By Emeka Umeagbalasi
Under the leadership of former Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim, age-long discriminatory practices were discovered in the Nigeria Police Force by our leadership in the course of our advocacy activities. The discriminatory practices were administrative and structural in nature. They have existed since 1975 with a structural code name: the Nigeria Traffic Warden Service (TWS) Decree (Act) of 1975. This was also incorporated into Sections 59 to 69 of the Nigeria Police Force Act of 2004 (NPF Ordinance of 1930).
By the provisions of these obnoxious legal creations, the TWS was created and put under the midwifery of the Nigeria Police Force. The TWS was created for the purpose of ensuring safety of persons and properties on all Nigerian roads and strict compliance to road use and safety rules by all Nigerian road users. Those wishing to join the TWS must possess same academic, mental and physical qualifications and qualities with those wishing to join the Nigeria Police Force. Both of them also undergo same field training and spend almost same number of period before being commissioned as officers of the NPF.
Sadly, when it comes to ranking, promotion, remuneration and manning of duty posts or offices; deep discrimination and discrepancies occur. By virtue of the provisions of the TWS Decree (Act) of 1975 and Sections 59 to 69 of the Nigeria Police Act of 2004, the highest rank to be attained by a member of the TWS is called Senior Traffic Warden (STW), which is equivalent to the rank of Inspector in the Nigeria Police Force. The major ranking grades available and traditionalized in the Nigeria Police Force are: constable, corporal (first & second), sergeant, inspector (confirmed & unconfirmed), assistant superintendent (confirmed & unconfirmed), deputy superintendent, superintendent, chief superintendent, assistant commissioner of police, deputy commissioner of police, commissioner of police, assistant inspector general of police, deputy inspector general of police and inspector general of police.
This means that there are fourteen major ranking grades in the Nigeria Police Force; whereas only four ranking grades exist in the TWS.
Administratively, there is age-long promotion stagnancy policy against members of the TWS whereby their promotions from one rank to the other are delayed up to five years and above. Key officers of the TWS are also denied office and departmental duties. For instance, key members or officers of the TWS are not allowed by the leadership of the NPF to take charge and full responsibility of the TWS designated duties and offices like Divisional Traffic Officer or Office usually located in every divisional police station; whereas in the same station, divisional crime officer or office is manned by officers from the NPF Criminal Investigation Department.
Another discriminatory practice exists whereby a deputy superintendent of traffic (DST) or a senior traffic warden (STW) is made to take orders from a police sergeant or corporal. Deep discrimination and discrepancy exist too in handling the affairs of members of the TWS whereby while personnel of the NPF receive salaries and emoluments much fatter than members of the TWS who share equivalent ranks with their NPF counterparts.
It is view of these that several attempts were made by concerned and courageous members of the TWS to address the age-long structural and administrative anomalies leading to several court actions in the past.
During the Obasanjo’s presidency, a presidential proclamation was issued creating two extra ranking grades of assistant superintendent of traffic (AST) and deputy superintendent of traffic (DST), which are equivalent of the NPF’s assistant and deputy superintendents of the police (ASP & DSP), yet the TWS Decree (Act) of 1975 and its NPF Act incorporated Sections 59 to 69 were left un-amended or un-repealed till date.