President Goodluck Jonathan paid a surprise visit to the Police College, Ikeja, Lagos, on Friday, and witnessed the scandalous living condition of the cadets.
The president was shown looking shocked and possibly angry in the pictures published by the media. Why was he surprised? Is this not the consequence of the corruption everyone has been talking and writing about, and the president has not as much as acknowledged? Probably, the kennels where the dogs live are far neater and infinitely more hospitable than the barbaric accommodation provided for the cadets of the Police College, Ikeja.
But, again, why was the president shocked? A recently graduated policeman from Kaduna Police College says what was revealed in the Ikeja Police College is far better than the Kaduna Police College. At the Kaduna Police College, some of the cadets sleep on tables and slabs.
If the police have been doing so badly, it was logical to assume the president would have attempted to find out why a long time ago. Maybe the president also does not know that on top of the barbarism of their living conditions, the cadets are also paid N3,500 (three thousand five hundred naira) monthly. Some government establishments have obviously forgotten that N18,000 is the official minimum wage in the country. And when they graduate, they are paid N42,000 monthly. And this is a country where N2.6 trillion was stolen in a single year in a single expense unit and more than N100 billion has been stolen from the pension fund.
Should we then be surprised that the police have been unable to tackle the Niger Delta militants, MASSOB, Boko Haram, armed robbers, kidnappers, ritualists? And, indeed, why are we surprised that the Nigeria Police Force is one of the most corrupt state institutions in the world? At a police checkpoint out of Abuja, people are being openly asked by the policemen there to give them "something for the boys". When asked why they were doing that "nonsense", they reple that most of the time when their stations hand over vehicles to them for patrol, they do not give them fuel or money to fuel the vehicles. Is this how to run a country?
But let’s be serious. How much of the appropriated budget does the Jonathan government actually disburse to the police every year? There is the need to make these figures public or maybe the National Assembly should force the police to make the figures public. In the year that N2.6 trillion was stolen, only 18% of the police budget was actually disbursed to them. The following year, less than 10% was disbursed. The president should therefore start directing his anger elsewhere. He needs to ask (or maybe he already knows) why the police do not get the funds legitimately appropriated for them. How far does the president expect any government agency to go with just 18% of its appropriated budget? Agreed, even out of this 18% or 10%, more than half would still be stolen by the police high command. But how do you blame the houseboy for stealing when he knows that the oga is stealing much more than him?
But it is still good news that the president decided to pay that surprise visit to the Police College, Ikeja. In Nigeria, surprise visits have been deployed by serious heads of state to know the true situation on ground. So, maybe President Jonathan has now decided to change his style of governance. Probably, even with this surprise visit and the president’s apparent indignation at what he saw at the Police College, Ikeja, he will do nothing and, therefore, nothing will change. But it is still possible that this is the beginning of a new dawn. That will be very good for the president, but even more so for all of us since, as it now appears, we are stuck with this president for the next 28 months.
The president must urgently start paying more surprise visits. Let him start with the East-West road that Reverend Hyacinth Egbedo told him about during the late General Azazi’s funeral and for which the president was quite upset with the man of God. Reverend Egbedo said such projects were abandoned because of corruption and that was what piqued the president. In inspecting the road, let the president ask his aides to dig up the information on the sheer amount of funds that has been disbursed for the road construction so far.
And instead of making his disagreement with Governor Rotimi Amaechi personal, let him also find out whether the Rivers State governor is saying the truth or not. Governor Amaechi has described Elder Godsday Orubebe, the minister of Niger Delta, as a failure who has been unable to complete one single road project. This is a very serious allegation coming from a governor who, warts and all, is performing well. Shouldn’t the president pay a surprise visit to ascertain whether Amaechi’s allegation is true or not? Not one single ministry has received nearly as much favour in terms of federal allocation as the Niger Delta Ministry since President Jonathan came to power. Let the president simply cut the crap and find out between Amaechi and Orubebe who is on the side of the nation.
Apart from the Niger Delta Ministry under Orubebe, 100% of NDDC projects in the universities in the Niger Delta area have been abandoned. The president should pay a surprise visit to all these places and find out for himself.
Let the president also pay a surprise visit to the teaching hospitals and find out why, in spite of all the allocations of the last several years, the bed sheets, mattresses and equipment in most of the teaching hospitals were the last ones supplied by the PTF before PDP came to power in 1999. He shouldn’t ask for reports; he should simply pay a surprise visit to the hospitals the same way he did to the Police College, Ikeja, and see for himself.
And let the president also pay a surprise visit to the universities. Many of them are not better than what we saw at the police college. Some of the University of Maiduguri students sleep on bare floor, as do the University of Calabar students at the Malabo Republic Hostel, wittily so named because of its closeness to Equitorial Guinea. At the University of Maiduguri, a laundry was converted to a hostel. At the Ahmadu Bello University’s Asmau Mustapha Hall, there are 529 students to one toilet. The hostel, which was built to accommodate 312 students, now accommodates more than 3,178 students, thus an average of 529 students to a toilet. What a shame! These pieces of information and other more disturbing revelations are contained in the report of the needs assessment committee set up by the federal government, i.e., by Jonathan himself.
On Thursday, a day before the president’s surprise visit to the police college, a coalition of civil society organisations under the aegis of Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group (SDMG) met in Abuja to discuss the future of tertiary education in Nigeria. They ended their meeting with a strong message, calling on the president to implement the report of his own needs assessment committee on the Nigerian public universities.
All these are the direct effects of corruption. No public officeholder or civil servant fears anyone anymore. Even the small boys in the ministries ask for bribes openly and challenge you to tell their minister or the president "if you like". And, by the way, why hasn’t the minister of police affairs found out what the president just discovered at the Police College, Ikeja?
Mr. President, Nigeria is falling apart under your watch. And we should not be surprised that the youths of this country are increasingly taking up arms against the state. This is what would happen in any country where N2.6 trillion could be stolen and nothing happens or where N2.4 trillion was "expended" during Obasanjo’s government days to provide electricity and all we got was a change of name from NEPA to PHCN.