Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

The Billionaire Police Commissioner, By Olusegun Adeniyiyi

“That a serving police officer would openly admit to being a billionaire resulting from running a curious business while still in uniform confirms the lack of accountability that defines public conduct in our country today. Yet, as I have also repeatedly stated on this page, when you run a system where there are no consequences for bad behaviour, it becomes easy for those who ordinarily should uphold the law to also become outlaws. Unfortunately, that is where we are in Nigeria today!”

Mr Aderemi Adeoye retired yesterday as the Commissioner of Police (CP) in Anambra State. By his own admission, his net worth is now N20 billion! And he has set his eyes on displacing Alhaji Aliko Dangote as the richest man in Africa within the next ten years. I am also quoting him. “I have been privileged to be trained in Ghana, England, Israel, California and more. I have served abroad in the United Nations, and this career gave me opportunities for self-development, and these have prepared me for retirement,” Adeoye admitted during his ceremonial pull out parade from the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) in Awka last weekend. “In 2018, I founded an investment club, Alpha Trust Investment Club (ATIC) Limited. We started it with a modest sum of N54 million, but today we have investments worth over N20 billion. That will be my full-time business from Wednesday, May 1 (yesterday). We have been investing and now we want to go into full time business. And we will in the next 10 years give Dangote a run for his money.”

Let me be upfront here. I do not agree with those who find virtue in the kind of ‘poverty’ fables that propelled former President Muhammadu Buhari to power in 2015. So, I am not opposed to legitimate ‘side hustles’ without which it is difficult for professionals to stay afloat in Nigeria. But there is a problem when public officials acquire stupendous wealth that is impossible to explain and then make a show of it. Therefore, to know more about this multibillion Naira company whose promoter seeks to displace Dangote on the ‘Forbes List’, I first conducted a search at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) where I drew blank. I am surprised that a business concern with a portfolio of N20 billion is not listed at the CAC. Then I did a Google search. My findings were shocking.

In February this year, some people had petitioned the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, asking him to investigate an alleged fraudulent diversion of over N20 billion funds by Adeoye. In the petition, dated 30 January 2024 and signed by 33 members—including Diasporan Nigerians resident in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom—they alleged that Adeoye has been using his uniform to operate what they described as a Ponzi Scheme. “Sometime around 2017, we became ‘friends’ with Mr Adeoye on Facebook. At the time, he was serving in the African Union on secondment from Nigeria. He endeared himself to us and many others by projecting himself as a champion for victims of fraud and an upright man,” they wrote. “Often, he claimed to have come to the aid of persons who had been defrauded on Facebook. He got many accolades from many of us for these claims. As time will show, these claims were deliberate and well-planned effort by him to win the trust of many of us on Facebook as a precursor to launching his grand scheme.”

In 2018, according to the petitioners, Adeoye “proposed an investment club on Facebook, named Alpha Trust Investment Club (ATIC), aiming to pool funds for diversified investments, including joint property purchases. The idea gained traction due to Mr. Adeoye’s credibility as a senior police officer. Trust was high, leading to initial payments directly to his personal account. ATIC was later formally established under the Corporate and Allied Matters Act, growing to over 1,400 members by 2023.”

However, according to the petitioners, what is now happening “Centers on a lack of accountability, lack of proper structure, gross abuse of powers, intimidation, arbitrary punitive actions against members, negligence of duty, and a failure to adhere to regulatory requirements. All of these have cost members dearly.” After listing nine accounts domiciled in GTBank to which monies are paid with Adeoye as sole administrator, they demanded that he “be compelled to disengage from running the investments with immediate effect, with an undertaking not to touch or deal in any assets belonging to the Club, since his involvement in the scheme, and dealing in the business as a public servant, in the first place, is prima facially (sic) illegal ab initio and as a matter of law.”

There is nothing on record to suggest that Egbetokun acted on the petition. But a few weeks ago, PUNCH newspaper interviewed Adeoye who described the claims by those petitioners as “criminal defamation of character”. These were his words: “They are our members and started fomenting trouble. In the course of this, they issued threats. Someone who issues threats to others is a criminal. The person they want to haunt down is the largest shareholder, who has 11 million shares. If something is wrong with the finances, who is the first to know? What they are doing now is criminal defamation of character. When you defame a person criminally, that is a crime. The Board of Trustees met and expelled them; after they were expelled, they labelled the club Ponzi.

“We bought land as a cooperative. And we have one document for it in the name of the cooperative for each purchase. Am I supposed to tear the document into pieces and then begin to share them? We are an online investment platform. We published all the receipts and payments on our page, and every member sees them. We have created a lounge to process their settlement. We are writing to the developer to remove the parts of the bulk purchase for them and issue documents to them in their names. Developers charge 10% of the current value of the land for that. We are not asking them to pay us. They should pay directly to the developer. We will only certify them as our members for the process.”

I am still trying to process what this company is about. But there are even more critical questions that beg for answers. How can a Police Commissioner establish a ‘business’, ask the public to contribute funds that would generate returns, use his private accounts to receive such funds and claim ownership of the pool of money contributed by ‘shareholders’, after allocating 11 million shares to himself? And how could Adeoye have been diligent in his work as a law enforcement officer if he spent considerable time chasing money from people whose backgrounds he had no idea of—including those who could be criminals? Are there no regulations within the police that frown at a serving officer establishing and running a business venture, especially of this nature? Are police officers exempted from the code of conduct for public officials in Nigeria?

On Monday, there was an online post titled, ‘The audacious billionaire cop’ credited to a Mr Dauda Adesina Joki-Lasisi, a retired police officer. Joki-Lasisi (who claimed to have started his career in 1988 as a cadet inspector after training at the Police Academy in Kano) drew from his own moral examples and that of many others in the NPF to argue that money making is incompatible with the work of a law enforcement officer. He concluded his treatise with several posers. “In a service where the pension of a retired CP is not up to a N100K, what message was CP Adeoye sending to those still in service? Was it for them to embark on a rabid pursuit of money at all costs in order to secure their post-service life? And in that case, how wouldn’t these officers then compromise the sacred policing ethics by monetizing their services to the detriment of the masses and the security of the nation?” Joki-Lasisi asked. “I think retiring senior officers need to now be compelled to submit their valedictory addresses to the police authorities for vetting and possible censorship of any damaging content thereof, in order to prevent the recurrence of an embarrassing absurdity of this nature.”

I wish Adeoye well as he retires to the stupendous wealth that he has amassed for himself. But like Joki-Lasisi, I also believe that the NPF should be concerned about the reputational damage of his audacious disclosure. In my August 2021 column, ‘Beyond Abba Kyari’s Indictment’, I addressed a similar issue that borders on ethics in the police. The intervention followed the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) indictment of a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) then touted as a ‘Super Cop’. “By charging Kyari to their court, asking for his arrest, and placing emphasis on the fact that ‘he is a highly decorated deputy commissioner of the Nigeria Police Force …’, the FBI was implicitly making a connection between criminality and law enforcement in our country,” I wrote in the column. “There are lessons in this tragedy that should not be lost on the authorities in our country. Having allowed the police to degenerate as an institution, it is little surprise that many of their personnel now embody the worst vices of society.”

That a serving police officer would openly admit to being a billionaire resulting from running a curious business while still in uniform confirms the lack of accountability that defines public conduct in our country today. Yet, as I have also repeatedly stated on this page, when you run a system where there are no consequences for bad behaviour, it becomes easy for those who ordinarily should uphold the law to also become outlaws. Unfortunately, that is where we are in Nigeria today!

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