Fraudulent police officers have turned police recruitment into a money-making venture. The higher recruits pay, the higher their chances to make the final list
| Anayo Ezugwu | Mar. 4, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
FABIAN Ugwu, a trader in Enugu State, has a first-hand experience of the corruption that takes place in the Nigeria Police recruitment process because he has been a serial victim. His first brush with corruption there was in 2007, shortly after completing his senior secondary school examination. Then, he said he wanted to become a policeman and so approached his police friend to guide him on how to go about the process. But he was shocked when his friend told him he would need some money to facilitate his chances of getting enlisted because he too paid money to get enlisted. His friend then introduced him to a senior police officer in the recruitment office in Enugu State.
Through his friend, the officer asked him to pay N30,000 to ensure that he passes the written test. He agreed to pay but couldn’t raise the N30,000 immediately. He paid N10,000 and promised to pay the balance once his name is shortlisted. But he didn’t make the list of recruits and when he asked the officer why? He bluntly told him that priority had to be given to those who paid in full. When he asked the officer for a refund of his N10, 000, he threatened to arrest him if he ever called his number again.
The following year, Ugwu said he was introduced to another officer who assured him that once he paid N50,000, he would be enlisted. But after paying the money, he never heard a word from the officer again. “The man simply disappeared. Any time I asked of him from his colleagues, they would harass me with questions and send me away”, Ugwu said.
But unlike Ugwu, a police constable serving in Lagos, who didn’t want his name in print, paid N50, 000 in 2009 to a senior police officer and that got him enlisted. “My uncle introduced me to this officer who promised to help me if only I can pay N50, 000. We paid the money and he collected my credentials from me. He was the one that filled the form and did the necessary signings, and told me to come for the test. After the test, he also told me to start preparing for the training college and that my name had been shortlisted. He made the job very easy for me but I think this is detrimental to the less-privileged ones who dream of joining the force,” he said.
Tales of the rot in the police recruitment process are endless. Many policemen have one or two tales on how they got enlisted. Though some got it by merit, many had to pay to get in. According to police sources, corruption in the recruitment exercise begins when the forms are made available to candidates.
One source said that those who are qualified are always disqualified during screening while all kinds of people are brought in to take their places. “After a specific amount has been paid through an agent, some of the top officers in the force and influential people in the society, send the names of their candidates. Most people that come through these source are usually criminally-minded young men and women whose relations consider them as thorns in their fresh and push them out to the police to enable them have peace in their homes”, the source said.
Frank Mba, deputy force public relations officer, disagrees and dismisses the allegation as mere insinuation. He said it is not true that the Nigeria police recruits criminally-minded elements into the force. According to him, it is difficult to determine whether someone is criminally-minded or not before recruitment. He said that even though police officers are not angels, the force does not have to do a DNA test for new entrants. Mba said, however, that when the force discovers any deviant behaviour in any police personnel, necessary steps are always taken to deal with the person involved.
He added that in some cases, it is usually too late to trace such deviant behaviour because such a person would have grown in the service and become a senior officer. By then, the damage must have been done. He said that the force would continue to fish out the bad ones and dismiss them.
Investigations have revealed that why criminally-minded elements find their way into the police is that officers use agents during recruitments. Police sources have also confirmed the use of agents in recruitments. “In the police today, recruitment is big business. People are recruited depending on how much they pay. There is usually a special list of candidates. These set of people will not undergo any form of screening at the state level and their names will be shortlisted for tests. They pay as high as between N80, 000 and N100, 000 to get their names in that particular list. But if you want them to write the test for you, you have to pay extra N10, 000 to N20, 000 to hire graduates who will write the test. This is because the test is always marked outside the state,” a source said.
According to him, the fraudulent process is even carried over to the police colleges where those in charge dismiss recruits without any reason to enable them admit those who had paid them huge amounts of money. “If you don’t have money, don’t dream of joining the police because everything here is money. From the recruitment at the state level to the police college, you will be bribing your way till you finish the training irrespective of whether you are a man or a woman. The process is still the same. The amount of money you are willing to pay determines where you will serve and where they will post you.”
Apart from the payments recruits are subjected to, the deplorable condition of the police colleges is also a problem the recruits have to contend with. At Oji River Police College, Enugu, for instance, the poor state of infrastructures there is also a source of worry to the serving police officers. According to one of the officers, they are suffering the same fate as the recruits going by the state of their barracks which are in a serious state of decay. He explained that since the inception of the college, the barracks had never been renovated and that there is even no plan for its renovation.
The internal roads in the college are in a deplorable condition. He said that the students’ dormitories are overcrowded. Many recruits, who cannot secure bed space, sleep on the floor. Those who are lucky to get bed space, sleep on old, flattened and smelly six-spring mattresses that were procured at the inception of the college.
