As Suleiman Abba mounts the police trust fund saddle
On Monday, May 18, former Inspector-General of Police, Suleiman Abba, assumed office as chairman, Board of Trustees of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund.
That is a big deal. It is momentous not only because the Trust Fund finally began operations almost one year after the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (Establishment) Bill was signed into law, but also because of the quality of leadership empanelled to superintend its affairs. Many Nigerians agree that Abba’s appointment is consequential, the axiomatic round peg in a round hole, a laudable instance where competence, character and capacity have been given the elbow room to trump inhibiting national fault-lines. But it couldn’t have been otherwise given that the idea of the Trust Fund, a child of necessity, is perhaps the administration’s last-ditch effort to extricate the country from the fatal grips of non-state actors who seem to be effectively challenging the state’s sole proprietorship of the instruments of coercion.
When the president assented to the Bill on June 14, 2019, the question of who chairs the Board concentrated the minds of many. That was important because the answer would underscore government’s seriousness in tackling insecurity and point to the direction the Trust Fund was headed. Insecurity is an existential threat to the corporate entity called Nigeria. The wellbeing of Nigerians has never been more parlous. At the core of this national malaise is the near collapse of the country’s internal security architecture propelled by an ill-equipped and poorly funded police force with disillusioned personnel to boot.
The need in the circumstance, therefore, for an interventionist agency that will help attenuate the debilitating security challenges that have hobbled our claim to civilization cannot be overstated. The president put his hand on the button when he envisioned that the solution was to retool the country’s policing architecture by establishing a Trust Fund that will “meet the aspiration of a well-funded, equipped and highly professional Nigeria Police Force in line with international best practices.” The Fund which duties include training, overall improvement of personnel of the Nigeria Police Force in the discharge of their duties, purchase of equipment, machineries and books and the construction of police stations and living facilities for the Nigeria Police Force, sprouted from that exigency – the need for a special intervention fund to finance necessary expenditures of the police. As an interventionist agency designed to cover all police personnel, including auxiliary staff in Nigeria and abroad, the Trust Fund, which is to operate for a period of six years, will get 0.5 per cent of the total revenue accruing to the Federation Account; a levy of 0.005 per cent of the net profit of companies operating in Nigeria; any take-off grant and special intervention fund as may be provided by the Federal, State or Local Governments; monies appropriated by the National Assembly in the budget to meet the objective of the Act; aids, grants and assistance from international agencies, non-governmental organisations and the private sector; grants, donations, endowments, bequests and gifts (whether of money or property) from any source; and money derived from investment made by the Trust Fund, which are exempted from income tax.
Who calls the shots is key to the success or otherwise of this all-important agency. And failure is not an option, which perhaps explains why it took President Buhari almost one year to chew over the matter of its leadership. As a former Inspector General of Police, who rose through the ranks, Abba, no doubt knows the terrain. In the course of his career, he was Commissioner of Police in Rivers and Lagos states, as well as AIG Zone 7, Abuja. As AIG, he was the chairman of the 2015 General Elections NPF Planning Committee and as the IGP, he upped the ante. Highly understated, it is to his credit that the elections touted as perhaps the freest and fairest was successfully conducted despite the charged atmosphere that preceded it. That was because of the unprecedented security architecture he built around the exercise. An award winning and highly decorated officer, Abba attended courses and seminars in China, Jordan, UK, U.S., Benin Republic and Russia, including trainings as member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police in the 31 years he spent in the Force. He was by no means a run-of-the-mill security operative. Abba is also an intellectual. A History graduate from the University of Jos, in quest of more robust knowledge, he also garnered a law degree from the University of Abuja and is a member of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). But, perhaps, what are more important are the things he has done to develop himself intellectually since retirement in 2015. Unlike most other Nigerian public officers who go home to vegetate after retirement, he proceeded to the prestigious London School of Economics in 2015 for an “International Human Rights Law and Practice” certificate course. In 2017, he was at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Chicago for a certificate course on “Corporate Governance: Effectiveness and Accountability in the Boardroom.” In 2019, he was at the INSEAD Business School, Paris, France for yet another one-year course on “Challenge of Leadership.”
He has been as successful in private business as he was in public life.
As commendable as his foray into the uncharted waters of private business is, what particularly stands him out are the kind of businesses he has ventured into which spans law, agribusiness, aviation, real estate and information technology. Of course, as a lawyer, it was not a surprise that he set up a law chamber, Fasaha Solicitors & Advocate. Hearkening to the national call for self-sufficiency in food production, he set up Suleiman Gagaryaga Farms Ltd. In collaboration with the India-based Aptech Computer, he set up KANI Computer Technologies Ltd which operates advanced computer training centre in Lagos, Abuja and Kano. The Dutse Aptech Centre will soon begin operations. He also runs KANI Aviation International which provides aviation support services and Fine halls Properties Ltd.
But the retired police boss’ passion is not all about making money.
He has a heart of gold and gives back to humanity through numerous philanthropic acts. He takes delight in sponsoring students in computer training at the Aptech Centres in Kano and Dutse. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, he donated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) worth over N3 million to medical personnel in the 27 local governments of Jigawa State. But he is by no means the only former police boss with some of these credentials. What placed him in the pole position for the job are other police-related assignments he has been handling creditably since his retirement. On July 5, 2017, Abba was appointed chairman of the Nigeria Police Force Pensions Limited (NPFPL) Board of Directors – a position he held until his latest appointment. He worked flat out to bolster harmony amongst board, police management and stakeholders by building a strong corporate governance culture. The result was phenomenal: Growth of Retirement Savings Account (RSA) fund from N314 billion to N537 billion under his watch, construction of head office complex, successful rights issue by confident shareholders in support of the completion of the head office and enhanced payment of dividends to shareholders from 30k per share to 32k per share. As chairman of the NPFPL Board, Abba enhanced the growth of company assets from N5 billion to over N9 billion. But it is in the area of enhancement of the welfare of clients (police personnel) through the establishment of the Retiree Resettlement Support Scheme, a N400 million annual support program to police retirees, that he made the most impact. Over N1.2 billion has already been paid. By adequately investing in modern technology that enabled seamless work from home without disruption of services to customers and reports rendition, Abba, within three years, built a well-trained and motivated workforce, who in turn made the welfare of police personnel the focus of their operations, thereby positioning NPFPL as a pride of the police.
So glorious was his tenure that the enamored NPFPL staff is still clamoring that he combines his new position with the chairmanship of their board. When it comes to the enhancement of the welfare of police officers for optimal performance, which is actually what the Police Trust Fund is all about, it will be no exaggeration to say that no officer, serving or retired, stands in a better stead than Abba. And it didn’t start after his retirement. Even as a serving police officer, he was chairman of the Nigeria Police Cooperatives Multi-Purpose Society Ltd. Any hope for a secure Nigeria, going forward, will depend largely on how diligently the Police Trust Fund board performs its duties. There is no doubt that the cap, to borrow a cliché, fits Barrister Suleiman Abba, a Commander Federal Republic (CFR) national honours awardee.
As he settles into his new position with the formidable team of Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto (Executive Secretary), Nnamdi Maurice Mbaeri (representing Ministry of Police Affairs), Inspector-General of Police (representing Nigeria Police Force), Usman Bilkisu (representing Ministry of Justice), Ben Akabueze (DG, Budget and National Planning representing Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning), Engr. Mansur Ahmed (representing Organised Labour) and Dr. Michael Bamidele Adebiyi (representing Civil Society Groups), Nigerians are upbeat that the inauguration signals the beginning of the end of reign of terror in the country.