All is not well with Tafa Balogun, as many scandals combine to threaten his position as the nation's inspector general of police.
Tony Orilade, Desmond Utomwen, Philipson Abah Richard Elesho and Emeka Ibemere
All is not well with Tafa Balogun, as many scandals combine to threaten his position as the nation's inspector general of police. Atop them all is the botched Anambra coup that casts Tafa's police, as an institution where anything can happen once the cash is right Since he was appointed Inspector General of Police early last year, Tafa Balogun, 56, has come to view reprimands from the presidency as no more than a slap on the wrist. But the botched attempt to remove the elected governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige, through a police coup, has had Tafa Balogun on edge since it was foiled. TheNEWS learnt that at a security meeting chaired by President Olusegun Obasanjo, with all the service chiefs in attendance early last week, Tafa desperately tried to convince the meeting that AIG Raphael Ige acted alone and had no "orders from above," as he claimed. An incredulous house promised to get to the root of the matter and punish all those involved. The retirement of AIG Raphael Ige was taken as the first punitive step.
Sources at Louis Edet House, headquarters of the Police, said last week that Tafa has been distraught since the coup drama unfolded. One worrying point, they say, is that the Federal authorities are not allowing the IG the freedom to investigate a matter, in which he himself is a suspect, all alone.
Government on its part has instituted its own investigation and there seems to be no way in which Tafa could determine its outcome. Another worrying point is whether the retired Assistant Inspector General, Raphael Ige, who led a band of well armed 200 policemen, to abduct the governor, would not squeal about the sweetheart deal he reached with the IG before and after the aborted coup, if his compulsory retirement is changed to dismissal and he is arrested for prosecution. Chris Uba, the Anambra millionaire and sponsor of the attempted police coup, according to sources close to the deal, was said to have brought both cops a lot of money to get his plan enforced to the letter.
When the Vice President, Abubakar Atiku, got Governor Chris Ngige's distress call and summoned the IG, he was said to have denied responsibility and issued a statement ordering maintenance of the status quo ante.
Indeed Mr. Chris Olakpe, force Public Relations Officer quoted the IG as saying he was never aware. He then added a judgement of his own. "It is shocking for somebody in the calibre of Raphael Ige, an Assistant Inspector-General of Police, to work in concert with some people to unseat an elected governor." But a source told TheNEWS that what the IG didn't tell the V.P was that AIG Ige was only acting out a script the IG had auditioned and endorsed. Sources at the Force headquarters say, Chris Uba and Ige had met the IG earlier in the week to plan the strategy. The plan was to arrest the governor, force him to resign, swear in the deputy governor and then banish the governor in his village, under a protective custody. But then, even the best of plans sometimes go awry. AIG Ige's undoing was not to have kept his captive incommunicado. It was a costly mistake made by the AIG, who the governor said was reeking of alcohol when he got to him on that 10 July.
But to hush AIG Ige up, the IG was said to have reached an understanding with him that whatever happens, Ige would only be retired from the force, a retirement that was just a matter of weeks away anyway. But Ige, a thoroughbred in these matters, was said to have demanded and received N15 million from his boss just in case the situation got out of hand and the IG sacrifices him. Well, Ige has been sacrificed by his boss and his entire police career ruined. Will he spill the beans?
Simultaneously too, Tafa Balogun's police career is under threat by the Anambra affair, with calls by a cross-section of Nigerians and editorialists, for his removal. In the reasoning of these critics, there is no conceivable way that the IG could exculpate himself over the Anambra affair. An AIG could not have acted on his own, without his IG giving him, an operational order. What even compounds matters is that in the normal run of things in the police, the operational order ought to have been communicated to the commissioner of police in the state, for implementation. But he was kept in the dark, as the IG preferred to use a retiring AIG, who could be sacrificed if the plot blew up in their faces.
Those who know Tafa Balogun say that his brilliant academic and law enforcement credentials suffer from one of the seven deadly sins: greed. TheNEWS has been on Tafa's trail of greed since he assumed office and the sleaze easily floods his 5 floor office at Louis Edet House. On the day he assumed office, Tafa Balogun foisted an 11-point catechism of corruption on the Police. Number 8 reads: "Corruption is the cause of high cost of our electoral process."
