By Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor
Indications emerged yesterday that the Presidency may have set machineries in motion towards probing alleged mismanagement of about N550 million released out of the multi-billion naira Seven- Cities Project which seeks to ensure that states with high crime rates are provided more equipment to ensure that criminality is reduced to the barest minimum in the country.
The project which will involve states in the North, East, West and SouthernÂ parts of the country was reported to be on the threshold of massive failure with over N250 million of the total budget allegedly spent on consultancy alone by the Ministry of Police Affairs and another N300 million said to have been spent on training of officers and men of the Force for the project whereas, there is allegedly nothing on ground to show for such training.
This is just as security watchers in the country who hailed recent dissolution of the Federal Executive Council by acting President Jonathan, advised him to ensure that either a retired Police officer or a renowned technocrat will head the Ministry of Police Affairs instead of Politician, in the new Executive Council.
Hints of a probe by the presidency emerged following eyebrows that were raised when the Minister of Police affairs, Dr. Ibrahim Lame hastily launched 134 new Hilux Patrol Vans, six trucks (troop carriers) and 600 BMW motorcycles purchased for the Police under the Seven-Cities Project at the Police Headquarters in Abuja, just twenty four hours, before the federal cabinet was dissolved by Acting President Jonathan.
Investigations showed that Police authorities in Abuja were piqued by the action of the former Minister whom they alleged did not carry them along in the execution of the project so far.Â It was also gathered that they wondered where the huge sum of money released so far was channelled to when, for instance, they alleged that in one of the cities in the North, no new building was erected while no allowances were also paid to those the money was meant for in the Force.
These and many more,Â according to sources, made the Presidency to, among other steps, set machineries in motion towards probing the entire project with a view to ensuring that it will not affect the issue of security and Police reforms which it has placed in the front burner.
Meanwhile, security watchers in the country have advised Acting President Jonathan to ensure that only a retired Police Officer or a renowned technocrat will head the Ministry of Police Affairs in order to avoid pitfalls experienced in the management of the ministry so far.
Most of the security experts who spoke with Crime Guard on condition of anonymity regretted that the huge sums of money released by the Federal Government towards enhancing the performance of the Police, have been thrown down the drain as a result of the appointment of Politicians to head the Ministry which they described as, â€œvery sensitive and vital to the development of the nationâ€.
The experts also advised that for effective and efficient management of the huge sums of money mapped out for Police reforms in 2010, the office of the Acting President should place the implementation and monitoring of the reforms and the funds therein under his office.Â Â This, according to them, will provide fruitful results than entrusting it on Politicians.
It would be recalled that the former Minister of Police Affairs, Dr. Ibrahim Lame and the Inspector-General of Police, Ogbonna Onovo have been involved in a face-off following allegations of usurpation of Police powers, suspension of Police vehicle tracking project, hijack of Police contracts, diversion of Police funds and criticisms against the Police hierarchy.
However, the former Minister later stated unequivocally,Â about 24 hours before his removal from office that, â€œ I never said the Nigeria Police was not performing.Â Like the IGP has said, there is no society that is crime-free.Â I want to assure you that there is no fight between me and the IGP.Â The IG of Police can not afford to fight with me and I can not afford to fight with the IG of Policeâ€.