The Police Service Commission (PSC) has approved the reversal of the conversion of 1,060 officers who were recruited as specialists in 2010, Daily Trust exclusively gathered.
Daily Trust had reported in December, 2016 that the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) was spending N1.9bn on the specialists annually. The specialists were left redundant until 2017 when they were converted to general duty.
The latest reversal, Daily Trust reliably gathered, was sequel to a request to PSC by the acting Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu.
Multiple police sources told Daily Trust that the commission chaired by a former IGP, Musliu Smith, last week wrote Adamu, approving the reversal of the 1,060 police officers from general duty back to specialists.
One of the sources said the acting IGP requested for the reversal last month and same was approved in a memo to the IGP last week.
The acting IGP had dropped the hint to reverse the conversion of the specialist officers, comprising DSPs and ASPs in Lagos penultimate Monday, while addressing officers and men of the command at the Police College, Ikeja.
The police boss was heard in an audio recording of the meeting saying, "We are aware that some people entered the force ... converted through what process we don't know but current management team of the Nigerian Police will reverse (it)."
Some officers affected by the reversal told Daily Trust that a Deputy Inspector General of Police ((DIG) broke the news of the reversal to them at a meeting in Abuja.
One of them said: "During our meeting, he told us that our conversion from specialists to GD has been reversed by the PSC. He said the letter was released on Thursday. With this, we are going back to our redundancy. You know until 2017, we were redundant, doing nothing, earning salaries like our other colleagues."
Our correspondent reports that from 2010 when they were recruited to date, the police had spent billions of naira on their training and payment of salaries.
In 2017, the ASPs were promoted to DSPs, while the Inspectors were moved to ASPs. As it is now, a DSP earns N154, 000, while an ASP earns N130, 000 monthly. They have been in the police service for nine years.
How they were recruited
Enlisted in 2010 through a process started during the tenure of former IGP Mike Okiro, the officers were recruited as ASPs and Inspectors. The ASPs were 1,086 and Inspectors 214. Of the 1,300 specialists, 240 have been absorbed into the mainstream police.
However, the specialists, including engineers, pilots, ballisticians, medical doctors, veterinary doctors, forensics experts, ICT experts and hand writing analysts are not being properly utilised, thus they were tagged "redundant officers."
The situation lingered despite undergoing training on police duties such as parades, musketry, weapon-handling, among others.
However, one of the affected officers had in 2017 said that the police authority converted them from specialists to general duty, in an effort to end the redundancy among them.
The conversion was ratified by the PSC during its 28 plenary meeting held on Friday, June 8, 2018.
After months of training on basic and advanced policing, including arms and range drills among other general duty exposures they were deployed across formations, zones and commands across the country.
But a good number of them were, five years later, left without any duty assigned to them due to the fact that they were appointed into the force as specialists but were in reality not specialists.
Square pegs in round holes
In 2016, the officers in several of correspondences with then IGP appealed for some of them to be converted to general duty having read courses that are not compatible with the (specialist) cadre. Their decision was hinged on the need to utilize them to fill the manpower requirement gap of the force in line with the Conversion Requirements and Processes.
"After series of communication between us and the police management we got that approval (for us to be converted). In the police before you can be converted from specialist to general duty there are laid down procedures.
"These procedures are spelt out Order No. 137 and we met all the criteria," another affected officer said.
"After all the screening processes our names were sent to the IGP who approved it," the officer added.
Later in December, 2016 the police authority, it was learnt, after background enquiry, found that Course 1, 2010 (specialist) through which the officers were employed actually qualified professionals like medical and veterinary doctors, pilot, civil engineers, band/music, ballisticians.
The police admitted that other officers who studied courses in political sciences, arts and humanity who should not have been part of the recruitment were now not only comfortable with the appellation of being specialists but disgruntled because they possessed the qualification to be general duty officers.
The police authority further admitted that the officers were not professional/specialist of any trade, lamenting that "the lack of due diligence in our recruitment exercise paved the way for them to come in."
It was also learnt that some officers recruited as specialists get accelerated promotions, making them to outrank policemen who entered the service at the same time.
Move to arrest redundancy
The police management therefore suggested that to arrest their redundancy, a short conversion course of not less than nine months could be organized for them to optimize their appointment.
The police authority after seeking for the ratification of the PSC on the conversion of the officers from specialist to general duty commenced the process.
According to the aggrieved officers, the police authority set up a screening committee headed by a DIG in-charge of Training Department to oversee the screening for the officers, two month conversion training, documentation and induction exercise for the qualified officers.
The officers said 1,062 of them underwent training at Mobile Police Training School Ila Orangun for weeks and Citizenship and Leadership Training at Forex School Port Harcourt between April 29 and June 30, 2017.
The officers said they accepted to pay N100, 000 each as cost for the training because the police authority admitted they lacked the funds for the conversion training.
"1060 officers paid 100,000 into government TSA account for the training," one officer said.
After successful completion of the conversion course and having satisfied the compulsory requirement for conversion from specialist to general duty, the police recommended for an official letter of conversion to be issued to them individually, signal sent to all commands and formations informing them of the affected officers and a letter be sent to the PSC for their information.
Daily Trust reports that the PSC in a statement issued in June 2018 and signed by the Head of Public Affairs of the commission, Ikechukwu Ani, announced that it approved the conversion of 1,060 specialists to general duty.
'We'll seek redress in court'
"Our grouse now," according to one of the affected officers, "is they are reversing the conversion claiming that due process was not followed. What is the due process that was not followed?"
"Proper procedure was followed in conversion of officers from specialist to general," the officers said.
They said reversing the conversion was going to cause a lot of issues at a time the country was battling with rising insecurity and shortage of manpower.
The officer said they plan to seek redress in court should the action go ahead.
When contacted yesterday, the spokesman of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Frank Mba said, "Every issue that has to do with recruitment, appointments or dealing with appointments in the Nigeria Police Force is the exclusive reserve of the Police Service Commission."
He asked Daily Trust to direct its questions to the Police Service Commission.
When contacted, the spokesman of the PSC Ikechukwu Ani said, "I'm not aware that the Commission has reversed the conversion."
"But you should know that conversion in the police has rules and regulations. And if it was not followed the Commission can take a second look on it. But I am not aware that any conversion has been reversed."
Daily Trust reports that Smith had last year warned against the indiscriminate conversion of police specialists to general duty adding that there is official procedure for conversion which should be strictly followed.
"Officers recruited to work in the workshop, signals and other professional departments/units should be left and encouraged to pursue their careers," he said.
* 3 AIGs, 427 officers retire next week
Meanwhile, a total of 430 officers, comprising three Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGs), a police commissioner, one deputy police commissioner, one assistant police commissioner, eight CSPs and 36 SPs are going to be retired next week.
A document released by the force secretary further revealed that 58 DSPs and 320 ASPs are also going to be affected by the retirement.
A copy of the document seen by our correspondent revealed that majority of the affected officers joined the police force in 1984 and put in 35 years in service. However, two who have only served for 33 years are going to be retired on age ground for attaining the mandatory retirement age of 60 years.
On the impending retirement of 500 officers, the police spokesman DCP Mba said the force has an inbuilt mechanism for dealing with such developments.
He said, "Once you are recruited into the Force, the certainty of retirement is as the night follows the day."
He said statutory retirement based on age or length of service never comes to the police leadership as a surprise, adding that they constantly monitor the staff list, establishment list and service record of personnel.