[EXCLUSIVE] Two former IGPs, senior Police officers accused of bribery in shady land sale of designated Police Barracks

SOME officers of Nigeria Police Mortgage Bank and Nigeria Police Force, including two former Inspector Generals of Police and a contractor, are enmeshed in allegations of corruption involving forgery, bribery, and violation of Nigerian laws in an alleged illegal sale of Police landed property designated for the construction of barracks in Abuja, The ICIR can exclusively report.

Documents obtained and reviewed by The ICIR, which include court affidavits, allege that some police officers assisted Andy Chime, owner of Copran International Limited in forging the signature of a late Deputy Inspector General of Police, Saleh Abubakar, to secure the contract for the project.

The contractor used the alleged forged document to obtain a loan of N573 million from the Nigeria Police Mortgage Bank and also unlawfully used the houses on the land as collateral, thus shortchanging the Police all the way.

Findings by The ICIR show that the land in itself cannot be developed as an estate as it would violate the federal government’s guideline for the sale of government-owned residential facilities in the FCT, including lands designated as police and military barracks.

The documents also indicted at least six police officers for receiving bribes from the contractor to secure the approvals of the former Inspector Generals of Police Ibrahim Idris and Solomon Arase for the project.

The accusations form the central part of an ongoing litigation at the Federal High Court in Abuja where a former staff of the Copran International Limited, Kalu O Kalu, and a lawyer, Francis Mgboh, accused both former IGPs of unlawfully approving the sale of the land designated as police barracks in violation of the federal government’s guideline on the sale of state-owned facilities in the FCT.

The ICIR gathered that the case has been adjourned till February 22, 2024.

Big revelations

In his deposition before the court, Kalu accused both former Inspector Generals of Police, Ibrahim Idris and Solomon Arase, of receiving N200 million each and a house allocation as incentives for awarding the estate development contract to Copran International Limited.

Kalu said  Chime and his wife approached him in 2013, claiming that they got a contract to develop the Police barracks, and they sought his assistance in getting foreign partners to fund the project. He said he felt reassured and immediately asked them to come up with a letter of intent after they presented the letters of award by the Nigeria Police to him. He would later find out that the award letters were forged.

According to him, the project had commenced with substantial funding from some local investors whom he helped him to find when they both went to meet with Hilary Ndunaka and Chintua Amajor-Anu, both of whom are Deputy Inspector Generals. He said the duo helped them convince the then Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, that they had money to finance the project.

He noted that both officers were unaware that the award letters being paraded by Andy Chime were forged and that what he needed was access to the funds from Nigeria Police Mortgage Bank using Police houses in the estate as collateral.

Kalu said he later found out that two officers of the Nigeria Police Force, Chris Magel and Gerald Eneh, were the ones who conspired to forge the signature of late DIG Saleh Abubakar on the award letter. 

He further alleged that to secure a nod to continue the project, Chime offered Hilary Ndunaka a 5-bedroom duplex in the estate and N200 million as bribe. The same gesture was allegedly extended to the former IGPs, Solomon Arase and Ibrahim Idris and some other senior police officers, influencing them to approve the project without proper scrutiny.

Arase denied the allegation when contacted for comment but abruptly ended the call when The ICIR pressed further. Efforts to reach Idris proved abortive as his line remained switched off.

Kalu stated that Chime had promised to compensate Gerald and Chris with a sum of N50 million and a 5-bedroom duplex for their involvement in forging the award letter. However, Chime failed to fulfil his promise after using the letter to secure funding from the Nigeria Police Mortgage Bank, it is alleged.

Kalu shared that Chris told him, after a disagreement with Chime, how they connived to forge the signature of the late Saleh Abubakar on the award letter. He said he further confirmed this when he compared the previous signatures of Saleh on official documents with his signature on the letters being paraded by Chime.

The ICIR approached Gerrard for comment, but he asked this reporter to meet him at the FCT Police command. Upon a visit on December 20, he took this reporter to one Lanre A.O., who appeared to be a senior officer at the Works Department. However, both of them declined to comment when confronted with the findings. 

Kalu said Davido Igbodo, who served as Head of the Legal Unit, was aware of this alleged fraud but also kept mute after being induced with house allocation and a promise that his Abuja residence in Guduwa would be renovated.

David, however, denied the allegation when contacted by The ICIR.

