How far? This is the question that many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and Nigerians, generally, are asking the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) concerning its investigation of alleged mismanagement of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (NPTF) by its management. This question is pertinent, especially with the failure of the commission not only to update Nigerians on the probe, but its seeming silence in making its findings public, if it had concluded its investigations.
Various news media had reported, far back as September, last year, the alleged misconducts against the fund’s management, bothering on violations of the NPTF Act and public procurement process.
Chairman of the PTF Board of Trustees, Abba Suleiman, a former Inspector-General of Police, reportedly told the commission’s investigators stunning details of how the management allegedly procured substandard bullet-proof vests, helmets and Toyota Buffalo vehicles for the police force. Suleiman said the bullet-proof vests that should have double-sided shields had only a shield on one side while the helmets were too small and some of the 200 Toyota Buffalo vehicles procured were largely substandard. The board chairman who denied knowledge of the procurement processes also alleged that the management had been frustrating him and members of his staff from assuming duties. The cost of the alleged substandard equipment was put at about N11 billion.
Going by the NPTF Act, the Board of Trustees is responsible for “Setting out the policies and programmes for the training and retraining of personnel of the Nigerian Police Force and its auxiliary staff in Nigeria and abroad, in accordance with objectives of the Act”. It is also to approve “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”, among others. In this case, that the board chairman said the board was not carried along in the procurements would seem a violation of the Act.
Police extortion as robbery
In spite of this seeming violations of the fund’s act, President Muhammadu Buhari, went ahead to commission the alleged substandard equipment on January 13, 2022, even as ICPC investigation into the procurement was still in progress. This drew the ire of about 200 NGOs committed to promoting transparency and accountability in the implementation of the NPTF Act, which promptly called on the ICPC to make public its findings on the damning allegations.
We support this patriotic stance of the NGOs. As the Executive Director, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), Okechukwu Nwanguma, noted, “The purpose of establishing the PTF under the law was to provide an additional window for police funding with a view to addressing perennial underfunding of the lead security agency in the country. Specifically, the PTF was designed to provide the NPF with modern, state-of-the-art operational equipment, training and welfare, and thereby promote professionalism, boost morale and enhance police effectiveness in discharging their constitutional mandates of providing safety and security.” These are noble ideals that should not be treated with disdain.
The police force is central in provision of internal security which is the primary duty of any government. The force therefore cannot afford to work with substandard equipment, the likes of which the NPTF management had been accused of procuring. President Buhari ought not have commissioned those equipment while investigations into their procurement was ongoing. We know the daunting security challenges in the country require urgent attention. But then, fighting insecurity with substandard equipment will come back to haunt the nation.
The Federal Government has to take a cue from the Lagos State government on how it is running its own security trust fund which has been largely instrumental in curtailing crime in the state, despite its huge population. Through the fund, an exemplary demonstration of accountability and cooperation between the corporate world and the government, the federal police has been assisted with a lot of sophisticated crime fighting equipment which has made Lagos an oasis of sorts in a country ravaged by banditry and sundry crimes.
Nigerians are anxiously waiting for the ICPC report on the weighty allegations against the NPTF management. It is by diligently investigating the matter and establishing the truth that we can avert a repeat of the experience with its precursor in the Obasanjo years, the Police Equipment Fund.