In this technology age when many global agencies, both in public and private sector, update their websites by the second as events unfold, the official website of the Nigerian Police Force still displays names of officers who vacated positions long ago as current occupiers.
For instance, while Celestina Amadi has since left the position of Delta State Police Command spokesperson over five months ago, her name and contacts are still on display on the police website as current occupier as at the time of this report.
Similarly, Bassey Hogan, who has since been redeployed to Rivers State but recently mandated by the police authority to report to Akwa Ibom State, is still being portrayed as Cross Rivers State Police Command spokesperson.
Some of the officers who did not know that they were being interrogated to ascertain when they vacated their position were relaxed in their conversation with our correspondent, while those who thought it was a phone call to ask some journalistic questions protested by shouting, “But I am no longer there now!”
A police spokesperson in a northern state whose name and contacts are written against a state in the southwest, told BDSUNDAY that he had reported the anomaly several times to Force Headquarters Abuja, complaining that Nigerians, particularly reporters seeking information, continue to bombard his mobile line asking for official statement.
“I have complained severally to them in Abuja to do something about this sustained embarrassment as journalists like you, including other professional Nigerians both those at home and abroad, seeking information continually call my phone line asking for crime information. I have been removed from there over a year now but the people in charge of the site won’t just remove my contacts from the website. This is not good for police image,” said the spokesperson, who did not want his name in print for fear of victimization by the authority.
A correspondent of a Nigerian daily newspaper told BDSUNDAY that some time last year, few weeks after Margaret Emiefiele, wife of the Central Bank governor, was abducted near Agbor in Delta State, he had called Celestina Amadi, since she was still speaking for Delta Police at the time the abduction took place, but she was angered by the call because she was no longer the occupier of the position.
“After she quarrelled with me on the phone, she later calmed down to listen to me. She said she has since left the position but was surprised Nigerians, particularly journalists both at home and abroad, were still calling her to ask for information. She later gave me the telephone number of Mr. Aniamaka Andrew as the new spokesperson for the Delta State Police Command,” said the correspondent.
“But one begins to wonder who is not doing his or her job at the Force Headquarters. If they were serious, someone would have detected the abnormality and somebody would have been consequently fired,” he said.
But Donald Awunah, Force public relations officer, Abuja, defended the obsoleteness of the police website when he was contacted for comment, saying that “work is ongoing” and that “it is step by step”.
When told that names of some people who were no longer occupying the claimed position were still being displayed to the public for a minimum of six months, thereby misleading the public, he said, “Thanks for the observation. We will do something about it. The appropriate team is working on it. Very soon, all the relevant information will be available on the site. God bless you by brother.”
Other FG agencies involved
A check by BDSUNDAY shows that the Police Force is not the only federal agency displaying either false or obsolete information on its website, as there have been cases where online users had had to call a phone number on an agency’s website only to get a response from private citizens.
The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) is another agency in this category. A prominent number on the FRSC Google directional page is a mobile number belonging to Adewale Oladipupo Yusuf, a Lagos-based auto dealer.
When he was contacted, he told BDSUNDAY that it still amazes him how a mobile number he has used for years found its way into the website of the FRSC. More agonizing for him, he said, was that journalists and other inquirers frequently called him for official information not in his possession.
“I am not an official of the FRSC and no member of my family is working there. I receive calls every now and then from people asking for one information or the other concerning the operation of the FRSC, but I have been graciously explaining to them that I am not an official of FRSC because I don’t know why my number is on that website,” said Yusuf.
“It is not the fault of people calling me for information. If I knew how to remove my number from the site I would have done so since to save myself of the embarrassment,” he said.
Surprisingly, the only number on the FRSC main page is for SMS messaging, though there are two emergency lines purportedly dedicated to accident victims. Consequently, Nigerians who wish to call for either journalistic or general information are left to seek alternatives.
