By Carl Umegboro
A long-awaited succour came to the officers of the Nigeria Police as the Federal Executive Council led by President Muhammadu Buhari recently approved a salary upgrade to motivate them for improved service delivery.
Unarguably, the new package will, however, comfort the officers and make the job attractive for young job-seeking graduates.
Sensibly, Police remunerations ought to be attractive and inspiring on account of countless hazards related to the job. Without a doubt, the workforce would appreciatively give thumbs up to the Federal Government on the upgrade, irrespective of scope.
If the government would from time to time repeat such actions, the bribery and corruption that have thrived in the Force for many decades, making it notorious and unappealing to young graduates, will come to an abrupt end.
Thus, the Federal Government deserves commendation for its sensitivity and understanding; that it is insufficient to noisily charge Police to shun corruption without first and foremost addressing their poor welfare. Amazingly, Buhari came up with the salary upgrade without oil boom but internally-generated revenue that used to be squandered and shared among corrupt public officeholders.
It is only proper that he is starting with the nation’s security agency, the safeguarders of the society.
Conversely, it is often said that to whom much is given, much is expected. Thus, the salient issue is the anticipated new image of the agency alongside target conducts of the officers on account of this motivating gesture. To put it straight, would the illegal roadblocks, ridiculous inducements and harassment of citizens that have become trademarks of the agency now become history following the salary increment? Would suspects be treated with dignity and released on bail in line with engraved messages at every police station that bail is free, without illicit financial bargains?
Would the Police follow complainants dutifully and ethically as obtainable in other countries to locus situs for inspections, or arrest of suspects without demanding money for transport fare, airtime, etc, from victims of crime, that are in most cases already counting huge losses? And would the slogan, Police is your friend, remain a myth or translate to reality in the society?
By the way, the agency in an ideal world should bear Nigeria Police Service instead of the word ‘force.’ A government agency with a mandate on maintenance of law and order, preservation of the peace, prevention and detection of crimes, apprehension of offenders and enforcement of all laws with which it is charged, has no business with application of force. Its cardinal duty is to protect lives and property. In other societies, for example, the Police on duty are obligated to extensively direct, guide the public to avoid commission of crimes unlike in Nigeria where some even hide from view in strategic locations and watch unwary citizens commit crimes; then arrest and extort them. In other words, the Police statutorily should assist the people to be law-abiding instead of circuitously, looking forward to seeing them break laws and become preys.
By the salary increment which is a step in the right direction, there should be some dignity or self-esteem in the personnel to shun some corrupt practices, especially roadside tolls in broad daylight.
Regrettably, the good gesture by the Federal Government may not sufficiently address the anomalies or irregularities. The reasons are simple but critical. From investigations, administrative or running costs of Police stations are largely borne by Police divisions possibly through proceeds from illegitimate demands from helpless victims. For example, maintenance of patrol vans for operations as well as maintaining a station, including providing alternative power to light up stations at night and other miscellaneous bills, are taken care of by Divisional Police Officers through ‘proceeds’ from subordinates on duty posts.
By implication, notwithstanding the commendable pay raise, the nuisances may still exist until the running costs of divisions are legitimately taken care of by government or organisations, perhaps as social responsibilities. Sadly, such oversight exists in a society where each lawmaker at the National Assembly carts home about N13.5million as monthly running-costs without clearly defined duties to perform.
Meanwhile, Police with sensitive assignments with essential needs as functional vehicles for operations, call-airtime to ease operations, security gadgets, office equipment, and basic facilities like constant electricity, water and periodic fumigation for health of suspects that end up going home with infectious diseases, are overlooked. Unequivocally, a senator or member of House of Representatives, a position that requires as low as O’ level school certificate, shouldn’t for any reason earn more than Permanent Secretaries in federal ministries.
Presently, no lawmaker is willing to go back to trained professions, including medical doctors, lawyers, chartered-accountants, pharmacists, engineers, among other professionals, once he/she gets to the house. Hence, sit-tight syndrome leading to self-seeking defections and do-or-die politics remains in vogue. Obviously, putting an end to unjustifiable bogus allowances in the legislative arm that pitilessly drains the economy is one salient omission in all the contestants’ policy papers.
Most importantly, by the salary upgrade, section 14 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended was synchronized with action: that is, making welfare and security of the people a priority of the government by motivating law enforcement officers for optimum service delivery. Hence, the Federal Government should expediently, strategically work towards complementing it by taking up responsibility of running-costs of Police stations across the country, possibly, by converting the deceptive running-costs of lawmakers for that purpose.
Without a doubt, such intervention mechanism will help to adequately reposition the Nigeria Police for optimum outputs and service-delivery. I end by re-echoing a quote by William Shakespeare: “Security is the chief enemy of mortals”.
*Umegboro is a public affairs analyst and Associate, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, UK.