By Dayo Johnson, South West Regional Editor
BARRING urgent intervention by the police authorities, the Rank and File of the Nigeria Police Force may take to the streets. This time around, it is surely not to protect lives and property but to vent their frustrations over unpaid election allowances and salary arrears.
A good percentage of this cadre of the police force known as the Force’s dependable foot soldiers are bitter that they are yet to receive the duty allowances for the just concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections.
The implication of the planned protest, if it happens, is that the gubernatorial and state houses of Assembly elections on Saturday will be held without police protection, and the danger it portends is better imagined.
Worse still, those in the Senior Inspectors’ rank are also miffed that they are yet to receive six months’ arrears of their salary increment.
However, the Police High Command is putting a lie to the claims, saying it did offset the Presidential and National Assembly elections allowances. But, then, the high command has remained silent on the reason for the delay in the payment of the six months arrears.
Meanwhile, checks by The Vanguard Investigator, across the states of the federation, actually confirmed that some policemen were yet to receive their allowances for the first leg of the election. They are also not sure of receiving that of the Gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly elections this Saturday.
Yet, even those who have received the allowances are still crying that the amount was a far cry from what they were paid in previous elections.
For instance, The Investigator gathered that Constables and Corporals were paid N20, 000, as against N40, 000, received during the 2019 general elections.
Inspectors received N35, 000 as against N85, 000 received in 2019, while Superintendents of Police, SPOs received N35, 000 this year as against 86,000 and above received in 2019 general elections.
A Deputy Superintendent of Police in the Edo State Police command said he was paid N40,000 as against over N100,000 in 2019 general elections.
Investigation further revealed that the aggrieved policemen, who are not permitted to embark on protest because of the regimented nature of the Police Force, vented their anger at the system by reluctantly carrying on with their elections duties two weeks ago.
Some of them who spoke on the condition of anonymity said they deliberately refused to act in some areas where ballot boxes were snatched because of the subtle protest.
Lamenting non-payment of their allowances, one of them, an Inspector, in Lagos State, said, “As I speak with you, today, being March 7, 2023, I am yet to receive my election allowance and we are expected to go for another election duty this weekend.
“Though some of my colleagues have received theirs, we were told the problem originated from the pay points.
“Those affected were policemen that were transferred to other states. They were told they would receive the allowance from their previous pay points. Till date, nothing has been heard from the banks and nobody is saying anything. I was posted to Benin for the election in 2019. But I am attached to the Lagos State Command. I was told to go to the bank in Benin where I collected 2019 election pay. There is confusion everywhere”.
Many policemen who spoke with vanguard in Ondo State also confirmed receipt of their duty allowances but complained that they were short-changed.
According to one of the policemen, I have actually been paid but underpaid, that’s the gospel truth my brother. Some of my colleagues even complained that they’ve not received their own allowances”.
A cross-section of police officers in Oyo State expressed displeasure over the difficulty they were encountering to get theirs from their respective microfinance banks.
A police officer who claimed anonymity said: “We do not have a problem with the Police authority. As for me, I have received my allowance. I was part of those that protested. But I later realised the problem emanated from our microfinance banks. They have disbursed our allowances from the headquarters only for the microfinance banks to pay us.”
But a female police officer who also spoke, said: “I am yet to receive my allowance. We were told it has been disbursed from the headquarters. I was at my bank this morning but was unable to receive my allowance from the bank.” We don’t really have any problem as regards the payment of our money from the headquarters. Microfinance banks are our headache”.
Another police officer said: “We were told the microfinance banks delayed. We asked them the reason for the delay; they could not give us any tangible reason. Unfortunately we can’t complain”.
The story was the same in Osun State. Speaking with a Sergeant, he said: “The allowance is usually paid a day or two before the election. This is the first time allowance will not be paid a week after the election”
In Ekiti State, most of the policemen who spoke to Vanguard did not hide their consternation over what they described as an ugly development, “especially at this distressing naira redesigned period”, adding: “Those of us who were deployed for electoral duties on February 25 are yet to be paid our allowances, though we have been promised that it would be paid immediately after the March 11 election. You know our people now, there is a trust deficit. We just feel that half of it is paid now and the balance after the election in March.”
Unlike their counterparts in the South West, most of the policemen spoken to Vanguard in Katsina, Plateau, Bayelsa, Benue, Kano, Kaduna and River states Police Commands confirmed they received their allowances between the day of the Presidential and National Assembly Elections and three days after. They also complained that it was below what they collected in 2019.
One of them, an Inspector, said, “I was underpaid. Please let the IGP hear this so as to know where the short-changing emanated from. I was paid N35,000 instead of N150,000”.
Cross River/ Akwa-Ibom.
In Cross River and Akwa Ibom states, a lamentation on account of underpayment of allowances was as strident as for those who had not been paid at all. An inspector who pleaded anonymity told Vanguard that he received N35,000 instead of N95,000, adding that many of his colleagues were yet to receive theirs.
