THEFT and illegal sales of firearms and ammunition by operatives of the Nigeria Police Force to criminals is a primary reason responsible for the missing 178,459 firearms and ammunitions across all Police commands, zonal formations and other departments of the NPF, The ICIR has found.
The missing firearms and ammunition were contained in a report released from the Office of the Auditor-General on non-compliance /internal control weakness issues across Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal government, states that as of December 2018, 3907 firearms were unaccounted for.
The report states that out of the 178,459 firearms and ammunitions, 88,078 were AK-47 rifles and 3,907 assorted rifles and pistols that disappeared from different formations nationwide. All these could not be accounted for as of January 2020.
According to the report, 3,907 assorted rifles and pistols were unaccounted for; a breakdown shows that 601 firearms were missing across the 15 Training Institutions of the NPF, 42 in the 23 formations of the NPF, 1514 across the 37 Police Command, 29 in all the zonal formations and 1721 across the Police Mobile Force 1-68.
The ICIR findings showed that some of the firearms and ammunition stolen and sold by operatives of the force contributed to the number of missing firearms.
In January 2017, a police officer identified as Bulus Jatau was dismissed for stealing firearms and ammunition from the armoury of the Police Mounted Troop Unit in Kaduna state.
According to a report, the firearms recovered from those he sold them include one pump-action gun, a Beretta pistol, four English revolver pistols and 50 rounds of 9mm live ammunition.
Earlier in 2021, an Inspector in the Nigerian Police force, Nathaniel Manasseh, was also paraded for allegedly selling police firearms to criminals in Imo state. Manasseh said he was ‘charmed’.
Also, in 2014, a Kaduna Police Command armament officer, Nanbol Audu, was caught with two unknown persons in a private vehicle after stealing arms and ammunition from the armoury.
The then Kaduna Police Commissioner, Umar Ambursa, told reporters that during a search of the vehicle Audu was caught with 11 G3 Rifles concealed under the vehicle’s seat.
He was arrested inside the command alongside two other suspects to whom he wanted to sell the firearms.
“The two suspects came from Jos, Plateau State, on arrangement to purchase the said firearms from the armament officer at the cost of N400,000,” the commissioner said.
In 2016, 14 police officers were also dismissed for selling firearms and explosives to militants and kidnappers.
There is no specific data on how many police officers have been dismissed for stealing or selling firearms and ammunition.
The Police Service Commission is responsible for the discipline of erring Police officers in Nigeria.
A check on the PSC annual reports of 2017, 2019, 2020 did not detail the offences for which police officers were dismissed.
When The ICIR contacted the PSC Spokesperson Ikechukwu Ani, he said he was unavailable to speak.
These illegal activities are rife across the Police Commands for years and have dampened the public trust in the force, The ICIR has found out.
In Nigeria, the Force Headquarters is responsible for providing arms and ammunition to Police officers in the country.
These arms and ammunition are distributed across all police commands and formations in the country.
In every police command, an appointed armament officer is in charge of keeping arms and their movement.
A command also distributes the firearms and ammunition across its divisions where an armourer is appointed to assign weapon to a police officer.
A retired Police Inspector, Joseph Uzoma told The ICIR that police firearms mostly get stolen at the headquarters and not the division.
“It’s very hard for anyone to steal firearms or ammunitions in police divisions because they only have a few of it, if one goes missing, it’ll be too obvious, in my experience, I majorly hear about it in Command headquarters,” Uzoma said.
He noted that it was almost impossible for police to steal ammunition at the divisional level because only a few are given to police officers.
“During my time, some police officers would go as far as buying bullets from the black market when they are going for operations because they are not given enough, so how are they going to steal, the headquarters should be questioned,” he noted.
A security expert Senator Iroegbu told The ICIR that the report of the Auditor-General is a severe indictment on the Nigeria Police Force.
He said the report raises many questions on the monitoring mechanism of the NPF because it took the OAGF report to disclose the missing firearms and ammunition.
“We have been hearing issues of human rights violation, accidental discharge and other traces of missing firearms, it begs the question of whether it is a clandestine activity that some people are running within the NPF because if it was random, the NPF should have apprehended them, anything other than that means that there is a sophisticated illegal activity going on,” Iroegbu said.
He noted that the report is critical, given the upsurge in insecurity by different criminal groups witnessed across the country.
The spokesperson for the Nigeria Police Force, Frank Mba did not respond to calls and a text message from this reporter on this report.
The ICIR asked why the Force recorded such a high number of missing firearms and ammunition, but Mba did not respond.