From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
Alhaji Mahdi Shehu, a self-acclaimed whistle blower from Katsina State, based in Kaduna, has shared his experience in police detention over allegations of financial fraud he levelled against the Katsina State government.
Alhaji Shehu, a businessman, and chairman of Dialogue Group of Companies, sometime in July, accused the Katsina State government of squandering N52.6 billion, alleging that they were illegal expenses in the last five years from the state’s security accounts.
Alhaji Shehu who described himself as an activist and non-commercial whistle blower, told Sunday Sun that he saw hell while he was in police detention for 15 days, insisting that he was visited with grave injustice as he was not charged to court. Excerpts
What was your experience during the 15 days you spent in police detention?
It was quite a pleasant experience; at least, it gave me full insight into the structure and content of the Nigeria Police and the leadership (style) of the Inspector General of Police who presides over the non-payment of salary of 10, 000 constables who have been working for the past 10 months.
How did you come about this idea of 10,000 police constables not being paid salary?
Ten thousand constables were employed last year; they were trained and assimilated into the system; go and find out anywhere. All the constables are all over the country in every police division. Go and ask them how long they have been working and they will tell you 10 months without salary. So, one will begin to wonder how they go to work? How do they feed? How do they meet up with their daily requirements? That is why corruption in police institution is on the increase; you can make a provision, you can make excuses for them, a constable who has not received his salary in the past 10 months can internally justify his act – that after all, there is nothing wrong in collecting bribe from people or to even demanding it. Do you blame him? No. I will not blame him in the first instance.
Did you get this information while you were in detention?
Of course, yes! You could have seen what I got from the detention centre. Even at the detention centre, I got the information that the IGP had kept 24 persons under lock and key for six solid months and they are still there; I came out with a story; it is all over the world now. It is left for the world to act now or never. Those young men are all below the age of 28 and their simple offense was that they were cajoled into giving N700, 000 each to get a training slot at Police College, Maiduguri. They trained for six months; they have police service numbers they were given in other people’s names. They have been exposed to arms; they have trained in assembling arms, servicing arms and firing arms; they have gone through drilling; I want to see what society we will have now when after all this nonsense, these people are allowed to go outside the system without absorbing them and let’s see who is going to be blamed.
While in detention, we learnt that you were bitten by a snake; how true is this?
It is very factual, very, very true. When I was taken to Asokoro police station in the first instance – that was on the 23rd of November at about 9:30p.m, I had the need to go and pray; then I wanted to ease myself; I was taken to a toilet; not even a pig will squat there. I came out and said let me just find a way through many cars that were packed out there for decades. It was while I was passing through that I was bitten by a snake. I was taken to National Hospital, Abuja, where I was given an anti-snake venom injection and some pain reliever, and that was just all. I was taken into a ward where seven females were admitted; I was strangely the only male among the patients.
It was in the morning that I realised that, that was a conspiracy against me; then I demanded that I should be discharged to go and get medical treatment. Upon my discharge, the police said that they could not allow me to go and get treatment that I must remain in their custody. They took me to a police hospital; while there, they said they had brought a suspect for keeps and not a patient. So, I was kept there for two days as a suspect and not as a patient; I was not given even any pain reliever. Two days after, they said the IGP had ordered that I should be remanded in Force CID detention cell at Area 10. That was where I was taken to. I was lucky to locate a cell where Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was then incarcerated by the late General Sani Abacha.
What was the size of the snake that bit you; was it big?
Quite huge, there was a picture of the snake. Not even the police were able to call snake catchers; the snake was caught; it was lying there for everybody to see. What baffled me was that I didn’t even know where IGP got his information that a suspect he ordered for his arrest was bitten by a snake while in their custody and they turned a blind eye to my treatment. After all, what they were after was to incarcerate me to fulfill their obligation towards those who assigned them to do the job. That was my imagination, but I hope one day he would sit down and reflect.
Why were you detained and on whose order?
The reason I was detained is that the Governor of Katsina State alongside the SSG together with the Attorney-General, two traditional rulers, one businessman and a senator in collaboration with the state governor, went and met the IGP. They asked the governor to write a written complaint against me that I had made governance impossible for the Government of Katsina State, that I was confusing people, that I was dolling out figures and documents that could make the government unpopular. Those were the reasons; I saw no offence in all that; this is democracy; if you don’t want criticism, then you don’t have any reason of being in a democratic space in the first place. Without even hearing my own side of the story, I was declared guilty; they connived, converged and synergised to ensure that I was silenced. But let me tell you one thing, this is the biggest mistake they have ever made; if they think by that wicked, irresponsible act called arrest, they think they have checkmated me, they have made the biggest miscalculation. From now on, it is going to be full-blown not half-blown (confrontation); from now on, it is going to be a straight forward, direct, clear and targeted (confrontation).
While you were away in detention, did your business suffer any damage?
I have an organised structure; with or without me, the structure operates because it is well structured and I have no reason whatsoever to doubt the capacity of my staff to run my businesses even after my demise.
Are you completely healed of the snake bite?
I am still treating it.