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ODITA: Underfunding Is Killing Nigeria Police


 Some policemen on patrol

Some policemen on patrol

Why is the Nigeria Police having difficulty maintaining its equipment? I retired from the police in 1992; prior to that time, the maintenance culture and funding was much better. But, over the years, the number of Policemen has increased with no concomitant increase in funding. I equally retired as Force Public Relations Officer and that means I talked to the press about the Nigeria Police. I did an exposition then that we were having a problem, in the sense that Police can no longer go to the Police workshop to fuel its vehicles, because the company that supplied fuel, due to government indebtedness, had ceased to supply fuel to the Police. So, the Police had to go to the public filling stations for fuelling.

And they can only do that successfully unless they pay cash, which means that if there is no cash, there is no fuel. And that is why you can go to a Police Station to lodge a complaint or call and the Police will not show up because they cannot urinate into the vehicles. But Police seem to enjoy a lot of goodwill from Nigerians, especially state governments? State governors make a lot of sacrifice in giving out patrol vehicles, but it is not enough, especially if you cannot accompany it with maintenance.

These vehicles are not the ones police is used to traditionally. The policemen at the workshop were trained to maintain Land Rovers and Peugeot cars; Peugeot cars are no longer in vogue and Policemen have not gone to Nissan or Toyota to be trained in handling the Japanese cars. It presupposes that it has to go back to the companies from where the vehicles were bought for maintenance. And if the donor of the vehicles did not accompany such donation with maintenance fund, it presupposes that the vehicle will be driven till it finally breaks down.

The Police do not have the fund for maintenance because at the point of donation, there was no vote made available to the Police by the state governor for maintenance. The available votes controlled by the Inspector General of Police are the ones approved in the budget of Mr. President, which is what is disbursed to the state and they can only use what they have. So, it is in the interest of the donors to ensure that their vehicles remain on the roads because their names are inscribed on the vehicles and if they are looking good, it means they are maintaining them.

It is like a house, if you do not maintain it, it will dilapidate, the same thing with the road, including human beings, if we do not look after our health, it has grave consequences. So it is with vehicles, barracks and everything in the Police. The truth remains that unless adequate funding is provided for the Police, then the issue of maintenance will continue to be a challenge.

This is because the little money that is made available is used on a priority basis. If you noticed that there is a problem in the barrack, like water, sewage system or flooding, you will tackle that first. As a Commissioner of Police, I held command position; I was in a situation at a time to be able to say this is what I should do for this barrack or the other. Thank God for some governors, who are generous; they will deploy there works ministry to execute some certain projects in the barracks and that is why some barracks within such states are clean and well maintained, not because the Police were able to do it, but the governor had to intervene. But other arms of the security agencies have their barracks usually well kept?

You can get that from the armed forces and the Customs. And the Customs are better off because by the law creating them, the income they generate, they have a percentage that is returned to them. If the Police, like we suggested, should charge fees for services rendered to commercial organisations like banks, there would be money under the Police Reward Fund to carry out whatever they want to do. But when approval was received for this funding, the then minister of finance insisted that all the money collected should go into revenue and when it happened that way, it did not come back to the Police. But the Armed Forces do not generate revenue?

Yes, but they had one advantage; they were in government for 26 years. So, they had everything going for them and today, every sensible government must take care of the Armed Forces, otherwise they have the capacity to overthrow government. The Police do not have that capacity; they cannot overthrow a government.

Also, on return to civil rule, we have two presidents, who are generals; Obasanjo was a general in the army, so his first constituency is the military. He had to take care of his constituency, minus the fact that the armed forces have the capacity to overthrow him.

Now, we have Buhari, who is also a general, the first port of call would be his constituency. The only time we were going to have a little hand was the time of Shagari, whose ADC was a civilian. And it will continue to be so, until we have a president who is open. Should the Police not be blamed for some of these lapses, since they are supposed to put up a budget every year? It is not that they have not put up a budget; if the budget is put up and you are not given what you asked for, what do you do? Do you have a right to demand for more? It is the issue of privilege and since we do not have such IG that will wake up and say, ‘Mr President, if you do not give me this, I will go to the public to tell them why we cannot do this.’

And if there is any, first he will lose his job. However, I do not see that IG yet, who would wake up one day to quit as IG without serving out his tenure and retiring honourably to have his peace. Was it deliberate that the Armed Forces never paid attention to the Police? It is very possible because before the military came into governance, the Police were number one. This is because the Police maintain internal security and still assist the military.

But now, there are internal security issues; soldiers are being deployed because they are better armed and equipped, even in the area of welfare. So, the mother force that should take care of this suffers neglect and gradually this neglect that started from the military era, that relegated the Police, has become a whole huge pit that it will be difficult to be filled. You must know that the barracks are in bad shape not because the Police, who live there like it or that the Commissioner of Police wants his men to live in slums.

He does not have the fund to do the slightest renovation, which is simple window dressing of painting the barracks. And this is not as important as providing portable water and clearing the refuses in the barrack. Are you saying also that there are not lapses on the part of the Police in this? It is possible; there could be mismanagement of the little that is made available.

But in spite of that, the generality of what is bugging the force is underfunding. What then is the way forward? The government should direct the federal ministry of works to maintain Police barracks, as that will go a long way to help, especially if the fund cannot be trusted in the hands of officers and men of the Nigeria Police. It is important that the budget proposal is made available on the basis of needs.

The Police should be invited to the National Assembly to defend its budget and the oversight function of the National Assembly should be done properly so that the approval is checked if it was put to proper use. The consequence of the inadequate funding is the poor service delivery of the Police. A police officer, who is not equipped, with no adequate welfare is not motivated to perform his duties, except he is patriotic.

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