywhere, I wonder why no one has thought it very risky to throw the gates open for all Dicks and Harry in the name of making money. I am sure only a pittance is usually remitted to the College purse while the bulk of it goes into the pockets of greedy officers.

Anyway, the President was no doubt startled by what he saw. The photograph of the visit, which adorned the front pages of some of the national dailies the following day, said it all. It showed the President and some of his aides transfixed with eyes wide open, and mouth agape as he looked at the double-decker bed inside one of the dormitories without any foam on it. Even the iron bed itself had visible signs of old age or was completely disused with its rustic iron going brown all over. The President might not have visited the lavatories for fear of epidemic breakouts. It was in this sorry state that the President fired certain questions at the Commandant, who turned out to be as blank as the President's face as he (the Commandant) could not find any suitable answer to the questions.

Surprisingly, Momoh, Channels' CEO, was conspicuously present during the visit. He must have been jolted to the bone marrow when the President furiously concluded that the documentary was calculated to embarrass the government. Although I did not subscribe to this line of thought, Momoh got the message.

Last Tuesday, the appointed day for the Town's Meeting, which had been scheduled to commence at 7p.m at the Muson Centre, Channels' simply made a volte-face. It said that the event had been postponed. A statement issued by the station said the postponement arose from the need to get all stakeholders involved in the project. That is purely a PR gimmick. That project may never see the light of the day anymore. It is as dead as dodo!

Now, both the Police hierarchy and the Police Ministry are surreptitiously engaged in buck-passing over the Ikeja Police College issue. Perhaps, not many people are aware that the budget of the Police Ministry is less than N500million per annum which is mostly spent on overheads. The jumbo budgets of the police are spent by the Police hierarchy. The Ministry only rubber-stamps whatever contract papers are forwarded to it by the Police. It is very sad that this pervasive rot at the Police College has been allowed to fester for so long without anybody, not even any Police officer, serving or retired, drawing attention to this eyesore.

There is no gainsaying that there is a culture of conspiracy in the police. This culture permeates the ranks and file who prefer to keep quiet even when their cherished profession is being threatened or dragged in the mud by unscrupulous elements among them. The stinking rot in the police is like a sore thumb. Anywhere you go within any of the service formations, you are confronted with gargantuan corruption. Even if you make attempt to complain or denounce this, you are most likely going to be rebuffed, that is, if you are not immediately victimized. It could as well take the form of being framed for any imaginable or unimaginable offence, which may not be backed by any relevant law in the statute book.

Those who are conversant with police operations, viz-a-viz purchase of equipment or contract awards are aware of the shady deals that have pervaded and characterized this department for ages. In the first instance, if you take a nominal roll call of the dramatis personae or those who have held sway for several years in this department, quite a good number of them are very old hands who have manned this department since God knows when. They are the foot soldiers used by successive top brass of the police to defraud the system.

When you go to the Police Central Stores, you will be assailed by the heaps of junks that litter the whole space in the name of equipment and or armaments. Many of them were simply dumped there and are still dumped there by the powerful cartel that is in charge. Quite a good number of them too have outlived their importance and needs, while marking time inside the junkyard that is called Police stores. The fact is that contracts for most of the supplies were awarded to girlfriends and cronies, just to siphon money.

In most cases, the quantities of items are never supplied correctly, thereby giving room for greedy officers and criminal-minded contractors to shortchange the system. And when it comes to the list of contractors, it is another scandal on its own. The contractors cut through every strata of the society - society ladies and women, retired police and military officers, former and serving legislators- all manner of contractors whose major qualification to corner the contracts is their clout or knowing the language of the business - bribery and corruption. They get these contracts but sublet them to capable hands to execute.

To me, it is the Police top shots who have been befuddled by corruption for many years that they do not care about the type of environment the newly recruited officers are trained. What matters to them is the money going into their private pockets than any thought of welfare for their young, upcoming ones. A thorough probe of contract awards and the Police Central Stores, carried out diligently, will confirm this.

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