“I call on the National Assembly to see the problems of the police as the problems of all Nigerians that require urgent attention”.
By Afe Babalola
IN the last ten editions, I have presented the historical origin of the Police both in Nigeria, England and USA; the salient provisions of the law as applicable to the police especially on its functions and duties; the myriad of problems confronting the organization culminating in the present strength of the Nigeria Police. This week, I shall try and proffer solutions as I see them taking cognizance of the totality of the surrounding circumstances.
The appropriate question we should all ask ourselves as patriotic citizens is: Where do we go from here? Where there is a will, they say, there is a way. The problems associated with the Nigeria Police are not insurmountable after all.As over 90 percent of the problems confronting the Police center on funding, it is appropriate to proffer solutions from that end. Against the backdrop of the multi-faceted and multi-dimensional obligations of the Federal Government coupled with the limited resources available, how then do we fund the Police?
It is my humble submission that failure of the Government to invest certain unexpected windfalls which accrued to it has contributed immensely to the present situation. For instance, the GSM of the early 2000s running into several billions of Naira should have been invested in the Police. The money, should have been diverted to improve the deplorable condition of the police in this country so as to bring it in line with what operates in the civilized modern world. I make this point now as it is not inconceivable that similar funds will in future become available to government.
Therefore if upon proper reflection it is agreed that past funds could have made a difference if directed towards improving the police, a conscious effort must be made to ensure that such future earnings are properly directed towards improving law enforcement.
Security of lives and property remains one important yardstick for measuring the effectiveness and seriousness of any government anywhere in the world.
Foreign investments only thrive in an atmosphere of certainty and stability. This in turn, demands that security network of the country in question must be 24-hour-a-day alert. Thus, there is an urgent need for the Police to purge itself of the self-imposed ills that have remained the bane of the force.
It is a shame and a slap on all sane Nigerians that our country is negatively earmarked as one of the most corrupt nations on earth. This reprehensible attribute cannot be totally divorced from the activities of our policemen. As someone rightly observed: there is an urgent need to have a ‘security-conscious police as opposed to “bribe-seeking police”. Our police must be communal friendly and not otherwise. Let there be mass enlightenment within the rank and file of our police and thorough sensitization. A police system that loses touch with the society will forever be a burden on the citizenry.
Our youth should be encouraged to join the police although I am aware that remuneration is the first yardstick that our young ones nowadays consider before any other factor. That has already been taken care of under remuneration question. In England, graduates who join the police earn 25% over and above their counterparts who opt for the civil service. We can introduce similar thing or something close to that as such is bound to attract our young graduates into the Police for the much desired positive change.
Various allowances can be introduced to further compensate and encourage the members of the Nigeria Police. As it has already been demonstrated for example, in the United States of America where police officers enjoy one of the best incentives in the world, Nigeria can also take a bold step today. Imagine a fresher enjoying the following benefits in one part of the USA alone (Tacoma Park Police).
- Starting Salary: (Cadet) $26,574.49 and $29,953 after academy;
- Uniforms:- initial issue provided, $1,050.00 yearly allowance after clearing probation .
- Leave -12 to 24 days annual leave a year; 2 to 4 days personal leave a year depending on length of service, 15 days per year for military Reserve of National Guard duties; 15 days sick leave per year.
- Insurance: Life, Disability and Health Insurance (Dental and Optical Plan included) for single employees at no cost.
- Holidays -10 and one half paid holidays per year. Double time and a half for working those days.
- Education Benefit – tuition assistance plan available, for approved courses.
- Retirement – 30 year state employees’ pension system 457 deferred compensation plan (with $1,500.00 to $3,000.00 city match to employees contribution of $1,000.00 depending on length of service.
It should be noted that generally in the USA, total earnings for local, state, and special police and detectives frequently exceed the stipulated salary because of payments for overtime which can be significant.
Because Police officers usually are covered by liberal pension plans, many retire at half-pay after 20 to 25 years of service. All the foreign examples cited can serve as a worthy guide to any serious steps towards the transformation of the Nigeria Police. When a policeman becomes aware of the enormous hazards of his job and quickly remembers the incentives awaiting him (or his immediate family in a situation of sudden death while in service) he should be able to feel secured and gratified.
On a final note, permit me to call on the National Assembly to see the problems of the police as the problems of all Nigerians that require urgent attention. The appropriate laws should be enacted to address them in order to enable Nigerians boast of a modern, dedicated, efficient and responsive Police so that Nigeria and Nigerians can be secured once and for all.
Let me end this write up with Sir Robert Pees ninth principle of modern policing earlier referred to: “The test of Police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of Police action in dealing with it.”