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The Nigeria Police: Still the Hotbed of Public Corruption in Nigeria. The Case of Non-Prosecution of Criminal Kidnapping in Anambra State

July 5, 2007

Almost always coming annually at the very top of the scale in the corruption index of the nation, the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) has had a long-standing, notorious history of corruption which is nothing short of legendary even for Nigeria. A recent nationwide survey of corruption in the Nigerian Corruption Index (NCI) of 2007, for example, released by the Independent Advocacy Project (IAP), a non-governmental organization (NGO) with a focus on good governance in Nigeria, identified the Nigerian Police as the most corrupt organization in the country, closely followed by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), the old NEPA. The police force is charged with being the most corrupt in terms of taking bribes and extorting money from the populace. In other words, the Nigerian police, the principal body which is, or, at least should be, at the very forefront of combating crime and corruption (both vices go hand-in-hand) in Nigeria, has not only always been, but remains today, even with all the much-publicized dreaded efforts of  Nehu Ribadu’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), at the forefront, not of combating the scourge of corruption, but of engaging in corruption and corruption-peddling in the nation.

As recently as barely one month ago, at the installation of Mr. Mike Mbama Okiro as the new Acting Inspector-General (IG) of Police to replace Mr. Ehindero in early June 2007, the new boss of the police, displaying a seemingly serious public acknowledgment and outrage over the woeful  reality that corruption is still a serious problem in his police force,

proclaimed a new declaration of  “war on corruption” in his police force. Okiro listed the following as the very top two “Focal Points” priorities of the 9-point  practical “tests” of his new administration:

·         Transparency/Accountability   .  War on corruption/Crime.

As Okiro put it, “All Police officers and men must pledge themselves to offering services which the citizens expect in a timely, fair, honest, effective and transparent manner.  The society expects nothing less, and the new administration will pursue this goal aggressively to its logical conclusion.”

      And as to his supposed new policy of “WAR ON CORRUPTION,” Mr. Okiro spoke vociferously of “our [the Police] avowed desire to rid the Police organization of graft within its ranks.” He then pledged to the nation, that “This Police administration is declaring a total war on corruption in its entire ramification. Corruption is a cankerworm that has eaten deep into the fabric of the Nigerian society. The Police Force, as a part of the same social system, has not been spared of this, society expects nothing less and the new administration will pursue this goal aggressively to its logical conclusion.”


Great and sweet words of outrage and promise from the mouth of the new IGP, Mike Okiro! But how, however, do these words square with the concrete facts and evidence on the ground? A good “test case” for an examination of this, is what happened with the police handling and involvement in a recent kidnapping case involving one Nnewi-based businessman in Anambra State, Mr. Pius Ogbuawa. Mr. Ogbuawa, who was a very wealthy and prominent man at Nnewi, in Anambra State, had been held under police custody in Abuja upon the serious charge that he had masterminded the abduction of two Chinese and other Nigerians on the staff of a business rival, and had been arrested and so detained on the basis of what seem to have been a very solid and cogent grounds, upon the evidence that had previously been presented to the court by the police. But then, Ogbuawa was suddenly and arbitrarily ordered released and freed of any prosecution by the Police DIG (Deputy Inspector General of Police) in charge of the case investigation.

How and why was Pius Ogbuawa arrested at Nnewi and detained all the way at Abuja, in the first place? Who in the Police Department took the decision to release him from detention, and on what legal grounds and basis, and how cogent or credible are they, if at all? The current Ogbuawa case seems to provide a classic case study in the root cause of corruption in the Nigerian police force.  It’s study begins to explain how, and the reasons why, the last two Inspector-Generals of Police before the current one, Messrs Tafa Balogun and Ehindero, got to be found to have each accumulated such mind-boggling assets, in the several billions of Naira, as police civil servants at the end of their tenures. It immediately suggests, quite strongly, what is, perhaps, the single most dominant root cause of why the culture of corruption seems so endemic and entrenched in the affairs and operations of the police – namely, lack of transparency and accountability in the police force, especially among the higher echelons.


