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Unfair treatment of policemen  


Nigerian Police

That men of the Mobile Police Force on security assignment in Borno State had to recourse to public protest in demand of their allowances is most unfair to them. It should never have happened at all and the Police authorities should be blamed directly while the Federal Government as the parent body also deserves condemnation. The  protesters claim they were owed  six months allowances, besides that some have no accommodation and  must sleep  on the corridor of their office after a  hard day’s  work. These for men who are put in harm’s way every day confronting Boko Haram terrorists and their sympathizers? This is terribly wrong and disgraceful. The claim  by the  police authorities that  the  delay in paying these  allowances  was due, in turn, to  the  delay in passing the 2018 budget is  untenable. It is an excuse that defies common sense.

Even in generally safe times and places, the role and duties of the police as the first line of defense of society against internal threat and lawlessness requires, nay, demands unequivocally, that the welfare of policemen and women be a priority.  Indeed, the  long list of  ‘constitutional duties’ assigned to  Nigeria’s police men  and women, and the even longer list of  code of conduct by which they must abide, necessitate, ipso facto, that everything necessary must be  put into  assuring, first, their  own safety and  welfare in order that they can  concentrate on  the job.  And truth be told, it is a tough job to be an effective policeman in this seriously under-policed country. The overarching mandate of the Police force is such that it is society’s first line of defense against criminality.

Consider that the 400,000 or so officers and men are charged to secure about 180 million Nigerians 24 hours, seven days of the week. Consider that in this context, they are expected to prevent the occurrence of crime, to arrest offenders, to detect crime, to investigate a criminal act, to protect lives and property of citizens, and to maintain law and order in society. All these are expected to be carried out in line with professional ethics, the utmost personal integrity and courteousness.

If, as Section 14 (2)(b) of the extant Constitution states, that ‘the security and welfare of the  people shall be  the primary purpose of  government…’  it is reasonable to  assert that the government can fulfill  the security  component of this ‘primary purpose’ only to the extent of the  preparedness and  effectiveness of  the principal law enforcement agency  which is the  Police Force.  Pray, how can anyone  justify entrusting the security of life and property to disgruntled men and women legally equipped with arms? The men who embarked on street protest, reportedly barricading the police headquarters and barricading the Maiduguri – Kano Expressway were also shooting in the air. A citizen going about his honest business could have been hit by a stray bullet, a victim of intolerable dereliction on the part of high officials in government.

This is not the first time that men of the Nigeria Police would be forced to public protest against unfair treatment. They did in 2002 under the Olusegun Obasanjo government. Again, the issue cantred on money. We should say directly that Nigeria’s political leadership that can afford private security operatives behaves abysmally irresponsibly to the safety of the average citizen who cannot but depend upon the service and protection of an overstretched police force.

One reason Nigerians generally do not treat their policemen with enough respect and consideration is that the parent body – the Federal Government treats its police force with disdain.  Nigeria’s policemen are unpardonably ill-treated from recruitment through training to assignment to various locations. The training facilities are dehumanising, their uniforms and kits are disgraceful when they get any and the barracks are poorly maintained to the point of dehumanisation. And, to boot, the pay is miserably low for a man who is expected to investigate, charge to court and argue for the conviction of a well-heeled accused, or confront better –armed criminals. They are insured all right, but for sums that are too low, and which take too long to be paid to beneficiaries of personnel who die in line of duty.  

So much money is voted for defence in each federal annual budget. How come the police which, as asserted above, is the nation’s first line of security, remains so wretchedly treated? Where does all the money go? One billion dollars has been earmarked for security outside the appropriate national budget. Why would a ‘Change-touting’ government not pay the just entitlements of the men and women in the trenches in danger zones? There is something immoral and unconscionable in the delay, for any reason at all, to pay a labourer his wage, more so one who is put in harm’s way to keep the rest of the society safe. For a long time, states, local governments, corporate organisations and rich, public-spirited persons have funded the Nigeria Police in one way or other. It is clear that the Federal Government is either unwilling, or unable to maintain the Nigeria Police. It is therefore without reservation that government is advised to save itself and this country the embarrassment of security personnel embarking on public protest and demonstration for reasons of remuneration and other conditions of service. There is more than enough justification to decentralise   the maintenance of law and order in this country. That is how it is done in other jurisdictions to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of law enforcement.

The time has come to establish state police as well, indeed, as policing at different levels of society.  As has been stated ad nauseam, all policing is local; the closer to the local environment a law enforcement is, the more effectively it functions. This government must move quickly to decentralize the responsibility and the control of policing in Nigeria. It is the reasonable thing to do and now. In any case, this is what the APC party that put President Muhammadu Buhari in power promised, among other things, in its manifesto. 


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