Balogun should know. As the police IG, he has had his greed on overdrive during the events leading to and during the election. This magazine learnt from very reliable sources at the presidency that the Police got N2 billion for logistics in the two tiers of elections in April. What Balogun proceeded to do with the vote shocked even those familiar with his tendency for graft. Lagos State Police Command, which is the largest in the country, with 18,000 policemen, got N6 million; Ogun and other states got N5 million each.
Each of the 12 zonal commands got N1 million. In all, the amount disbursed to all the commands amounted to a little over N200 million, leaving him with a net profit of over N1.7 billion.
And profits have been Balogun's main driving force since he assumed office a little over a year ago. His first lines of prey are the state governors. His style is vintage Balogun's bully tactics. Once he picks on a particular state, he leans on the commissioner of police to meet the state governor to demand gratification for the IG. The message is always that the "the IG is hungry". Governors, who know they would need the police for their political plans or who require police goodwill to tackle the problems of crime and insecurity, usually obliged him.
When the former commissioner of police in Delta State, John Ahmadu, tabled Tafa's long list of immediate needs, Governor James Ibori quickly obliged. What Balogun got was a Lexus jeep and N10 million. But Balogun was not done. Soon, he sent the commissioner back to the governor for a land in Warri. The land was provided and a house has been built at the Warri GRA to serve as a retreat for the IG.
If the governor thought he had the IG firmly on his side with his good gestures, he didn't reckon with the IG's stupendous greed. Fortunately for the IG, Ibori's political opponents conjured court papers alleging that the governor had been convicted in the past and should therefore be disqualified from running for a second term. The governor needed the police to prove his innocence and douse the political storm.
Sources told TheNEWS that the IG also saw in this, an opportunity to milk the governor. His first demand was a payment of N35 million, sources at the Abuja police headquarters said. The IG was actually abroad when the matter happened but he had sent word that the matter be not investigated until he returned. When he got back and took charge of the investigations, Ibori soon had a report to flaunt before his detractors that he was clean. But as Ibori's accusers persisted with their allegations, so also Balogun homed in for the kill. This time he demanded for additional money to give the governor a clean bill. Matters, however, slipped out of the IG's hand as the People's Democratic Party, PDP, cleared Ibori. Balogun, sensing that the treasure trove in Delta State was being firmly shut, sent the thoroughly embarrassed CP back to Ibori, some sources said, to ask for N40 million. The CP seemed to have had enough of his boss' game and told him he couldn't possibly approach the governor for money again. An angry Balogun had the CP transferred to Police Anti-fraud Unit, Milverton Road, Lagos, as a punishment for insubordination!
If Delta State was a kill, then Kwara State was the honeycomb the IG nibbled endlessly. When Olusola Saraki parted ways with Mohammed Lawal of Kwara State, he drove the governor straight into the waiting hands of the IG. It was a situation the IG assessed correctly and threw his lot with the governor. The deal between governor Lawal and Tafa Balogun was sealed in the United Kingdom. A third party was present at the UK meeting in January this year. He is a police contractor. The value: £3 million paid into the Lloyd's bank account of the said contractor. Then Balogun returned home to give value for money. Olusola Saraki who always prides himself as the kingpin of Kwara State politics was effectively kept out of his Ilorin base. Between governor Lawal and IG's enforcer on the ground, CP Ghazali Lawal, Saraki (snr) was told not to come to Ilorin, as his security could not be guaranteed. So Saraki had to content himself with bleating in Abuja about the need to declare a state of emergency in Kwara. But Bukola's gubernatorial ambition with its far-reaching implications for the Saraki political dynasty was slipping away. So Saraki (snr) took his case to Aso Rock. Saraki's misery was bad news to the proponents of the PDP grand strategy to rig the elections as the Presidency got Lawal, the CP, transferred out of Kwara State.
In his place came MD Abubakar. Governor Lawal was said to have invited the new commissioner of police and confided in him the arrangement between him and the IG and how, as the commissioner on the ground, his cooperation was essential to the success of his 2003 re-election project. M.D Abubakar politely turned down the governor's request and swore to guarantee the security of all Kwarans. Soon Saraki returned home to a tumultuous welcome by his followers. But to impress on Saraki (snr) that his security was not guaranteed bombs started to explode in Ilorin. Each side blamed the other. Saraki (snr) was frightened but the CP assured him of his safety. As the elections approached and the control of the police, a vital aspect of the massive rigging that was to mark the elections in the state, began to slip away, Lawal cried to his godfather in Abuja. And the IG obliged him. In one fell swoop, eight commissioners were shuffled with MD Abubakar as one of the affected commissioners. The target really was Abubakar. A flustered Aso Rock was said to have summoned Sunday Ehindero, a deputy inspector general of police in charge of administration and budget to explain the rationale of the transfer. Ehindero was said to have denied knowledge of it. When it was discovered that the IG's personal staff officer and not the DIG as required signed the transfers, the IG was summoned to Aso Rock and tongue-lashed. Another last minute effort to move Abubakar was aborted weeks before the election.
