The Chairman, Senate Committee on Navy, Isa Misau, who is accusing the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, of being involved in a N120bn-security scandal, tells JOHN ALECHENU the role police play in entrenching corruption in Nigeria
Recently, you accused the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, of being involved in a financial scandal amounting to N120bn. What is the scope of the allegation and what evidence do you have?
I made that allegation because I know that oil companies, oil servicing companies, multinational companies, corporations, big hotels, embassies, oil marketers and private institutions dealing with the police pay for services rendered by the police and the amount is in the range of more than N10bn monthly, most of which goes into private pockets. I said if this money was collected legally and properly documented and accounted for, the police would be better for it. I suggested that instead of the police always complaining about the lack of operational funds, such money should be paid into the government’s coffers so that it can be appropriated. Apart from that, the police are about the only institution you hear that state governments donate vehicles and operational funds to. There should be a way to know what every state government is contributing or donating to various state police commands.
As we speak, there are no records. You don’t know what the Federal Capital Territory Command spends on the police; the same with Kaduna, Kano and elsewhere. You will only see on television that so-and-so state governor has donated 20 Hilux vehicles to a police command. What about operational vehicles budgeted annually by the Federal Government for police commands across the states? There is no state in Nigeria where a governor doesn’t give money to the police on a monthly basis. If we want to get rid of corruption, we must start by being accountable. If a state government is donating equipment to the police, there should be records – records should be kept at all levels. This will reduce waste because when the police come for appropriation at the National Assembly, we will be in a position to say, ‘Look, you were given 100 vehicles in Kaduna, 250 in Rivers and so on.’ As we speak, nobody can tell you the number of serviceable vehicles the police have because they are collecting vehicles and equipment from individuals, states and international donors. Even embassies pay monthly fees for special protection (by the police).
How do you know this?
I worked in diplomatic protection at some point.
How true is it that you and some of your colleagues are putting together a bill to legalise the collection of these fees?
Yes, we are working on a bill. We want a situation where, instead of these fees or levies going into individual pockets, they would be paid into government coffers so that government will have records of what is going to the police, so that it will help in the appropriation process. This money can be used to improve police training, housing and provide equipment to help the police become more efficient.
What is the genesis of your face-off with the police boss?
I was in the office of Senator Baba Kaka, who is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business, when a reporter saw me and said he heard that policemen are paying N500,000 for special promotions. I told them, ‘It is more than N500,000’ because some people called me and said it was even up to N2.5m. There and then, I put a call through to some people who are still in service and they confirmed this to the three of us (present) that the allegation was true and it was frustrating a lot of good people out of service. Even one of the people who spoke said if he had capital to start a business, he would have since left the service. The story was reported (in the media) and the Police High Command and the Police Service Commission became uncomfortable with the exposé.
Normally, it is the Inspector General of Police that makes recommendations which he sends to the PSC for approval. Special promotion is alien to the Police Act and the PSC guidelines. All officers in the Nigeria Police Force are also guided by civil service rules. Within these rules, promotions are based on merit. But most of the special promotions you have in the police today are given to policemen attached to politicians and other VIPs (very important persons). All the policemen and officers being killed in Maiduguri (Borno), Lagos, Port Harcourt (Rivers) and other troubled zones do not get considered for such promotions. When I granted that interview, they set up a funny panel headed by a retired assistant inspector general of police, who is also part of those involved in the whole thing (special promotions) – how can the IGP bring a retired AIG and make him head of a police unit to investigate police matters? The retired AIG sent one deputy commissioner (of police) and one other police officer to my office to engage me. They wanted to know the people who told me what I said. I told them that the people I spoke to are serving police officers and I cannot compromise their safety by giving up their names because I have to protect people who give me information. I have to protect my informants.
What steps did you take after the visit?
After that meeting, I wrote an official letter to the Police Service Commission demanding a list of beneficiaries of special promotions from 2009 to date. The commission got scared and called me through somebody from my local government to say they wanted to sit down and speak with me. But I said I was not going to sit down with anyone because we are trying to reform the system. After this, I don’t know what happened – the retired AIG wrote to me to say they wanted my statement regarding the matter – this is a retired AIG writing a letter to a senator using the official letterhead of a serving inspector general of police. I have a copy of the letter. Can you see the level to which the service has degenerated to? It is like a retired permanent secretary writing an official letter using the letterhead of a serving minister.
