Minister of Police Affairs, Navy Capt. Caleb Olubolade (rtd)
By Chuks Okocha, Onwuka Nzeshi, Yemi Akinsuyi and Dele Ogbodo
The Minister of Police Affairs, Navy Capt. Caleb Olubolade (rtd), Monday spent the greater part of his day answering questions on the rot at the Police Training College, Ikeja, Lagos, which was brought to the public’s attention after a Channels Television documentary trailer on the college was broadcast last week.
The documentary had forced President Goodluck Jonathan to pay an unscheduled visit to the college last Friday, the first of such visits by a sitting president to the 73-year-old college.
Olubolade’s visit to the villa coincided with the reaction of the House of Representatives, which blamed the decay at the police college on long periods of neglect by the authorities and poor funding.
A senior aide to the minister, who did not want to be named, confirmed that Olubolade was summoned to the Presidential Villa to respond to issues bordering on the welfare of the police force and its recruits at its colleges.
It is believed that the minister was asked to give a briefing on the college as well as other training institutions run by the police and remedial action that could be taken to revamp them in the immediate to long-term.
Attempts by THISDAY to get the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Mohammed Abubakar’s comment on the decay at the college, which he passed through several years ago, were met with stiff resistance by a handful of policemen manning the main entrance, which leads to the IG's office at Edet House, Abuja.
The building was also impenetrable to a few other journalists who also sought entrance into the building.
Several calls to the Public Relations Officer, Force Headquarters, Mr. Frank Mba’s phone line between 10 am and 2 pm were never answered.
However, Mba’s response to THISDAY’s enquiries through a text message was simply met with the response: “I’m not in the office.”
The House of Representatives, nonetheless, blamed the decay of facilities at the college on long period of neglect and poor funding of the institution.
It also proposed a bill seeking to employ public private partnerships for funding not only the Ikeja College, but other police academies in the country.
Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Police Affairs, Hon. Arua Arunsi (PDP/Abia), disclosed this Monday while reacting to recent media reports on the deplorable state of facilities at the institution.
Arunsi said that the committee got to know of the state of the facilities at the police college during one of its oversight visits.
He disclosed that the academy like other public institutions has faced the same problem of underfunding for several years.
According to him, it had become evident that government cannot solely fund the institution adequately, hence the proposal to involve the private sector.
“The Police College at Ikeja is the premier institution for the training of young police officers just like you have the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA) in Kaduna.
“Unfortunately, the Ikeja Police College and even similar colleges located in other parts of the country seem to have been neglected in the provision of infrastructure.
“We have actually been there on oversight and we are aware of the poor facilities. This is why we said that government cannot continue to shoulder this responsibility alone.
“We are coming up with a bill to bring the private sector on board to ensure adequate and sustainable funding of the police college,” the lawmaker said.
Further investigations carried out by THISDAY confirmed Arunsi’s statement that police training institutions are inadequately funded.
The police boast more than 10 training institutions, including Police College, Ikeja; Police College, Oji River, Enugu State; Police College, Kaduna, Kaduna State; Police Academy, Wudil, Kano State; Police Training Staff College, Jos, Plateau State; Police Mobile Force Training School, Ila-Orangun, Osun State; and Police Mobile Training School, Gwoza, Borno State.
Others are Police Detective College, Enugu State; College of Computer Studies, Abeokuta, Ogun State; and other training schools in Lagos, Edo and Cross River States, among other states across the country.
However, in the 2012 budget, of the N308.4 billion budget for the police and its command, only N271 million was allocated for the upgrade and maintenance of facilities in all the colleges nationwide.
In the 2013 budget proposal yet to be signed into law by the president, out of a budget of N311.15 billion, the police colleges got N280.699 million for upgrade and maintenance.
This according to a police source was grossly inadequate to cater to the needs of the four colleges not to talk of other training institutions.
The police source did not only blame the rot in the colleges and institutions on poor funding, he also said that successive regimes, including the IGs, chairmen, Police Service Commission (PSC), and past Police Affairs Ministers had paid little attention to the institutions.
Meanwhile, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) have called on the president to urgently revamp the fortunes of the police force rather than looking for scapegoats.
ACN said the president could use his surprise visit to the Police College in Ikeja last week, as an opportunity to address the decrepit state of the police training institutions.
In a statement Monday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said instead of using the occasion to tell Nigerians what his administration would do to uplift the training institution and many of its likes across the country, the president chose to berate imaginary enemies who are bent on embarrassing his administration, and also questioned how Channels Television managed to film the rot in the college.
“Mr. President, those comments were totally unnecessary, and they put a damper on what would have been a great moment for you. A surprise presidential visit is always a good strategy for leaders to see things in their real state, without the usual window dressing that heralds scheduled visits.
“But it must be properly managed to achieve the maximum effect. Failure to make the best of that moment is akin to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” ACN said.
ACN said the expose by Channels showed that the media is alert to its watchdog responsibility, hence it should not matter how the TV station gained access to the college or who was behind it.
The party said the president could still make amends by making a policy statement on how his administration plans to turn around the fortunes of the police training institutions across the country.
It said there was need to improve the overall welfare of the men and women who are saddled with the responsibility of protecting the lives and property of all citizens.
“Subjecting policemen and women to dehumanising and demeaning conditions, the type exposed by Channels, during training, means we cannot and should not expect them to be exemplary after their training.
“Nothing good can come out of what we saw in that college. As terrible as the state of the Police College in Ikeja is, it represents a tip of the iceberg when compared with the pervasive rot in police barracks and police stations, as well as the generally poor welfare of the police.
“There is no doubt that the pervasive corruption in our country and the lack of maintenance culture contributed to what has now become a global embarrassment to the whole of Nigeria, not just to the Jonathan Administration.
“Therefore, there is no better time than now for the administration to embark on a concerted effort to reverse the rot. It may also not be a bad idea for the president, who was reportedly angry and shocked at what he saw during the visit, to order a probe into how the institution deteriorated so badly, with a view to prevent a recurrence,” the party said.
Also, the Secretary-General of CNPP, Chief Willy Ezugwu, in a statement, said the shame uncovered at the police institution should not be swept under the carpet with ceremonial committees and probe panels as was the case with other similar probes in the past.
According Ezugwu, the Federal Government would be playing the ostrich if there is a witch-hunt against the authorities of the college over the report by Channels Television.
“President Jonathan should rather confront the problems of the Nigeria Police Force as an institution head on, instead of reading political meanings into what most Nigerians have always suspected that a group of people feed fat on the money meant for security while institutions are allowed to go to rot.
“Our expectation is that the Minister of Police Affairs, Chairman of the Police Service Commission, the Inspector General of Police and contractors for the Nigeria Police Force should be made to explain the rot in Police College, Ikeja, and other police training schools.
“If the president is in doubt he should pay unscheduled visits to similar institutions and see for himself that he is presiding over rot.
“He should also find out why the Minister of Police Affairs has never taken any tour of the police facilities in the country or why policemen are responsible for buying their own uniforms or why divisional police stations are responsible for fueling patrol cars,” he said.
Ezugwu observed that it is this kind of rot that has made officers and men of the police force into unwilling assassins and robbers who mount road blocks to extort money from hapless Nigerians and resort to killing anyone who fails to pay up.
He said: “Punishing the commandant of the college or harassing Channels Television is hardly the response Nigerians expect in the face of such national rot. What they want is action and a commitment to halt and reverse the decay that has beset the country.”