Nigerian Police, Society Are Corrupt –Kwajafa

Retired Police Commissioner and former boss of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Fulani Kwajafa recently fielded questions from the duo of MUSA AHMED TIJJANI and SHUAIB SHUAIB. He shared insights on state police agitation, Nigeria’s movement from drug transit to consuming country, the Boko Haram threat and more

When you headed the NDLEA, Nigerians were basically a transit country for drugs.But the country seems to have grown to a drug using nation.Where and why did we derail,leading to the point that we are now a drug using nation?
The drug issue is phenomenal and worldwide. When you see an organization that is not properly funded to operate well, it will be very difficult because the drug issue is money spinning. People are prepared to spend money to deal in drugs because it is just like gold or oil.

Before now, when it comes through Nigeria, the consumption was very low but gradually it has become a pandemic in this nation. Some people feel that when they consume drugs they get high. Unemployment is another contributing factor. When you have young people coming out of school with nothing to do, their idle mind becomes the devil’s workshop.

People are just lured into the consumption of drugs due to idleness. This happens everywhere in the world.When you have people with no jobs, then they think of alternatives. I cannot see anybody with a sound mind coming to rob his parents unless he is under drug or alcoholic influence. You find a group of boys who go to rob and they will rape the ladies too; someone with a sound mind will not do that.

Do you think that nothing can be done to stem the rise of drug use in Nigeria?
It will be very difficult because the crime and unemployment ratesare increasing every day. Some of these boys you see shooting people every dayare under drug influence. I think another thing more powerful than drug that is being introduced is that a young man will have the courage to wear a bomb under his clothing to kill himself and people.

The fact is that all these things that are happening cannot happen without the drug barons. Where are they and who are they?
They are among us; our brothers and friends but they operate under cover. You hardly find a drug trafficker that will tell you his source because they had sworn to keep it secret and they prefer to die than to reveal the source.

So the drug lords are always covered.When you catch a trafficker he would tell you that he was given the package to go and deliver for a certain amount so they are just errand boys. The main dealers hide and they hire people to go errands for them.

Does it mean they cannot be caught?
Well, I caught one during my days and through him I was able to catch others – but I really suffered. I had to spend a lot of money and involve my boys to pretend as drug traffickers just to find out where they were. We prosecuted about 6 or 7 drug barons and they are still in jail till now, they were given a jail term between 8 to 10 years.

You spent a lifetime working in the Nigerian Police and right now changes within the force are imminent. It is only a matter of time before state police are created. Does this mean that the police at the federal level will cease to exist or maybe their functions will be taken over by some other agency?
The issue of the state police has been one that has gotten diverse opinions from people. From my point of view, I don’t think that Nigeria is ready for a state police. For example, if Kaduna is a PDP state and Niger is an ANPP state and there happens to be a crisis, there will be a clash of interest. Each person will work for the state where he is representing; so there will be chaos.

It will not go well for the country. Operationally, the governor in each state can give the commissioner of the state a command but at a certain level one needs clearance from the IG.When something goes wrong they say they had consultations with the IG.

But if some governors had complete control of the police both administratively and operationally, if something happens they may give a wrong order to the police and if the commissioner fails to execute it then he would face problems.

For example, in the police force, if a senior officer gives an order to a junior officer, the person will have to use his discretion.It is called lawful or unlawful order. If it is an unlawful order and the officer carries it out, when the trouble comes the senior will ask you why you did not use your discretion.

Once you become an officer it is your responsibility to decide if an order is lawful or unlawful. It for example you catch a thief and you beat him and kill him, you have gone beyond your boundaries and can be prosecuted. The fact that he was a thief will be forgotten.

Right now Nigeria is operating a federal police system and people are suggesting that creating state police will cause a defect in the constitution. Now do you think that the federal system should be scraped for the sake of keeping security matters at the federal level?
This is a political issue.The politicians know better on whether to go on the federal system or not. In those days when we had regional governors, things were different and we were not as vast as we are now. If the state police is created and the governor there is in charge, if the nearby state is not of his party then he may operate out of vindictiveness because of political differences. We are not there yet; when it is time the situation will dictate.

Taking you back to the force headquarters when you were a commissioner and the head of the anti-robbery squad. This drama happened in Benin where the dreaded Monday Anini, the armed robber, terrorized people and eluded so many security agencies until you came in. How did the drama unfold?
Now if you want to steal and you involve a police man who is meant to prevent that crime then you can hardly detect it. Anini was operating with Iyabo, a police man. Iyabo was telling him when to go out and when not to; where to go and where not to.

That was why catching him was difficult.Sometimes we would go and raid his house he will not be there. He will be seen drinking with Iyabo but when we go for Anini we won’t get him. Iyabo was also inviting young police men to go drinking with them from there he would get information on the movement of the police.

Anini gave us a lot of problems, we had to close the headquarters in Lagos.We were just lucky that a woman disclosed where he was to us. On his arrest he told us those officers that were involved with him and that was how Iyabo was executed along with him. Iyabowas? aDSP, a senior man in the force. So when a policeman decides to steal it would be hard to catch him because he would know how to avoid the security agencies.

Today, there is a belief that the Nigerian police aids crime instead of preventing it. You can pay the average police man to do unlawful acts; how do you think that this can be changed and how would you compare the past police force to that of the present?
That is an interesting question. When I joined the police I spent nine years before I was entitled to bicycle advance of 3pounds, I bought a bicycle. I was entitled to an allowance of 1pound, 6pence per month to maintain the bicycle. There was no corruption back then.

As a constable, we had gone for an operation with information that someone was printing counterfeit currency notes.We surrounded the house; someonewho I knew was trying to escape with a motorcycle. He was pleading with me that he would give me anything that I wanted; that was in 1960. I told him I did not want money so we arrested him.

Till date that machine is still in the museum in Kaduna. We did not know anything about money. When the white man told us what not to do, we were scared to disobey because we look at them as different people.They have no godfather, they cannot be pleaded with; no quota system.

We learnt that corruption was evil. I have seen money in my years in the CID for 26 years and in other agencies but no one has mentioned my name in corrupt practices. I have never had a query, I know the recommendations I had from different offices, two of which were for my refusing to accept bribes. These days it is not the same. It is only in Nigeria that corruption is being celebrated.

Do you think the present IG can help the present situation in the country?
He has already started but it would be difficult to wipe it out if not impossible. It is not just the Nigerian police, it is the society itself that is corrupt and that is why we get the kind of police force that we deserve. The police man is part of the society, what of those in the civil service? It is not as visible as the police on the road collecting N20.

Corruption is all over the world but it is more noticed in Nigeria because we do it shamelessly. The fact that you are posted to a certain place and you do not make it there, people will regard you as a foolish man.

Finally, northern Nigeria is at a cross roads regarding the security problem. Many people have proposed ways of salvaging the situation. What do you think is the proper way this insurgency can be tackled?
We are in a very precarious situation. These people that are committing this havoc are faceless as no one has come forth to say he belongs to Boko Haram. If government can promise that if they come for dialogue they will be safe, I will support it.Just dialogue with them to stop this carnage.

Even if you kill some, you cannot kill all. Dialogue is the only option to this problem because force cannot do it, come of them have more weapons than our security agencies. They are sponsored and these weapons are brought in from outside.If they can be patriotic Nigerians at all, they can come out dialogue with the government like the Delta militants, it will be better for everyone.