Shocking story of corruption, poverty, misery, nepotism, frustration, recruitment failure, quota system in police as never been told before by a police boss Retd CP Aghanya says SARS tortured innocent people until they admitted crime they did not commit Meddled into marriage, land disputes, election rigging; lived beyond their means Anambra, Enugu, Rivers, Edo, Delta, Lagos, Abia, Imo had most devilish SARS units.
Reveals why police couldn’t stop rampaging hoodlums during EndSARS protests
Recommends ways for better policing in Nigeria
By Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor,
Nze Ibezimako Aghanya an Indigene of Anambra state retired from the Nigeri Police as a Commissioner of Police in 2009 after 35 years of service. He served in all sections and departments of the Nigeria Police force, from Division, Area Command, Zonal Command, Force CID and Force Headquarters. Some of the important offices, among others he held were, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Anambra state and Commissioner of Police Benue, Ekiti and Kogi states. In a memorandum he has prepared for panels set up to look into complaints against the police and how to reform the Nigeria Police, the retired police officer spoke as one who saw it all in the police force. While lamenting the rot in the police and the many atrocities he witnessed, he agreed that some police officers, particularly members of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) exhibit gross unprofessional conduct of brutality. Drawing from his long years of experience in the force, he listed the numerous causative factors that encourage unprofessional conduct in the Nigeria Police force and makes his recommendations on how Nigeria can have a police force to be proud of. What he said about remuneration of police officers in Nigeria will make one weep for the force. Take this:
My salary as a Commissioner of Police on retirement in 2009 was below 80,000 naira after deductions of tax and Contributory Pension. My gratuity with PENCOM was N15m. I was paid N7.5m while PENCOM retained N7.5m through my PFA. My pension for 9 years after my retirement was N66,000 as a Commissioner of Police after 35 years meritorious service. It was just increased to N109,000 two years ago.
How SARS derailed
The activities of members of the force that amount to unprofessional conduct include: torture/brutality, extra judicial killing, bribery and corruption and incivility to members of the public. All these are disciplinary offences in Police Regulation. I will use the unprofessional conduct in Anambra state SARS as a case study which is definitely a reflection of SARS team in most states of Nigeria.
SARS was created in the 80s to assist Lagos State Command to reduce the upsurge in violent Crimes. Lagos was then the capital city of Nigeria. They concentrated on combating robbery and violent crimes. They had powers to move to any part of the country in achieving their stated objectives. They were professional and well controlled and supervised by their superior officers.
As robbery and violent crimes increased in states outside Lagos, the Commissioners of Police on their own established SARS in State Commands in addition to the Anti Robbery Squad in State CIDs. They actually assisted in Anambra state to reduce robbery and violent crimes but at a stage, they lacked supervision and due to the enormous absolute powers given to them by the CP, they derailed. In Anambra state they started investigating civil matters such as marital disputes, land disputes, activities of Yahoo boys, frivolous petitions from influential persons and traditional rulers against their subjects, assisting politicians to manipulate elections and collection of debts. Investigation by SARS was not by direct complaint from citizens but through petition to the CP but in Anambra state, complaints went directly to SARS. False petitions were written to CP against their fellow citizen on purely civil matters that the person was a robber or intended to kidnap them. Most of the petitions were drafted by SARS officers who were their friends in such a way that the content would have ingredients of robbery or kidnapping so that the Commissioner of Police would direct the petition to SARS. Anambra indigenes offered huge sums of money to the commander and his men. The SARS squad would swoop on the falsely accused person any time of the day. On arrival at the place of arrest, they would shoot indiscriminately into the air and any person seen around would be arrested. At SARS office, all phones were collected and those who were not mentioned in the frivolous petition would be made to pay huge sums of money for bail while the main suspect would be brutalized. If the complaint against the main suspect came from one of these rich illiterates in Anambra, that I refer to as “money miss road”, they would pay the SARS commander to torture the poor innocent person until he confessed for a robbery he did not commit. As a DCP in Anambra state, I rescued a poor boy from extra judicial killing over land matter. Myself and my CP then supervised the SARS squad effectively. On retirement, I have intervened in many cases of brutality by the dreaded Akwuzu SARS in Anambra state. Anambra indigenes contributed a lot to the brutality of SARS against their fellow citizens. It is shameful that the educated persons which include lawyers, rich politicians, top government officials, President Generals of towns and traditional rulers were the ones that made Anambra SARS the monster. I pray and hope that now that SARS has been abolished, they will not shift their wicked act to other sections of the investigation arms of the force and make them monsters like the abolished SARS. The states with the most devilish SARS in Nigeria are Anambra, Enugu, Rivers, Edo, Delta, Lagos, Abia and Imo. The life style of rank/file and officers in SARS team in these states mentioned were extravagant. They built houses and drove vehicles which their legitimate earnings could not afford. They intimidated innocent persons and collected huge sums of bribe in the office and on the highway while on patrol.
