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Scandal: Policemen buy uniforms despite N3.3bn budget for clothing items -Investigation

By The Citizen
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There are indications that officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force are displeased with the manner in which the yearly budgetary provision meant to cater for their uniforms is being spent.

Saturday PUNCH's investigations showed that policemen and officers buy uniforms and other kits with their personal money despite over N3.3bn budgeted for the provision of the items in 2013, 2014 and 2015 by the Federal Government.

It was learnt that some officers recently raised concerns over the issue following the discovery that there have been budgetary provisions for the purchase of these items for them.

Investigations revealed that the affected members of the force include inspectors and the rank and file of the Force, who are not issued uniforms and other kits like boots and vest, contrary to the police regulations.

The police, in its 2015 budget, allocated N710.8m for uniforms and clothing out of the total allocation of N329.76bn.

The Force had proposed N307bn for personnel and N5.9bn for overhead in the budget.

In 2014, the police allocated N965m for uniforms and special clothing for its personnel out of a total budgetary allocation of N292.35bn.

Of N319.65bn total allocation in 2013, the Force allocated N1.6bn for uniforms.

In spite of the allocations, findings showed that police personnel bought their own uniforms and were never refunded by the police authorities.

Policemen recount experiences
Policemen, who spoke to Saturday PUNCH on condition of anonymity in Abuja, said they spent about N46, 000 each on new uniform and kit every year.

A sergeant, who gave the breakdown of the amount spent on new uniforms, said the camouflage cost N15,000; vest N3,000; shirt, N3,000; badges N2,000; name and number inscription on uniform, N1,000, jungle boot, N15,000 and official police shoes, N7,000.

It was gathered that constables and inspectors were supposed to be issued uniforms twice a year, but this is not being done due to the alleged corruption in the system.

Senior police officers told Saturday PUNCH that it was only on paper that the police were mandated to issue uniforms and kit to its personnel, noting that in practice, the opposite is the case.

A senior officer said, 'It is part of police regulations that the rank and file should be issued new uniforms twice a year, but that is only on paper. In reality, nobody gives you uniform. You have to buy it yourself.

'Officially, only senior officers from Assistant Superintendent of Police to Inspector General are meant to buy their own uniforms from the officers' store and the money would be remitted to the government purse, but the rank and file are supposed to get theirs free, but of course, that is not the situation of things.'

Special treatment for those at headquarters
A Chief Superintendent of Police explained that the police issued uniforms to the officers free of charge from time to time, but noted that only those at the Force headquarters enjoy such grace unlike those at the state commands and other formations.

The officer said that when uniforms are issued to the command Quarter Master, he would in turn release them to the Divisional Police Officers who decide on how the kits would be shared among the men under them.

'One problem with the sharing of the uniform is that the number of kits given to a command may not be enough to go round the men in that formation, so most time, those that did not receive would have to buy for themselves. Some of the police tailors also contribute to the problem because they often steal uniforms from the store and sell to policemen,' the CSP stated.

The officer, however, noted that the black police uniform is purchased by all police personnel while the camouflage and the blue clothing are sometimes given out free.

He added that the camouflage is meant for operations while the blue uniform is for office work.

'I was given a lanyard in 2013'
A Mobile police officer said he was given only a lanyard in 2013 and a beret in 2014 when he visited the police store in Dutse, Kubwa, Abuja.

He added that he recently purchased two pairs of uniform for N14,000 from the store.

He said, 'If you don't buy your uniforms, you would never look neat. They gave me only beret last year and in 2013, a lanyard. But the interesting thing is that you will get a complete kit from the store if you go there with your money.

'Nobody is saying anything, the commanders and the senior officers are just there. They know about it, but they won't say anything. The uniforms and everything is supplied from Lagos but they won't give you.'

'I have been buying uniform in my 20 years of service'

A police officer, who works with the Bayelsa State Police Command in a telephone conversation with Saturday PUNCH on the condition of anonymity, said he had been buying his own kits in his over 20 years career in the NPF.

The Senior Inspector of Police said he would retire in 2016 from the force.

