At least of 44 assorted arms belonging to the Nigerian police could not be accounted for between 2013 and 2015, a government audit report says, raising fears the weapons could have ended up in the wrong hands.
The report, released in two parts between in December 2016 and May 2017, is the latest from the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation, empowered by the Constitution to examine records of accounts and stores of the country’s public bodies.
In the report reviewed by PREMIUM TIMES, arms as well as rounds of ammunition entrusted to police personnel were said to have been “snatched”, “missing” or “lost”, while standards established by the country’s financial regulations for reporting and checking such incidents were brushed aside by the police.
A security analyst, Cheta Nwanze, said there could be link between the “disappearances of the police arms and sources of arms used by kidnappers and armed robbers”.
“Yes, there is squarely a link between both. The fact is that Nigeria is awash with small arms and many of these characters get their arms from illegal sources. There is clearly a link between violent crimes and the disappearances of the police weapons,” said Mr. Nwanze, who heads SBM Intelligence.
But police spokesperson, Moshood Jimoh, said there was no cause for fear. He said “no police weapon was lost in the first place; so, there was no way police- owned guns could have ended up with criminals.”
But the report said at Umuagwu Police Division, Owerri West local government area of Imo State, assault rifles with 28 rounds of 5.56 mm calibre ammunition was reported “lost” by one police inspector while on duty on February 5, 2015.
Elsewhere in Imo, Umuagwo, Ohaji local government area, ‘five arms (3 AK-47 and 2 AR rifles) recorded in Arms/Ammunition Returns of September 19, 2013 could neither be traced in the latest handover note of the armourer and the Division Police Officer of April 7, 2014 and August 31 2015 respectively nor sighted physically as at the time of the audit inspection on October 14, 2015.’
“The Arms Movement Register could not account for these arms and no document of any sort was presented to the audit team,” the audit report noted.
Also at the Iho Police Division, Ikeduru LGA, again in Imo, the audit report said: “Five (5) LAR rifles were documented in the Arms/Ammunition Ledger/Register whereas in the current returns Ref.
CQ:2400/IMS/IV/VOL.2/152 dated 10th October, 2015 only three (3) Nos. were recognized, leaving a difference of two (2) Nos as at the time of audit inspection on 12th October, 2015.
“One (1) LAR rifle with breech No. 1693452, was said to have been with one Officer, at ‘B’ Operation Department, Owerri but no document was presented to authenticate the transaction. The second LAR rifle with Breech No. 1693989 was officially transferred to ‘B’ Operation via signal.”
Losses in states
According to the audit report, during the audit inspection of arms and ammunition records maintained by the Nigeria Mobile Police Force, Squadron 43 Lion Building, Lagos, reported 25 arms of different models were lost.
It added: “Neither police investigation reports nor completed Part II and III of the Treasury Form 146 was presented for audit verification, in compliance with Financial Regulations 2604 and 2606.”
During the audit examination of accounting records maintained by the Rivers State Police Command, B Department Operations, Moscow Road, Port Harcourt, the Auditor-General of the Federation reported that eight arms made up of six AK 47 rifles and two assault rifles were lost by a police officer.
In addition, the audit report said 147 rounds of ammunition were reportedly lost by officers of the Unit in Rivers.
From Enugu State command, two K-2 rifles were reported to have been ‘snatched by armed robbers from officers at separate places.’
In Enugu, the report observed that: ‘one AK-47 No 9918 was missing. The rifle was signed and collected by one Police Corporal attached to Nkanu West LGA Chairman. This rifle got missing since 5th September, 2014.’
“One (1) AK-47 No 19681 with 30 rounds of ammunition assigned to a police corporal was missing as contained in DTO 210700/08/2015.”
Police authorities’ apathy
For each of the cases, no police internal investigation report was presented to the auditors, according to the report.
Still, the Treasury Form 146 was not also completed and presented. That, Auditor-General of the Federation noted in the report, violates Nigeria’s Financial Regulations 2604 2606.
Regulation 2604 imposes duty on the head of unit, say Divisional Police Officer, DPO, Police Commissioner or any formation head in the case of the police, to report a loss not later than seven days to his/her accounting officer, the Inspector-General of Police and recommend convening of a board of ienquiry.
Under regulation 2606, the accounting officer, the IGP is obligated to take necessary actions, including disciplinary measures and further report to the offices of the Accountant-General of the Federation and Auditor-General of the Federation ‘within 14 days”.
“The Inspector-General of Police has been requested to give up-to-date formal report of these missing rifles. Otherwise, the full weight of Financial Regulations 3101 and 3129 (which specify accounting officer or any public officer could be sanctioned for failing give satisfactory explanation to audit queries) will be applied,” said the report.
Apart from loss of these arms, the audit report also questioned the police over various incidents of alleged disappearances of “unclaimed or abandoned exhibits.”
The Auditor General’s report added that through Audit Inspection Report OAuGF/D&SAD/NI/S/AIR/VOL.IV/124, the Police IG, Ibrahim Idris, had been written since June 23, 2016, “but his response is still being awaited.”
The said letter was written just a day after Mr. Idris was appointed IGP by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 22, 2016.
Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES, police spokesperson, Mr. Jimoh, suggested bureaucratic bottlenecks could have caused the delay in the IG’s response.
“It is the IG that keeps the files. He will send it down and the reply will get to the Auditor General,” he said.
Mr. Jimoh also denied the claims in the report although the audit report referenced police own Arms Movement Register and Arms/Ammunition Register.
“Police officers go on special assignments, like being escorts to expatriates, special operations, the Operation Absolute Sanity on Abuja-Kaduna Road, even outside their states. So when the audit officials come, those arms would not be there,” he said.
“Police arms are not lost,” he said firmly.
“When the audit officials come, it is what they see that they talk about. Police will now give account that certain men were on special duty,” Mr. Jimoh said.