In some of the states in the North that had SARS, they were professional, they adhered strictly to combating of crimes and the indigenes never coerced them to brutalize fellow citizens like they did in Anambra state. As CP in Benue, Ekiti and Kogi states, I never established SARS, I maintained the standard structure of Nigeria Police in our force orders. All investigation sections were under the officer in charge of State CID, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, who reported directly to me. I adopted a pattern that those who arrested robbers were different from investigators of robbery cases. Those who arrested would hand over to another team for investigation which acted as a check. The proliferation of independent investigation teams such as Anti Cult, Anti pipeline Vandalization, Anti Vice gives room for unprofessional conduct due to lack of monitoring and supervision. The commanders of these unit are mostly inexperienced junior officers of DSP to CSP unlike in the State CID where we have same team performing the same functions but under effective monitoring and supervision of an Assistant or Deputy Commissioner of Police. Some CPs gave these SARS officers absolute powers that they never took orders from any other senior officer in the command other than the Commissioner of Police.
Pathetic story of Nigeria police force
*Why they could not stop hoodlums who hijacked EndSARS protest
Brutality and other unprofessional conducts are not only applicable to SARS but the entire Nigeria Police Force. It is practiced in the rural Police and Divisional Police stations, State CIDs, patrol men on the streets and highways and in quelling of minor civil disturbances and riot. Government neglect has contributed so gravely to the unprofessional conduct of members of Nigeria Police Force. Some of these factors can be eradicated in a short term. The long term factors will be eradicated by a sustained planning and execution.
Poor salary and benefits: The salaries of Nigeria Police men are too poor if one takes into consideration the onerous job of a policeman. If you take the Inspector General of Police, the Chief Justice of the Federation and Governor of Central Bank, who has a more tasking responsibility? Without prejudice, it is the Inspector General of Police. I wish the Government should publish their salaries so that Nigerians will see the disparity. At the point of entry the salary of a graduate who enlists in the force as an Assistant Superintendent of Police is far lower than his mates in NNPC, Central Bank and other Government organizations. In the case of benefits, because of the poor salary, the pension of police officers, from the rank of constable to Inspector General of Police is simply a death sentence for retired police officers. I will just use mine as an example. My salary as a Commissioner of Police on retirement in 2009 was below 80,000 naira after deductions of tax and Contributory Pension. My gratuity with PENCOM was N15m. I was paid N7.5m while PENCOM retained N7.5m through my PFA. My pension for 9 years after my retirement was N66,000 as a Commissioner of Police after 35 years meritorious service. It was just increased to N109,000 two years ago. Now use my pension to calculate the pension of officers below Commissioner of Police and that of AIGs to IGP. It is a known fact that Military, Permanent Secretary, Jugdes, Professors that joined Civil Service of the federation with the same qualifications like the Police officers, are on consolidated pension but the Commissioners of Police to Inspector General of Police, who by all standards are their equivalent but with more onerous responsibilities are on graduated pension like junior officers. The Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) introduced in 2004 worsened the poor pension of retired police officers. When the Military, Directorate of State Security and National Intelligence Agency protested against CPS, then President Olusegun Obasanjo requested the National Assembly to amend the law on CPS and they were deleted from CPS. The Nigeria Police saddled with onerous responsibilities than these organisations has been agitating to exit from CPS since the law came into effect but it has not been granted up till date. If one does not have excellent reward system after retirement, the tendency for him to involve in bribery and corruption so that he will be able to provide comfort for himself and his family on retirement will be obvious.
