Ehindero in Punch February 2005
December 28, 2006 | posted by Nigerian Muse (Archives)

Sunday PUNCH, February 06, 2005

I warned Balogun about the shoddy handling of investigations into high profile murder cases – Ehindero

Newly-confirmed Inspector General of Police, Mr. Sunday Ehindero, in this explosive interview, gives details of how the former IG, Tafa Balogun, shot himself in the foot with his allegedly warped administrative strategies. He spoke to ROTIMI WILLIAMS. Excerpts:

We have heard many versions of how you received the news of your appointment as the acting Inspetor General. Some said you were called to the Villa from your office by the President, while others said you were already in the Villa waiting the former IG, Tafa Balogun, who was summoned by the president. What’s the true position?

I have read so many versions but not one was correct. What happened was that, I was not in Abuja when the appointment was made. I was in Jos, Plateau State, interviewing some of our officers, especially the Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs), who were to be promoted. Those were sergeants and inspectors who were to be promoted to the next rank.

You have not told us how you received the news?

Well, I was not called to the Villa as being speculated. I heard the news on the 9.00pm network news on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). The truth of the matter is that the former IG was aware of my trip to Jos. In fact, he delegated me to go. It was an official assignment which the former IGP was to have attended, but he personally asked me to proceed to Jos. And when your boss gives you a directive, who are you to refuse?

What was your feeling when you confirmed it? Were you prepared for such a herculean task?

I will start by telling you that every senior police officer is a potential IG. You are trained in leadership. I have always, though by the grace of God, been facing challenges and succeeding right from my early days in the force. Initially, when the news came, I felt happy and elated that the government, especially the president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had deemed it fit to appoint me. But, I was also aware of the added responsibility of repositioning the police from what it was. The first thing I did was to go down on my knees and pray to the Almighty God to give me the strength, courage and discipline to cope and steer the ship right, and also cope with the demands of the office.

Specifically, give us a wholistic view of the force today. The genesis of the rot, indiscipline and corrupt tendencies that are associated with the institution.

Well, the police of today, at least, since my appointment, is taking a new drive with a philosophy, a philosophy, which ought to have been the organisation’s philosophy, but was, unfortunately, not; the philosophy of policing with the notion of justice, fairplay and the pursuit of common good as its motto. In other words, we should have a force which strives to keep to the principles of effectiveness, accountability, and responsiveness to the yearnings of the Nigerian people. When we police, we should police because we want the people to be happy; we want the Nigerian people to be able to sleep with their eyes closed; the people should feel that, at least, they are being taken care of, because policing is about care and not only about law enforcement.

I do not know how you want to do it, but it had always been difficult restoring the pride of the police. Why is it so?

You know, the nature of our work, at times, puts us in a dilemma. When you were in secondary school, you would like the food prefect portfolio more than the labour prefect because of the incentives or advantages derived. So, you do not like somebody who watches and controls your activities. But, all the same, the way you do your job of policing will endear you to the people. If you police with care, with the rule of law in mind, with the fear of God, the people will respond positively. When you do not extort money from them, you do not kill them carelessly, harrass, intimidate, bully, detain unjustly, of course, Nigerians would appreciate your job. So, we want to remove all those bad practices that painted us in bad picture, and to encourage some of the good practices that we have in the force. Of course, you know, we have good practices, which were, most times, buried. We want to bring them out and exhibit them for the world to see. Not all the policemen are bad. In fact, majority of them are good. All they need is just the encouragement from the leadership, to exhibit those good traits. No doubt, we have a few bad eggs. Even in the industries, when you manufacture goods, there comes a time when some of the goods becomes defective. So, what do you do? You remove them and allow those goods that are in perfect condition to be processed out. So, it is with the police. We are weeding out the bad eggs in the force. That is one of the major things we shall embark upon.

What gives you the optimism that you will succeed in your highlighted reform programmes, especially your 10-point agenda?

You must have an objective in life; you must have a signpost. If you have no objective, you will be blown away by the wind. I have always been lucky, through the grace of God, that even when I started going to court and prosecuting in the High Court, it was a pioneering experience which no other policeman had done before, and we succeeded. Now, so many policemen are in different courts, even at the Supreme Court. So, I think, it is God’s virtue and providence that gave me the courage to be able to put my feet on the sands of time.

So far, what have you discovered as the fundamental problems with the police? Is it in terms of funding, manpower, logistics, because, at times, it is difficult to differentiate between area boys and trained policemen? Also, the level of indiscipline and corrupt practisces seems to be so high and uncontrollable?

