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Nigeria’s Colonial Heritage Undermining Modernization and Development – By Dr. Philip Ikomi

By Dr. Philip Ikomi | NNP | June 19, 2014 – Many Nigerians who are old enough to remember or whose parents were beneficiaries of the colonial dispensation look back with nostalgia to colonial rule and wish we still had the Britons in Nigeria today. After independence in 1960, Nigerians in the civil service were treated like their colonial counterparts who were still working in various service locations in the country. There was, of course, the division of the civil service into senior and junior staff members. Senior service members were given the “European” treatment while the junior service had no European equivalent. The majority of Nigerians in the Nigerian civil service, years after independence were junior service personnel.

In fact, that is not an anomaly as junior personnel, being the ones that did the heavy duty work were normally much more in number than the higher ranking or senior officers. But what was the European treatment that senior service Nigerians were given? For that, I would like to make a digression to inform you about the state of the British Empire, the United Kingdom (UK), from where the empire originated and Nigeria at the time.

The British Empire was the empire over which “the sun never set.” That phrase describes the geographic extent of the empire because the eastern portion of the empire could be receiving the setting sun, while the western portion of the empire was welcoming the rising sun simultaneously.

The British had possessions across the globe in India, Africa, the Americas, the Pacific, in fact, on every continent one could find a British colony or dependent. But the UK itself was and still is, a relatively small country of under forty million people in the 1940s. Thus it must have been a challenge for the country to supply human resources to all the countries under her jurisdiction. Even to have enough personnel to engage in indirect rule which she had in Northern Nigeria must have been a difficult undertaking, personnel wise.

It is well known in economic circles that when there is a shortage of personnel, the pay and incentives go upwards. People in such situations choose what jobs they take and if the pay and benefits are not good enough, they reject them. Thus it was no accident that the British civil servants who were posted to Nigeria and other colonies were given very good and enticing salaries and benefits for them to take the postings. This is more so when you consider that Nigeria’s working environment could be considered hostile when compared to the United Kingdom’s environment prior to Nigerian independence and years after independence.

Thus a Briton coming to Nigeria to serve in the colonial era could expect to be given furnished living quarters (European quarters), a car, and allowance for maintaining the car, allowances for the children’s education, entertainment allowance, domestic assistance allowance (Cooks and Domestic servants), travel allowance, full medical insurance coverage, and a clause in the employment contract that guaranteed immediate evacuation to the UK for medical treatment in case of any life threatening medical condition encountered while in Nigeria.

All these were inherited by Nigerian civil servants on appointment as they landed on the Nigerian shores from studies abroad, mainly from the UK after independence and even before independence when some Nigerians were hired and given positions that the British could have taken had they the numbers. These amenities meant to entice UK civil servants to take overseas appointments are still very much with us today. They could be seen conspicuously being used in the Senate and House of Representatives where they are the law regarding the emoluments of our Senators and Representatives who have made the laws that safeguard them.

There is not a shortage of personnel to take up the jobs of Senators and Representatives. In fact, every Nigerian over the age of 35 years is eligible to take up a Senator’s job. And any Nigerian over the age of 21 years could be a representative of the people. Thus these jobs (Senators and Representatives) that many people are potentially eligible to be selected to perform should command very low pay. However, we uncritically watched our Senators and Representatives as they made laws to cement these allowances and more into their emoluments because we are used to having them for our civil servants. Our civil servants should not be enjoying such emoluments today as people who are eligible for civil service postings are not scarce. Furthermore these are Nigerians and they are not expected to be flown out to the UK or any other part of the world for medical treatment when they are ill.

The funding of the Senators and Representatives for their totally unwarranted salaries and benefits is eating into our national income and depriving Nigeria of funds in other more important areas of our national development including health, education, infrastructure, and others. In addition, the fact that these senators, representatives, and other civil servants could fly out of the country for medical attention has made it impossible for Nigeria to have any credible medical facilities run by the government in Nigeria today. Imagine the state of our hospitals and other state provided medical facilities, if the civil servants, senators, and representatives could not go out facilitated by government funds, but have to depend on local Nigerian hospitals and other medical facilities.

Nigerians have had no concern that their president was going out of the country to seek medical treatment. It seems so natural. Many of the previous heads-of-state had done so with no uproar from Nigerians. Apart from the security concerns which a normal country’s inhabitants would feel for their leader going abroad for sensitive medical treatment, there is the neglect of the hospitals which results from the leaders not patronizing them. Our colonial heritage has blinded us to not seeing anything wrong with going abroad for medical treatment because going abroad was part and parcel of our expectations as civil servants in Nigeria. Bills must now be passed to remove those conditions of service from the civil service conditions of service.

Today, almost fifty-four years after independence, we still have the colonial police force which was meant to keep Nigerians in check, and nothing to do with protecting and serving Nigerians. However, we continue to find excuses to keep the Nigeria wide police force, rather than have local police to deal with local criminal issues as is practiced world wide. The irony is that the UK which gave us the Nigerian Police Force, has local police around the UK. It does not have one police force to police the whole country.

The argument that people who want to continue with this unconventional police force in Nigeria make is that if we did not have a single police command, then different states will intimidate one another with their police and politicians who are campaigning for federal positions in other than their states will be treated badly by those other states’ police. To that I would say show me examples around the world where that is happening. At any rate, any such action by the state’s police will be a criminal issue subject to litigation. The benefits of having state or local police far outweigh those, if any, of continuing with a national police. For one thing, there will be local recruitment and the local police officers will be people from each locality who know the people and the places better than people from other parts of the country who are unfamiliar with the people and environment.

That includes speaking the local language and therefore being able to communicate better with the people. Have you imagined what could have happened to the scourge of Boko Haram if the police in Borno State were made up of only Borno State residents who spoke the local language rather than a motley crew of people from all over the country? How do people feel if someone not from their locality is coming to police them? Among the police in Borno state under normal circumstances as currently constituted would be people from other parts of the country as well as people from Borno state.

However, at any point in time, a police officer who is not from Borno state is going to have to interact with a Borno state citizen regarding some criminal issue. In such a situation, I would imagine that a native police officer would be better received. If the police is to serve the needs of individual Nigerians it is vital that Nigeria shed her toga of one police for the entire country. Thus we have here another case of a colonial heritage militating against development as a state police force would be more effective in protecting and serving the individual citizen.

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Posted by on Jun 19 2014. Filed under Articles, Columnists, NNP Columnists, Philip Ikomi. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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