The Nigeria Police Trust Fund (NPTF) is potentially capable of meeting the Police’s critical funding and operational needs, but two years after President Muhammadu Buhari signed the NPTF Act into law, its impact on policing is yet to be felt. Experts are warning that unless several critical issues are tackled, the Fund might become stillborn, writes ROBERT EGBE.
When the dust finally settled after the #EndSARS protests of last October, the full scale of the wanton destruction of government and private properties by hijackers of the movement became clearer.
In just about 18 days – October 9 to 26 – 73 persons, including 22 policemen, were killed nationwide, 27 police stations were burnt to the ground, 10 AK-47 rifles were stolen and there were coordinated attacks on four media houses.
Multi-million naira worth of goods and properties belonging to government officials, senators, private individuals across 26 states were also looted or vandalised.
In Lagos alone, about 25 police stations were attacked and razed by hoodlums amid the protests, according to the Police command in the state.
The Police identified the 25 stations burnt in Lagos as Orile, Amukoko, Layeni, Ilasamaja, Ikotun, Ajah, Igando, Elemoro, Makinde, Onipanu, Ebute Ero, Pen-Cinema, Isokoko, Alade, Cele, Igbo Elerin, Shibiri, Gbagada, Onilekere, Makoko, Daleko, Asahun, Makinyo, Amuwo-Odofin, Anti-Kidnapping, Surulere.
Now, about nine months after, the police stations are yet to be rebuilt, with grave implications for security.
It would be easy to finger funding as the problem; allocations to the police are traditionally abysmally inadequate.
In 2019, the Federal Government appropriated an increased allocation of N366,133,777,795 to the Police Formation, the highest appropriation ever to the service in the last 10 years
But a needs’ assessment committee set up by the former Inspector-General of Police collated the needs of the Police and it amounted to N1.8 trillion.
Notwithstanding the country’s lean purse, however, there should be some money available to rebuild police facilities, particularly through the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (NPTF).
The Nigeria Police Trust Fund (Establishment) Act came into force on June 24, 2019 after it was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Act created the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (NPTF) as a corporate body with a common seal that may sue and be sued in its corporate name.
The Police Trust Fund Act provides a legal framework for the management and control of a special intervention fund for training and retraining of personnel of the Nigeria Police Force and for the provision of state-of-the-art security equipment, and other related facilities for the improvement of the skills of the officers of the Nigeria Police Force including its auxiliary staff in Nigeria and abroad.
The Trust Fund is to operate for a period of six years from the commencement of the Act, after which it would cease to exist except extended for any further period by an Act of the National Assembly.
The fund shall comprise of 0.5 per cent of the total revenue accruing to the Federation Account, take-off grants, aids, donations, and interestingly, 0.005 per cent of the net profit of companies operating business in Nigeria.
The NPTF Act also establishes the NPTF Board of Trustees, which will be liable for investing money accruing to the Trust Fund, setting policies for training and retraining of personnel of the NPF, and so on.
The Act exempts the Trust Fund from the payment of income tax on any income accruing from investments made by the Trust Fund.
The Senate on February 24, 2021, approved N11.3 billion (11,352,457,101.70) as the NPTF budget for the 2020 fiscal year.
About N1.3 billion (1,362,814,243) of the amount was allocated for the procurement of teargas. About N1 billion was allocated for the procurement of arms and ammunition.
The approval was sequel to the consideration and adoption of the harmonised report of the Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Police Affairs. The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Haliru Jika, presented the report.
NGOs sing govt’s praises
The Federal Government’s decision to institute the NPTF to strengthen the NPF was praised by many stakeholders.
Two of such groups are the Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS) and Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN).
HURILAWS Programmes Manager, Collins Okeke, and NOPRIN National Coordinator, Emmanuel Ikule emphasised the potential of the NPTF.
They and a former Managing Director of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF), Mr Fola Arthur-Worrey, spoke last Thursday at a media parley in Lagos organised by HURILAWS in partnership with NOPRIN and supported by MISEREOR.
Okeke said: “We are especially excited about the Police Trust Fund Act 2019. The Trust Fund, as you know, is designed to, among other things, provide funds for the training and retraining of personnel of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), provide them with state-of-the-art security equipment, to improve the general welfare of the personnel of the NPF, and enhance their preparedness. The National Assembly has approved a budget of N74 billion for the Trust Fund. We will monitor to ensure monies appropriated are disbursed and efficiently deployed.”