The problems of indiscipline and corrupt practices is basically those of the leadership. If the leadership is upright and steadfast, who is that policeman that would go against the directives of an upright officer? You dare not do it. The fundamental problems could be categorised into human and logistics. And, if you talk of the human aspect, you are talking of indiscipline, corruption, and unprofessional conduct. So, if we are able to train our men and inculcate discipline in them and encourage them to eschew corruption and other vices, we would have gone far in training our men. We would have made them thorough-bred and real professionals, skilled ones for that matter, who will perform their duties with sensibility and sensitivity. Then, we would have got the police force of our dream.

But various police authorities and top officers, up till now, often complain of shortage of manpower? With your new philosophy, would the problem of poor quality of men be tackled?

You will find out that the quality is not really the optimal need. The mere fact that you increase manpower does not follow that crime will be reduced. But if you have an optimal manpower also equipped with the required logistics to perform their duties, and they are trained and motivated, of course, you will get the best results. So, there must be motivation. I must say that the present administration has done so much to bring the police to the level it is now. At one stage, we were 110,000, but now, we are about 320,000. So, we have increased the manpower to a level. What is needed now is for us to train them properly and make sure that they have the capability to be able to perform their duties.

A few days ago, you announced the suspension of recruitment into the various police colleges. What gave rise to such an action, less than a week after you took over?

It is unfortunate, some of the discoveries we made. We have people who should not be in the force, in the first instance. Some of them are under-height, that is less than the required height, and these set of people scaled the recruitment exercise, in breach of the regulation. We also had cases where some of them are not literate enough to be in the service. We have reports of some who could not be said to have got proper documentation that they possess. So, we are bound to weed some of them out and to ensure that those currently in training institutions have the requisite qualifications to be there.

What happens to those in these categories you have enumerated, who are now full-fledged officers?

Do not forget that we carried out some screening exercises across the country of those recruited about five years. As at now, a lot of them are still outside. We have not recalled them. But, I tell you, the screening exercise will be intensified and we shall finalise our reports and ensure that the objectives of the exercise are completed, once and for all.

A lot of people believe that the problem with the police actually began when the police was centralised, giving rise to the current agitation for regional police. Don’t you feel that the agitation is timely?

I do not know. What those who are agitating are talking about is the control. They want the state police commissioners to take instructions from the governors and not to refer to the IG. Of course, you will find out that we have not reached that stage in our development. We had experiences in the past, when that was the situation in the 60s, and the governors then misused those powers to terrorise opponents. I hope we are not going to that era again. Of course, there are so many structures of police. If you go to Australia, the country though, has a state police, but still maintains a federal force with jurisdiction on specific areas. Even in Britain, for instance, though, it is having a sort of local police force, it is now thinking of a national force and their police forces, which were initially over 180 are now reduced to just 43 forces. So, they are moving gradually towards a national police force, instead of the local ones.

Recently, you announced a 10-point reform strategy. What is new in that? Don’t you see this is an old wine in a new bottle?

You must have some ideological foundations to enable you move forward from a stagnant position. This propels you. If, for instance, the motto was “fire-for-fire,” as we met it, we wanted to change that aspect and perception. Fire-for-fire has achieved its objective, at least, to some extent. We want a police with integrity; we want to project the context of policing with care. In other words, we want to serve and protect with integrity. So, we are emphasising integrity as a key issue to whatever we do.

How feasible is it for you to turn around the force, in view of the peoples’ perception? Nigerians seem to have lost confidence in the police. How do you intend to change this perception?

Let me tell you that perception is something. It is not a reality in real terms. You can change somebody’s perception in a number of ways. We started the community policing in Enugu State, and it changed the peoples’ percpetion about the police, at least. People are now willing to move close to the police and give information and lay complaints and be confident that they would be looked into. So, the percpetion of the people will change once we are positive ourselves and vigorously pursue some of the changes. We shall give the community policing a new focus and dimension, and bring it within the philosophy that we have set for the new police.

I want you to give an honest assessment of the conditions of service of your men?

I will say that the condition of service that we have has been so much improved upon, better than what we had before 1999. The present administration has been able, not only to bring the force to a state of readiness, but also able to provide welfare facilities for the Nigeria Police Force. Of course, we have problems in terms of accommodation. Less than 30 per cent of our men are quartered, and to that extent, accommodation is a major problem. So, also we have problem of communication, even logistics in terms of vehicles. But the Federal Government did well by providing for us more than 1,500 peugeot cars and these vehicles have been assisting us in our operations. But, again, we need more than that. When we calculated what the police need, in terms of vehicles, starting from the police stations, it was collossal.