After this, I granted another interview in which I said the Nigeria Police Force and the Police Service Commission cannot be judge and jury in their own case. I suggested that the Department of State Services or the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission should investigate the allegation. This got the IGP enraged and he started issuing press statements to attack my character. I have been interacting with previous IGPs, including Suleiman Abba, who was in charge of the security at the 2014 National Conference. My late father, AIG Hamman Misau, retired from the police after 34 years. When he died during the conference, Abba took personal charge of ensuring that the necessary things were done up till when he was buried. I am not an unknown entity within the police.
Concerning the issue of special promotion, when does a police officer qualify for such promotion and why has it become contentious?
On July 11, 2016, I wrote a letter to this IGP in which I detailed information I received about the corruption which has been introduced into the system (police). (Misau displayed a letter titled, ‘Corrupt use, abuse and misuse of special promotion in the Nigeria Police Force by past Inspectors General of Police and the Police Service Commission.’) I wrote that (reading portions of the letter): ‘I hereby bring to your attention, the unwholesome corrupt use, abuse and misuse of special promotion in the Nigeria Police Force…I am particularly disturbed, given my position as Chairman, Senate Committee on Navy, a retired police officer and member of the Senate Committees on National Security and Intelligence and Anti-Corruption and Financial Matters, that this abuse negatively impacts on the level of respect the force now enjoys from sister security organisations due to the apparent non-standardisation of the promotion in the force.
‘Special promotions are understandably given to gallant and courageous officers who risk their lives to serve and protect their fatherland. Regrettably, this incentive given as a motivation has now been bastardised. The records now show that only officers attached to, associated with or related to politicians are now considered for special promotion.’ I went on to say that sadly, gallant officers who ought to be considered for such promotions are not recognised, neither are officers on special anti-robbery operations, special investigations and intelligence officers. The use of special promotion on a massive, corrupt scale started with the curious promotion of the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, and 133 others. This officer was promoted from assistant commissioner of police to assistant inspector general of police within a space of two years by the former IGP, Mr. Sunday Ehindero, and the situation was however remedied by Mr. Parry Osanyande, the then chairman of the PSC who reversed all such promotions.
Rather unfortunately, this trend bounced back during the tenure of Mr. Mike Okiro through the period of MD Abubakar, Suleiman Abba and assumed the worst dimension under the tenure of Solomon Arase. The Police Service Commission appears to have abandoned its core mandate of recruitment, training, discipline and retirement of officers to engage exclusively in promotion racketeering. The abuse of office has not only worsened corruption in the force but has bred animosity among officers, especially those passed over. This has led to lack of capacity within the service, low morale among officers and other policemen, and without discipline, no organisation especially a security agency like the police can function effectively. Some officers so promoted find it hard to give orders to their subordinates, who in actual fact are their superiors. Some have attained such ranks as commissioner of police without operational experience and this has led to a display of lack of capacity when the security of such states comes under threat. The present inspector general acknowledged my letter and called to thank me and even said he was going to set up a committee to investigate the matter. Unfortunately, instead of doing just that, he continued (with the practice). When he did his own special promotion, I even met one of his staff and I said to him, ‘Ah, we are trying to correct this anomaly and you are now a beneficiary.’ The officer said, ‘Oga Hamma, if we can’t beat them, we should join them.’ That was what an assistant commissioner of police told me. This was a man with whom we were fighting the injustice together and all of a sudden he became a beneficiary.
How do you think this issue can be dealt with?
Simple, all politically motivated and corrupt promotions should be reversed. Discipline, training and re-training of officers and men should be enhanced and the welfare of officers and men and their families should be given priority.
Why did you refuse to attend the junior officers’ course at the Police Staff College, Jos?
I am not a magician. If you are working with a VIP, like I was at that time (Misau was the Aide-De-Camp to the then Minister of FCT, Senator Adamu Aleiro), the service normally writes you an official letter nominating you for the course and another letter is written to your principal informing him that the services of his ADC are required elsewhere or that he is being sent on a course, and a replacement is sent to take over. This never happened in my case. I was never informed about the course. They did not post a replacement. This happened in a country where a serving Minister of Justice (Chief Bola Ige) was assassinated because his security details looked the other way, and to date, the security people are facing criminal charges. I could not leave my duty post without proper procedure and no replacement was sent.
