COMMITTING CRIMES WITH UNIFORMS

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The recruitment process should be rigorous and thorough

Three policemen in the Ogun State Command were last week dismissed from service for forcefully extorting the sum of N153,000 from a man travelling from Abeokuta to Lagos. “The money was recovered from them and returned to the victim,” said the Commissioner of Police, Edward Awolowo Ajogun. “They were subsequently arraigned for departmental orderly room trial on a three-count charge of corrupt practices, discreditable conduct and disobedience to lawful order.” This is a recurring problem that needs to be addressed more holistically.

Three years ago, the then Department of State Services (DSS) Director of Operations, Godwin Eteng, told a House of Representatives public hearing that staff recruited into the armed forces and other security agencies of government are selling arms to bandits thereby worsening the national security challenges. Eteng further recalled that in an armoury belonging to one of the armed forces, new pistols with quantities of ammunition got missing even though the armoury was never burgled. Yet as scary as those revelations were, they appear to be the new normal as hardly a day passes without some personnel of the security services reportedly being involved in alleged heinous crimes. There are several reports of policemen employed to protect the lives and property of the citizens compromising their responsibilities by opening their armoury to criminals to use against the state. More recently, a Police Sergeant at Oworo Police Division, Lagos and a retired Assistant Superintendent of Police were arrested for armed robbery. In many of the states where kidnapping has become a daily trade, citizens are accusing the police and other security agencies of compromise.

When the alleged kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, aka Evans, was arrested in 2015, an Army Lance Corporal was alleged to have received various sums of money running into several millions of Naira in three installments as his share of the ransom paid by some of the victims he assisted in kidnapping. Three years ago, three serving soldiers from 9 Brigade Military Headquarters, Ikeja and one dismissed Air Force personnel were among those arrested after a robbery operation. The serving soldiers who were arrested in uniform were reportedly handed over to the army authorities at the Brigade Military Headquarters, Ikeja, for disciplinary action. They were tried and summarily dismissed. In the same week, a soldier who left his Division One, Nigerian Army Base, Maiduguri on Absent Without Leave (AWOL) for fear of being killed by insurgents, was arrested while waiting to deliver a stolen vehicle to another member of a robbery syndicate in Oyo State.

Across the country, the prisons where convicts and suspects are sent for punishment or custody have over the years become sources of internal security threat thanks to fire incidents, jailbreaks, and armed terrorist attacks. But, as it also became evident in the 2016 Kuje jailbreak, the most dangerous development is the connivance of some prison staff in aiding these criminals to execute their evil acts with precision. Following the Kuje incident, 14 officers were suspended while the Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prisons Services Board (CDFIPB) approved the suspension of four senior officers. The Comptroller-General of Prisons also suspended 10 junior staff over the incident.

While we reiterate our call for professionalism among men and officers in the armed services, it is also important for the federal government to recognise that there are too many bad eggs within these services that need to be weeded out. But much more importantly, what that entail is that there should be a more rigorous due diligence in the recruitment process so that the state does not continue to give arms to criminals who endanger the society.