Abba, former Inspector General of Police

By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA

The Nigerian Police Trust Fund (NPTF) is embroiled in another corruption scandal, this time for awarding a substandard equipment purchase for the Nigerian Police at the cost of N11billion.

The scandal, Business Hallmark reliably gathered, was blown open when some aggrieved management staff of the fund, dissatisfied with the sharing of the money realised from the sleaze, petitioned the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).

It would be recalled that the representative of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) had during a roundtable on the police trust fund held on June 29, 2021, shocked the nation when he disclosed that the police had not received any fund from the PTF in the last two years.

He said a needs assessment of the force was done between September and October 2020 which showed that the NPF would need, at the minimum, N1.8 trillion for one year.

He further informed that the needs assessment was done by the NPF and sent to the PTF and that the NPF had so far received zero funds from the PTF.

Present at the roundtable to evaluate the performance of the PTF since its establishment two years ago were representatives from the Nigeria Police Force, National Human Rights Commission, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Police Affairs, civil society organistaions, and the private sector.

According to one of the participants, the Executive Director, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), Okechukwu Nwanguma, it is not clear how much the PTF has accrued since inception besides what have been reported in the media as approvals by the National Assembly.

Nwanguma said CSOs will do an FOI to inquire how much the PTF has received so far and how much it has expended.
However, BH checks revealed that the National Assembly approved N74 billion budget for the fund in the 2021 Budget, while that of 2020 could not be ascertained.

The petitioners, in a startling revelation made to the ICPC, alleged that some of the procured equipment by the NPTF for the police, including bullet proof vests and helmets were substandard. For instance, bullet proof vests, they alleged, have protective shield only in the front, while the helmets were too small and unfit for use.

The petitioners also alleged that most of the operational vehicles purchased for the police with the N11 billion intervention fund were old and refurbished vehicles.

A shocking detail of the petition revealed that majority of the used vehicles purchased by the fund were from war ravaged countries like Mali, Sudan and Libya.

According to the petitioners, the roof of one of the refurbished vehicles attached to a top government official was blown off while on its way to the venue of President Muhammadu Buhari’s son’s wedding to the Emir of Bichi in Kano State in August.

Also, medical equipment purchased with the funds were also discovered to be substandard. According to the petitioners, one of the purchased items, IV fluids, came in sachets, instead of plastic tubes.

Sources in the fund accused a former deputy governor from the North West currently serving in the Senate and some officials in the Ministry of Police affairs of masterminding procurement scam.

According to the NPTF Act, Section 4 states that the Fund shall consist of An amount consisting 0.5% of the total revenue accruing to the Federation Account; A levy of 0.0005% of the net profit of companies operating businesses in Nigeria and Any take-off grant and special intervention fund as may be provided by the federal, state and local government of the federation among others.

Section 11 on the other hand states: The Board of Trustees is responsible for Setting out the policies and programmes for the training and training of personnel of the Nigerian Police Force and it’s auxiliary staff in Nigeria and abroad in accordance with objective of the Act; Approving the disbursement of money from the Trust Fund to finance projects or activities of the Nigerian Police Force and Police Institutions beneficiaries of the Proceeds of Trust Fund.

Section 12 (1) states, the Board of Trustee has ‘powers’ to award contracts of any kind or description for any amount, whether in local or foreign currency in conformity with the due process requirements as provided under any law, rule, guideline or regulation.

On the role of management, Section 15 states that the Executive Secretary is the Chief Executive and Accounting Officer of the Trust Fund and is responsible for the administration of the Trust Fund.

While Schedule 9 (5) Supplementary Provisions states under miscellaneous that “The fixing of the seal of the Trust Fund shall be authenticated by the signature of the Chairman or any other person authorized generally or specially to act for that purpose.

However, the Executive Secretary of the fund, it was gathered, circumvented the law in the purchase of the equipment for the police by writing a letter to the BPP on July 10, 2020, vide BPP/S.1/ CCM/20/Vol.1/289: “Requesting Clarification on Financial Limits and Thresholds, Procurement methods and threshold of Application and Expenditure as related to the Nigeria Police Trust Fund”.

The NPTF boss, sources stated, got the approval of the BPP to execute the equipment contract.

Following the shocking revelations, the ICPC has invited several parties involved in the purchase, including a former IGP, the Bureau of Public procurement (BPP), the Budget Office, the Nigerian Police Force, management and staff of NPTF and others to help it in its investigation.

A copy of the letter of invitation by the ICPC sighted by BH reads: “The invited staff are to come with the following documents as applicable to their office and schedule as well as original copies for sighting: two copies of all contract agreement for contract awarded from the take off grant and capital; copies of staff nominal role; comprehensive list of staff on transfer, posting and secondment ; vote for take-off grant; breakdown of all spending and approvals; print out of ledger vote and spending, all no objection certificates from Bureau of Public procurement, BPP, and evidence of BPP clarification on contract award, financial limits and thresholds, procurement methods and thresholds of application and expenditure as related to NPTF”.

While appearing before the ICPC investigative panel, a former Inspector General of Police and Chairman NPTF Board, Suleiman Abba, alleged that the management of the NPTF singlehandedly procured the sub-standared equipment without his knowledge.

Abba lamented that the NPTF management frustrate him and his staff from resuming work at the office provided for them.

“In all my interactions with the management, I always start my address by harping on transparency and due process.

“But the management took responsibility of such important operational equipment without my knowledge. They went about this gross anomaly with support of the Bureau for Public Procurement and the Ministry of Police Affairs took responsibility.

“The truth of the matter is that the Federal government meant well by creating this Trust Fund to improve the Nigerian Police Force.

“We came in here to do our best to improve the state of equipment and training for the Force. But people with a mindset of enriching themselves hijacked the process. They virtually told me to hands off.

“I am not a party to how the take off grant for the NPTF was spent. I have not been paid a Kobo for the work I have done so far including visiting Lagos and other places to ascertain the state of dilapidation in Police personnel accommodation.

“They circumvented all efforts by myself as Chairman of the board to do the right thing hiding under some circular that had nothing to do with operations of the NPTF which is guided by the NPTF Act of 2019, which was even pointed out by the Attorney General of the federation”, the retired IGP said.

BH gathered that the corruption scandal was blown open due to the fight that broke out among the fund’s management staff over the sharing of the money acquired from the contract.

According to sources who pleaded anonymity, while some staff got between N3 million and N5 million as their share, some received between N7 million and N8 million.

This development, the sources disclosed, led to a bickering among the staff which eventually culminated in the petition to the ICPC.

 

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