Kalu said he took the matter to the former Inspector General of Police Alkali Baba and urged him to investigate and recover the assets of Nigeria Police fraudulently taken by Copran International Limited and bring all the Police officers involved to book but Andy Chime lobbied with senior police officers to thwart the investigation.

The controversial sale of designated Police Barracks

In 2014, the Nigeria Police was granted 2.13 hectares of land at Cadastral Zone C 06, Mbora District, Abuja, by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) for the construction of barracks to address the inadequate housing for police officers. The aim was to enhance rapid response and bolster security in the nation’s capital.

The ICIR understands that in 2005, the federal government approved guidelines regulating the sale of all residential facilities in the Federal Capital Territory owned by government agencies.

A section of the Mbora estate also known as Muhammadu Buhari estate/ Credit : Nigeria Police Mortgage Bank

While exceptions were granted for military, police, and other security and paramilitary barracks according to the guidelines, findings showed that top officials of the Police approved the development of the lands to Copran International Limited, an Abuja-based company, through a process marred by secrecy and suspicion.

Section 4 of the guidelines titled “Exemption” reads: “The following residential facilities owned by the Federal Government of Nigeria will not be sold for constitutional, statutory or administrative reasons, and are accordingly exempted from the sale programme, that is the residences occupied by:

(a) President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria;(b) Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; (c) Senate President; (d) Speaker of the House of Representatives; (e) Deputy Senate President; (f) Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives; (g) Chief Justice of Nigeria; (h) Minister of the Federal Capital Territory; (I) Presidential Guest Houses and Safe Houses of the Intelligence Community ;(J) Houses within the Security Zone of the State House; (k) Justices of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Federal High Court, and High Court Of The FCT; (L) Barracks of the Military Police, Para-Military, and approved uniform services; and (m) Institutional residences within schools, hospitals, power plants, Dams and universities, etc.”

Letter of land allocation granted to the Nigeria Police by Federal Capital Territory Administration.
Letter of land allocation granted to the Nigeria Police by Federal Capital Territory Administration.

Lawyers who spoke to The ICIR agreed that the land given to the Police, thus, is not meant to be sold or developed for commercial purposes as it would negate its purpose of allocation and violate the law.

A human rights Lawyer, Abdul Mahmud, argued that while the Police Act of 2020 allows the Force to generate revenue for its general administration, it does not explicitly permit the indiscriminate sale of its land holdings.

“The absence of a specific provision in the Act which creates the Force as to how it disposes off its properties suggests that recourse should be made to extant government policies on the sale of properties,” Mahmud said. 

“The current sale of its property without recourse to the Approved Guidelines for the Sale of Federal Government Houses, without the approval of the Presidential Implementation Committee, is illegal.” 

Another legal counsel at G. Ofodile Okafor SAN and Co, Emanuel Ike, observed that the guidelines imply that police barracks are not included among the federal government properties in FCT meant for sale. He emphasised that any attempted sale of these barracks could be rendered null and void.

He noted that the lands can only be sold if there exists a subsequent notice or directive which repeals the earlier notice gazetted, adding that even though the Police have the right to own the property, the primary purpose of the land needs to be put into consideration.

“Now, the police would have to explain why they got a developer to develop the land and for what purpose. If the purpose is contrary to the ideal purpose for the allocation at the first instance, then such action would be deemed a nullity,” he said. 

“Assuming there is no superior order or public notice then the act of the Nigerian Police would be viewed to be ultra vires. They would have acted outside the confines of the stipulated guidelines,” he noted. 

Police Mortgage Bank violates law, grants loan to contractor with police houses as collateral 

Findings show that while the Nigeria Police could not raise the funds to develop the land; Copran Limited could also not raise the necessary finances for the project.

Consequently, the company applied for an estate development loan of N573 million from the Nigeria Police Mortgage Bank in 2015. However, the loan was granted without collateral.

This contravenes section 15 of Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act, which makes it an offence for any director, manager or employee of a bank to grant a loan without any collateral or with defective or inadequate collateral contrary to the accepted practice or bank’s regulation.

Following the approval of the loan, the company defaulted, leaving the bank with no other choice than to enter an agreement with them to use houses in the Police estate as collateral to recover the owed funds in 2018.

