By JOHNBOSCO AGBAKWURU & JOSEPH ERUNKE
ABUJA — SUPERVISING Minister of Police Affairs, Ms Olajumoke Akinjide, yesterday, disclosed that poor budgetary allocation was hindering the smooth operation of the Nigeria Police Force.
The minister equally said consideration for recruiting additional police men and women to raise the current staff strength of 370,000 was on but regretted that it was being hindered by meager allocation to the ministry.
Speaking when she appeared before the Senate Committee on Police Affairs to defend her ministry’s 2014 budget, Ms Akinjide, told the committee that already her ministry has led a delegation to the Minister of Finance to complain about the shortfalls in the ministry’s budgetary allocations particularly as regards the drop in personnel costs.
According to her: “It is something that worries us and we have made a representation to the ministry of finance. There is no reason to justify the decrease, at worse, we should maintain last year’s amount. The ministry is looking at it and I believe this will be rectified very soon.”
Answering question on the preparedness of the Nigeria Police in the 2015 general elections, Ms Akinjide assured that the police was ready for the 2015 elections, stressing that, “we are ready to deliver on a free, fair and credible elections because it is a cardinal policy of the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.”
“The minister also explained that there was zero budget for police reform programmes, saying that at the National Economic Council, NEC,meeting chaired by the Vice President and attended by all the 36 states governors, it was agreed that one percent of the consolidated revenue funds would be devoted for the funding of the police reform programmes, which would be distributed in the proportion that is due to the three arms of governments.
The Senate Committee on Police Affairs, speaking at the occasion through its chairman, Senator Paulinus Nwagwu, raised alarm that the decrease in the budgetary allocations to the Nigerian police in the 2014 budget proposal may threaten the 2015 general elections.
He said the development could affect the state of the preparedness of the police to carry out a smooth conduct of the 2015 general elections just as he feared that the development may lead to delay in payment of police salaries thereby forcing them to embark strike.
Nwagwu observed for instance that allocation for personnel cost nose-dived from N292bn in 2013 to N279 bn.
He also said the allocation for overhead cost for the police command and formation equally took a downward turn from N7.6 billion to N5.4 billion.
“As I am talking to you, this quarter, the police is unable to pay salaries, don’t forget that we are the people who oversight them and we meet with them from time to time.
“I don’t want a situation where police officers may go on strike. Things that are not supposed to happen in this country are happening because of our enemies or perceived enemies of government. We in this committee will not sit back and be looking at it happen like that. The issue of their salary is key.
“Personnel cost is key in government and it has to be corrected immediately otherwise, it will delay your budget.
“Commenting on the drop on budgetary allocations for overhead costs for the service, Senator Nwagu said: “If last year when we did not have any major election, the police formation and command was given N7.6 billion as overhead cost and if you look at the proposal of 2014 budget it is N1.2 billion less than what was given to the police last year and looking at the year we are in, the election year when we expect the police performing in all the states of the federation in making sure they provide enough security for Nigerian to have a free movement, is there any assurances to Nigerians that you are ready to provide security to them for the elections.?
Nwagwu, while expressing concerns about the impact of the budget on the conduct of the coming elections, asked Akinjide that: “Do you think you can comfortably provide security for this year’s election and if you cannot, what is the next line of action? We are going into elections and I do not want my brothers from the APC to complain that PDP refused to give them security.”
He charged the minister to quickly meet the authorities concerned about the appropriation.