Poor funding: The Nigeria Police unprofessional conduct definitely increased tremendously from the 80s during the Military regime due to insufficient allocation of funds. When I enlisted into the Nigeria Police force as a cadet Inspector in I974, I was trained at Police College Ikeja. I had a chalet to myself as a 20-year-old boy with decent food and salary paid promptly. We had quality lecturers who trained us in police duties, laws and topic on abuse of human rights. As trainees, we were taught that abuse of human rights is a serious disciplinary offence in Police Regulation and force orders. The same applied to the recruit constables then. Although recruits lived in hostel accommodation but it was comfortable compared to the current over congested hostel. On passing out from College, you were provided with kits and accouterments that would last you for at least one year before your parent command replaced them annually. Such items were free for Constables to Inspectors but currently they buy uniforms while in training and in their parent Commands. The Commandant had sufficient funds to manage the staff and trainees before 80s. Presently, the Colleges have deteriorated in all aspects that no quality manpower can be produced in such institution.
Additional office accommodation in most police stations are built by policemen, offices are not well furnished and there is acute shortage of barracks accommodations. The available ones are maintained from the meagre salary of occupants. The allocations for maintenance of police building quarterly are grossly inadequate, in most cases you may get for one or two quarters in a year. To worsen the plight of police officers, the housing allowance paid to officers is a flat rate. A Constable living in urban towns like Lagos with very high rent for their entitled two bedrooms accommodation collects same housing allowance as the one living in rural areas. The Lagos Constable being human must engage in unprofessional conduct to be able to pay his rent. If he chooses to live in a satellite town outside the city he would pay transport fare from his megre salary. Barracks should be a must for the Police as a protection for a serving officer and his family.
As a Commissioner of Police in Kogi state in 2007, my allocations from government for maintenance of police buildings in 22 Local Government Areas, with not less than 22 DPOs and other sections including my office was below two million every quarter and I am not sure it has changed for the better now. After deducting for my office, one can imagine what would be left to share to DPOs and sectional heads for local traveling allowance for officers traveling outside their place for official police duties. We also have the running cost for maintenance of the division such as keeping the detention cells comfortable and buying of fuel for generators for the police station, immediate medical attention for injured officer while on official duty, and burial expenses before the official entitlements will be received from force headquarters Abuja. From my inquiry from officers in service the poor allocation under this subhead has not improved. A DPO told me he has collected only N25,000 this year for office equipment and stationery. Apart from Abuja, I am not sure the Federal Government has built any barracks for the Nigeria Police in any part of the federation in the past 20 years.
The forensic laboratory built at Force CID Alagbon in the 80s is in a horrible state. They lack tools to make them efficient including ordinary ink for finger print. There are no trained experts in handwriting, finger print analysis and scene of crime investigators etc. Even Investigators are not properly trained. Detective college in Enugu that should train investigators lacks trained lecturers and poor training aids for such an important institution. It was expected then that by now, there would have been a standard forensic laboratory in all the state commands to hasten investigation and prosecution of cases.
Every police officer deployed for guard or patrol riot duty must be kitted appropriately. He must have bullet proof vest, tear gas, water bottle, electric baton, respirator, raincoat, night vision goggles, communication gadgets. All these operational equipment cannot be found in any state command. The few available may be in only force headquarters, Abuja. There are no rubber bullets and vehicles that are designed to spray water on rioters in cases of minor civil disturbances in any state Command. Even ordinary batons are not available. A policeman deployed during minor disturbances either uses a lethal weapon given to him or runs away to avoid killing anybody, resulting in total breakdown of law and order which happened when criminals took over from genuine #EndSARS protesters and started monumental destruction of public and private property. Police stations were burnt and policemen killed.
Depletion of scarce manpower by irregular posting
As at today, Nigerian Police lacks trained manpower to perform their statutory duties and from the few they have, some are deployed to Presidential Villa, National Assembly, Governors Lodge, Ministers and Commissioners, Permanent Secretaries, Top Federal Civil Servants, etc. Some have more than two police officers each. Rank and file bribe those responsible for such posting to be posted to those areas because they are given extra payment.
Second group that has depleted the number of policemen are Managing Directors of corporate organizations, factories and business premises, traditional rulers etc. One may agree the men were posted actually to provide security, but the number deployed should be drastically reduced per individual and each Institution.
