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A Rotten Police Force Is A Threat To Democracy And Public Safety

By Okechukwu Nwanguma

About a week ago, someone called me to confirm the disturbing information he received that the outgoing Inspector General of Police Mr. M.D. Abubakar had reinstated Mr. Sam Chukwu, ‘a rogue Cop’ who, in 2012, while serving as the DPO of Ogui Police Station, Enugu, was implicated in high-level kidnapping in Enugu.

I had initiated effort, and was still in the moves, to confirm this information when the news was broken yesterday by Sahara Reporters, confirming this shocking development.

Nigeria’s police boss, MD Abubakar

Nigeria’s police boss, MD Abubakar

Sahara Reporters reported that Mr. Chukwu was redeployed and now serving as the new zonal provost at the Zone 9 headquarters of the Nigerian police based in Umuahia, the capital of Abia State. The appointment took effect on July 17.

As part of the duties in his new assignment, Mr. Chukwu will be responsible for determining and ensuring disciplinary actions on errant officers.

In February 2012, Justice Afam Nwobodo of the Enugu High Court had issued an arrest warrant for Sam Chukwu in connection with the kidnap, in 2009, of 19-year-old Lotachukwu (Lota) Ezeudu. The kidnap victim, who was then a second-year Accountancy student at the University of Nigeria (Enugu campus), has never been seen since, and is presumed dead. Lota was a friend to Mr. Chukwu’s son who is also standing trial for his involvement in the crime.

Justice Nwobodo had issued the arrest warrant after Mr. Chukwu failed to voluntarily present himself in court for arraignment.

I will be shocked if indeed, the Inspector General of Police, M.D. Abubakar who is due to retire in July 30 – just 3 days away- from the Nigeria Police Force, will know about this. How could he choose to end his career on such a scandalous note?

Why would any sane and moral police chief reinstate a senior police officer who is a fugitive from justice after being indicted for masterminding an extensive list of criminal activities, including running a kidnapping ring in Enugu State?

What makes this development even more outrageous is that whichever authority that may have made it happen just simply decided to mock morality and sanity by deploying the self-same officer indicted and wanted for a heinous crime to preside over internal discipline within the force. What an irony!

The NPF and its oversight agency, the Police Service Commission (PSC) have long entrenched the unfortunate practice of shielding police officers involved in heinous crimes. There is a long list of criminal and undesirable elements within the NPF who have been surreptitiously reinstated and re-deployed after they were ostensibly dismissed or declared deserters. In many cases, such officers were even promoted. This has become entrenched as culture within the Nigerian Police and promoted by the PSC established by law as a civilian external oversight agency with powers to promote and enforce discipline, among other duties.

Nigerians are all witnesses to the fact that three months and half after the former DPO of Onikan Police Station (Superintendent of Police, Adekunle Awe) was accused of raping a female detainee in his office while in police custody and extorting bribe from her before releasing her, and despite overwhelming evidence, not only that the DPO committed the sexual offence, but had committed similar offence many times in the past, the Nigerian police authorities have kept everyone in the dark about the outcome of investigation and what disciplinary actions they meted to the errant officer. Despite the groundswell of public demand for justice, the Nigerian police may have, as usual, swept the matter under the carpet.

We recall that the Nigerian Police authorities in Abuja also claimed that Mr. Othman Abdulsalam, the DPO of the Police Station in Abuja where the six innocent victims of the ‘Apo 6’ were killed and labelled armed robbers, escaped from police custody since 2005 and has remained at large till today.

However, an unconfirmed information filtered not too long ago that the same DPO who was supposed to be facing trial for the murder, along with others, was sighted in a police station somewhere in the North where he is believed to have resumed duties.

While other seven officers involved in the murder have remained in prison custody since then, another senior police officer, Mr. Danjuma who led others in shooting the six Apo traders secured bail since 2006. The case has since then been floundering under Justice Bello and has witnessed incessant adjournments.

In another instance of cover-up and glorification of crime within the NPF, Mr. Bala Hassan, while he was the Commissioner of Police in Rivers state, was indicted in a police investigation panel report for selling some exhibit vehicles while the case involving the vehicles was still pending in Court. The accused person in the case said he later found that Bala Hassan actually personally bought one of the vehicles and sold others to his friends at ridiculously low prices.

Following a petition written by the accused person to the DIG Investigations through the Special Fraud Unit (SFU), Lagos after he was eventually acquitted of the alleged crime for which his vehicles were impounded, the SFU carried out an investigation and confirmed that indeed, the three cars were auctioned during the pendency of investigation and during the period of trial in court. The report captioned ‘Police Investigation Report RE: Case of Conspiracy and Fraud reported against the Exhibit Section RE: Request for Police Report’ with Reference No. CR:3000/X/SFU/ dated 8th Dec., 2010 and signed by ACP Douglas U. Agbonleni, Assistant Commissioner of Police (Admin) for CP SFU indicted Mr. Bala Hassan.

Typically, rather than discipline the indicted police officer, the Police Service Commission under Mr. Parry Osayande redeployed him to the Legal Department of the Force headquarters, Abuja and later promoted him to Assistant Inspector General of Police, a position that makes him a potential Inspector General of Police.

All the petitions calling on the IGP and the Chairman of the PSC to discipline Bala Hassan fell on deaf ears.

Reacting to the failure by the PSC to act on the findings of the police report which indicted Bala Hassan and the further decision by PSC to promote him despite his indictment for ‘conspiracy, forgery and stealing’, NOPRIN said that it ‘considers it an act of debauchery that the PSC could promote such a man who carries a heavy moral baggage rather than sanctioning him, as deterrence. Ironically, ‘according to a statement by Ferdinand Ekpe, Chief Information Officer of the Commission, the elevation of the senior officers (including Bala Hassan), which is in furtherance of repositioning the Personnel Management Affairs of the Nigeria Police Force, is aimed at giving the nation the security organization it truly deserved.’

Emboldened, Bala Hassan hired some hatchet writers who launched media attacks on NOPRIN and Punch Newspapers for reporting the matter. However, they failed to address the substance of the issue raised.

The list of similar acts of debauchery within the Nigeria police force is endless.

Recently, Mr. Mbu Joseph Mbu, while he was CP Rivers State, engaged in reckless acts of partisanship and abuse of office- inconsistent with the principles of neutrality and professionalism required of a police officer in dealing with citizens. The details are too fresh to be rehashed. Again, rather than discipline him for his clear acts of misconduct, the PSC in utter disregard of public demands on it to discipline Mr. Mbu, rather redeployed him to FCT where he has continued with his excesses. There are reports that Mbu is in the list of officers being considered by the Presidency for appointment to replace the outgoing IGP, M.D. Abubakar. If this happens, it will not be strange as it will be consistent with the tradition of rewarding corruption, crime and misconduct in the Nigeria police force.

However, the consequences of this for democracy and public safety are too obvious and too dire to ignore.

With its type of police, Nigeria’s hope for safety and security is illusory. Its fragile democracy is gravely threatened.

By Okechukwu Nwanguma


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