Abubakar stayed put in Kwara. With Lawal and IG outmaneuvered, it was easy for Bukola Saraki's PDP to award victory to itself.
The IG also pestered the Odili administration in Rivers State, which had chartered the plane that took the IG on his whistle stop tour of the country, just after his appointment, to build a house for him in Port Harcourt. In that same city, the IG reportedly owns an estate. In Lagos State, he also asked for a plot of land. He was given a plot at Lekki and the certificate of occupancy in one day! In addition to this, Tafa has just acquired a property on Thompson Road in Ikoyi. The one storey house is awaiting renovation work. In Abuja, the IG is also said to own houses, for one of which he paid N250 million, in one fell swoop.
The IG's style of acquiring a house in the Jos GRA, Plateau State defeats all logic. He had instructed the commissioner of police to ask the governor for a plot of land and the money for the construction. Joshua Dariye was not opposed to the IG's request but began to stall. When the pressure from his boss overwhelmed the commissioner, he did the only sensible thing. He donated a plot of land he had acquired in the Jos GRA, then proceeded to tax policemen to raise money to build the house for the IG.
But the police commissioner in one of the Northwestern states managed to produce some comical results. When the IG's demand of N10 million became rather insistent, he set out to slake his boss' insatiable thirst for money. He bought four Ghana-must-go bags and loaded them, not with naira, but guinea brocade.
He brought them to the IG's chalet in Abuja and called the IG's driver, whom he has elevated to chief security officer, to receive the four bags on behalf of his boss. A stunned CSO, on opening the bags, told the commissioner bluntly that what was required from him was N10 million and not guinea brocade. But the commissioner was said to have told the CSO that was all the command could afford. The IG, TheNEWS learnt, is waiting to teach the recalcitrant commissioner a lesson!
If bullying didn't work in Katsina, it sure did in Lagos. A few weeks ago, Tafa was said to have demanded the sum of $10,000 from Young Arebamen, Lagos State CP. Arebamen, who is due for retirement next year, was said to have scampered round Lagos to raise the money for his boss.
If the IG has drained politicians, he has not spared the Police his enormous canine either. Balogun, who came to office with so much promise, set out almost immediately to bleed the finances of the Force.
Matters only got worse with the conclusion of the elections and Tafa came to realize that the presidency, having used him, was shopping for a replacement. TheNEWS learnt that on a recent trip to Lagos to launch Keke Balogun, a poverty alleviation programme, close watchers say, Balogun came down on the Police accounts mercilessly. He withdrew N27 million from the operations account of the force in three instalments of N9 million. It wasn't just money; he also collected 20 cows that were sent to his marabouts for rites to keep him in office.
The Police vote Balogun loves to target is money for intelligence- payment for informants, media relations etc. In the first week of June, Balogun withdrew N500 million from the police account for intelligence. Then he withdrew N500 million meant for the maintenance of vehicles and tyres. But because this second tranche was budgeted for tangible work, he got a police contractor to prepare vouchers to cover the account.
Then also in June, he withdrew another N150 million for logistics. The money was moved to Zone 11 account in Osogbo. Another police contractor prepared some fancy documentation to cover the amount.
The illegal withdrawal of police funds, is just a strand of Balogun's management style since he assumed office in March last year.
TheNEWS also learnt from court papers that the IG has done his best possible to keep fraudsters away from prosecution. In the statements, Adedeji Alumile, a.k.a Ade Bendel, was said to have paid the IG N15 million. From Fred Ajudua, the IG reportedly got N20 million and Emma Nwude, a whopping N350 million. These payments had kept these fraudsters safe from prosecution until the coming of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, set up by government this year. When TheNEWS sought to confirm these allegations from spokesmen of the Commission last week, the usually voluble spokesmen refused to confirm the story.
