By RICHARD AKINNOLA
Sometime in the early 1986, three of us, Dele Giwa, Ray Ekpu and l sat down in the Oduduwa, Ikeja, Lagos office of the then Lagos State police public relations Officer, PPRO, the iconoclastic CSP Alozie Ogugbuaja. Then, l chipped in -”Wetin dey do you sef? You no go settle us? Abeg, give us my regular”. He laughed hysterically.
Alozie, a very cerebral officer was also a bag of humour. He retorted: “Richard, you dey craze o. You be visitor for dis office? Go get am yourself”. I replied: “You know say my oga dem dey here, so na you go serve us by yourself”. He stood up from his chair, saying “comot for road, yeye reporter”. Dele Giwa quipped: “What did you just call Richard?” Alozie intoned apologetically “Oga, abeg o”, as he went to the refrigerator to bring out a keg of chilled palm wine. Dele Giwa said, excitedly, “this is it”.
That was the camaraderie we all exuded each time we were with Alozie Ogugbuaja. Each time you were with Alozie, you would feel like joining the police. Then a young, handsome, slim, tall guy, an intellectual and a voracious reader who was so much in love with the police uniform.
Due to his civil and genial way he approached the issue of policing, he earned the confidence of many who ordinarily would be antagonistic to the police institution.
However, Alozie was soon to run into stormy weathers with the powers that be. The Babangida regime had set up the Akanbi panel of inquiry over students riots. Alozie represented his boss, the Commissioner of police. In his usual fearless and forthright manner, Alozie recounted how the police had been oppressed by the military over time with meagre pay, making some scathing remarks about the army which he said were better paid for doing nothing other than to revel in pepper soup joints where they kept planning coups because they were idle. According to him, a well-trained and well remunerated police would foil any coup.
Hear him: “ The Army is the unregistered political party of Nigeria…quietly behind closed doors, they can decide to increase their salaries while policemen have become glorified ordinary men. The fact that the police are given power with sirens to clear the roads does not mean they have enough powers.
“Since the military had come into politics in Nigeria, it will not be in its interest to have an effective and efficient police force because an efficient and effective police force is capable of foiling a military coup…. On a week day, you see Lieutenants, Captains, Majors, Colonels, Brigadiers drinking pepper soup and beer at 12 mid-day …you will weep for this country. And there are so many of them, other ranks, then you wonder, no wonder they have time to plan coups. We used to say idle civilians, now we have the idle soldiers.
“If you want a good police man, you will have to pay for it. If you want a cheap one , made in Taiwan, you will get it.”
It is against this background that l situate the current laudable drive by the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris to reposition the police force with his campaign for the police Trust Fund.
Just like Alozie expounded before the Akanbi panel more than 30 years ago over the underfunding of the Force, the situation has not improved considerably, despite the multifaceted security challenges starring the people in the face. As a matter of fact, the level of sophistication of today’s major crimes, with particular reference to terrorism and kidnapping has made it imperative for humongous funding for the police.
The stark reality of this challenge was not lost on the IGP when he recently declared that the Force requires N1.13 trillion annually for it to work effectively.
Speaking few weeks ago at the public hearing by the House of Representatives on a Bill to establish Police Trust Fund, IG Idris explained that the police only received about half of its 2016 Budget, a situation that impedes on the operational effectiveness of the Force.
According to him, “presently, the Force has a fleet of 14,306 vehicles including 3,115 motorcycles nationwide. They have to be fueled and maintained…To effectively investigate and prosecute offenders, we must invest massively in the detective infrastructure and the capacity of our investigators”.
It is in this vein that l recommend the Lagos State template on Security Trust Fund.
In 2007, faced with mounting security challenges, accentuated by the lack of proper and adequate funding for the police, the Lagos State government set up a Lagos Security Trust fund.
And to give legal teeth to this laudable initiative, the State government enacted the Lagos State Security Trust Fund law on September 5, 2007, while the Agency saddled with it was inaugurated in November 2007.
This was with a view to supplementing the financial inadequacies of the Nigeria police.
During its inauguration, its first Executive Secretary, My Fola Arthur-Worrey stated inter alia:”The objectives of the fund were to raise money through voluntary donations from government agencies, private organizations and individuals. The money thus raised is to be used for the acquisition and deployment of security equipment as shall be found necessary for the effective functioning of all Federal, State and local governments and other security agencies operating in Lagos State”.
And within two years of its inception, about N4.7billion had been received in cash and kind. And this went into the purchase of vehicles, bullet proof vests, allowances for police personnel, among others.
Using this Lagos initiative as a template, it becomes imperative that the National Assembly expedites the passage of this Police Trust Fund Bill which has been stuck in this chambers since 2010.
The daunting security challenges facing the country makes the urgent passage imperative. And this is against the background of continuous under funding of the Nigeria police.
Consequently, with the passage of this Bill, it would be easier for this initiative to be funded as a first line charge where certain percentages would go directly to its account from the Federal, States and Local governments. And of course, the private sector would be encouraged to contribute significantly.
With the success made of the Lagos example, there is no doubt that greater success would be achieved if replicated at the national level. Hence, the need to give this Bill an accelerated hearing.