He said, 'I cannot remember how many times I had to buy uniforms and boots. We buy our kits many times and it is still what is happening currently. Many times, we have had to starve ourselves of food just to do the work.

'There were many times my uniforms were torn during the course of my duty and I would have to amend them. When requests for new uniforms are not honoured, which is usually the case, I resort to buying new ones.'

Policemen patronise tailor on Campbell Street, Lagos

At a car park behind a major police station in Lagos Island, popularly called Lion building, on Campbell Street, policemen have been seen patronising a tailor whose workshop is located beside a local canteen, popularly called 'Mama Put' or Alhaja's shop.

A visit by one of our correspondents showed that the tailor had some ready-made police uniforms for sale. The items on display included shirts, rank (red colour material) and pairs of trousers of varying sizes. It was also observed that policemen in need of such items could make a fresh order or adjust the ones that are available.

An enquiry revealed that most of those who buy the uniforms are newly recruited officers and those whose uniforms have torn, since, according to them, provision or replacement was not made for them.

Other accoutrements like beret, badge and belt were also on display at the frontage of the police station, available for anyone who is interested.

I got uniform last at Police College
A police sergeant serving in Ekiti State Police Command, who identified himself as Saliu Olubimtan, said the only time the police authorities gave him uniforms was when he was at the Police College in Ikeja, Lagos.

Olubimtan, who joined the police in 2011, said that he had been using his personal money to buy uniforms since he left the police college.

According to him, he has bought no fewer than seven set of uniforms since he joined the Force.

The sergeant said apart from the salary which he described as not enough for a policeman of his rank, other allowances approved by the Force Headquarters for the rank and file were not being paid to them.

When asked whether the police authorities are always inspecting their uniforms, Olubimtan said, 'Since I joined the Force, my uniforms have not been inspected by anybody. All that the police authorities are interested in is the colour of the uniform; not the size or its fitness on the body.'

I bought three pairs of uniform every year
A Deputy Superintendent of Police in Kogi State Command, Mr. Linus Okaba, who only agreed to speak after he was assured that his real name would not be used, confirmed that policemen and women bought uniforms for themselves.

Okaba told one of our correspondents that he bought three pairs of uniforms every year since he left cadet course over 10 years ago.

'Any policeman waiting for the police authorities to provide uniform for him will wait for eternity because it is not in the tradition of the police authorities to provide uniforms and shoes for policemen and women,' he said.

In a chat with one of our correspondents, a police constable serving in Izzi Local Government Area of Ebonyi State disclosed how poor welfare and working condition had forced many of them to spend large chunks of their meagre salaries on buying uniforms, boots and other basic tools needed to discharge their duties.

According to the officer, instead of enjoying bonuses for risking their lives, their salaries are slashed at will, mostly without their consent by the authorities.

He said, 'I have always bought and still plan to buy my kits and sew them like I have always done. The camouflage goes for around N15, 000 and a constable's salary is N14, 000. The only things I get from the system are arms. Even for arrests, we make use of our bikes. The officers at the outposts are suffering five times what we are passing through. They are on their own as far as these issues are concerned.

'Last year, some uniforms were shared here. The uniforms were poorly sewn and the materials used were sub-standard. Still, the uniforms only got to a few people working at the Headquarters. After that, they distributed like five uniforms or thereabout to each division which only got to superior officers.'

We provide uniforms three times a year- Force spokesman

But the Force Public Relations Officer, Emmanuel Ojukwu, claimed that the Inspectors and the rank and file of the force get free uniforms as and when due.

'It is not true that the rank and file don't get uniforms; the police issue uniforms to them at least three to four times a year. It may take some time to get around to everyone but it is not true that they don't get uniforms. Senior officers buy their own uniforms but they are refunded,' he stated.

Holding N'Assembly responsible -Expert
A security analyst, Ben Okezie, absolved the police authorities of blame, saying the National Assembly should be held responsible for not releasing appropriated money to the Force.

He alleged that the National Assembly committee members usually demanded for bribes from the police before they would release allocations.

According to him, the police still owe many contractors who supplied uniforms to the Force over 10 years ago.

He noted that the police were finding it difficult to meet their various obligations because they were being frustrated by the lawmakers.

