...Unending troubles of cop who tried to rid police of corruption
•Refused resignation •Denied entitlements •Pitched against new employers
By CHRIS ANUCHA
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Photo: Sun News Publishing
Inspector Friday Igbinoba’s crusade to fight corruption in Nigeria Police Force would have been, applauded, appreciated, if he was an American, Briton, or from Asian countries or other climes, where the words, ‘corruption’ or ‘bribe’ are dreaded and regarded as a plague.
As a serving police officer, he took it upon himself to fight corruption among his colleagues. It was a no mean feat which would have earned him a national honour or reward in whatever form. Sadly, it marked the beginning of his woes, culminating in one tribulation to the other.
Igbinoba’s problems with the Nigeria Police dates back to 1990. Then, as a Police Constable , he and one Corporal were said to be on night patrol at Apapa Quay, when they received information that a gang was stealing reels of NEPA cables at Area 13. The gallant cop and his colleague, Tanko, moved in and apprehended members of the gang, who were already loading the NEPA cables, worth over N1 million into a trailer marked, KND 9625.
Members of the gang had told them that they were committing the crime in connivance with some top police officers. The leader of the gang, Ige, was alleged to have offered Igbinoba and his colleague the sum of N1,000, to cover up the track.
Instead of getting accolades for busting the crime and for not compromising, his Divisional Police Officer (DPO), allegedly scolded them because of his(DPO’s) alleged involvement in the crime. He said they were called names and vilified during a lecture, “for attempting to implicate their fellow officers, instead of protecting them.”
The embattled police officer narrated how the indicted police officers tore the statements made by the suspects and helped them to re-write it. Besides, to ensure that the suspects went scot-free, they were charged to a Magistrate Court, instead of the then Miscellaneous Offences Tribunal. They were discharged and acquitted!
For arresting the criminals and refusing to compromise, Igbinoba said he was given “orderly room” trial, harassed, detained and transferred from Apapa Quay.
“Instead of rewarding me, I was transferred to the Police Staff College, Jos, Plateau State. My lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi, petitioned the IG, Attah, and I was brought back and dumped at the Railway Police Command, Ebute Metta,” he alleged.
Another time he stepped on the toes of his superiors for daring to fight corruption in the Police Force was in 2008. Then, he was serving in Ogun State Command. He and his colleagues were said to be patrolling the highways, when the driver of a jeep drove in manner that could make any security agent suspect that he was attempting to escape justice.
Their curiosity was further fired by the fact that the body of the unregistered vehicle was riddled with bullets. “We gave it a hot chase, caught up with the four occupants, searched them, recovered AK 47, ammunition and a knife designed in form of pistol. We effected their arrest and I asked my boys to tie them and we started heading back to Ijebu Ode,” he said.
As they were driving to Ijebu Ode, the gallant cop said they noticed six trucks driving against traffic and later discovered that the occupants were into oil bunkering. The six tankers were filled with crude oil.
He explained that as they went after the trucks, one of the drivers used his to barricade the road, making it possible for the drivers of the other five trucks to escape. The three men in the truck, which was used to block the road later escaped into the bush but the tanker was impounded.
“Later, I saw a jeep as we were towing the tanker to the station and the owner of the crude oil started bargaining from N100,000, till he agreed to pay N300,000. I told him I don’t give and I don’t take bribe.”
When they towed the tanker to the police station, Igbinoba said he took sample of the crude oil and registered the exhibit, while the owner of the impounded truck left the police station. He said he was shocked when he came to the Command Headquarters the next day to discover that the tanker had been released to the owner.
“I went to the Area Commander to find out why the truck was released and he told me that it was order from the above. When I inquired further, he pointed at the CP’s picture in his office.
But five months later, Igbinoba saw the owner of the crude oil who inquired if he was not the same police officer, who refused to take bribe of N300,000. He said the man disclosed to him that his superiors collected the sum of N1.6 million to release the truck. According to him, they further threatened to deal with him, for making them lose N1.6 million as against N300,000, he was offered.
With the death threat hanging on his neck, Igbinoba said he went to Silver Bird Television (STV) to spill the beans. He also petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). After the TV interview, he was arrested by the police and taken to the Bar Beach police station, Lagos, on robbery allegation.
But when the police authorities realised that the frame-up robbery charge against him would further dent their image, they dropped it and transferred the case to the Ogun State command. “They chained my legs and framed up corruption charges against me,” he further said.
Police did not end the matter there. The then Inspector General of Police ordered that he should be taken to the Psychiatric Hospital, to ascertain if he was mentally sound as alleged by the then Ogun State police commissioner.