Is NPTF stillborn?
Despite the optimism, they noted several issues with the NPTF.
Two years after the NPTF Act came into force, and one year after the President constituted its Board of Trustees as required under the Act, experts are worried that the fund has had little or no impact on policing and seems to have gone redundant.
For instance, despite the critical security challenges in several parts of the country, the Police have only one functional helicopter. A fully functional NPTF would probably have addressed this.
Problem of funding
The Act provides that the source of funding for the Trust Fund shall comprise of 0.5 per cent of the total revenue accruing to the Federation Account; a levy of 0.005 per cent of the net profit of companies operating business in Nigeria; any take-off grants, and special intervention fund as may be provided by the Federal, State and Local Governments.
Other sources are such money as may be appropriated to meet the objectives of this Act by the National Assembly in the budget; aids, grants and assistance from international bilateral and multilateral agencies, non-governmental organisations and the private sector; grants, donations, endowments, bequests and gifts, whether of money, land or any other property from any source and money derived from investment made by the Trust Fund.
The Trust Fund shall be utilised for the accomplishment of the objectives of the Act which includes the training of the officers of the Nigeria Police Force, the overall improvement in the discharge of the duties of the Nigeria Police and for such other purposes incidental to or connected with the attainment of the objective of the Act.
Some of that includes the purchase of the equipment, machineries, including operational vehicles for the NPF and construction of police stations, provision of living facilities such as quarters or barracks for the NPF, among others.
Ikule noted that the NPTF seems to impose an additional tax liability on companies.
He said: “While the tax of 0.005 per cent of the net profits of the company is minimal, the introduction of this tax means that corporate taxpayers will now have an additional tax liability to the already existing tax obligations imposed under relevant tax laws.
“The Act is however silent on the penalty for non-compliance and does not also provide for a timeline within which to remit the contribution.”
Arthur-Worrey noted further that the NPTF seems to be finding it difficult to access the funds allocated to it because of the stringent Treasury Single Account (TSA) guidelines. He urged the government to find a way to solve the problem.
The board consists of a retired Inspector-General of Police (IGP), the IGP or his representatives, as an Ex-officio member; a representative of the federal ministry responsible for police matters; justice, finance; a representative of the civil society group, the organised private sector and the secretary of the Board of Trustees
Drawing from his experience with the LSSTF, Arthur-Worrey observed that the NPTF seems to be encumbered by government presence on the board.
He noted that the LSSTF is free of government bureaucracy because it is private sector-led. It is thus able to respond faster to policing emergencies.
Arthur-Worrey harped on the need to incorporate the private sector in the management of the fund, as part of amendment to the act and the need to change it to police management fund and not a trust.
“Trust fund is a fund set up for a beneficiary. It’s a fund set up for the police and not to be managed by the police”, he said.
He noted further that the previous Equipment Trust Fund set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and headed by Mr Kenny Martins failed because “it was buying things that the police did not need. There was no need assessment to determine the actual needs of the police.”
The former LSSTF boss was also one of the speakers at a roundtable meeting held in Abuja on June 29, 2021 to review the implementation and impact of the NPTF, stakeholders claimed that the President failed to consider the federal character principle in constituting the NPTF Board membership.
The meeting was organised by the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), and Partners West Africa Nigeria (PWAN), in partnership with Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI).
A statement by the organisers stated; “Police have received zero funds from the PTF. The purpose of the PTF appears defeated two years after. The NPF currently has only one functional helicopter. One was gunned down during operation. The NPF needs armoured specialised helicopters.
“The sum of N38 million budgetary allocation for the police for operational vehicles for one year is grossly inadequate. The police need help from the PTF in the areas of equipment, infrastructure and training and retraining. The PTF should fulfil its mandate by filling the funding gap for the Nigeria Police to perform effectively.
“The NPTF should be independent of the police and government bureaucracy. This is one lesson from the LSSTF. The trustees should make all the decisions as in the case of Lagos, as emphasis on the use of security trust fund is speed – to enter into gaps that normal funding cannot address quickly.
“There is need to look into the act establishing the NPTF, identify the barriers to its implementation and amend the act appropriately,”
It also noted that the law mandated the NPTF to report to the National Assembly, not the President, and that the members of staff should not be civil servants seconded from different ministries.