 First, the bare facts of the case.  Mr. Pius Ogbuawa’s arrest and detention, was predicated on a complaint brought by a business rival, Mr. Innocent Chukwuma, the owner of a local manufacturing and trading company, Innoson Nig Ltd, to the Nnewi Police, alleging that two Chinese staff members of his company and one Nigerian staff member, had been kidnapped. Thereupon, the police investigations turned up Mr. Ogbuawa, who himself had been a previous recent kidnap victim who reportedly had to pay his kidnappers a heavy ransom to be released, as the man who had maintained close links with a militant group that abducted the victims as of the time of the allegedly incident. And Ogbuawa was then arrested and detained.

But then, while being held in detention, Mr. Ogbuawa, a man of considerable wealth, used his formidable financial resources to petition an Nnewi High Court asking that his fundamental rights be enforced, and, consequently, for a declaration that his arrest and detention by the police, which he claimed was at the instigation of Mr. Chukwuma, was an unwarranted infringement on his fundamental rights under Chapter 4 of the federal constitution, and for an injunction to restrain the police from further detaining him and an award of N20 million as damages for his arrest and detention.

The trial judge, Justice P.A.C Obidigwe, in its decision of June 11th 2007, however, roundly rejected Ogbuawa’s application for bail, holding that the facts presented before him were overwhelmingly compelling, such that Ogbuawa should be detained and not be granted bail, in that  Ogbuawa had failed to controvert any of the weighty charges preferred against him, and further holding that the police was lawfully justified, strictly under the requirements of the law, in making the arrest and the detention of  Mr. Ogbuawa.  And, it was upon this explicit Judgment by the Court, that Ogbuawa was again remanded in the custody of the police and held by the police at Abuja pending further investigations of the allegations and its conclusion.


And it was against this background – a background in which an order of a duly constituted High Court, which was still subsisting, had formed the basis upon which Ogbuawa had been arrested and was being held in the police detention – that Mr. Kerian Dudari (a DIG), the senior police officer in charge of the case at the Force CID headquarters Abuja, suddenly released Mr. Ogbuawa from detention and freed him from any prosecution. According to news accounts of the event, DIG Kerian Dudari was reported to have explained that he ordered Ogbuawa’s release because, according to him, after critically examining the case (apparently on his own alone!), he had found that Mr. Ogbuawa "has no case to answer on the issue, and so, there was no point keeping him there."

Pure legal hogwash, however! What a puerile reason or justification, though, that has no basis whatsoever in law or due process! How could this be? How could Mr. Dudari, who is merely a police officer charged only with investigating a case for its sufficiency (or lack of it) for presentation before a judge for a trial of the facts as to its MERITS, turn a self-appointed High Court judge who decides, in deed arbitrarily and unilaterally and in secret, not only on the merits of the case, but on the very guilt or innocence of the accused parties?


As a criminal investigator and presumed prosecutor of the case involved in the instant case, the “burden of proof” which Mr. Dudari is required of to have met in this instance – that is, the standard of evidence that he would have  been required or expected to meet so as to satisfy the threshold  to charge the matter to court for a trial - would be for him to have amassed sufficient credible evidence such that, when presented to a trial judge for the case, it would make a prima facie case or evidence to prove (in each element of the crime charged) that Ogbuawa did in fact commit the crime of kidnapping, or of being a material accessory or an accomplice thereof, as charged. The term “Prima facie” is a Latin expression (which originates from Middle English) meaning "on its first appearance," or "by first instance" used in common law jurisdictions to denote evidence that is sufficient, if not rebutted, to prove a particular proposition or fact.  The threshold required to meet this standard of proof of evidence, is very low and readily easy to meet; this evidence need not be conclusive or irrefutable, and evidence rebutting the case, if any, may not necessarily be considered.


In fact, the standard of proof called for here, is very similar to that which is used under the “Probable Cause” standard used in the United States by grand juries merely to determine whether to issue an indictment against an accused or a suspect – that is, whether to charge an accusation to court for trial. In the criminal context, the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1 (1989), determined that probable cause requires "a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found." The nation’s Courts vary when determining what constitutes a "fair probability," some say 30%, others 40%, others 51%.

