By Felix Onajite (Exclusive to The Witness)
Intrigues, highwire politicking and intensive lobbying are at work at the Nigerian Presidency and Police Force Headquarters (FHQ), Louis Edet House Garki, Abuja, as President Muhammadu Buhari shops for a new Inspector-General of Police, IGP, ahead of the retirement of incumbent, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris. Although Idris is due for statutory retirement on December 31, 2018, he is said to be lobbying for one-year extension, The Witness reports.
The Witness gathered that as Idris intensifies lobbying top members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to extend his tenure, the president has discussed with some of his cabinet members on a credible officer to replace the embattled police chief.
As Idris makes move to remain on the seat for another one year, The Witness learnt that several senior policemen and their political godfathers have also started lobbying to become the next Inspector General of Police.
It was gathered that between now and 2019, several police chiefs, especially of the ranks of Deputy Inspectors General of Police, Assistant Commissioners of Police and Commissioners of Police will proceed on their retirement.
A source said: “Between this month and 2019, the bulk of senior officers in the Nigerian Police will go on retirement.
“At least by July, four DIGs will first retire.
“In fact, by 2019, only one DIG, who is presently serving, will still be in service.
“Many will retire based on clocking the 35 years in service and others will be affected by virtue of their ages.
“Those who are going to be massively affected in the clocking of age and retirement are 1984 and 1986 sets.”
Many of these policemen, between the ranks of DCP and CP, are presently also lobbying to be given their next ranks before retirement date comes.
It is further gathered that several politicians, while preparing for the forthcoming elections, are also lobbying for the IG’s position for their police friends.
With the exit of the incumbent IGP, police sources, however, disclosed to The Witness that a junior officer to the aforementioned top brass of the police force (names withheld), who is in the rank of a commissioner of police, may eventually get the top job as he is said to have more years ahead of him before retirement.
“He has up to 2020 before he is due for retirement and the Presidency is likely going to have preference for that officer, especially with the forthcoming 2019 general elections,” a source at the Force Headquarters said.
The Presidency source further said that the officers penciled down for the police top job had already undergone “secret” security screening by the appropriate agencies.
As the lobby continues, The Witness learnt that the drama is gradually assuming political, religious and tribal dimensions as some zones have vowed to ensure one of their own assumes the position.
The many controversies of Idris
But for the intervention of a foremost traditional ruler in his home state of Niger, the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar; and the Emir of Kano, His Royal Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II, this newspaper learnt that Idris would have been sacked by the presidency months back. THE WITNESS gathered that the Buhari administration’s decision to do away with the IGP months back arose from what it believed was Idris’ “penchant for embarrassing the Presidency and his many controversies, especially on matters bearing on the security of the country.
Already, more than 2,000 petitions have been sent to the Presidency, demanding Idris’ removal as IGP, a Presidency source said.
Many of these petitions, it was learnt, were forwarded to the Presidency by serving policemen, anonymously. Several other petitions on alleged corrupt practices of the IGP are also said to be currently before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The Presidency, it was learnt, was also not happy with the alleged friction that occurred between Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo and the IGP, while Buhari was away in London for medical treatment and the former was the acting president last year.
The Presidency source said that Idris incurred Buhari’s wrath when the then acting president, during his visit to the President in London, reported an alleged act of insubordination, committed by the IGP. He had reportedly accused Idris of unilaterally withdrawing his (Osinbajo’s) police aide-de-camp, without first informing him or even seeking his consent.
Idris, who was said to have been queried then, had also reportedly defended his action by claiming that posting in the police force was a routine exercise that was the prerogative of his office, without recourse to any other government official or person.
“The IGP Idris’ response then angered the then acting president, who apparently felt slighted and reported the matter to President Buhari, who also was not happy with the police boss for such an act of insubordination, and that seemed to have been the beginning of his ordeal.
A report by a group simply identified as “Professionals,” comprising some prominent Nigerians, sent to the Presidency about the alleged incompetence of Idris as the country’s police boss, was also said to have worsened the case of the IGP.
The group, which was said to have, in the past ten months, mounted more pressure on the Presidency for Idris’ removal, it was learnt, had cited, in its report to the Presidency, the various cases of threats to internal security and violence across the country, which the IGP had failed to quell until troops of the Nigerian Army were drafted in to put such situations under control.
The group particularly pointed at his inability to quell the violent crisis that engulfed Zaria in Kaduna State, following an uprising by Shiites Islamic sect, led by Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zak Zaky, and his alleged failure to stop the incessant killings in Southern Kaduna by suspected Fulani marauders as “concrete evidence” of his incompetence as the nation’s IGP.
Among some of the allegations contained in the petitions forwarded against the IGP to the Presidency, it was learnt, was his habit of promoting junior officers to the higher rank of commissioner of police, above substantive holders of the rank, said to have been sidelined by Idris.
A source at the Louis Edet House, Abuja Headquarters of the force said that such “anointed officers” were usually posted out to states as commissioners of police to serve as the “eyes and ears” of the IGP across the country.
“There are more than 10 substantive commissioners of police benched at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, by IGP Idris. He prefers to promote their juniors above them and transfer his anointed officers to states as commissioners of police,” the source said.
A serving member of the National Assembly, Senator Isah Misau recently accused the IGP of tribalism and obtaining millions in bribes from police commissioners in exchange for favourable postings. The IGP’s recent wedding to a junior officer wasn’t left out of the fray as the senator accused the IGP of violating a problematic section of the police act.
Idris problem was compounded with an allegation of corruption leveled against him Senator Misau. Misau had publicly accused Idris of failing to account for over N10billion he earned monthly from special security postings of over 100,000 policemen assigned to individuals and corporate bodies.
The senator also accused the IGP of having improper sexual relationships with junior female police officers, culminating in his recent secret marriage to one of them who he allegedly impregnated and had earlier promoted from the rank of a sergeant to an assistant superintendent of police within 12 months.
In response to the accusations, the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation dragged Misau to court in a move that political watchers say was meant to divert attention from the weighty allegations. The filing of criminal charges against Misau over the matter by the AGF, Abubakar Malami, SAN, was, however, said to have irked the Presidency, which decided to finally move against the IGP.
The Presidency, it was also learnt, frowned upon the IGP’s alleged donation of two SUVs each to both the president’s wife, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, and the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Jos, Plateau State, allegedly to curry their favour. The donation of the vehicles was said to have angered the Presidency because they were not part of the items contained in the police budget for 2016/ 2017.
The controversy that also trailed the police boss’ claim that he gave the two SUVs to the police security aides attached to the president’s wife and not to the First Lady herself, after Senator Misau opened more cans of worms about the scandals surrounding the IGP, was also said to have further embarrassed the Presidency.
Still on Idris controversies is his refusal to honour the invitation of the Nigerian senate to clear the air on certain controversies pertaining to his office as the nation’s number one cop. On three occasions, the police boss turned it down.
• The Witness
By Felix Onajite (Exclusive to The Witness)