In a letter seen by The ICIR, the bank also accused Copran International Limited of inflating the prices of a unit of the properties from N25 million to N40 million and diverting the payments by customers into its accounts with other banks in contravention of the agreement with the bank that the proceeds would be domiciled to company’s account with the bank.

A letter written by the contractor to the managing director of the Nigeria Police Mortgage Bank and dated February 5, 2018 shows that the contractor gave the bank the authority to market and sell houses in the estate due to its failure to pay back the loan.

Recall that the houses are not meant for sale according to the law.

Lawyer accuses officers of NPF, NPMB, contractor of bribery, forgery and violation of extant laws

A lawyer, Francis Mgboh has, however, dragged the Nigeria Police, Nigeria Police Mortgage Bank and Copran International Limited to court over alleged illegalities observed in the entire deal. 

Mgboh said he observed these violations of due processes during debt reconciliation between Copran International Limited and the Nigeria Police Force. 

He accused Andy Chime, the director of Copran International Limited of forging award letters to fraudulently acquire the assets and funds of the Nigeria Police Force within the Federal Capital Territory.

He noted that the signatures of Chime on the contract documents differ from his signatures in the Memorandum and Article of Association of Copran Limited, which indicated a suspected foul play in the transaction between the contractor,  Nigeria Police Force and Nigeria Police Mortgage Bank.

Mgboh further alleged that some senior officers of the Nigeria Police Force used Copran Limited to divert the sum of N330 million from Nigeria Police Cooperatives Society Funds between June 8, 2018, to June 29, 2021. He added that the force could not account for the revenues generated from the sales of houses at the various police barracks.

He stated that some other lands of the Nigeria Police located at Gusape, Apo-Dutse, Wumba and Karimo districts in the FCT which were also exempted from sale have been illegally sold.

Mgboh accused some officials of the Police of threatening his life in an attempt to deter him from exposing the questionable dealings he had witnessed in the deal.

Contractor mum, defended by legal representative

When contacted by The ICIR, the Copran Limited owner, Chime, said he would not comment on the allegations since the matter is still in court. He, however, asked his legal representative to contact this reporter. 

Director of Copran International Limited, Andy Chime / Source : LinkedIn

Reacting to the allegations, his legal representative, Oladimeji Ekengba, threatened legal action against The ICIR for intervening. He said the company just filed a suit of N500 million against AIT for airing a report on the issue.

He claimed that Mgboh purchased a house from Andy Chime but failed to fulfil the payment, leading the latter to file a lawsuit against him for defaulting.

“A man sold a house for you for N26 million, you paid N5 million. The balance, you kept saying you are his lawyer, you are doing this, you are doing that for him,” he said. “The man said enough is enough and took you to court for the balance. Instead of you paying him, you started talking that he stole land from the Police. The Police said, ‘No, our land is not missing’.” 

“Out of almost N50 million, somebody sold the house for you at N26 million because you are his lawyer, and you paid N5 million. The man sued you for the money, and you started writing stuff against the man.”

But, Mgboh denied owing him any debt. He stated that he rendered legal services to him and reached a verbal agreement with him that the rest of the payment would be paid with his service. He further presented invoices given to him by Chime to back up his claim.

Oladimeji explained that the company entered a joint partnership with the Police to develop the land on the condition that the properties would be shared 50:50 after completion.

“The estate issue, there’s nothing illegal about it.  In Nigeria, we don’t even buy or sell land under Nigeria’s law. What the government gives you, even the Federal Capital Development Administration, is a lease for 99 years. What people use as ‘buying lands’ is a technical term, it’s not buying. It’s a lease. In Nigeria, you don’t have an absolute principle. What we have is leasehold interest. Even my own house that I bought, the FCTA can come and take it after 99 years,” he said. 

He promised to get back and give more clarification but has yet to do so as of the time of filing this report.

Police Mortgage Bank hides under “right to privacy” to evade scrutiny

The ICIR approached the Head of Credit of Nigeria Police Mortgage Bank, Sunday Fasipe, to verify the procedures followed in granting the loan but he directed the reporter to Kennedy Ugwuoke, the head of the Legal Unit of the bank.

Even though The ICIR‘s mission was to investigate the process of awarding the loan and the collateral used, Kennedy insisted that the bank would not divulge the information as it involved a third party protected by the right to privacy. 