Why don’t you be specific? Give an insight into your findings and needs.

It is there. But if you look at it, just the vehicles we need alone is running into billions of naira. You know, in Nigeria, we have competing state interests. I am sure that by the time some of the things we demanded for, llike having the Police Trust Fund, are put in place, it will be a different ball game. We do not want to know how the funds are administered or utilised. All we want is that, we should get the needed vehicles, be able to train the manpower, we have to achieve results and so on.

It is interesting that you never mentioned the improvement of the welfare package for your officers and men, because these are the men you will rely upon to implement your programmes, to redefine and reform the police. Does that mean you are satisfied with the peanuts being paid to them as monthly salary?

I was coming to that before you interjected. I want to let you know that the welfare of my officers and men is paramount to us. We are not supposed to be saying some things in the public, especially efforts put in place to improve the welfare of police officers. A lot is going to happen very soon, but, to answer your question, the current take-home package may not be enough because of inflation and other economic indices. But, invariably, I know that the government is calculating the effect of inflation on the wages and, at the appropriate time, we will do something about it. That is all I can say, for now.

Don’t you feel some of these problems you have highlighted could be responsible for the agitation of some of your men, especially the junior officers, who recently wrote a petition to the Federal Government, asking for a better package?

I do not think, as disciplined officers, that was the proper channel. There are channels through which you could send your complaints, and they would be looked into. Gone are those days, in the police, when you start witch-hunting your men for expressing their views. There is a feedback mechanism, which a responsible senior police officer should effectively utilise, to achieve results. If you do not allow your subordinates to air their feelings, the end result is always not palatable. But such expressions should be conducted reasonably, responsibly and normally.

Do you want them to follow such procedures when efforts in the past seemed not to have yielded any results?

You said, in the past. That was then, not now. They know that they are free to express feelings, genuinely. We shall sit down together and see them through. If you have a child or children, who are inquisitive, it is your duty, as a parent, to explain these things to them properly. But, such inquisitiveness must be responsibly channelled.

I want you to respond to specific allegations made against you by the junior officers in the petition last week. First and foremost, they want the Federal Government to investigate you, also for what they called ‘financial deals’ when you were the Commandant of the Police College, Ikeja?

We shall be dealing with the allegations one after the other. What are those deals? You see, that is what I mean by saying that the petition writers were not reasonable in their actions. They broke all the rules of decency and even fabricated lies in order to justify their position. But, we shall treat them as our children. This is democracy and everybody has a right to say anything. The truth is that, I was never, at any time, the commandant of any Police College in this country. I was only the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) at the Advanced Training Wing of the Police College, Ikeja, Lagos. I was never a votes controller. The commandant was the person who had the power to control funds, not myself.

Does that mean you had no money voted to your office to run the place?

At all! I had no funds that I controlled. So, it was not true that I misapplied or misappropriated police funds. You can make use of something you have, but do you make use of something you don’t have?

The officers claimed that the records of your financial dealings then are there for anybody to go through. Do you want such books to be made open?

That is even good. You do not need to trouble yourself much. The records are there for everybody to see. If it is there, who was the commandant and who got what? That is why book-keeping is very important. As the Commandant of the college, you are in total control, you determine what you spend your money on. I was never a commandant of any police college. So, you can see that those allegations were fabricated. They should have checked properly before writing. I was never at any time a commandant.

The officers also raised issues based on your dignity and integrity. They raised a fundamental aspect bordering on the fact that you were part of the administration of the former IG, Tafa Balogun and that you would not be better than him, since you could not totally exonerate yourself from his wrong doings?

Yes. If they said I was part of the administration, yes, but to what extent was I or any of the other DIGs involved in the decision that culminated in the deals and dealings that have been highlighted? But, honestly, I was ignorant of the goings on and on a lot of things that had to do with finance. I did not know what was really going on. I was left in the cold and cooler, along with my other colleagues. It was a one man show.

Don’t you feel that your response is unbelieveable, because you were the Number Two man to Tafa Balogun. Who would believe you, because you were his second-in-command until your recent appointment? Except you said that you were in the know up to a particular point in time. But that you knew nothing of Tafa’s financial dealings remains unbelievable, especially to curious Nigerians?

Yes. I was the Number Two man on paper. You see, it was a matter of style. The office of the IG has enormous powers and he can use it the way he wanted. He was doing it his own way; only he knew all about police accounts and finances. You know, police, as an organisation, is a very disciplined set up; it could be tantamount to gross insubordination when you want to know what is beyond you.

