The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts has grilled officers in the top echelon of the Nigeria Police over their handling of the deaths of policemen across the country. The deaths were reportedly caused by religious bigots, bandits, hoodlums and militants.
For hours, at the committee’s investigative hearing, members, led by their chairman, Kingsley Chinda wondered why the police authorities would delay reporting the deaths and taking necessary actions.
The investigation has shown the tardiness in the police authorities’ response to the welfare of their personnel. The delay in reporting the death of their personnel may partly be responsible for the delay in the payment of compensation for the families of dead police personnel. Through this deliberate delay, top police officers make money off the plight of those working under them. And by failing to produce timely and correct statistics of the arms and ammunition that are lost, they also enrich themselves.
The hearing followed a report of the Auditor General of the Federation (AGF) for the year ended 31st December, 2013. In the consideration of the report, the lawmakers found that at the time many of the deaths occurred, various arms and ammunition were carted away by the bandits. The committee members described as an act of negligence the failure of the police to report promptly the loss of the arms to the appropriate authorities for immediate action.
The lawmakers observed that it was the interest shown by the AGF in the matter in 2013 that prompted the police to generate reports on some of the occurrences that took place between 2009 and 2012.
The AGF had urged the lawmakers in the report to recommend sanctions for the police for violating relevant provisions of the Financial Regulations for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), 2004, which require that the loss of arms should be reported promptly to the appropriate quarters not later than three days.
As at November last year, the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, had announced that 128 police officers lost their lives to activities of criminals in various parts of the country in the past three months.
Representing the IGP to defend the allegation against the police, Assistant Inspector General, Accounts and Budgets, Abdul Salami Iyaji, blamed the delay in reporting the incidents on technology. “It occurs sometimes that equipment meant to transmit signals could fail us,” he said.
Iyaji admitted an occurrence in 2009 that was not reported promptly by the police until 2013. “On 1st of August, 2009, Sgt Augustine Nathaniel and Sgt Yakubu Musa were attacked by armed robbers, who invaded Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) headquarters in Lagos. Musa died in the process, while Nathaniel was rescued. We apologise for reporting the incident late,” Iyaji said.
On the loss of ammunition, Iyaji said the police normally mete out sanctions to officers found to be negligent in the handling of arms. He cited an instance on November 10, 2011 when one Inspector Victor Nwabueze, who claimed to have lost the arms in his possession, was found culpable and demoted. In June of the same year, he said, eight rounds of ammunition were also snatched away from another police officer while on duty, prompting the police to investigate the situation.
Chinda fixed 7th February, 2017 for the continuation of the hearings and urged the secretariat of the committee to compile all infractions by the police from 2010 to 2012. The compilation, he said, would guide members on the next line of action.