This may sound somewhat incredible! But it is an indisputable fact that police ranks’ insignia, uniforms and other accoutrements can now be procured by any member of the public in the open market across the country.
This dangerous development is, however, not a new thing to the police authorities, who appear helpless apparently because, as a source said, “They are part and parcel of the growing problem”.
Our correspondent gathered that the open sale of police uniform and ranks’ insignia has been going on for more than a decade, when those saddled with the responsibility of procuring and distributing such items decided to bend the rules to their own advantage.
Investigations revealed that before the matter degenerated to an uncontrollable level, those in charge usually created an artificial scarcity of such items, most especially, the uniform.
It was learnt that “rather than give” the items to deserving police personnel free, officers handling the items have been in the habit of selling them illegally even to persons not serving in the force”.
A source at the Command Headquarters, Ikeja, Lagos, told our correspondent: “Traditionally, a police officer is entitled to, at least, all the kits, which include uniforms, twice in a year. It is very saddening that the new generation of officers –in –charge have commercialised everything; which is why the Illegal sale of police uniform and ranks’ insignia is no longer a new thing. It is of course, a booming business across all the police commands.
“Our senior officers in-charge, instead of giving them to us freely as the Inspector General of Police would have loved it to be, appear to have a better idea. They would simply sell such items through an intermediary, who give them returns. Everything in the police has been commercialised, even our boots, belts and other accoutrements that can stand us out as a police officer. Offices too, are commercialised because, for you to work in a particular office / station of your choice, you have to pay through your nose.”
Further checks revealed that the open sale of police uniform has further exposed the Force to ridicule as crooks and other criminallyminded persons can now go to the sales points to procure the items without being challenged by anyone.
Barely three months ago, a man identified as Isah Idowu, was arrested at the Oduduwa, Ikeja area of Lagos for allegedly impersonating a police officer.
Idowu, who was fully dressed in a Police Mobile Force uniform, was said to have walked into a police station to procure two pairs of uniforms and a pair of boot. He was also said to have gone further to buy a police insignia with the rank of an Inspector.
The awkward way and manner the suspect had packed the items was said to have drawn the curiosity of an officer with the rank of Superintendent, who challenged him.
When questioned, the suspect could not give convincing answers to prove he’s a police officer and he was promptly arrested.
Command would investigate by looking out for those who are in the habit of denting the image of the police through their involvement in such criminal enterprise. We shall not relent in our efforts to bring to book, those shady characters
The fake police officer later confessed to the crime, saying that he bought the uniform he was putting on for N3,000 and the boot for N1200. He added that he bought the police identity card found on him for N500. Idowu also told his interrogators that the uniforms he had come to purchase were for his comrades-in-crime, who were into illegal dredging in the Ikorodu area of Lagos.
He was also said to have told his arresting officer that he had wanted to enlist in the police but was unlucky not to have been recruited.
Idowu disclosed that he was using the police uniform to eke out a living by escorting lorries conveying goods from Lagos to other states for a fee.
He said his presence in such vehicles would enable the drivers to escape harassment and extortion from policemen on the highways, after which he would be paid for his services at the end of the journey.
“I make at least N50, 000 weekly”, he reportedly said.
Our correspondent gathered that today, over 100 dismissed police officers in Lagos still go about fully kitted in their uniforms. They usually claim to still be in service; they promote themselves anytime their course-mates, who are still in active service get elevated to the next rank.
In-depth investigation by our correspondent revealed that many of the dismissed policemen can be found along the Iju-Ishaga Road in Lagos, mounting illegal road blocks and extorting motorists. They are said to be in the habit of telling unsuspecting members of the public, who fall into their net, that they are attached to the nearby Area G Police Headquarters. Other such fake policemen have been traced to Ojuelegba and Iyana- Iba, where they openly demand “ settlement money” from commerc i a l drivers plying those routes.
An independent source also told our correspondent that many of these suspected criminals usually wear Police Mobile Force uniform and arm themselves with guns to work in private homes and other landed properties as guards as well as serve as escorts to individuals across the country. ”Some are known to be guarding popular musicians and 419ers that have just arrived,” a source said.
However, the spokesperson for the Lagos Police Command, Superintendent Dolapo Badmos, told our correspondent she was not aware police uniforms and other accoutrements were being sold in the open market.
Badmos said there were rules and regulations guiding the procurement of those items.
She said, “Command would investigate by looking out for those who are in the habit of denting the image of the police through their involvement in such criminal enterprise. We shall not relent in our efforts to bring to book, those shady characters.”