Police IGP, Usman Baba
IGP addressing officers in Enugu

OBINNA EZUGWU

Nigeria’s security challenges have proved intractable for over two decades; from militancy in the Niger Delta which came into full bloom in the early 2000s with telling impact on the country’s economy, to Boko Haram in the Northeast, which started its bloody campaign for caliphate in 2009, to banditry in Northwest and North Central, fuelled by rivalry between the nomadic Fulani cattle herders and mostly Hausa sedentary farmers over land, among other factors, to the increasingly violent pro Biafra agitation in the Southeast and unending attacks on farming communities across the country by militant herders, the country is tittering on the brink.

Among all, however, banditry in the Northwest is emerging to be the epicenter of the security crisis, one that has been characterised by mass murder, kidnappings of villagers, students, travellers, among others, as once again, highlighted by the killing last week, of over 200 villagers in Anka and Bukkuyum districts of Zamfara State by more than 300 bandits who stormed the area motorcycles on Tuesday and carried out attacks through Wednesday to Thursday.

Following the massacre of over the three days, President Muhammadu Buhari, on Saturday, for the umpteenth time, vowed to hunt down and eliminate terrorists, what has continued to prove difficult for him to do since came to power in 2015, promising, among other things, to bring insecurity to an end. This inability has won him more than a few critics, but it would appear, if the report by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF) last week, which revealed that over 88,000 AK-47 assault rifles and other firearms and ammunition in the custody of the Nigerian Police Force are no where to be found, is anything to go by, many argue, that part of what is fueling the security challenge is sabotage by elements in the security system itself.

“For me it is pure connivance and not negligence on the part of some security agents,” said Mr. Wale Ogunade, Lagos based lawyer and political analyst. “It is deliberate act of sabotage by some elements in the security outfits, who who are supposed to guard these arms and ammunitions. They are conniving with the criminals and selling arms to them. That is what is deducible from the report. I remember some time ago an armed robber caught somewhere in the South East of the South South confessed that it was actually a policeman that supply arms to him.”

The AuGF audit report which is on non-compliance, internal control weaknesses issues in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government of Nigeria for the year ended December 31, 2019, reviewed arms movement register, monthly returns of arms and ammunition and ammunition register at the armoury section. It showed that as much as 178,459 different types of arms and ammunition got missing from the Nigeria Police armoury without any trace or formal report on their whereabouts in 2019.

According to the report, out of the figure, 88,078 were AK-47 rifles and 3,907 assorted rifles and pistols from different formations nationwide. These could not be accounted for as at January 2020.

Referenced AuGF/AR.2019/02, the report seen signed by the Auditor General for the Federation, Adolphus Aghughu, and addressed to the Clerk to the National Assembly, accused the Nigeria Police headquarters of lacking comprehensive details of unserviceable weapons, regretting that such could fall into unauthorised hands for illegal use.

The report noted that the action of the Nigeria Police contravened paragraph 2603 of the Financial Regulations, which stipulates that in the event of any loss of stores, the officer in charge of the store in which the loss occur shall report immediately to the head of department or unit but not later than three days, by the fastest means possible if the loss occurs away from headquarters.

“Audit observed from the review of Arms Movement Register, Monthly Returns of Arms and Ammunition and Ammunition Register at the Armoury section that a total number of lost firearms as reported as at December 2018 stood at 178,459 pieces,” the report said.

“Out of this number, 88,078 were AK-47 rifles, 3,907 assorted rifles and pistols across different police formations, which could not be accounted for as at January 2020. Formal report on the loss of firearms through dully completed Treasury Form 146 (loss of stores) were not presented for examination.

“Records obtained from force armament at the Force headquarters showed 21 Police Mobile Force (PMF) Squadron, Abuja, did not report a single case of missing firearm, whereas, schedule of missing arms obtained from the same PMF showed a total number of forty six (46) missing arms between year 2000 and February 2019.

“The value of the lost firearms could not be ascertained because no document relating to their cost of acquisition was presented for examination.

“The above anomalies could be attributed to weaknesses in the internal control system at the Nigeria Police Force Armament. Several numbers of firearms from the review of arm issue register, monthly returns of arms and ammunitions obtained from Force Armament, Force headquarters for various States Commands, Formations, Zonal offices, Training Institutions, squadrons and physical inspection of firearms and ammunition at the Force Headquarters have become unserviceable and dysfunctional.”

The report added that, “Similarly, returns were not submitted by some Police Training Institutions and some Formations, and Physical verification of firearms and ammunition at the Force Armament, Force Headquarters showed large quantity of damaged and obsolete firearms which needed to be destroyed.

“The damaged and obsolete firearms and ammunition should be treated in line with Financial Regulations 2618 which requires the destruction to be carried out in such a manner as to render the firearms unusable for their original purpose.”