What the IG has deployed his immense intellect to achieve is to cower the top brass of the police in such a way that he now runs a one-man show at Louis Edet House. At meetings of the Police High Command, he is fond of telling senior officers that the position of the IG was not vacant. He always tells them that he intends to be an IG for a long time and that DIG's with godfathers in Aso Rock should not bother lobbying.
To rule the police like a personal estate, the IG has sent two DIGs, Ogbonnaya Onovo and Mike Okiro to the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Plateau State. To effectively take over the force, he marginalised Sunday Ehindero who is DIG Budget and Administration by getting his PSO to sign very sensitive transfer papers that ought to be signed by Ehindero. After sending Okiro, who is in charge of B Department to Kuru, he got at the heart of operations. This department happens to be the biggest and most sensitive of the lot. When AIG Bello Labaran as head of FCID complained of the IG's management of the police, he was transferred to F Department - the police equivalent of Siberia. In his place, he brought in a protege, CP Azubike Uda to head the FCID. Many in the force consider this a sacrilege. The FCID has always been headed by an AIG.
Another commissioner, Lawrence Alobi, today heads Okiro's office.
AIG Labaran's problems began when he actually challenged the Monitoring Unit, MU, a creation of the IG that had taken over the job of the FCID. Three lackeys of the IG, ACP Tunde Ogunsakin, Musa Yusuf and one other officer head the MU. It was this MU that moved into the Bola Ige case and wiped out all the progress the DIG Ojomo-led team had made.
If the Monitoring Unit messed up the Ige murder investigation, what it did in the double murders of the Igwes in Anambra State shocked many at the Force headquarters.
When those murders were committed, it was the FCID that began the investigation but the IG directed that his MU should conduct the investigation. What it came up with is the skewed arraignment of a commissioner and other allies of Gov. Mbadinuju. The former governor was allowed to fly away to the USA, after paying for a report that curiously exonerated him from complicity in the murder. In the course of the investigation, the IG had released an Mbadinuju aide, after the governor had had a discussion with him. The way the suspect was released would make the IG qualify as a clairvoyant. He asked that the suspect be brought to his office by the investigating officers and right there, ordered his release. "Does he look like a murderer?", he asked his men, asking the suspect to go home.
The IG is also a one-man Tenders Board as he awards all police contracts alone.
Balogun was appointed IG because the presidency was looking for a tough guy who could provide a security cover for the massive rigging of the last elections.
And he has justified the trust of those who appointed him as the April elections have gone into the history books, as the worst election ever. International observers said the poll did not even meet Nigeria's minimum standards, not to talk of meeting minimum international standards. Most of the rigging was done in collusion with the police. In Western Nigeria, AD leaders were arrested in a number of states or chased, at gunpoint out of collation centres. In the Lagos police command, a list of AD leaders to be arrested before polling was said to have been dispatched to the command, but the command was said to have acted contrarily to the instruction. Instead, the command called the targeted leaders and urged them to be of good behaviour. "That was what saved Tinubu in Lagos", said a police insider. "Otherwise, he would have found that all his foot-soldiers were in police net hours before the polls". A report by the Police Service Commission highlighted the improper conduct of policemen in many states. The report signed by the chairman of the Police Service Commission, Chief Simon Okeke, spoke about the collusion of policemen with politicians to scare opponents from polling centres and stuff ballot boxes in a number of states.
Sources said policemen fell prey to the carrots of politicians, as they were denied by Abuja of the allowance they ought to have received for their official work during the polls. A number of policemen who later heard that Louis Edet House received several billions on their behalf have petitioned Aso Rock on the matter.
Close watchers of the police force in the last 17 months, since Balogun's ascension as IG say morale is at its lowest ebb again, as commands round the country are not receiving the allowances due to them. And when they do, the amount is so paltry, that it cannot serve any useful purpose. Vehicles are not maintained, as they should. Roadblocks have mushroomed all over the country as the policemen vent their frustration on Nigerians, using the points to collect tolls. And this is despite all the repeated bans of checkpoints.
Police watchers said the IG suffers from paranoia of the worst sort. Inspector Ayuba Wakung, a Police pay master had returned a N1 million over payment to the United Bank of Africa. It was an act that impressed all and got him commendation around the country. But Wakung, as is customary in the force, has been denied promotion because, the IG complained that the return of the money to the bank was not done through his office, thereby robbing him of the media attention.