No Prompt payment of insurance and death benefits
Payment of these benefits are not paid promptly and even if paid, they are not encouraging. I was reliably informed that during the Omatse violent riot in Nasarawa state in 2012, about 50 policemen and10 DSS men were killed. Directorate of State Security (DSS) paid the family of the deceased staff N10m each and promised a two bedroom bungalow but it took Police authority time to pay families of deceased police officers less than N3m each and that was after they protested.
Extra judicial killing
A times out of frustrating conditions, Nigeria Police officers carry out extra judicial killings.
Before I was posted to Benue state as CP, five armed robbers raided a household in the night, only the wife and little kids were at home. The five armed robbers raped the woman in turns and carted away some valuables. When I arrived the command, the husband of this lady came to me and told me the story. He was downcast, he said, “do you know they raped my wife. She cries every day”. Through intelligent network an irresponsible boy whom the community and police identified to be a jail bird was arrested with a wrist watch and phone which were some of the items stolen from the house. The boy claimed he picked the articles on the road. After some actions he confessed and named other suspects who were also arrested. The only evidence we had were the items recovered and the confessional statements. Victims could not identify the suspects, no forensic evidence nor CCTV recording to corroborate the confessional statements coupled with the long and poor Administration of Justice due to deliberate delay tactics by defence counsel. If such serial hardened criminals are charged to court, no doubt they may not be convicted, particularly if they have a good lawyer. In some cases the Investigating Police officer, during the long and series of adjournments may go on transfer and other witnesses will be frustrated and may not be interested in appearing in the court because there is no provision by government to offset their expenses. If members of the public became aware that a hardened criminal that should be in jail was free, which was not the fault of the police, they would falsely accuse the police of having collected bribe and aided the freedom of the criminal. It is in this sort of situation that the Nigeria Police a times resort to extra judicial killings. Extra judicial killing is unlawful and should not be encouraged. But in many cases, because of the frustrating factors which I have enumerated above, extra judicial killings are carried out to save millions of innocent Nigerians.
Inefficient recruitment process
The recruitment process in the Police force for the Constable cadre in particular at a time was very inefficient. Nigeria Police became a dumping ground for all manner of individuals. Some officers charged with the responsibility to screen and recruit were collecting bribes from candidates. In 2005, President Olusegun Obasanjo directed the then Inspector General of Police, Mr Tafa Balogun to re-screen those in training and those that had passed out and posted to commands. I was a member of one of the committees under Mr Sunday Ehindero, then a DIG. A lot of discrepancies such as forged certificates, physical disability, false age declaration etc were discovered. Many of them were recommended to be discharged as unfit to be efficient Constables. I do not think that exercise has changed the corruption in recruitment up till the last recruitment. Some trainees who passed out still lamented on how much they paid to be recruited. A driver who passed out early this year told me he paid bribe to be recruited.
Training and retraining
Most police officers posted to Police Colleges as lecturers are incompetent. A times officers are posted to Police Colleges as lecturers as punishment and not on grounds of competence. Serving rank and files who are on promotion courses learn nothing. At the end of the course they are coerced to contribute money for the lecturers and even board of examiners. They are not even paid their entitled course allowance.
Internal corruption / Maladministration
It is a known fact that some officers and men of the Nigeria Police are pathologically corrupt like other citizens of Nigeria. Government factor encourages unprofessionalism in the force but the greed, poor attitude and value system in individual police officer recruited from 80s to present day have elevated corruption in the Nigeria Police to an unacceptable level. The most shameful aspect is that the educated officers are the most corrupt. They coerce and intimidate the junior officers to render monetary returns to them, if they are posted to “juicy posts”.
