Police As Loan Recovery Agents

•Ogunsakin

•Ogunsakin

Tunde Ogunsakin, Commissioner of Police in charge of Special Fraud Unit is, without doubt, one of the best anti-fraud officers Nigeria has produced. Urbane and civil, yet very tough when it comes to criminal investigation, in this interview with MUSTAPHA OGUNSAKIN, he tells the story of his life in the force, and the future of the force. Excerpts:

 You were already a graduate when you joined the Nigeria Police?

Yes. I finished from the University Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in June 1980 and did my youth service in Ogun State. I was at the verge of joining the Nigerian Foreign Service when I and a friend were accused of assaulting a police officer and we were taken to the station. An ASP handled the situation so professionally that I was so keen to join the Nigeria Police because of his action and that led me to where I am now. I am actually proud to be a policeman and I am enjoying the job.

 Since that incident, tell us about your training…

As soon as I finished training from Police Staff College that lasted for 13 months in Jos, I was posted to Ibadan as a cadet ASP. I was privileged to serve in the office of Mrs. Koloko, Assistant Commissioner of Police at Dugbe Motor Traffic division. My working with Koloko shaped my job in the Nigeria Police because she was a very strict disciplinarian. She had zero-tolerance to corruption. I was to spend three months attachment with her but ended up spending eight months out of the nine months attachment I was supposed to do because she would not let me go.

Initially, senior officers who had worked with her tried to discourage me from doing my attachment with her when they heard that I was posted to her office, because they believed she was wicked and all that but then, I had no choice, I was posted there.

My first day, I got to the office around 7:30am and she was already there. The second day, I was in the office by 7:45am, she was there again and I told myself I had to adjust my timing because she did not say anything. The third day, I got to the office five minutes before her and the fourth day, 10 minutes earlier and since then, I  studied her conduct. I did my best and she reciprocated by giving me a lot of sensitive jobs, counseling me and she was very good to me. She mentored me. She stays in Ibadan but she still comes around here to encourage us.

After my attachment, I was posted to the crime department of Bodija station in Ibadan. After about a year, there was an opening in the Anti-Riot Police, otherwise known as Mobile Police, and I was interested. So I went to the commander in the Mobile then, who is now deceased, and told him I was interested in mobile police. He just looked at me and said I was just about a year old in the force and that the CP then (now retired), Senator Nuhu Aliyu, would not consider me because I had to spend at least three years before I could be admitted to the MP. I begged him that I wanted to do it. Fortunately for me, not many officers wanted to go into mobile then because most officers wanted to work in other divisions. I put more pressure and I was taken to the Deputy Commissioner, DC, who was initially reluctant but eventually took me to the CP, who asked me if I really wanted to join the mobile and I said, Yes. He then said if I had made up my mind to join the mobile, then he believed I could do great.

The mobile training I received has always been a good part of me because it was quite different from the ordinary learning process of the police. It was effective, thorough and strenuous. There is a saying in the mobile, the three “S” – which is Silence, Speed and Surprise. They are the keys that prepare you for other issues. When I left the mobile after three and half years, I was in Lagos and I had an instance when my boys killed eight armed robbers in one night when Anini was terrorising the state.

•Ogunsakin
•Ogunsakin

That means you were in the mobile when Anini was operating?

Yes, I was in the mobile by then. Lagos was grouped into commands. CPs were in charge of Area commands, and I was posted to Apapa and my unit was a very strong one. We always got accolades and I really enjoyed myself in the mobile because it was a situation that, “If you are good in the mobile, you are good, because they are very professional. I remember especially that I was nicknamed “Tunde OC Court” or “Tunde Idiagbon” in Ibadan because they knew I would never want to hear about anybody collecting money at the road blocks. My experience at the road traffic in Ibadan helped me a lot. Back then in Ibadan, anybody that was caught was taken to court, hence the nickname given to me.

That was how I got myself into Interpol. Because when I left MP, I met with Aliyu, who said I would be good in investigation and brought me to Lagos. As soon as I got to Alagbon in Lagos, I was posted to Interpol. As at that time, not many people wanted to work in the Interpol. When we started working in the Interpol, we were always receiving heaps of requests from abroad and we didn’t know what to do with it because we lacked complete data base. Interpol would ask to know if somebody had ever been noticed so we had to go and do it manually and since we didn’t have a criminal database, it was a problem for us because we had to start searching manually to see if somebody’s identification could be located, and you didn’t have all those things.

 I think as at that time, Nigeria Police did fingerprint?

Up till now, we still do fingerprint but what I’m talking about is having a database where you can match the print with. If you don’t have a base, if you take fingerprint 10,000 times, what are you going to match them with? We did not have the fingerprint database then. To know if someone has been noticed or has committed a crime somewhere, you have to match it with the data you have in your bank. Like if you have a crime in Zone A, you must isolate that place and you take fingerprint, then match it with the database. If you cannot match it, you will not have a result. You cannot know whether that person has been noticed or has committed any offence.