Tafa, on a tour of Lagos last year was addressing officers when he suddenly burst into a Christian chorus: "It shall be permanent (twice). What the Lord has done for me, it shall be permanent." His men joined obviously praising God in their hearts. But Tafa had a shocker for them when they stopped singing.
He told them he was aware some persons were after his job and he was sure they would fail.
And the paranoia seems to run in the home. In June, Mrs. Nike Balogun, along with the police commissioners of Lagos and Ogun, was at the Ibadan residence of CP Ghazali Lawal to condole him on the death of his daughter. This was the same Lawal, the IG had used to deal with the Sarakis. When the IG's wife got to the house, Mrs. Lawal had returned to her Kaduna base. She however met the wife of the AIG of Zone II, Simeon Adeoye. Well, after some time, the AIG's wife made to take her leave and unwittingly sparked a riot. Nike Balogun insisted that the AIG's wife couldn't possibly leave her there.
Soon matters degenerated and both women engaged each other in a verbal war. The IG's wife was said to have accused Mrs. Adeoye and her husband of plotting to unseat Tafa and become the IG. Mrs. Adeoye, TheNEWS learnt, didn't spare Nike Balogun either. A few days after the altercation, the IG summoned AIG Adeoye to Abuja. The AIG came under withering abuse by the IG.
The IG accused him of weakness and inability to control his wife but AIG Adeoye couldn't follow the example of his wife by giving the IG a piece of his mind, police sources said. Mrs. Nike Balogun also has eyes for the fast bucks too. TheNEWS learnt that in all the police shopping complexes constructed since her husband came to office, 70 per cent of the stalls are reserved for her.
Balogun detests the name of his predecessor, Musiliu Smith, like a plague. Smith's offence is that he claimed credit for a massive promotion exercise, which he had ordered while in office. Because the Police Commission hadn't been constituted to vet the list, it could not be made public. But Balogun takes credit for the success of Crime Fighters, a television programme that came on stream under Smith. Even here, he has exploited the selling points of the programme to his enrichment. The IG has by-passed the producers of the programme to solicit for funds from state governments and corporate organisations. . He got about N12 million from First Bank; NNPC N10 million; Kaduna N7 million; Rivers N10 million and a police contractor, N15 million, among other donations. The money received is now being diverted largely for the IG's personal use, at the detriment of the popular programme.
When TheNEWS magazine visited the office of the police spokesman, Mr. Chris Olakpe, DCP, last week to get an interview with the IG, Olakpe tried to play down the story. First, he asked if TheNEWS is now ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices Commission).
Mr. Olakpe then demanded that TheNEWS correspondents should not open the Pandora box.
He then stood up, went out of his office and said a detailed questionnaire be brought to him the next day.
On Tuesday when TheNEWS visited, following Mr.
Olakpe's phone call earlier in the day, he demanded and got the questionnaire. Rather than arrange for the interview, with the I.G, he continued his pleas from where he stopped the previous day.
He explained that he would not want TheNEWS to go ahead with the story because TheNEWS would be "overheating the system." The heat has to do with the unraveling role of the IG in the abduction of the Governor of Anambra State.
Although many policemen and some politicians are not happy with him, the IG's kinsmen in Ila Orangun, an agrarian community noted for its legendary skills in palmwine tapping eagerly identified with him. With a street named after him, many indigenes of the town acknowledged the community development efforts of the IG. Abdul Wahab Onjedotun Bobire I, the Orangun of Ila, aggregates the impression of his subjects. "Tafa is a good son of this land and we are proud of him. He has been helping in the area of getting our children employed. Although he does not come home often because of his job, he listens to us and is always ready to help." Balogun was born on 25 August 1947, in Ila-Orangun, Ila local government area of Osun State.
He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in political science from the University of Lagos in 1972. On 1 May 1973, he joined the Nigeria Police Force as a cadet superintendent of police.
Balogun also bagged degree in law from the University of Ibadan after which he attended the Lagos law school in 1990. Nine years after, he obtained a master's degree in strategic studies. In 1999, when he attended the National War College, Balogun was promoted an assistant inspector general of Police. He attended a management course at Durham Constabulary in England in 1983 and policing seminar in Algeria four years after.
At various times, Balogun was deputy commissioner of police in the old Bendel state, commissioner of police in Delta. Abia and Rivers states and force secretary after which he became the commissioner of police in charge of personnel. President Obasanjo appointed Balogun IG in March 2002.