The officer is not happy in the way the recruits are being treated. “I was trained in this college as a recruit. During my training days in the early 2000, the infrastructures were not as bad as they are now. Accommodation was there and the feeding was also moderate, but now you need to come in the evening to see what these recruits are eating,” he said.
Another policeman serving in Enugu said his experience in the Police College, Oji River, in the last three years, was dehumanising and capable of discouraging anyone coming into the force as a recruit. He called on the police authorities and the federal government to quickly intervene by addressing the urgent needs of the college.
“For three months, we slept in total darkness because of a prolonged power outage caused by a faulty transformer. The generating plant in the college had packed up for several months and no attempt was made to repair or replace it. Many of us were charging our phones outside the college and in the official quarters of some officers who could afford private generators at a cost of N50 per battery. Those who could not afford it, stayed without phones. There is no water because the Sumo pump got burnt and pumping water from the borehole became impossible, forcing the students to source water from Oji River,” he said.
On top of all these woes, the students were poorly fed during the training. “We were served food without meat or fish. They served us rice with only crayfish and you had no right to ask any question about it. The food at the college canteen was so poor that the student trainees were forced to patronise nearby restaurants operated by some officers’ wives. In fact, our condition there was just like that of prison inmates. The difference was that we had freedom to move around. We called ourselves prisoners jokingly because there was not much difference between us and the prisoners.”
Likewise in Kaduna Police College, a police constable who passed out from the college recently, told the magazine that he is unhappy with the police recruitment process and mostly the deplorable condition of the police college. He said during the training that lasted for 15 months, the facilities at the college were over stretched. Over 200 recruits slept in a dormitory, and the same number shared five toilets. As a result of the shortage of accommodation, many of the recruits slept in the dining hall and classrooms. But those who were connected secured accommodation in the police barracks. “I thank God that we passed out without recording any epidemic of toilet-related diseases because over 200 recruits shared five toilets in my dormitory. Some of us defecated in the bush because we were told it was safer,” he said.
He lamented the poor quality of food served them in the college adding: “I did not eat the meals they were serving us because in the morning, they served us watery beans as breakfast. In the afternoon and at night, they interchanged ‘tuwo’ and ‘eba’ daily. That was what we were served with throughout the period of our training. I used to eat at the commandant market.”
Corruption is not limited to only the police colleges. It is everywhere within the police system. A serving police officer said even though it had been his desire to switch over to the mobile police unit, MOPOL, but he was finding it difficult. He told this magazine that he paid N50, 000 to a fellow police officer who promised to help him last December but when the shortlisted names came out, his name was not on it.
Apart from the dormitories in the colleges, police stations in Nigeria and their barracks are in a sorry situation. A visit to any of them will tell the story better. Some police stations are underequipped and lack the necessary tools to fight crimes. The barracks also lack basic amenities. For instance, some of the buildings are leaking while the soak-away pits have broken down causing the leakage of human wastes into the environment. The officers’ quarters are facing the same challenge of shortage of water like the recruits.
However, it is a known fact in the system that policemen and women are responsible for buying their uniforms and the divisional police stations are also responsible for fuelling patrol vans. But lack of maintenance culture has been identified as a major problem of the police in Nigeria. Vehicles and communication equipment donated to the police by the state governments for crime fighting hardly last for one year because of lack of maintenance. Nigerians who run to the police for rescue in times of emergency or trouble, have pathetic stories to tell. Police always complain of breakdown of vehicles, lack of fuel or ammunition whenever they are called upon. This situation has made Nigerians to always accuse them of not performing their constitutional duties despite assistance the force receives from state and local governments, corporate bodies and organisations.
With all the rot and decay going on in the police, Nigerians are wondering on what the force is using the billions of naira allocated to it yearly in the federal budget. Investigations have revealed that the federal government allocates billions of naira yearly to the police for the upgrade of its colleges, training facilities and general maintenance. Between 2009 and 2012, the federal government allocated a total of N2.046 billion to the police in the budget.
In 2009, the allocation was N700 million and N759 million in 2010. In 2011 and 2012, the allocations were N291 million and N296 million respectively. In the 2012 budget, N52 million was provided for motorcycles, N203 million for vehicles, N310 million for vans, and N596 million for armoured personnel carriers.
The police command also proposed N431 million for arms and ammunition, N84 million for video security surveillance systems in Borno, Kano, Oyo, Edo and Anambra states, N52 million for automatic fingerprint identification system, N84 million for forensic and DNA test laboratory, and N241 million for explosive ordinance disposal equipment for the anti-bomb squad.
Other items of expenditure in the 2012 budget were N295 million for anti-riot equipment, N450 million for bullet-proof vests gear, N243 million for anti-terrorism equipment, N165 million for security intelligence equipment, and N271 million for UHF walkie-talkies and rehabilitation of its out-dated analogue UHF communications system. The budget for barracks’ rehabilitation and construction is N585 million. But these billions have not translated into a functional police system.