Then, it was a telephone conversation drama when the number on the Google directional page of the Nigerian Custom Service (NCS) website was dialled and a voice who simply gave his name as Captain Tunji answered at the other end and played to a false question put to him.
Our correspondent had asked the receiver to confirm the news making the rounds that the NCS seized some banned items in Lokoja the day the interview was made, and he answered that items were indeed seized but got angry when he was asked to name the items as though he suspected that he was being interrogated and ended the conversation abruptly.
But intriguingly, the number was registered as Ladoke Akintola University, according to a mobile application known as Truecaller.
Although the same application also revealed that the only number available on the official website of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) was registered as Civil Defence Abuja, the telecom operator, however, responded that the number was incorrect when it was dialled multiple times.
The academic sector is not left out either in the running of either obsolete website or displaying numbers that never go through, as the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) displayed three mobile telephone numbers on its website that are constantly unavailable.
Multiple calls to the three phone numbers on JAMB official website proved positive to the complaints of some students who had had one thing or the other to do with the tertiary education admission body.
Nigerian Immigration ahead
The Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS), however, proved to be ahead of other federal agencies captured in this report, as the information on its main website was up to date and the Google directional page number proved to be reliable. A responder, who pleaded anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press, explained current happenings at the NIS, which were confirmed to be true.
The Nigerian Police was, however, the only agency with the contact details of its public affairs department on its website despite the obsoleteness of most of them, while others have only emergency numbers allowing only text messages.
The media has a role to play
Babatunde Oluajo, public policy manager, Integrity Nigeria, lamented in an interview with BDSUNDAY that despite the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), government agencies continued to run as though their primary assignment was to keep information away from the public and to protect the interest of a few leaders.
According to him, part of the problem was that government officials thought they existed to satisfy certain people and to get salary at the end of every month, and upheld that integrity would demand that government agencies do all it takes to update fresh information on their sites as events unfold.
“You can’t find useful public information on websites run by government agencies; it is either numbers there are not numbers of real people or no current information. There is no effort to put out fresh information.
“Nigerians must not give up in their pursuit for a society where things are done normally. The media truly have a major role to play in pleading with officials to see reason why they should serve everybody, not just a few.
“Most of the officials of our public institutions still have this culture of seeing these institutions as belonging to few people who are their bosses. For us to progress as a nation we must abandon that mindset. They must know that they have a duty to provide information to all Nigerians in this internet age,” he said.
Incompetency is the reason
But Victor Ekwealor, website administrator, Techpoint, an Nigerian online platform, said updating a site is not rocket science as government agencies are making it appear, stressing that the job is what even a layman can do once taught.
“It is gross incompetence for outdated information to be found in any website; even more unacceptable is for such a site to be government’s,” he said.
“The problem lies with the content manager but unfortunately, some of these agencies have no content maintenance department, which is not expensive to run. For contact details of someone who had long vacated a position to still be on a site as present occupier shows incompetency of those managing the site; there is no other explanation for it,” he told BDSUNDAY.
He explained that the reason why mobile numbers of private citizens are found on government-controlled websites, as is the case with FRSC, could be due to a telecom operator policy where inactive lines are assigned to new subscribers after three months of remaining inactive.
“But, even at that it can still be traced to gross incompetency; because you are expected to know as an online content manager what is going on with the movement of officials whose personal contacts are displayed on the site. It is a serious indictment for users to call a number found on government’s website and a private citizen who is not a staff is responding. This is a simple thing that does not take time to fix,” he said.
Lai Mohamed, minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, told BDSUNDAY in a brief telephone chat that he would table the embarrassing situation before the next Federal Executive Council for decisive action against any federal agency that retains useless information on its website.
“I am going to ask everybody to regularly update their websites. Don’t worry. I will raise this issue at the next FEC meeting. It is a very serious matter,” he said.
“But we have been better in terms of releasing information. If you download our App, which is FGN information App, you can get real time information on any ministry. Anything going on in government today is posted three times daily there,” he said.