I was lucky to be the officer attached to our foreign counterparts coming into the country for investigations and in the process I started asking, If these people could come to do investigations in Nigeria, what stops us from going abroad to carry out investigations too? We asked questions from our friends that came here from abroad for investigation and that was how we got cases that took us abroad. An example was the cases of fraud in NEPA, where a lot of money was transferred from NEPA’s account in banker’s trust in America to accounts in Switzerland. It was a very good case because we were able to recover about US$20 million which was transferred fraudulently. The perpetrators were apprehended in London, we got them back to Nigeria and charged them to court. We were encouraged by this and subsequently, it became a standard that if there was serious fraud anywhere, especially abroad, it was easy for us to be contacted.

Another case was the US$5 million  in Intercontinental Merchant Bank that was transmitted into Intercontinental Bank and Access Bank now. With the help of our friends in London, we recovered the fund and arrested all those that were involved in the fraud and they were all charged to court. Other cases followed with success. I was in Interpol for about 10 years and we had a lot of experience with very sensitive serious investigations.

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 Who was in charge of Interpol then?

I worked with a lot of Commissioners of Police in the Interpol, starting from CP Daura, who retired as Assistant Inspector-General, AIG. He was the administrator of Yobe State. I later worked with Mrs. Ojomo for about five years. I was her P.A and became her S.A. She retired as Deputy Inspector-General of Police. She was a totally incorruptible woman and I was glad I worked under her.

I remember that she investigated the Bola Ige case and she was eventually transferred from the case.

I was Assistant Commissioner, AC, Criminal Investigation Department, CID, to the incumbent Inspector-General of Police as Commissioner of Police in Jos. I worked very close with him and he is another incorruptible police officer. He is the IG now and Nigeria is lucky to have him because he is a very efficient officer. When it comes to operations, he is fantastic, he is very good and maybe I should not be praising my IG but then, I can tell you, I worked with him and I know him very well, we are lucky to have him in Nigeria as IG.

I handled the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, case in which we recovered about N23 million. I handled the case of FIRS where we recovered about N650 million and the suspects were charged to court, and other cases like that. Subsequently, I worked in the Provost’s Office briefly and I was taken to the Police Staff College as Director of Studies for a few months. I was taken back to Abuja, I worked in the Force Secretary’s office. From there, I was moved to IG monitoring unit where I worked under Mr. Sunday Ehindero. From there, I was moved to Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, as head of investigation and the story is there.

I must mention that Justice Emmanuel Ayoola, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, is somebody I see myself very lucky to have worked with because I learnt a lot from him. When I got to ICPC, there were lots of things we wanted to do but he was like, he slowed us down, saying we had to be very thorough. Most of the cases I handled, I had to first send them to his office and he would call me to his office saying: ‘Tunde, sit down. You want to charge this man to court?’ If I said, ‘Yes, sir,’ he would then say: ‘I am the judge in this court, you are the prosecutor. Convince me why this man should go to the court and all that. If you are not prepared, then you messed yourself up.’

The kind of training that you have been through, is it still available for younger generations of police officers today? If not, what are you doing to make sure that the training is good? 

In terms of training, I will count myself very lucky and fortunate to have the benefit of these trainings and exposure I have had in the Nigeria Police. I am aware that not all officers of my rank or calling have gotten this kind of benefit. What I can say is that in every situation I found myself, I have emphasised the issue of training to the officers that work under me. Like when I came here, I found out that our officers need training and re-training, and I organised training with the support of some stakeholders last year December.

Some of the complaints that come from bank customers are that they are treated as criminals when they default in loan repayments. The banks then use the police as loan recovery agent. How do you separate the two issues: loans and fraud?

I have heard this before and my answer is simple. We look at the legal angle too. If a case is civil, it is civil but if it is criminal, it is criminal. We look at the content of the complaints, we look at the legal angle, whether offence has been committed. If offence has been committed, and it can be proven through proper investigation, the case will be taken to court. If you collect a loan from the bank and you issued cheque that bounced, this has passed the level of being civil, or if you obtain money under false pretences, it is no longer civil. People take loans with cloned documents as collateral, so this is criminal. If there are no criminal intents, there won’t be legal action.

There are actually instances where banks demand postdated cheques before releasing loans to beneficiaries…  

The issue is this: the law on dud cheque is very clear. If you issue a cheque when you know there is no money in your account, you have committed an offence and you are liable and will be dealt with appropriately. Some banks will ask the customer who applies for loan to procure a cloned document. We have instances like that. Both the official and the client are criminally minded and so they are both taken to court.

 How do you treat internet fraud? What are you doing to curb it in Nigeria?

We already have a forensic investigation building under construction. The paramount reason we are putting this in place is because of the globalisation of fraud and crime and the issue of the internet fraud, identity fraud. The whole world is going IT, fraud is going IT. The world is dynamic. We have to move with the times.

Will you advise Nigerian youths to take after you as a police officer and what should they expect from the Nigeria Police of the future?

I will advise Nigerians who are coming up to imbibe the culture of integrity in whatever they do. And I will advise them to come and join the police. We want credible men to come and join the Police.