HERE IS THE CENTRAL POINT TO BEAR IN MIND: that, in a word, this standard - this lowly standard or threshold - of an alleged deed or crime amounting to a PRIMA FACIE case, or a PROBABLE CAUSE , which is the standard required to be had in order to bring the offenses alleged in the instant Ogbuawa case to trial before a judge, is already more than met and surpassed in the instant case in question. That, in deed, the evidence on the court record that’s already amassed by  DIG Kerian Dudari of the Police Department at Abuja, is so huge and vast already, and far superior to what he would actually have required, that it seems to have a high probability of winning even an outright conviction in an actual trial. In sum, the point is that the Police and DIG Dudari physically had in their possession, already, an amount of evidence that is not just sufficient, but in fact more than sufficient for a relatively simple matter of indicting any “ordinary” accused or suspected party (i.e., charging him or her to court for a trial) to be undertaken by any credible prosecutor.  For, such evidence as is in their possession, is even reasonably sufficient to go to trial with, and reasonably expect a conviction.


Mr. Ogbuawa is basically accused of being involved as a mastermind of the kidnapping of some three persons, directly or indirectly. A good deal of evidence, which is quite incriminating, has already been accumulated by the Police on the record. For example, in a previous proceeding in the case, the police had produced before a judge, a print out from Mobile phone company showing a trend of telephone calls between Mr. Ogbuawa and the kidnappers shortly before, as well as, after the victims were abducted. Further, the police investigators had also established that Ogbuawa had made a present of five brand new motorcycles to the kidnappers involved in the case, among other reported evidence.

 Here’s how Justice Obidigwe summed up, in his aforementioned ruling on Ogbuawa’s application for a bail delivered on the 11th of June 2007, some of the evidence already established or on record in the case:

   "I had expected the applicant [Mr. Ogbuawa] to positively deny or controvert the serious allegations of his association with the kidnappers made in the respondents’ counter affidavits, especially his telephone communications with the kidnappers in Exhibit D. The telephone communications with the kidnappers in Exh. D. The applicant did not deny owning GSM phone number 08034071084 neither did he positively deny nor controvert the print out of the MTN call details in Exh. D of the counter affidavit of the 6th respondent. The said Exhibit D shows calls allegedly made with the applicant’s said GSM phone number to or with 234035079402 between March 17, 2007 and April 7, 2007. The applicant filed a further affidavit of 8 paragraphs sworn to by Chinonye Ogbuawa, daughter of the applicant who also deposed to the verifying the affidavit. It is expected that the applicant would have reacted to the very serious allegations in the counter affidavits of the respondents. The only positive denial made by the applicant was in respect of donating two generating sets and welding machine. Of course, he admitted giving two motorcycles to the kidnappers. The legal implication of the averments not positively denied nor controverted, is that they are deemed admitted and established and the court is bound to act on it."

 Justice Obidigwe continued as follows: "If it is admitted, or if it is not denied, that the hoodlums dressed in military uniforms visited the applicant [Ogbuawa] with a Mitsubishi L 300 bus in his home at Nnewi on 08/04/2007; that applicant’s GSM phone number 08034071084 had communications with phone number 2348035079402; that the applicant’s in law, one Mr Ikechukwu was one of those who kidnapped the 6th respondent’s workers; the reports and statements made to the police by the 6th respondent’s company did not mention the applicant’s name; that the applicant advised Sylvester Unigwe’s (one of the kidnap victims) wife to tell the 6th respondent to give the kidnappers any amount they demanded; that the name of Ugochukwu Iloka (UgoNest) was given to the kidnappers by the applicant; that 3 members of the 6th respondent’s company were kidnapped on 17th March, 2007,then the report to the police was neither baseless nor frivolous. It was a genuine complaint and the police was justified in arresting the applicant. The 3rd -5th respondent (police commissioners) averred that the investigation was almost concluded when the applicant petitioned the A.I.G Zone 9 Umuahia to take over the investigation of the case. In the circumstances, I hold that the arrest was justified. The police have powers under section 24(1)( c) (i) to arrest any person whom any other person suspects of having committed a felony or misdemeanor. In the instant case the police have been able to justify the arrest and detention of the applicant. That being the case, the present application [to be released on bail] is lacking in merit and must fail."