In the bank’s response to The ICIR’s request, the bank acknowledged that the request is guided by statutory provisions of the Freedom of Inofrmation Act but said, “Customers have the right to freedom from the disclosure of customers account details by the bank as well as an intrusion into customer’s accounts information to a third party.”

The bank claimed that the public interest was not established in any way in our request, adding that the individual interest outweighs any other interest.

It also said the bank would not divulge information of a customer to a third party(The ICIR) except if there’s an order from the court of competent jurisdiction or letter of consent from our customer requesting or granting the request.

But Section 2(7) of the FOI Act provides that private companies such as Nigeria Police Mortgage Bank utilising public funds or providing public services or public functions must make information readily available to the public upon request.

Police disregard FOI law, spokesperson neglects duty

Efforts to unravel the procurement processes involved in the award of the contract were frustrated by officials of the Nigeria Police. Despite the force’s non-response to the FOI request, the reporter was continuously redirected frustratingly during the subsequent follow-up.

The ICIR had, on September 13, 2023, sent a FOIA request to the Force to ascertain under which arrangement the sale was carried out. The request was acknowledged, but the force failed to respond despite multiple follow-ups. 

 

Copy of FOI response duly received and acknowledged by NPF
Copy of FOI request received and acknowledged by Nigeria Police Force

The requested information includes the contract description, the date of advertisement and media organisation the notice was placed, the approved threshold, procurement method, the bid opening date, the name of the contractor, and the date the contract was awarded among others.

Two months later, the reporter visited the agency’s headquarters to follow up and was told that the letter had been sent to the legal and prosecution unit. This reporter went to the legal unit and they said one lawyer, Rotshang Dimka, would handle the letter. When The ICIR contacted her,  she said her efforts to get the records of the project had not yielded any positive results. She promised to get back but no response from her yet as of the time of filing this report. 

A copy of the request was also sent to the Ministry of Police Affairs but the agency said the information is not at its disposal despite being the agency partly responsible for ensuring the better welfare of Police affairs, which includes providing a suitable housing plan.

The ICIR also contacted the spokesperson of the Nigeria Police Force, Olumuyiwa Adejobi and he asked this reporter to send his questions, which the reporter did. Olumuyiwa has refused to pick up this reporter’s call for more than a month despite multiple follow-up calls and text messages.

State of Police Barracks in Nigeria and controversial sales by authorities 

Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is facing a gross housing deficit with only 10 per cent of its 350,000 personnel having access to adequate accommodations. Over 90 pr cent of police barracks, intended to provide housing for the men and women who diligently serve the country, are in a state of disrepair. This is due to a lack of adequate funding and rampant corruption within the system.






     

     

    Documents acquired by The ICIR show that the most affordable house in the estate is a three-bedroom terrace duplex, with each unit priced at N40 million—an amount considerably beyond the financial means of an average police officer due to their remuneration. The price might have skyrocketed due to the current high inflation rate caused by the removal of fuel subsidy.

    According to the law, if the sale programme is a joint venture between the Nigeria Police and Copran International Limited as claimed by the contractor’s lawyer, it has to be certified by the Federal Executive Council. It also has to be in line with the Public Procurement Act, enacted in 2007, which prescribes principles by which public procurement entities within the various Federal Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies should conduct their affairs.

    The basis of the Act is to offer all interested contractors, suppliers and consultants a level playing field on which to compete and, thereby, directly expand the purchaser’s options and opportunities.

    It remains questionable whether this due process was followed in the award of the contract.

    Nurudeen Akewushola is an investigative reporter and fact-checker with The ICIR. He believes courageous in-depth investigative reporting is the key to social justice, accountability and good governance in society. You can reach him via [email protected] and @NurudeenAkewus1 on Twitter.

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    2 COMMENTS

    1. The tragedy system happened in the Nigeria police,is just unfortunate that we are having this type of mess in the system of this country. But it’s time we put Nigeria to the right track.
      Let the right people who have the love of this country handling the case,so that no stones will be left on turn.
      We need proper hands to handle anything investigations About money miss appropriation in this to the cure (Each person property involves in this indiscipline down to heart and confiscates them all.). Nigeria we need to ask questions from all who service in their courses in Office. No more hiding behind of ones fingers. Please head of Nigeria as a country call up on the past public offices holders to come and explain how his/her duties is when they are in Office.
      Thanks.

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