“I got an alert of N35,000 instead of N95,000 for the two elections February 25 and March 11(later postponed to March 18) because they are always paid together; so I don’t know if there will be another payment,” he said.
Another Inspector said there was a shortfall in the allowance. “In 2019, Inspectors were paid about 104,000 naira but in 2023 we are getting 35,000 naira across the board, inspectors and sergeants got the same 35,000 naira.
“We just heard that we would be paid another tranche this week. I will wait till then before I would comment on the short-changing. However, I got N35, 000 alert for the first leg of this year’s election.
“I am also aware that they started from constables before paying sergeants; then all of a sudden they jumped Inspector II and started paying only senior officers, leaving ranks like ASP, DSP, SP, amongst others”.
As at 4.30 pm on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, one of the policemen who was yet to receive the first leg of payment called to inform us that payment of the second leg of allowance for the Gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly had begun.
In an emotionally laden voice, he said, “I don’t know why I am among the unfortunate policemen that are yet to receive the allowance.
Two of my colleagues said they received alerts of the second payment today (Tuesday). But as I speak, I have not received the first, let alone the second”.
The Investigator also found out that the few who received the second tranche of payment got same amount as the first, fuelling further complaints that it was not up to what was paid in 2019.
Besides the election duty allowance, most policemen also kicked against delays in payment of their six months’ arrears. Some of them recently took to social media to protest what they described as a deliberate attempt to deny them their dues and threatened to embark on a mega protest in Lagos.
The police personnel allegedly claimed that only grade levels 03,04,05,06 and a few 07 police officers were paid arrears while those in grade levels 08, 09, 10 and 11 were not paid.
They further claimed that senior officers from the ranks of Assistant Commissioners of Police up to the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, had however been paid four months’ arrears, leaving out the majority of them.
A report which reportedly emanated from the aggrieved policemen said: “Senior inspectors from Lagos Police Command are planning to protest at the Lagos Command Headquarters on Monday over the unpaid six months arrears.
“Police officers who did not collect their six months arrears are creating WhatsApp groups to gather numbers for the protest on Monday in Lagos.
“It has been two weeks now but no communication from police authorities concerning the arrears, and Mobile Police officers are threatening to protest; that is why the IGP called all the Squadron Commanders for retraining but it was a warning; not training.”
Commenting on the complaint over delay in election allowance payment, Chief Executive Officer, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) Mr Okechukwu Nwagunma said: “Police officers on election duty are supposed to be paid their allowances ahead of the election date; they should in fact, have it before they report to their various duty posts. They are not supposed to be left vulnerable and prone to corruption and misconduct.
“In many cases police officers have to travel out of the states where they are originally serving and will need their allowances to cater for their transportation, accommodation, feeding and other personal needs. Many will also need to drop some money for the families they are leaving behind.
“When they don’t receive their allowances ahead of time – as has often been the case, they are subjected to suffering and sundry other inconveniences. They are made vulnerable to corrupt influences by their deprivation and may have to depend on politicians and party agents for basic needs like food and water. They become loyal to their benefactors and are likely to act unprofessionally”.
However, in a series of tweets last Saturday, the Force Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi, denied the allegations that policemen were spoiling for a protest over non-payment of election duties allowance.
Stating categorically that all policemen had been paid, he said, “this news, at times, looks sponsored because they lack professional touch and merit. They are garnished and full of lies, unfounded issues, assumptions, presumptions, etc. The Police Force is not a labour union or group where its personnel meet and deliberate on protest or strike. It’s not possible”.
In a separate statement on the election allowance, Adejobi, said: “The Nigeria Police Force wishes to clear the air on the alleged non-payment of elections allowances to police personnel who participated in the elections held on Saturday, February 25, 2023.
“The Force wishes to confirm in strong terms that it has paid all its personnel the election allowances as the mandate for the payment of the allowances due to all Police Officers has been issued and all lodgements have been made to respective Deposit Money Banks, DMBs, for onward payment to police officers banking with them.
“The Nigeria Police Force remains resolute in prioritising the welfare of our officers and men, which is paramount, and bequeathing to them improved standard of living and better welfare.”
“On that note, the Force urges all Officers and Men who are yet to receive payment of the election allowances to take up such matters with their respective banks to ensure that the process of resolving the issues responsible for the delays is fast-tracked.
“It is pertinent to reaffirm that issues of non-payment should not be ascribed to the Force as the Police Account and Budget Office have done the needful and preparations are underway to pay the second tranche of election allowances for the Gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly elections next week”.
IGP to the rescue
Disturbed by the numerous complaints, The Investigator gathered that the IGP met with the management of the defaulting banks on Monday, March 6, 2023.
Confirming the meeting, Force Public Relations Officer, Adejobi explained that the Police Accountant and Budgets Department, said the schedules of payment have been dropped with the banks even before the February 25 elections.
“So, we urge the affected officers to remain calm as every penny accrued to them will be paid. Even the commencement for the payment of the second tranche for the guber elections will be paid as from Tuesday 7th March 2023,” he promised.
Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of Vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.