The AuGF report also queried the police hierarchy for the award of contracts without evidence of project execution. It revealed that 10 contracts worth N1, 136,715,200.00 were awarded to a single proprietor in the name of different companies with details of the three companies as the same.

“The three companies did not disclose their relationship in accordance with the fundamental principles of procurement as required by extant regulations,” it stated.

It also indicted the Nigeria Police for paying the sum of N924.985 million for 11 contracts involving construction of three units of Gunshot Spotter System, supply of 50 units of Ballistic Roller Trolley and 20 units of Ballistic Mobile Surveillance House in some selected Commands and Formations without evidence of project execution.

The report, therefore, asked the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, to provide details of the expenditure to the public accounts committees of both Senate and House of Representatives, account for the funds, and answer to other irregularities.

However, since the report leaked last week, there has not been an official response from the government and the police. And for observers, it only confirms what had been an open secret, that part of what has been fueling insecurity in the country is collusion between security agents and criminals; a sad situation they say is also prevalent in the military.

“Today we see so many criminals and bandits using AK-47 rifles and we know that AK-47 rifles are exclusive preserve of police and military,” Ogunade said. “So, it is quite clear that some of these arms get to the criminals from some of the officers who connive with them.”

Indeed, in March last year, Zamfara government at a press conference addressed by Bashir Maru, deputy chief of staff to Bello Matawalle, governor of the state, said an officer of the Nigerian Army supplying ammunition and uniforms to bandits was arrested in the state.

“The military recently arrested an army officer and his girlfriend who were engaged in assisting bandits with military uniforms and ammunition in active connivance with other saboteurs. This arrest was only made possible through community-driven intelligence,” Bello had said, nothing further that, “the development has further proved the position of Governor Bello Mohammed that unless the fight against banditry is cleansed of bad eggs and saboteurs, we may not record the desired success in the fight.”

Yet, a month later in April, the Zamfara police command arrested seven security operatives for allegedly supplying arms, ammunition, and military kits to bandits in the state.

Zamfara commissioner for information, Ibrahim Dosara, who disclosed this at a media briefing, had said the suspects were arrested in various communities across the state.

“I wish to inform you that the state government has just received a report from the police on the arrest of seven security agents involved in aiding and abetting banditry activities across the state,” he had said.

“The suspects, who have already been interrogated and confessed to their respective crimes, have since the commencement of the military operations in the state in recent past, been sabotaging the operations by sharing military intelligence, supplying arms and ammunition, military uniforms and other facilities to the armed bandits to prevent our gallant soldiers from conquering the bandits.

“This is why it took the Nigerian military and other security agencies fighting the bandits that long to defeat them. The suspects have already been handed over to their appropriate security authorities for further necessary actions.

“We feel obliged not to disclose their identities, as the security authorities concerned are acting on the matter.”

In the protracted anti terrorism war in the Northeast, there have been also allegations of sabotage within the security circles, a development that has been partly blamed for the country’s inability to the win the way, more than a decade on. Observers say insecurity in the country has become racket.

“The AuGF report indicates the possibility that some police officers are supplying arms to criminals,” said Mr. Monday Ubani, lawyer, rights activist and social critic. “But that can be affirmed after an exhaustive investigation. Regardless, if the Office of the Auditor-General presents such report telling us that the arms disappeared without trace in questionable circumstances, it is clearly an indictment on the police. How can they allow such large cache of arms to disappear mysteriously?” Ubani wondered.

He noted further that it’s obvious that the bulk of the missing arms are in the hands of criminals elements who use them to unleash terror on Nigerians, which according to him, is partly why there is insecurity all over the place.

“Again, it means that that these arms and are in the hands of criminal elements who now use them to unleash terror on Nigerians. So, these are the possibilities and for me, it is something that portend grave danger to the security situation in the country,” Ubani said.

“We can see the state of insecurity in the country. No one is safe, it is just the grace of God that is protecting us in this country. If such large cache of arms are in the hands of criminals you can guess what they can do with them. And yes, it lends credence to the idea that there might be some level of connivance or collusion between some security agents and some of these criminals who unleash terror or Nigerians. Some of them sell arms and ammunition to these criminals. We have situations where arrested armed robbers and bandits confess that the arms they use were sold to them by police officers and others.”

Ubani insisted that it’s only right that the police authorities make clarifications regarding the report and that it should not be swept under the carpet.

“The police should give us a better report as to how those people who are in charge of these arms could not account for them, because some people were in custody of those arms. There should be some form of account. There must be a comprehensive report clearly identifying what happened that led to the missing of these arms. That will give us a clearer picture,” he said “But the report appears to be very detailed and that doesn’t give anybody any course for comfort. Everyone should be very worried.”

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