“That was how I was taken to the Psychiatric hospital, Abeokuta. While I there, some gunmen came to kill me and I escaped.” However, the psychiatric hospital gave him a clean bill of health, when it stated that there was nothing wrong with his brains. In a letter addressed to the Commissioner of Police in-charge of Police Medical Services, Oke-Ilewo, Abeokuta, Ogun State, the hospital authorities pointed out that Igbinoba did not display any feature suggestive of mental disorder.
The letter said: “In view of the fore-going, we are of the opinion that the patient does not suffer from psychiatric disorder, but his observed behaviour was brought on by a desire to secure the attention of Nigeria Police Force to which he earnestly looks for help in alleviating the distress of his heart disease. His perceived misconduct could be reasonably viewed in this light and it is our conclusion that his mental status is normal.”
After the allegation of mental instability, Igbinoba decided to retire voluntarily from the Police Force in July 14, 2008. But his letter of resignation was turned down. “They continued to pay my salary into my account. I thought the money was to help me receive treatment on the heart disease I have been suffering from,” he told Daily Sun.
He also disclosed how the Assistant Inspector General of police (AIG), in-charge of Zone 2, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar once invited him for discussions and tried to convince him not to resign. Following his meeting with Abubakar, he said he withdrew his resignation letter. He later discovered that the purpose of making him change his mind withdraw the letter was to take him unawares and dismiss him from the police.
He again tendered a letter of resignation dated, January 12, 2009. The police are yet to approve his resignation letter or pay him his entitlements.
Yet, he alleged that the police authorities are still after him. He had taken his anti-corruption crusade to a company in Victoria Island, Lagos, where he was offered an appointment as a security guard on April 21, 2009.
At the Hitech Construction Company Limited, some people allegedly connived to steal some equipment, belonging to the company which they wanted him to be part of. But he refused.
He told Daily Sun that he received the N1,000, they gave him as his own share of the booty. According to him, the purpose was to use it as exhibit or evidence against the suspects.
The buyers of the stolen equipment were said to have begged him to keep sealed lips, as such deal was common practice among security men working in the area.
Igbinoba told Daily Sun that he also alerted some policemen attached to the Hitech company. He said he informed one Sergeant Abodurin and a Constable and handed over the exhibit to them, for prosecution.
“At about 5a.m, they came to give me N5,000, as my own share. I asked them why and they said the suspects had been released.”
I insisted on reporting the matter. A panel was set up and the two supervisors were dismissed because of the matter. I asked the Chief Security Officer (CSO) what would be the fate of the Sergeant, who released the exhibit and the suspects, he said he was going to write to the CP.”
The angry cop said he was shocked when two weeks after, the Chief Security Officer, questioned his decision to “remove his boys”.
Thereafter, he was transferred to another site and later, sent on two weeks suspension. After serving the two weeks suspension, Igbinoba said he wrote a petition to the owner of the company but his petition was intercepted by the CSO.
The CSO was said to have called him one day, showed the petition he wrote against him to him and tore it.
He alleged that CSO put pressure on the owner of the company to sack him. One day, he said the management summoned him to provide evidence to back up his allegation against the CSO as contained in the petition. The next thing that followed was a question as to whether the CSO was ready to still work with him. Expectedly, the response was, No! Following the negative response, the Project Manager also said he was not ready to work with him. That was how he lost his job at Hitech Construction Company Limited, over allegation of threatening to kill his foreman.
Igbinoba is still pointing fingers at the police for being behind his sack from by the company. “Let the Nigeria Police leave me alone. I should be allowed to look for means of livelihood. They should also pay me my entitlements and stop chasing after me,” he said.
When Daily Sun contacted Hightech Construction company on phone, the CSO described Igbinoba as an ungrateful person. He narrated how he used esprit de corps to offer him employment when he came to the company with his wife and their little baby strapped on the wifes’ back.
“I had pity on him because of his condition as a jobless person and because of his wife and the little baby. The CSO explained that he told him to take proactive measures to prevent crime, adding that Igbinoba preferred to allow crime to be committed, so that he could take glory for arresting criminals. He cited an instance where he allegedly aided stealing of diesel which he (Igbinoba) claimed was to enable him arrest the thieves.
He also alleged that he (Igbinoba)was there when some people loaded two trucks with the company’s materials, only to claim that he wanted to catch them red-handed and to have evidence against them.
“When I asked him why he allowed such thing to happen, he told me that the battle line had been drawn. The next thin I saw was a petition against me. This was somebody I was trying to help. This was somebody that had worked for only three months, somebody whose appointment had not been confirmed,” he fumed.
But unknown to him, the CSO confirmed Igbinoba’s allegation that the police were behind his losing the job. He told Daily Sun how he reported the matter to Area ‘A’ Police Command where they told him that he had mental problem. They told him that he would have investigated before employing him. They also confirmed to him that his resignation had not been approved and that he was not being paid salary