And you and other DIGs played along for almost three years?

We are disciplined officers. There are ways you complain to your superiors. You do not just start asking questions. You have to respect a constituted authority. But, even at that, we, especially the DIGs, at every opportunity, also complained to the former IG about how the police was being administered. We said that things were sliding, that there was high levels of indiscipline and corruption which had further dented our image, that we were in a precarious situation, which needed an urgent address. We even went further, advising him on what and what to do. But, all that fell on deaf ears. But, at a stage, late last year, I was very worried and concerned about what had become of our police, to a point that I wrote a memo to him, precisely in November, telling him that things were drifting and that the police needed a surgical operation. I raised several of the anomalies and told him that those things were seriously affecting our image. I sent copies to all the DIGs at that time.

He, the former IG, sent a copy to the DIG in charge of ‘D’ Department. I do not know what that meant. I specifically asked that we needed to reorganise our investigation department. It was getting to an alarming situation the way high calibre and sensational cases were being handled and bungled. Some of the cases were taken from us as a result of controversies trailing the poor handling and given to sister organisations. This portended a great danger, and it was an indictment on the police, especially the leadership. It was an issue bordering on capability. It was a shame that we could not investigate simple cases of murder, fraud, assassinations and similar offences without people raising eyebrows.

I had taken time not to write him before November, so that I could not be accused of being egoistic. But, I could no longer stomach what was happening. Indiscipline was at its highest level when you see junior officers bypassing their Commissioners and Assistant Inspectors-General, and gaining easy access to the top hierarchy; where simple instructions could not be given to your subordinates. I defied a lot of things and decided to write an official letter to the former IG. It came to a stage I felt I needed to write him and also tell him what reforms should be carried out in the police.

Was there any response?

There was no reaction from the expected quarters, but there were reactions elsewhere. People wanted to see the memo, and they thought it was alright. I was of the feeling that the former IG ought not to have set up any monitoring unit which was answerable to him alone. The unit was hijacking cases from everywhere, including the states and making a mess and mockery of such sensitive matters. Some of the terrible names and image we had then came about because of the former IG’s monitoring unit. And when I came in, the first thing I did was to scrap the thing, which had become a cankerworm and disease to the police. I immediately restored pride into the police investigation unit by immediately restoring the DIG in charge of the department back to his former position. Though he was supposed to be the head, a DIG for that matter, but what did we find? He was made a stranger in his own department by very junior officers, thereby rendering him irrelevant. The whole thing was turned upside down. What the monitoring unit was then doing, the DIG was ignorant of them all. He was supposed to be reporting to the IG directly about cases being handled. But, you can only report what you are aware of, for God’s sake. That cannot continue; we cannot have such an outfit, like a monster.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) currently investigating the former IG for alleged sundry financial dealings said that he has billions. You, being his number two man before things fell part, how much are you worth, in naira and kobo?

You should put me on the scale, how much am I worth? It is not for me to say it. What is value, I am not a commodity? Frankly speaking, I am not a corrupt police officer. Ask any police officer. It is a known fact. They will tell you. I will never do it, to dip my hands in the people’s money and put it in my pocket? Allowances meant for these poor boys, to deny them of it? I will never do it. Shouldn’t I be grateful for the Lord’s mercies on me? That is enough for me than doing any nasty thing, especially concerning money kept in trust. God will never forgive anybody who does that. I will never do it or conspire with anybody to do it.

What happens, if the EFCC eventually mentions your name in any of the alleged dealings?

To God be the glory, I am not such an officer. The EFCC cannot mention my name because I will never do it. Let them investigate thoroughly. If they ever trace any of the alleged monies to me, or show any conspiracy on my part, I would not only resign, but also subject myself to thorough investigation. I did not dip my hands into public money or became corrupted when I was rising as a senior officer. Is it now that you think I would do such dirty and nasty things? My name is important to me. I had every opportunity to be rich fraudulently, especially when I was the commissioner in charge of the Legal Department. But I refused to be corrupted. Instead, I chose the righteous way. Let me give you a typical example: When I was in charge of the Legal Department, there was this 419ner, very popular, who had a case that we were handling. He came to me on a particular day offering me a huge amount of money in hard currencies. I told him to sit down. He never knew when I called in men from the X-Squad, who arrested him. I prosecuted him in court and he was jailed. If I can do that then, when I was just rising, do you think it is now that God has been so merciful to me that I will change for the worse? God forbid!