The police also accused you of refusing to report to the Niger State Police Command when you were posted out of the FCT. How true is this?
I reported and was properly documented. I gave my letter of voluntary retirement to the commissioner of police. The commissioner forwarded the same to the then AIG Zone 7 with a covering letter that I had submitted my letter. The AIG in charge of Zone 7 duly forwarded it to the IGP and the process was followed through until it got to the PSC – that is the procedure. This was done and I have copies of all these letters. The moment I submitted the letter, whether they replied or not is not an issue; because if they had issues they would have replied to say I couldn’t leave until I have done this or that. After the PSC received my letter, I was given an identification card given to retired police officers upon retirement. I spent 10 years and four months in service.
But you were accused of desertion, with the police saying there are documents indicating you went AWOL (absent without leave). What happened?
The provision of the law when it comes to the issue of voluntary retirement from service is that you give three months’ notice or one month’s salary in lieu of notice and attach it to your letter as the case may be. There is nowhere in the constitution that says you can be compelled to work for an employer when you wish to leave. My employment ended from the point I dropped my letter of voluntary retirement with the commissioner of police, Niger State Command. I paid one month’s salary in lieu of notice.
The police said the letters of disengagement you presented to the public were forged.
If they have two letters, that is their business because I was given the letters in my possession by the same commission. I was not there when they were writing it. I don’t know how they processed it. How can they invite me to verify a document which was signed by a person who has since left the commission and relocated to the United States of America? So, who is verifying the signature? And why are they talking about sighting the original when, four days after, the inspector general declared that the letter in my possession was forged? He wrote the PSC that they should verify whether my letter was forged.
The inspector general of police issued a press statement on August 24 that my letter was forged, and on the 28th of the same month, he wrote to the Police Service Commission to find out the authenticity of my letter. What is happening shows what the police under the current inspector general are capable of doing to ordinary citizens when they are desperate to implicate an individual. If they can do this to a senator you can only imagine what ordinary Nigerians go through (at the hands of the police on a) daily (basis). If it was an ordinary person who came out with this allegation, maybe by now they would have planted a gun to incriminate him for a crime he didn’t commit.
You have been invited by the Police Service Commission. Are you going to honour their invitation?
There is no way I will honour such an invitation. The only people they have the right to invite are members of their staff. They have the right to call serving police officers or people seeking for employment but they have no right to call even a person selling recharge cards on the street. It is an abuse of office for them to invite a senator to present his original documents for verification. It is my personal property.
What motivated you to join the force in the first place?
My late dad influenced me a lot. I joined the force out of respect for him. I was working in Port Harcourt. I had my National Youth Service Corps programme in Shell but my dad encouraged me to join the force.
How did you become a politician?
I have always been a politician right from my days in school as a student unionist. I participated during the (Ibrahim) Babangida transition period. I contested during the era of zero party and became one of the 30 delegates. I have always been in contact with my people. It never crossed my mind to join the police but my dad felt the police was the best place to bring about change and enhance public good. But I have always been an activist in and out of uniform. I have always told those around me that I was leaving the service to go to the Senate because I knew that I would make a greater difference on society in politics because when you are in the police, even when you see things going wrong, your opinion is limited to your rank. I am the kind of person that, once I see injustice, likes to speak out. I found out that the police force was not a place for me.
Where do you think reforms in the police should begin?
No society can make meaningful progress without an effective police system. Any anti-corruption move that we are making will fail without the police keying into it. This is because most of the functions which the ICPC and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission are performing today were originally functions performed by the police. The police must be carried along in this first. The police are the first agency that should be reformed because it is the face of our country for most visitors – law and order are the basic ingredients of a functional society and this is the core duty of the police. If we don’t get it right, I am afraid we cannot get our society to function optimally and this is the truth. What we are doing is not personal; we are after the good of the society, and we must leave behind a functional society for future generations.
As the Senate resumes next week, what do you intend to do about this issue?
I will certainly table it before the Senate. There is nothing personal about this whole thing, it is not the police versus Misau, and it is about the proper use of our resources for the good of Nigerians. This 8th Senate has supported and will continue to support every genuine effort by Mr. President to deal with the monster of corruption. I am confident that when the anti-corruption treaty recently signed by the President with the United Arab Emirate is brought before the Senate, it will be passed.