In his former role as Commissioner of Police in charge of budget and finance at the Nigeria Police Force headquarters, Joseph Egbunike, head of the police internal panel probing Abba Kyari’s indictment in a recent FBI report on fraud conspiracy, joined other police chiefs to approve more than N1billion for sham police transit camps project in Benue, Bauchi, Plateau, Katsina and Kano State.
Documents exclusively obtained by FIJ showed, for instance, that the two police camps, meant for Gbajimba, Guma Local Government Area of Benue State, and Falgore Forest, Kano, were awarded to Karakas Development and Properties Nigeria Ltd. between 2018 and 2019 and were to be delivered within 14 weeks from the date of the contract agreement.
However, FIJ’s visit to the project locations revealed that nothing or little had been done — three years later.
The situation in Guma, Benue, by the end of January 2018, called for the presence of more security operatives. Over 70 people had been killed in a violent herdsmen invasion. Crops, farms and houses had also been destroyed. IDP camps in the area had filled up as survivors fled to them for safety. Several other people could not find shelter.
A similar thing was about to play out in Kano’s Falgore Forest. Bandits from Kebbi, Zamfara and Sokoto, as well as Niger and Chad had moved in with their wives and animals. They moved around the area with guns and had become threats to residents of surrounding communities.
But the police would respond by approving the construction of sham transit camps. A source privy to the development of the project told FIJ that Egbunike, now a Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG), was directly in charge of the projects, given his office in the budget and finance section.
“Egbunike, as director of budget, normally holds meetings with contractors, where they do all sorts of things to siphon money. He just tells them, ‘This is what is coming in; this is my own share’. He uses one Assistant Commissioner of Police, Daniel,” he said.
“The buck stopped on his desk. He was there when the project was approved. How could he approve payment for a project which level of execution he did not know? There had been similar projects in the past and very little work was done despite the release of over 70 percent of the appropriated sum.”
THE INTERIOR MINISTRY’S ORIGINAL PROJECTS
Initially, the police transit camps were a project of the Federal Ministry of Interior. The ministry had, in 2016, contracted Kakaras Nigeria Ltd. to build transit camps in Katsina, Bauchi and Plateau State for about N245million each. Each camp was to have a Rapid Response Squad (RRS) unit and a police station. The buildings were also to be furnished and electrified.
FIJ learnt that the force headquarters took charge of the N736 million project following agitations that a police project should remain with the police. Although the Nigeria Police did not complete the project despite the release of funds, it earmarked about N175million each for similar ones in Benue and Kano in its 2018 and 2019 budgets.
The memoranda were presented by the then Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of works and then approved by the force headquarters’ purchasing and tenders board.
“That project is owned by one Senator Haliru Jika,” a source told FIJ. “He was a member of the House of Representatives, where he was head the house committee on police affairs. The project was designed by the House of Representatives and then factored into the 2016 budget of the Ministry of Interior.
“It was transferred to the police. Once the money went in through the budget and finance section of the force headquarters, the people there would take out their share. One of the camps was also meant for Kaduna. If it had been completed as and when due, we wouldn’t have been experiencing all this insecurity at the Abuja-Kaduna highway.”
NO TRANSIT CAMP IN KANO
In Falgore forest, Kano, on Thursday, FIJ could not find a police transit camp. The local police officers in the forest also revealed that there was neither a site for the structure in the forest nor a plan for such. The only police station in Falgore is an old bungalow without a ceiling.
THE TRANSIT CAMP IN PLATEAU IS MORE LIKE A TRANSIT FIELD!
On a visit to Riyom, Plateau State, FIJ found two uncompleted bungalows and a few mobile buildings on an expanse of land. It was the site of an abandoned N245, 263, 725 police transit camp project in the state.
A source revealed that the Bill of Quantities (BoQ) for one of the uncompleted buildings — the one roofed with red iron sheets in one of the pictures below — reads N49million, which the police has paid up to date.
“The auditors never visited the site,” the source said, “yet the police authorities kept approving funds.”
However, the real estate expert sent by FIJ to examine the transit camp reported thus: “Look at that building in red roof, which happens to be a police station in the camp, with N9 million or N10 million, you can raise that building up to that level.”
Between 2016 and now, there have been several bandits and herdsmen attacks in areas selected for the police transit camps. In Riyom alone, at least 10 people have been killed in the last four months.
In June, Kano State Governor Ganduje cried out to the Nigerian Army over the possibility of an attack as bandits converged in Falgore Forest.
The police transit camps were meant to house security operatives who would tackle these problems, but police chiefs in Abuja have approved them and put the monies in no-one-knows-where.
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