You have to leave a legacy. That is what I want to be known and remembered for. I had drummed it into the ears of my officers and men. Anyone caught, especially the senior officers, will pay dearly for it. I have also warned them, that I do not need any returns from anybody. I held meetings, this week, first with the AIGs, CPS and other top officers. Then, with the Assistant Commissioners in charge of the state CIDs, and lastly with the other officers and the rank and file, who were moved to the force headquarters. I have also told the junior ones not to render any returns to their officers at the station. Any officer who demanded for bribe, returns or what name they call it, should be reported to me promptly and see what will happen. A special post office box has been opened for that purpose, just for junior officers’ complaints. We are putting all these things in place and, by the special grace of God, we shall achieve results.

I see the revelations by the EFCC as a serious issue. If it were true that the former IG had such an amount in his bank accounts, how was he able to do it?

I was the DIG in charge of administration. Normally, by virtue of my position, I was to be DIG in charge of administration and finance. That was what the office says. But the instruction I got from the former IG was that, I was DIG (Administration) and not Finance, and that he had taken over that function. So, I knew nothing about the police finances. He, the former IG, kept the portfolio under his office. He was dealing directly with monies meant for the police. He alone decided what to do with the money. Like I told you, you have to show respect for your boss, since he told me that was what he wanted, I had no complaints.

Why were the police finances supposed to be part of your responsibility?

That was what was obtainable and what I thought I was until he called me to his office, directing me to hands off and handover my responsibilities to him. He told me I was no longer in charge of finances, so I kept off. It went further than that. Even when it came to the issue of Tenders Board Committee membership, of which I should have automatically been a member, as the number two man in the police, he also warned me to steer clear. He told me, point blank, that I was not to be in the Tenders Board, and that I should not be seen at the Board’s meetings. I also backed off. You know, the Tenders Board is saddled with a wide-range of responsibilities, bordering on money and how it is spent. The board considers and approves what projects or contracts are to be embarked upon; who gets what, and how much to be paid.

As the number two man, what, then, were your responsibilities?

He, the former IG, directed me to be in charge of disciplinary matters, as it concerned officers, that is the Force Disciplinary Committee. I took it and I was in charge of discipline, looking at cases of dereliction by officers. The former IG was in command of the force, and whatever he wanted, he did. The force discipline that I have gone through for over 32 years will not bring me in conflict with my boss, even out of office.

The feeling of the people is that the police stinks and it is rotten. You, within days of assuming the leadership of the force, announced what you regard as your reform programmes. Isn’t it like putting the cat before the horse? Why didn’t you carry out internal purge and cleansing first before this outward approach?

Well, if you do not use integrity in effecting the changes, you will be back to square one. You, first of all, show by example and let people see. Show evidence of integrity and let it guide you the way you make changes. Then, the people will believe you. Integrity is paramount in whatever one does.

Let’s talk about some of the sensational cases which the police investigated but are believed to have been poorly - handled. The Okija shrine case in particular. There were reports that money exchanged hands between some of the suspects and the police and that some of the arrested men were released in suspicious circumstances?

Very, soon, you will hear from the police. Although, I knew one or two things about it initially, but, all that I knew was the part of sending forensic experts to go and examine the exhumed bodies. And, immediately the former IG came back, we handed everything back to him. But now, I have asked the Investigation Team to provide answers to my enquiry on the matter, so that I can given directives on what should be done. I assure Nigerians that, between now and the next 10 says, the police will take major decisions.

Will your decision include publishing the true identities of those who patronised the shrines?

Wait and see.

In the next few weeks, which will be definitely critical for you, what do you want Nigerians to expect from your leadership?

I want my people to come and tell me the reaction of my men, especially the mobile officers, on the road, whether they have changed from what they used to do. I want Nigerians to be able to assess to what extent I have been able to meet the set objectives as they relate to our 10-point programme. In other words, we want to know whether the state CIDs, the various police stations are responding to the change or whether they are still collecting money as they used to do. We have started. By Monday (tomorrow), the management team will start the tour of Zone 7, including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. And when I get here, I will do so many things that I wouldn’t say here to ensure that the orders are complied with. I will be visiting stations unannounced. I intend to see neater police stations and not those littered with illegal, seized vehicles. From there, I intend to move to Zones I and II and to the 12 zones.

Will this police be better than what Nigerians used to know it to be?

Today, I am assuring the people that this country will have a better police very soon, because we are determined to ensure that our system of policing is improved upon. Take me for my words.


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