By Aare Afe Babalola

IN this edition, I will examine one of the challenges facing the Nigeria Police which is accommodation and welfare provisions.

It is common knowledge that police work anywhere in the world can be very dangerous and stressful. In addition to the obvious dangers inherent in prevention of crime and direct confrontation with criminals, police officers need to be constantly at alert and ready to deal appropriately with a number of other dangerous situations. Many law enforcement officers are also killed or suffer bodily injuries from hardened criminals.

The deduction one easily makes from all these is that good accommodation and good welfare programme should be a natural package for members of the Nigeria Police Force. Sad enough, this is not the case in terms of office and residential accommodation (barracks), salary, allowances, incentives, insurance, promotion and regular payment for police officers. 

Former Inspector-General of Police, Mr. M.A.K Smith, captures it thus:

“It is pertinent to observe that only two out of the 13 Zonal Command Headquarters and only 19 out of 37 State Commands have “standard” headquarters buildings. Besides, none of the existing 106 Area Commands has an office of its own…Inadequate or unconducive working environment adversely affects productivity. Recently, statistics conducted reveal that only 33 per cent of officers and men of the Force are quartered. This is disturbing with the recruitment of 40,000 additional policemen as presently being pursued within the next four years when 160,000 policemen must have joined the queue.

“Even the existing Police Barracks are not only poorly maintained but many are dilapidated and need rehabilitation and provision with water, good road and electricity for the policemen and their families”.

I agree with our former Inspector-General of Police when he said that the so called “standard headquarters buildings” are nothing short of average structures housing obsolete equipment and non-functional telephone boxes with their carcasses constituting an awful nuisance to the buildings.

There is no way a policeman who lives in a so-called flat consisting of a room and parlour together with his wife, children and sometimes with relatives and other dependants under extreme unhygienic condition can perform to the best of his ability. I personally know a particular ASP who was transferred from Ibadan to Lagos. For over a year, he was living in a one-room apartment with his wife and children in a terribly suffocating environment.

The appearance of a policeman is of utmost importance. Police uniform is meant to further project the image of the police through identification. To regard the material put on by some policemen in Nigeria as police uniform is to do monumental injustice to the use of words. Those faded clothing on some of our police officers cannot qualify as police uniform at all.

In view of the obvious risk and dangers that the police face with kidnappers and other hardened criminals, there is urgent need for adequate and comprehensive insurance scheme for all police officers.

There should be adequate provision to fall back on by wife/ wives and dependants of a policeman should anything untowards happen to him which is part of the hazards of the profession. Absence of adequate insurance scheme constitutes one of the gnawing problems of the police.

Lack of adequate training and training facilities is a conspicuous problem militating against the effective performance of the police in this country. And this, by extension, has led many, both within Nigeria and without, to regard our police officers as half-baked, as a result of poor training. The basic training wherewithal, as in other instances, are not just there. Perhaps, the former Inspector General of Police got it right when he submitted thus: “Our Training Institutes all over the country are however in deplorable conditions and can hardly cope with our proposed training needs.

Buildings for offices and residence of instructors are in poor state of maintenance due to paucity of funds. Library facilities and teaching aids, all perquisite of effective learning, are virtually non-existent. There is also the need to resuscitate overseas training, courses, seminars to re-orient the police in their new roles. I am tempted to add that our Police Colleges should, among others, be equipped with modern training facilities to enhance the quality of training-cum-education being received by the would-be policemen. 

“It’s often said that it is not all our policemen that are capableof handling arms and modern weapons. Gone are the days when Mobile Policemen were revered. In fact, the usual refrain was that one Mobile Policeman (Kill-and-go) equals three soldiers”.

There is also the miserable take-home pay of Nigeria police officers, no matter the grade when compared with their counterparts in other countries.

With the pitiable salary structure for the Nigeria Police Force, how can we expect optimal performance? In other countries, salaries and allowances are based on experience and education, while generous bonuses are features that encourage the police and make them more committed.

Because of the poor accommodation, remuneration structure and poor welfare programme, people who would naturally have enlisted in the police and add world class value would not enlist in the Nigeria Police Force, thereby allowing the intellectual quality of some personnel of the Nigeria Police to leave the Force.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.