Given the foregoing definitive judgment and pronouncements rendered by a duly constituted High Court of the State as to the seeming cogency of the charges and allegations made, and given the mountain of incriminating, tangible evidence amassed and already at the disposal of the police and DIG Kerian Dudari in the instant case, the central question is plainly inescapable: namely, on what legitimate legal basis could DIG Kerian Dudari have let out Mr. Ogbuawa from jail and asked him to go home never to face prosecution or trial on  such extremely serious accusations? On what rationale could DIG Kerian Dudari have made the claim that Mr. Ogbuawa “has no case to answer on the issue” – in the face of the glaring and clear contradiction to the above-described judgment of a court of law? On what “transparent” grounds (his Police boss Mike Okiro’s terminology) could DIG Kerian Dudari have made that decision to do so, which was made largely unilaterally all by himself, with no explicit or laid out reasons or basis? Clearly, what seems rather apparent, without having to do any further “looking into the matter,” as one unnamed “top police source” who was questioned about it by reporters is said to have answered, is that Mr. Derian Dudari has been badly compromised, in deed, plainly corrupted and blinded, with merely a heavy load of a few Ghana Must Go Bags full of stuff. And are you surprised, therefore, that he quickly began singing the wealthy Ogbuawa’s personal song of corruption that’s usually sung by the Police in such encounters with accused persons who’re moneybags with deep pockets  – AMEN! AMEN!! AMEN, TO YOUR EVERY WISH!!  


The objective reality on this vital issue about the state of the Nigerian corruption as of  today, seems crystal clear. Whereas the new IG of police Okiro speaks verbally of ushering in  “transparency and accountability” in the policing work of Nigeria, his police force, starting apparently from the highest levels within his own police department and colleagues (or, even himself), engage directly in the opposite conduct even as of this moment.  And whereas Mr. Okiro speaks just verbally about initiating a “war on corruption” and a supposed new “avowed desire to rid the Police organization of graft within its ranks,” his police force, starting apparently from his own high ranking police colleagues (or, even himself), engage in directly the opposite conduct, and seemingly continue in their traditional path of way of corruption and bribe-taking, still without any accountability to anyone. Consequently, it is no wonder that the traditional culture of endemic and pervasive corruption still continues unabated in the Nigerian Police, still raging on as we speak, with ever increasing intensity to this date. It is apparent there to stay permanently – until, perhaps,  such time and date, if ever, when Mr. Okiro and his Police force ultimately decide and determine that they will, themselves,  practice, on the ground  in their own lives and conduct in the force, that which they claim and preach verbally.

The continued apparent gross corruption in Mr. Mike Okiro’s Police force even to this day, as clearly epitomized by Police meddling in the subject Ogbuawa case, seems absolutely intolerable and unacceptable today for Nigeria and for Anambra State.  At a time when there has been an alarming spate of abductions of a number of prominent people in the State (Anambra), such state of affairs clearly emboldens and encourages kidnappers and the wealthy and well-connected, to engage in such criminality even with impunity.  It unduly puts the lives and livelihood of Anambra citizens and businessmen in grave danger. It affects, negatively, business and the economic activities and development of Anambra State, as the State government, the citizens and business people engaged in the State understandably fear and worry for their safety and security in the State. Consequently, Nigeria, all Anambrarians, and this writer, as well, will keep the Ogbuawa case (and what happens with the DIG Kerian Dudari’s involvement in it) under continuing watch. What will the new police boss do, what practical reforms, in practice, rather than merely in words and pronouncements, would he implement about the long-standing scourge of corruption in his Police force? We’ll all watch. And all find out - soon.

Thank you.

Benjamin Anosike, Ph.D.

The writer, who writes from New York, U.S.A, is a legal expert, frequent writer and commentator on issues of law

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