Two top police officers in Abuja have told SaharaReporters of widespread disenchantment within police ranks that President Muhammadu Buhari had not removed former Inspector-General of Police Mike Okiro from his post as chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC). Also, SaharaReporters learned that several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have voiced their disquiet over Mr. Okiro’s continued leadership of the PSC despite credible and well-documented details about his corrupt lifestyle.
One of our sources told SaharaReporters that Mr. Okiro’s tenure at the helm of the PSC has had negative consequences on the professionalization of the police, adding that Mr. Okiro was well known for his corrupt practices and notorious for favoring some of the most criminal elements within the police force.
The other source remarked that it would be unfortunate if President Buhari allowed Mr. Okiro to oversee the hiring of 10,000 new police officers. “This man [Okiro] was not a good influence when he was the IG, and he has not been a good influence as chairman of the Police Service Commission,” said one of the high-ranking police sources. He added: “To allow him to be in charge of new recruitment of thousands of new officers means that the culture of corruption and even criminality in the force is being fostered.”
SaharaReporters has detailed how Mr. Okiro shielded a murderous police officer, Vincent Orubebe, even after internal police investigations found that the officer had killed innocent people and released criminals from detention in exchange for cash. Mr. Orubebe, who was in charge of a special anti-robbery squad in Lagos, was suspended from the police and was close to being formally sacked before Mr. Okiro became IG and recalled him.
Also, Mr. Okiro approved the reinstatement and promotion of another notorious police officer, Sam Chukwu, who has been implicated as the sponsor of a gang of junior police officers whose armed robbery and kidnapping activities once terrorized the resident of Enugu, the capital of Enugu State. Even though Mr. Chukwu has defied summons to appear in court over the kidnapping and murder of Lotachukwu Ezeudu in September 2009, Mr. Okiro engineered the fugitive officer’s promotion to the rank of assistant commissioner of police and his deployment to police headquarters annex in Lagos.
Police sources accused Mr. Okiro of promoting and protecting criminal-minded officers because they funnel cash to him. “The simple truth is that this man [Mr. Okiro] has instituted a system whereby he receives bribes to push the promotion of senior officers. Unless Mr. President acts fast, Sir Okiro is going to destroy what remains of the integrity of the force if he is in charge of the recruitment and promotion of 10,000 new policemen for Nigeria. He will just populate the force with people who share his corrupt views,” said one of the senior police sources.
A senior officer, Solomon Kaase, had petitioned the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC) accusing Mr. Okiro of planning to steal N275 million from the PSC. In its investigation, the ICPC found that former IG Okiro requested for and collected N350 million ostensibly to train 900 staff of the PSC, even though the commission had only a workforce of 391 at the time.
ICPC investigators further concluded that Mr. Okiro trained PSC staff at a training location in Abuja and pocketed funds meant for training in Lagos and other parts of the country.
SaharaReporters also reported how Mr. Okiro used a firm registered by his now late wife to defraud a bank. In 2009, the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) indicted Mr. Okiro and his wife, Hera Okiro, for engaging in activities that led to huge losses for creditor banks. Mr. Okiro apparently used his official residence to operate a company that received government contracts while he was in active service as Inspector General of Police, a conduct that meant that the former IG violated public service laws. The said company was also used to obtain loans from Nigerian banks that were never paid back.
As the NDIC moved to recover the bad loans, Mrs. Okiro died in a freak accident after reportedly falling in her bathroom. Mr. Okiro kept her death secret from the public for a while, fueling suspicion that her death may not have been accidental.