The Lagos example
Arthur-Worrey’s reference to Lagos is apt.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on July 10 donated 150 vehicles, four high-capacity troop carriers, 30 patrol cars, and two anti-riot water cannon vehicles to the police as part of efforts to strengthen security responses across the state.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who was visiting the state, personally took inventory and inaugurated the equipment before Sanwo-Olu handed them over to the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Usman Baba, for the use of Lagos Police Command.
The gadgets were procured through the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF).
Sanwo-Olu said the investment in the security gadgets was timely, given the setback recorded in security operations occasioned by the violence that followed the EndSARS protests, last October.
According to Section 27 of the Act, the Trust Fund is for a duration of six years, and upon expiration of the period, the Trust Fund is expected within six months to wind up its activities, settle liabilities and transfer all its assets to the Nigeria Police Force. But two years are already gone.
Ikule noted another problem in the area of collection or enforcement.
He said: “The Act is silent on which agency of government is responsible for collection of the levy. Ordinarily, one would expect that the Federal Inland Revenue Service would be responsible for the collection and enforcement of the levy as it is computed based on the profit of a company. This would also save collection costs. Though the Act sets up a Board, the Board is mostly responsible for setting out the policies and programmes for meeting and carrying out the objectives of the Act and such other activities as are considered necessary for the attainment of the objectives of the Act. The Board is not charged with collection of the levy or enforcement of the Act.”
What is ‘net profit?’
He noted other issues the Act is yet to address.
Ikule said: “They include the nature of the levy, its tax treatment, collection and enforcement. Equally concerning is the fact that the Act does not define what “net profit” (upon which the levy is to be imposed) is. This should not be the case in a taxing legislation. There are several decided cases that have clearly indicated that there should be no ambiguity in a taxing legislation.
“The training and re-training of the NPF Officers cannot be over emphasised (especially on ACJA/ACJL) and implementation would ensure the provision of state-of-the-art security equipment, and other related facilities for the enhancement of the skills of the officers of the Nigeria Police Force and for the overall improvement and efficiency in the discharge of their duties and responsibilities.
“There is also need for third party monitors (CSOs) to monitor the implementation of the Police Trust Fund Act 2019.”
“In conclusion, we believe that the provisions of the Act hold many potential in resolving most of the security challenges in Nigeria if strictly implemented. Companies doing business in Nigeria should also take cognisance of the additional tax liability now imposed by the Act and factor same in their annual budget for the stipulated six years period.”
Expand the NPTF to include other security agencies, correctional services
Other recommendations include that the NPTF should be amended to be a security trust fund for all military and para-military agencies, rather than be exclusively for the police.
This, Arthur-Worrey noted, would take care of agitations by the military for a trust fund of their own
Okeke further added that the government should take a holistic look at the criminal justice system and act accordingly.
He said an effective criminal justice system is one of the key pillars upon which the rule of law is built because it serves as a functional mechanism to redress grievances and bring violators of social norms to justice and how well a country manages its criminal justice system affects its overall performance on the governance index.
‘Unfortunately, the Nigerian criminal justice system is fundamentally flawed and the defects manifest at different stages of the criminal justice process which is why HURILAWS alongside other civil society groups have been involved in advocacy for the passage of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law.
“Having achieved substantial passage of the laws (ACJA/ACJL has been passed in the FCT and more than 25 states in Nigeria), we are also advocating adequate funding for criminal justice agencies like the courts, the police, and the correctional service.”
He said the trust fund should also cater to the needs of the Correctional Services.
Okeke said: ‘The Correctional Services Act 2019 has established the Nigerian Non-Custodial Service which is responsible for the administration of non-custodial measures including community service, probation, parole, restorative justice measures. This suggests a paradigm shift from punitive or retributive justice simpliciter to restorative justice.
“Laudable as this is, it needs well-equipped non-custodial officers community service centres, etc. to administer it to positively impact the state criminal justice system.
“Regrettably, this has not been put in place and where they exist, they have limited capacity. No special fund has been made available to ensure effective implementation of this important part of the law and so we propose like for the police, a Trust Fund for the Nigerian Correctional Service.
“In conclusion, we support all current efforts at criminal justice reforms. But, these reforms must be supported with the required human and material resources. If resources are effectively deployed, it will mitigate prison congestion, end the abuse of the remand system, improve the delivery of criminal justice services by the courts, enhance the capacity of law enforcement agents to act responsibly, accountably, and professionally, as well as ensure better safeguards for the rights of persons who are processed through the criminal justice system.”