Sir Jay, as he prefers to be identified, is arguably one of ‘the big men’ residing on Gowon Estate in Lagos.
A father of three, he lives with his family in a well-furnished three-bedroomed flat in the posh neighbourhood. His three kids are pupils of a standard private primary school within the community.
Every term, the native of Oyo State parts with about N200,000 to settle his children’s school fees without any threat to the flashy Toyota Corolla Saloon car he cruises around. With his own three-bedroomed apartment and boys’ quarters nearing completion, the 37-year-old man is certainly not far from the middle class – a stratum occupied by top professionals and major business owners in the country.
For a police sergeant like Sir Jay with a monthly pay of N58,000 as his only legit means of livelihood, such social status is alarming. But for those who know the stout-looking cop as a former detective at the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Lagos State Police Command, his source of wealth is no mystery. In the space of three years he spent at the police formation, Sir Jay raked in huge sums to secure his current ‘successes.’
Before he was posted to SARS, he and his family had lived from hand to mouth for six years in a mini flat at Bariga, a densely populated suburb of Lagos. At that trying time, Sir Jay was a constable and later a corporal earning about N50,000 salary. But the family’s living condition took a leap in 2015 when the policeman eventually had ‘a breakthrough’ in his lobbying for a transfer to SARS.
“I went through a lot of struggles before my transfer to SARS was successful,” he said. “Thankfully, it is history now,” Sir Jay added, trying to change the topic during a chat with Saturday PUNCH recently at a bar in Ikeja.
After he was assured that his identity would be protected, he opened up to our correspondent who prodded him on how his posting to SARS materialised and the secrets behind his meteoric rise to comfort. “I lobbied for the transfer with N70,000,” he began.
“I tried twice without success. It was on the third attempt that it worked out. On the first occasion, a colleague linked me up with a senior officer who collected N20,000 from me to facilitate the transfer. Six months after I paid the money, the officer kept on giving me excuses and urging me to be patient. I was working at a police station around Oshodi then.
“When the transfer was not forthcoming, I met with another senior colleague who promised to get it done at the command headquarters in Ikeja. He equally asked me to pay N20,000, which I did. At the end, it turned out to be a bad deal. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my money back in the two instances. Mostly, transfer to ‘juicy’ units like SARS is based on connections. If you know people who can recommend you based on their influence, you won’t even pay a dime for the transfer; but if you don’t, you will have to pay.
“In 2015, I met a colleague I had worked with while we were both in Ogun State Police Command. He said he had moved to SARS in Lagos and I told him about my interest to work there too. He then introduced me to an officer at the Department of Operations in Ikeja, who collected N30,000 from me. Within two months, I was told that I had been transferred to SARS.
“Within a year I got there, my life changed completely. I relocated my family to Gowon Estate and changed my children’s school to a better one. For the three years I spent in SARS before I was transferred, the cases I handled with my team fetched us a lot of money.”
Sir Jay, however, became withdrawn when our correspondent asked for details on how he made money from those cases. “You can realise as much as N300,000 in a criminal case,” he added, ending the conversation with a grin.
Other ‘juicy’ offices policemen lobby to work
Apart from SARS, police formations such as Anti-Cultism Unit, Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team, IGP Monitoring Unit, Mobile Police Force and Special Protection Unit are ‘lucrative’ units where an average Nigerian policeman will like to work in order to augment their meagre salary, findings by our correspondent revealed.
Saturday PUNCH’s investigation showed that some other materially rewarding units include Anti-Kidnapping Unit, Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department; ‘plum’ police stations and the police legal department, which posts prosecutors to courts. where they can make money while perfecting bail conditions.
A police inspector and former detective at IRT office in Rivers State, Raji Kolapo, (real name withheld) told our correspondent that he paid N70,000 to an officer at the Welfare Office at the Force headquarters in Abuja to do his transfer to IRT in 2014.
Kolapo, who is now with the Special Protection Unit in Lagos, however, said cravings for lucrative postings are not limited to the police alone.
“Other security agents also lobby for posting and some of them pay money to work in offices where they can make money. Even in the civil service and private sector, people lobby to get juicy postings,” Kolapo said, with an expression of conviction in his face.
He continued, “IRT is a choice unit where many policemen will want to work but their duty is very risky. The detectives usually go after high-profile criminals and some of them (policemen) are killed in the process. But the men also make a lot of money, especially from bailable offences.
“I paid N70,000 for my posting, but I recouped my money in multiples during the four years I spent there. Some of my colleagues at IRT then did not pay for their posting because they had direct links.
“I moved to SPU last year because the risk involved in IRT operations is high. I did the transfer with N50,000. I am now attached to a multinational company. The company pays me N80,000 monthly, but I also give my superior part of the money.”
An Assistant Superintendent of Police at a police formation in Abuja confided in our correspondent that lobbying for ‘attractive’ departments and formations is not peculiar to the rank and file.
