On N24b for police vehicles
SADDLED with a history of corruption, weighed down by a reputation for inefficiency and blighted by a poor image, the police authorities’ budgetary request of N24 billion to maintain and fuel vehicles in year 2015 could not but rightly elicit suspicion if not outright derision. Clearly, the police need funds for sundry services, but when only the maintenance and fuelling of vehicles would cost this amount of money, doubts are not only justified, fears that the money would not be judiciously used for the purpose it is meant are real.
If the amount requested by the police is just to maintain and fuel their vehicles, pray, how much would the Force need to by new vehicles? Different states of the federation have responded positively in various ways to the complaints by the police that the Force is under-funded and some states now even buy armoured personnel carriers (APC), other vehicles and pay allowances to the men of the police to enhance their effective performance. In this case, therefore, the police authorities cannot convince the Nigerian taxpayers that they need as much as N24 billion for the maintenance of vehicles.
Yearly, money is budgeted for the Force. But such allocations are hardly reflected in the state of affairs at various police stations across the country. Neither is it evident in the appearance of the men of the Police Force. The stations do not have elementary working tools like papers and pens, while ordinary citizens who go to the police stations to complain about cases and seek the intervention of the police are made to pay for such items. Where the police vehicles are available, the citizens are made to fuel them. The fact that the money budgeted every year does not get to the divisional police stations is an obvious indication that even the N24 billion being requested by the authorities now would not get to the men in service and may not enhance efficiency at divisional police stations.
Not too long ago, an inspector general of police was found to have stolen billions of naira meant for the police force pensions scheme and recently, the nation was outraged at the fact that a communications system project worth about N66 billion was bungled by the police after senior officers had apparently misappropriated the funds.
No doubt, these cases of fraud, while not excusable, have been exacerbated by the centralisation of the police in a dysfunctional federal system. There is no way, for instance, for police authorities in Abuja to understand the peculiar needs of the police officers in a community in Abia State or Ebonyi or Gombe, to take matters even at a mundane level. So they cannot know where resources should be appropriately deployed, a situation that leads to embezzlement or misappropriation of the funds. It is these recurrent cases of corruption and neglect that validate the call by some stakeholders for institutionalization of state police that would be effective and efficient to the people they are meant to serve in the spirit of a proper federation.
For both the police who seek the amount and the Senate Committee on Police Affairs before which the request is made, there are posers: has the police request met all the Public Procurement Act’s requirements? Did the police make available to the Senate panel an inventory of all the vehicles to be maintained with the N24 billion? It is wrong for the police to say that the N5 billion voted for them in the 2015 budget to maintain and fuel vehicles was too small and they, therefore, want N24 billion. They must go beyond just making the request to actually telling Nigerians the exact number of vehicles they would use the amount to maintain and fuel.
Amid the sliding prices of crude oil leading to the depletion of the nation’s revenue, the police like every other agency of government should be prudent in the management of resources. The regime of profligacy and greed can no longer be accommodated.
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