Okezie said, 'Once they approve the budget, it is a different ball game. Even when the money is approved, it comes in trickles. Most times, the IG would approve contracts and ask that they should get uniforms. When they get the uniforms, they start sharing them out.

'The contractor might have brought the first batch to be shared and would be waiting for police to pay him. Most times, the money does not come, that is the truth. If you go to the police (headquarters), you would see a lot of contractors who have not been paid right from the time Mike Okiro and Tafa Balogun were IGs.'

'I have followed many IGs to the National Assembly and attended sittings for budget hearing. What the legislators tell the IG is 'look, come and see us so that we can help you.' What that means is that they plan to get something from the IG before granting approval.'

Policemen don't get free uniform -Tsav
A retired Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, however, said that policemen do not get free uniforms, noting that it has been the situation for a long time.

He stated that individual policemen buy their uniforms from the open market hence the different shades of police uniforms worn by the rank and file.

Tsav suggested that the IG should try to give junior officers at least three uniforms every year.

He said, 'It is very true that policemen buy their uniforms themselves and this is what has been happening for a very long time. That is why you find policemen wearing all kinds of uniforms when you go to their stations. This is because they buy them in the open market.

'And some don't even have shoes, they buy them and most of our uniforms are sold to security organisations. You find police lanyard sold to security organisations because there is no supervision at all.

'If the government releases money to the IG, because of lack of supervision and since the police force is filled with crooks, they won't do the thing right. You would find policemen asking for bribe and giving change; this is not something somebody told me, I have seen it myself.'

The former Lagos CP said during his time in the Force, the police had a service register which detailed the uniforms and other items given to every policeman.

'During our time, we had service registers and each time you are given new uniforms, it would be entered in your register that these are the items they were giving you and you would be required to sign. When it was time to get new uniforms, you would bring your service register. Although, I don't think it's in the system now. If you start telling the police to buy their uniform, hoodlums can buy these uniforms and you won't differentiate between them and the police,' he noted.

When asked to comment on Okezie's allegation that lawmakers demanded bribes from IGs before releasing money, Tsav said, 'If the police are convinced it is the National Assembly that is frustrating them, they should cry out for the public to know. If I were the IG for instance, and the government appropriated something to me and the National Assembly refused to release it, I would cry out.'

IGP speaks
The Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Suleiman Abba, attributed the inability of the Force to provide uniforms and accoutrements for its personnel to the paltry allocation to the Nigeria Police.

According to him, the Force required N71.8bn to cater for critical sub-heads such as maintenance of barracks and office accommodation, provision of uniforms and accoutrement, stationeries, training programmes, maintenance of marine patrol boats and aircraft among others.

The Force, he added, was given a paltry N5.9bn as against the N71.8bn it required for critical requirements.

The IG said this in a document on the 2015 budget Defence presented to the Senate Committee on Police Affairs recently.

He said, 'The N5.9bn projected for all sub-heads in the overhead cost for police formations and commands in the 2015 budget is not enough to provide minimal fuelling and maintenance cost for police operational vehicles for three months.

'This is not to mention other critical subheads such as local travels and transport allowance, aircraft, marine boats, local and international training costs, maintenance of buildings, feeding of detainees nationwide, provision of uniform and accoutrements etc.'

Abba further explained that in 2014, N287bn was appropriated for personnel cost, but the money suffered a shortfall of N6.5bn and many police commands were unable to conclude payment of salaries, rent allowances, tax, and cooperative deductions.

This, he noted, made it impossible to conclude the payment of personnel emolument in 2014.

He said, 'With respect to personnel cost, the reduction of the initial sum of N293,526,624,260 to N287,061,950,723 which gave rise to a shortfall of N6,464673,537 has made it impossible to successfully conclude the payment of personnel emolument in 2014.

'The 42 salary payment centres nationwide are having issues remitting on-payment deductions such as tax, cooperative deduction and also payment of rent allowances.'

According to him, out of N8.5bn appropriated for overhead expenditure in 2014, only N5.7bn was released and cash-backed out of which N500m was deducted at source for electricity bills. Punch