In State Commands, some Commissioners of Police, many years ago would post DPOs and DCOs to so called juicy posts on payment and a fixed amount will be sent monthly to the Commissioner of Police to retain such juicy posts. DPOs in turn, in a bid to source for returns to send to CP would coerce men posted to crime section, road blocks, patrol duties to render monetary returns on daily or monthly basis. Police men on road block duty block highways with logs of woods particularly on express ways to enable them stop motor cycles and vehicles to extort money from drivers. They demand receipts of plate numbers, tinted permit etc. The most greedy ones ask for receipts from passengers found with valuable property while in transit. They collect phones from young passengers in transit, check the messages in the phone of young men in the vehicles and if a huge amount is found in the person’s account, they will tag him a Yahoo boy. It is not only SARS team that are involved in this unprofessional conduct. Majority of the men from police stations, Area Command, Anti-Cult, state Bops, Zonal headquarters Bops, Anti-terrorist, PMF(Mopol) Anti pipeline Vandalization, Voluntary service (off duty men that set up unapproved road blocks) are deeply involved in this unprofessional conduct while on patrol or static beats on the roads. Some of the notorious roads where Policemen, Military and other services torment innocent Nigerians with impunity, which I have noticed because I go on such roads regularly are, Onitsha- Benin-Ore-Lagos; Onitsha- Owerri- PH; Obolloafor in Enugu – Makurdi. They all have their areas of concentration in order to extort money while on the highway; Police officer (anything); Military men (trailers conveying goods); Customs (imported goods and vehicles); Road safety (Vehicle Particulars); Civil Defense (Petrol Tankers). Produce Inspectors and revenue collectors have also joined in the rat race of extortion from motorists on the highway. I will not fail to state that in the Police force some amounts of money received through this unprofessional conduct are committed to some official activities for which the government has not provided fund but it should not be encouraged.
There was maladministration in the force with regards to promotion in 1983 when quota system was the first criteria for promotion instead of seniority and merit. In most cases officers with the same date of enlistment were promoted three ranks above their mates. There were instances when a junior officer was promoted above his senior in the same section or department just because of his state of origin. Quota system of promotion in the force was obnoxious and discriminatory contrary to the constitution. In 2005, the new Chairman of Police service Commission discarded quota system of promotion, but nepotism, favoritism and bribery became the order of the day. These inappropriate processes of promotion created disenchantment and demoralization leading to unprofessional conduct. Those who were not favoured by the obnoxious promotion lost hope of prospect in the force and as a result chose bribery and corruption to enrich themselves, while some others who had fear of God retired prematurely.
Clamour for state police
In the 60s, when there were three regions in Nigeria, i.e Northern, Western and Eastern Regions, only the Eastern region had no Local Government Police which was being used by the other two regions to oppress the opposition. It was therefore scrapped because it was being used to victimize political opponents and non indigenes or even those who did not belong to predominant religious group in an area. All these indisputable facts that led to the scrapping of Local Government Police have increased and now endemic.
The establishment of indigenous State Police will create a lot of confusion and anarchy. It is not the panacea to the growing insecurity in Nigeria. The best security architecture for Nigeria is Community Policing. As a trained Community Policing Development officer, the key ingredients of Community Policing which are partnership, collaboration, transparency and consent between the community and police will enhance security and drastically transform police as a friendly force. Community Policing is a modern concept of policing in developed world but my proposal will be a model Community Policing that will suit our environment.
I will use Anambra state as a case study. Anambra state government has an approved law on vigilante as an organization to assist in maintenance of law and order. Each town shall pick not less than five and not more 10 able bodied youth from each political ward in the state. The youths are to be selected by each community from farmers, Okada riders, commercial drivers, mechanics and other artisans. Youths who are non indigene but dominant in the community shall also be considered. They will maintain their vocation but will be trained on how to source information by the Police and Directorate of State Security. The law provides for security committee to supervise and receive intelligence information from the Vigilante group. The committee is made up of the DPO of the area or his representative as Chairman and a representative of DSS and other security agencies in the community as well as representatives of towns within the jurisdiction of the DPO. The Committee will design a procedure to guide the operation of the Vigilante which will include how and when to use them for joint patrol and crowd control.
The local government security committee which is non existing should be established. Members of such committee shall be the Local Government Chairman, all the heads of security agencies within the local government, the President General of each Town, the traditional rulers and representatives of other tribes dominant in the local government. Their responsibility is to partner, collaborate and with the Police, direct and monitor the activities of each Community Vigilante group. This security architecture will sustain trust between the Police and the Community and will go a long way to check the unprofessional conduct of the Police and other security agencies in the community. The members of the Vigilante will be paid stipends as may be determined by government to encourage them. This same security architecture will be suitable for the South West states that have Amotekun and the Northern states with Civilian JTF.
To be continued