President Goodluck Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan, during an unscheduled visit to Police College, Ikeja, lost yet another opportunity to change Nigerians' perception about his leadership, Nkiruka Okoh writes
For the first time in the history of the Police College, Lagos State, Ikeja, a sitting president visited. Not just that, it was an unscheduled stop-over at the college, the reason many people reckoned the gesture was commendable on the part of President Goodluck Jonathan.
It was on January 18, when Jonathan who was enroute Cote d’Ivoire for an extraordinary session of the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government made the surprise visit to the college. His visit was reportedly spurred by a week-long report by the Channels Television which had focused on the deplorable state of facilities at the Police Training College in Lagos and the President, in a statesmanlike gesture, decided to get an unvarnished picture of the state of things by himself.
Apparently stunned by the squalid living condition at the college, the president was visibly angry and promised to rehabilitate the college. “We will do something about the institution,” he was quoted as saying.
Unfortunately, as moving as that sounded, it did not end there. The president proceeded to query the college authorities. His first question was fired at CP Irimiya Yerima, the College Commandant; Jonathan wanted to know how Channels Television penetrated the vicinity and recorded the embarrassing spectacle.
As the question went unanswered, Jonathan then concluded it was a calculated attempt to damage the image of the government because the college was not the only training institute in the country. That spot, Jonathan lost the moment of an otherwise commendable presidential shrug.
His outburst was soon followed by a backlash from the media, civil societies, opposition parties, legal practitioners and Nigerians in general. The comments, many thought, had revealed the thinking of the Nigerian president. Rather than see the investigative report as a challenge to improve the status quo ante as the failure of past administrations and score additional and invaluable points with the Nigerian people, the president messed it up and lost the momentum.
Indeed, there are speculations from various quarters that the college commandant might be sanctioned for granting approval to the television station.
First, many Nigerians are unhappy that the president’s description of the state of the police college was a “shocking discovery” which they maintained was an indication that he had been out of touch with reality as there are other public institutions with even worse facilities. The police college, they argued, was just a reflection of what is prevalent in other places.
National Publicity Secretary of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had immediately lampooned the president and advised the government to abandon its unfounded paranoia that the expose was aimed at embarrassing it, adding that the president’s decision to make the issue personal has hurt his administration, perhaps, more than the expose.
The Ikeja Police College is the premier police training institute in the country, built by Nigerian colonial masters in 1940. Initially aimed at accommodating 700 students, over 70 years later, the college has enjoyed no major development since its establishment except for few face saving renovations and despite that, now accommodates 2,554 students.
Nigeria presently boasts of 7 police colleges, sadly, majority of these colleges reveal the rot in the system as none of them can boast of ultra modern facilities to train and develop their students whose primary duty is to safeguard the lives and properties of Nigerians.
The 2012 Federal Government Budget revealed that the sum of 296,757,230 was allocated for the upgrade of facilities in police training institutions, while the total budget of the police sub-sector in that year was N331.2 billion made up of Ministry of Police Affairs (5.8billion), Police Formations and Command (N307.9 billion), Police Service Commission (N2.5 billion) and the Federal Government’s contribution to the Police Reform fund (N15billion).
The argument, therefore, is that if so much money is being expended on mere upgrade of police institutions on paper without defining face-lift, there is need for leadership intervention.
Complete functioning of the Nigeria Police is subject to the authorities of the Nigeria Police Force, the Ministry of Police Affairs and the Police Service Commission. While Police Force is currently headed by the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, the Ministry of Police Affairs is led by Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade and the Police Service Commission, under the leadership of Parry Benjamin Osemwegie Osayeride.
With defined mission and vision of each of these bodies, one thing is palpable: duplication of duties. Observers, therefore, believed that the police ineffectiveness is underscored by the needless duplication, hence the call for their merger since they merely shadow each other and their duties, overlap. The totality of this is however considered a wasteful bureaucracy that has led to duplicity of duties that control police pensions and contracts awards for some of the police facilities.
Thus, if merged, the savings, it is argued, can be redistributed for effective police operations.
Some months ago, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, at the 2nd Annual Capital Market Committee retreat held in Warri, Delta State, noted that it had become impossible for Nigeria to develop under the current constitution unless it is amended, as it was simply a means by the nation to incur more costs for itself.
The governor went ahead to state that the current political structure was a drain on the national resources and an unsustainable situation; the regulatory and supervisory bodies of the Nigeria Police have proven to be a clear example of Sanusi’s statement.
His gaffe aside, the president has begun to look into the police situation when he set up an 11-member committee to ascertain the amount of funds appropriated by government to the police for renovation of its training facilities between 2009 and 2012 as well as verify the utilisation of its funds, among other duties. The committee has till January 29, to submit its report before the president makes his next move.
Although, this has also been greeted by scepticism as many Nigerians have tagged the Jonathan administration “government by committees” which leads to nowhere; there is the belief that the outcome of the committee report might play a major role in the intrigues that would shape the turn of politics as well as determine the fate of the president.
It is also noteworthy that Caleb had met with Abubakar and other top police officers on how to find immediate solutions to the lapses that led to the neglect of the training institutions. But the afterthought has been dismissed by many as non-yielding. Other questions bordering the minds of observers include whether or not those fingered to have contributed to the rot in the police colleges will be brought to book?
Still fresh in the minds of the Nigeria people is the infamous case of Mr. Kenny Martins, former National Co-ordinator of the Police Equipment Foundation (PEF) and three others who were charged to court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in respect of the embezzlement of N7.740billion belonging to the Police Equipment Fund.
Initially, the case trial at the High Court discharged the accused persons on a no-case submission; the Court of Appeal ordered re-trial. The case was eventually discontinued as former IG, Ogbonnaya Onovo, wrote to the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, urging him to discontinue the case which he said his organisation and the EFCC were finding very difficult to establish due to lack of sufficient evidence to substantiate the allegation as the burden of proof in any criminal case lies squarely on the prosecution.
It was, therefore, the position of the police leadership to withdraw the cases and reconcile the issues with a view to moving the police forward.
As a result, observers believe that the Police College debacle is yet another scam that might go unexposed, since the system has a cycle that protects corruption and might be difficult to break even where those responsible are identifiable.
Indeed, no nation can survive living in illusion and Nigeria is no exception. Observers believe that the sooner those entrusted with leadership tackle the challenges head-on, the easier it is for Nigeria to surmount its teeming problems. The revelation of the rot at the Police training college is a platform to make positive reforms that would give the police a pride of place and the people a measure of comfort in the transformation agenda of the Jonathan administration.
Importantly, many are hoping that the police college story will not remain a sensational news story that would be blown away in the course of events.