By Aare Afe Babalola
Improved Condition of Service: So far in this discourse, I have presented the historical origin of the Police in Nigeria, England and USA; the salient provisions of the law as applicable to the police, especially on its functions, and duties and the myriad of problems confronting the organisation culminating in the present strength of the Nigeria Police.
I shall now try and proffer solutions as I see them taking cognizance of the totality of the surrounding circumstances. The appropriate question we should ask ourselves as patriotic citizen 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 afterall.
As over 90% of the problems confronting the Police centre 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?
First, it is my humble submission that certain unexpected windfalls accruing to the Federal Government ought to have been made use of to drastically reduce, if not totally eliminate the embarrassing problems of the Police in Nigeria which consequently has resulted in the inefficiency that has characterised the organisation.
For instance, the Federal Government has recorded several billions of Dollars from unpatriotic Nigerians otherwise known as looted money. It is a notorious fact that annually, we read in the media of billions and billions of naira found in the banks and houses of government officials or those who have access to government money.
This is one revenue that the Federal Government neither anticipated nor planned for. This money, it is submitted, should be 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.
Over the years, Nigeria had benefitted from crude oil windfall. The astronomical rise in the price of crude oil in the world market which sharply catapulted the projected revenue accruing to the Federal Government beyond the budgetary mark should be seen as a special grace. The windfall, by extension, should therefore not be an opportunity to demonstrate profligacy. Rather it calls for a judicious utilization. That is the best way the managers of our economy can demonstrate their managerial acumen.
Sooner than later Nigeria, a leading producer of crude oil will witness another rise in the price of crude oil. It is my humble suggestion therefore that the Federal Government should earmark future oil windfall to uplift the Police.
Security of lives and properties 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 on 24-hour-a-day alert. Thus, there is an urgent need for the Police to be funded adequately to enable them operate optimally.
It is a shame and a slap on all sane Nigerians that our country is negatively branded as the most corrupt nation 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 sensitisation. A police system that loses touch with the society is a misnomer and a burden on the citizenry.
Clothing can be compared with education. There should be an acceptable standard in this country in line with what obtains in the developed world. A minimum of NCE or OND for the prospective applicants is not too high taking into consideration the number of higher institutions in this country and the need to join the police although I am aware that remuneration is the first yardstick that our young nowadays want to consider before any other thing. 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 a similar thing or something close to that which practice 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 (Takoma Park Police):
i. Starting salary: (Cadet) $26,574.49 and $29,953 after academy;
ii. Uniforms: initial issue provided, $1,050.00 yearly allowance after clearing probation.
iii. Leave – 12 to 24 days annual leave a year; two to four 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.
iv. Insurance: Life, Disability and Health Insurance (Dental and Optical Plan included) for single employees at no cost.
v. Holidays: 10 and half paid holidays per year. Double time and a half for working those days.
vi. Education Benefit – tuition assistance plan available, for approved courses.
vii. 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 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 payment 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 Peels 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 acting in dealing with it”.