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Opinion: Beyond the police wage increase

By Punch Editorial Board

A planned increase in the salaries and allowances of officers of the Nigeria Police is bound to be like a Christmas gift to them. Their pensioners are also to benefit. The presidential gesture is well made, a morale booster, given the notoriously poor conditions under which they work.

Media reports indicate that the average monthly take-home pay of a police constable is about N41,000; a sergeant, N51,000 and that of an inspector, N80,000. Out of this meagre sum, officers reportedly pay for their uniform, boots, belt and beret – costs they bear on behalf of the Nigerian state. Not surprisingly, in order to make ends meet, police personnel immerse themselves in the cesspool of corruption. They mount illegal road blocks to extort money from motorists and raid joints to arrest innocent citizens for them to pay cash for their freedom. There are other delinquent designs. But no matter how poorly paid, it should not justify any criminality or abuses the police routinely indulge in.

However, President Muhammadu Buhari’s goal with his decision is clear: to restore the primacy of the police in Nigeria’s internal security framework. The President said, “From Taraba to Sokoto, to the South-South, people don’t feel secure until they see the military. I am pleased to make the increase in salaries and allowances in the hope that (it) will increase the performance index of the police and strengthen Nigeria’s internal security system.”

Undoubtedly, policing in the country has collapsed due to systemic rot. This is evident in criminally-minded elements easily slaughtering citizens and removing their body parts for ritual purposes without consequences. Armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom and other sundry crimes fester without any inkling that the Nigeria Police can muster the capacity to tame them. This barbarity negates the constitutional imperative that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”

With the police out of the equation, the military, therefore, have had to be drafted to at least 30 states of the federation, to perform their statutory duties. They mount roadblocks and are on the trail of kidnappers and murderous Fulani herdsmen, apart from fighting Boko Haram terrorists in the North-East. These duties have overstretched them to the point that the Service Chiefs inadvertently protest to the authorities with their regular references to the anomaly.

While police pay rise is laudable and boosts their confidence hormone, such gesture in the past hardly changed anything. Both Olusegun Obasanjo and Umaru Yar’Adua, Buhari’s predecessors, did the same, too. Under Goodluck Jonathan, the minimum wage increase of 2011 also meant an upward review in the salaries of the police. But none of the wage adjustments enhanced their output. Therefore, it will be wrong for Buhari to assume that the outcome of this will be different.

The police force, as presently constituted, needs a revolutionary sweep or reform, to emerge as the brand of police Nigerians desire. Besides welfare, they are deficient in training and equipment, and lack discipline – all requirements for efficiency and effectiveness in modern policing. As a result, the President should return to the drawing board.

The United Kingdom has one of the most effective police forces. Despite being ahead of criminals, every administration introduces reforms it believes could better the system. For instance, the Labour Party introduced the National Model of Neighbourhood Policing; Independent Police Complaints Commission; National Policing Improvement Agency. The Conservative Theresa May government targets an overhaul of democratic control of police forces: election of their commissioners rather than being appointed; holding chief constables accountable, who will be hired or fired by the commissioner and police funding through council tax collection.

Unfortunately, in Nigeria, the seed of police self-destruction is sown in recruits bribing their way into the system, paying as much as N100,000. Some of them have been discovered to be armed robbers, gangsters and drug addicts, who need the police as a shield from arrest, while they traffic in criminality. These characters, ill-honed from the kind of environment the Police Training College, Ikeja, presents, which Channels Television‘s documentary exposed in 2013, build the foundation of a national security disaster. It is the harvest the country is reaping now.

There can’t be an effective policing if professionalism and ethical standards are mere notional virtues. To institutionalise them will need a strong Presidency and an Inspector-General of Police committed to a new order. A mechanism, adroit in fishing out the bad eggs in the force, should be non-negotiable. If any disciplinary instrument exists for this, it is patently weak.

It is a sad reminder of the self-scorecard, as presented by a former IG of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, in 2012, when he addressed senior officers on assumption of office. “The Nigeria Police Force has fallen to its lowest level. Police duties have become commercialised and provided at the whims and caprices of the highest bidder.” Operational funds are misappropriated by the hierarchy, as revealed in the report of the presidential panel set up to probe what happened to the funds released for upgrading training institutions between 2009 and 2012, after the seemingly embarrassing documentary. These ever-present debilities should force Buhari and the current IG, Ibrahim Idris, to action.

All this, however, should be stop-gap measures in the quest for an ideal policing system for the country. The Federal Government remiss in adequate funding of the police and the estimated N2 trillion state governors have spent in equipping them in the last decade, according to the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, are poignant evidence of the fact that there is no alternative to state police. Nigeria, as a federation, puts a stamp of inevitability to it.


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Posted by on Dec 6 2018. Filed under Headlines, Nigerian Police. 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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