“Senior officers, especially from the rank of Chief Superintendent of Police upward, also lobby to head lucrative police stations and formations,” The ASP, who wants to be identified simply as Chris, revealed.
Chris told Saturday PUNCH that policemen attached to major oil companies in the country earn more than N100,000 per month and give returns to their superiors in the office to ensure their stay in those companies is not short-lived.
He stated, “Policemen in those oil companies usually provide escorts for the expatriates. For instance, I know of a police sergeant in a major oil company that collects about N100,000 per month which is almost the double of his police salary.
“Every month end, the companies and the policemen make returns to the officer in charge. The OC asks the companies to pay what is called administrative money, but nobody accounts for it. Policemen make those returns to secure their place in those companies so that when the OC is doing reshuffling, it will not affect them.
“If an OC has about 200 policemen posted to those companies and he collects returns of N10,000 to N15,000 from each of them monthly, that is big money. The OC also makes returns to his superiors so that he will remain in that unit for a long time.
“Welfare Office at the Force headquarters and Department of Operations at the state command level handle transfers of the rank and file. It is either you know someone to facilitate your transfer or you pay money. When it comes to the officers, from the rank of ASP onward, it is handled at the IGP Force Secretariat, which is headed by an AIG (Assistant Inspector-general of Police).”
According to Chris, becoming a squadron commander, the officer in charge of a mobile police unit, or a divisional police officer of a police station also requires a great deal of manipulations. He said officers seeking to head lucrative police stations and formations have their way by either knowing the right person to assist them or giving bribes.
He explained, “If a police officer has a good rapport with those at the helm of affairs in the Force, he can be posted to head a juicy police station or squadron on personal grounds. Although some transfers are done based on the competence of the personnel, they are very few.
“A squadron commander can pay millions of naira to get that position because it is lucrative. The squadron commander attaches those mobile policemen to Very Important Persons such as governors and business moguls. They are also posted to banks and other organisations.
“Let’s assume the commander has 200 men under him, he can make up to N4m in a month through those VIPs and organisations. So, as a CSP, if somebody asks you to pay N3m to be posted to a squadron to spend two or three years, won’t you pay? No company or VIP is using policemen free of charge.
“Most of the policemen seeking postings to formations like SARS, IRT, IGP Monitoring Unit, Anti-Cultism Unit, and so on are not just going there to serve. They are going there to make money. If they arrest a prime suspect for kidnapping, for instance, they may pick up several other persons known to the suspect, but who are innocent in the case and tag them as suspects. Those people will pay huge amounts to get bail.
“They (the policemen) will carry out raids, arrest innocent people and force them to make indicting statements. At the end of the day, they will ask them to pay certain amounts for bail or be charged to court.”
Chris stated further that some detectives do not indulge in unethical conducts, but accept “voluntary cash gifts.”
“I know of a policeman in SARS in Lagos Command, who has never arrested any innocent person in his life. I worked with him. There was a man that was arrested for unlawful possession of firearms. A pump-action gun was found in the man’s car at night during a stop and search but the gun has a licence.
“The man was paraded and my colleague was asked to charge him to court with unlawful possession of firearm. He gave the man a soft-landing charge because he knew the gun was licenced. The man came back and gave him N200,000; he didn’t beg for the money.”
Nigerians pay heavy price for the ‘juicy’ postings
The money-making conduit for the majority of policemen attached to operational and investigative units such as SARS is basically through indiscriminate arrests of persons for crimes they did not commit and collection of bail money, Saturday PUNCH’s findings revealed.
For instance, on a Friday in August 2017, a 58-year-old farmer, Chris Onwubuke, was wrongly arrested and detained for robbery by operatives of the Special Anti-robbery Squad, Lagos State Command. He was compelled to part with N100,000 before he was released.
It was reported that the operatives had tracked a phone number belonging to one Chukwudi, popularly called Baba Ejima, to Likosi-Mosimi, in the Sagamu area of Ogun State, but mistakenly linked the tracking to Onwubuke, who bears Ejima as his middle name.
“When we got to their office in Ikeja, they said I was involved in a robbery. I was shocked. They asked if I was Chukwudi (Baba Ejima), I said no. They asked if I had a brother with the name Chukwudi, and I said no. They also asked if I worked in Warf (Lagos), I said no. They later said Chukwudi duped somebody.
“They locked me up in a cell until 2pm on Saturday, and asked me to look for a surety and N300,000 for bail. My relatives begged them and after negotiations, they collected N100,000. My sister-in-law borrowed the money from her neighbour. One of the policemen identified himself as ASP Alagbe and gave me his phone number. They seized my phone and asked me to come for it on Monday. They tarnished my image,” Onwubuke had told our correspondent.
With the intervention of the then OC SARS, the policemen returned the phone and refunded N50,000 to the farmer, claiming that was all they collected from him.
Princewill Jumbo, a 300-level student at Rivers State University of Science and Technology, and his friends were returning to Port Harcourt from a burial on Saturday, November 5, 2016 when they were arrested at a motor park by some men of Anti-Cultism Unit of the state police command, who allegedly beat them up and put them in custody.
Princewill’s father, Mr Progress Jumbo, while speaking with our correspondent, said he parted with N20,000 because the policemen threatened to implicate his son.
Jumbo had said, “They asked me to pay N20,000 or else they would send a letter to my son’s school that he was a cult member. That was the threat they used to extort money from me. As a father, I had to succumb to their threat. Why should I allow my son to be rusticated for no reason?”
In July 2017, three policemen attached to the Area N Command, Ijede, Ikorodu area of Lagos were dismissed from the Force for unlawful extortion and arrest.
The cops – Inspector Okelue Nkemeonye, Sergeant Braimoh Sunday and Yusuf Olukoga – had stationed their patrol van near a bank in Ikorodu and accosted a graduate who wanted to deposit money at the bank.
They accused him of being a ‘Yahoo boy’ (the popular name for an Internet fraudster) and collected N50,000 from him before he was released.
Also, four SARS operatives of the Lagos State Police Command in a desperate attempt to make money had arrested a bishop, one Chukwudi Odionye, for performing fake miracles.
The officials – Sergeants Adeoye Adekunle, Adekitan Adebowale, Agbi Lucky and Odighe Hehosa – consequently led Odionye to a bank on June 5, 2017 and reportedly forced him to transfer N7m to the account belonging to one of them.
Following a petition to the AIG, Zone 2 Command, which is in charge of Lagos and Ogun states, the men were investigated and found culpable. They were summarily dismissed in July 2018.
Also in July 2018, some policemen attached to the Anti-Kidnapping Unit of the Edo State Police Command, were reported to have used Point of Sale machine to extort N100,000 from a building contractor, Mr Emmanuel Alabede.
The 28-year-old man was travelling in a car from Ibadan, Oyo State, to Abuja when the policemen on patrol along Ibilo-Okene Expressway flagged the vehicle down and searched his bag.
The victim said the gun-wielding operatives demanded a bribe from him, but he refused, adding that he had to cooperate with them when he realised that his life was in danger.
Alabede had recalled, “They searched my phone but they found nothing incriminating; all they saw were pictures of uncompleted buildings. They asked me if the buildings belonged to me and I told them that they were not mine but they belonged to my clients.
“They said I was lying and accused me of being an Internet fraudster but I told them I was not and showed them my ID card and my company’s card, but they did not release me.
“While they were with my phone, a notification of alert of over N200,000 popped up on my phone from a client and they said they were going to collect the N200,000 from me.
“I told them that the money was not for me; that it was for a client that wanted me to work on his building, but they told me that if I didn’t give them the money they would kill me and nobody would hold them responsible.
“I told them that I could not give them the whole money but I could give them part of it; so they told me that they would not collect anything less than N100,000 from me.
“They took me to a POS operator and I made a transfer of N100,000 to the operator who charged N2,500 for the transaction and gave the cops N97,500.”
Speaking to Saturday PUNCH, the National Coordinator, Network on Police Reform in Nigeria, Mr Okechukwu Nwaguma, described extortion in the Nigeria Police Force as a systemic issue which cuts across the structure from top officers to the rank and file.
He said, “Extortion by the police is sanctioned from the top. Starved with funds to carry out basic policing operations and duties, senior police officers such as Divisonal Police Officers send their men out to set up roadblocks as means of generating funds. The men demand bribes from complainants to investigate their complaints.
“Targets are set for junior officers who are required to make returns to divisional police officers and heads of lucrative units such as SARS, Anti-Kidnapping, Anti-Cultism and other sundry units. Failure to meet targets or make returns results in being posted to less ‘lucrative’ units. Junior officers do everything, including arresting innocent people and extorting money for bail in order to meet targets.”
Nwaguma urged the government to demonstrate genuine commitment to police reform by implementing the “far-reaching reforms” recommended by various government and civil society committees and panels.
According to Nwaguma, the Police Reform Bill recently passed by the Senate provides for a modern legal framework to drive police reform, address the many challenges impeding police professionalism and effectiveness and provide a basis to hold the police accountable for abuse, corruption and unprofessional conducts.
I’m not aware of payment for transfers – Force PRO
When contacted about the shady deals surrounding transfers in the police, the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, said he was not aware of such, noting that postings of personnel were based on merit. He also debunked claims that policemen jostled for ‘juicy’ units in order to make money from VIPs and companies or extort members of the public.
He said, “I am not aware of that. Postings in the police are done on the bases of openings and availability; the requirements of the command; the establishment strength of the command; the competencies of the officers being posted; specialisation and finally the crime trend and the security challenges existing at the time. These are the things that the police take into consideration when they do postings.
“Sometimes, in some of the postings, the person doing the postings does not even know the person that is being posted. They only look at your files, the training you have attended, your age, experience and the length of time you have spent in your current office. They may not even have a personal and physical contact with you. I have been in the police for over two decades and I have never paid a dime to anyone and no one has ever asked me for a dime.”