It is with a heavy heart that I have to return to the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) barely two weeks after commenting on the force. I have no choice but to return to the issue because it is clear ours is a taught-nothing, learnt-nothing nation. Given what we witnessed during the #EndSARS protest last month, with some of the scars going to remain indelible in the lives of many Nigerians, it is disheartening that some people will still be proposing a paltry N11 billion as capital expenditure for the police in the 2021 budget, out of the proposed N13.89 trn budget. This was the highlight of the budget defence session the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr Mohammed Adamu, had with the House of Representatives Committee on Police Affairs penultimate week. Expectedly, the IGP made it clear that this amount was insufficient if we expect the police to effectively fight crime. “The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) as the primary security agency in charge of national security is being challenged by the enormous financial challenges”, the police boss said. It was a good thing that the committee chair, Bello Kumo, agreed with the inspector-general. Even in normal times, N11 billion is inadequate for the capital projects of the police. Not to talk of this special year that so many police stations were destroyed, their vehicles and barracks burnt, in addition to the supreme sacrifice that some of them paid in the course of service to the fatherland. If this could be the situation this difficult year, we can only imagine what the situation had been like these past years, leading to where we are today with regard to internal security.
Yet, it is the same people who are appropriating inadequate money to the police that would first use their connection to amass the few policemen to protect themselves and their families, leaving the rest of us to our own devices. The other day, the Inspector-General of Police had to withdraw policemen attached to privileged Nigerians. As at 2018, about 150,000 of the less than 400,000 policemen in the country were engaged in such duties, leaving the remaining to secure about 200 million Nigerians. Is this not the height of greed, insensitivity and lack of concern for the vast majority of the people?
This is the same mentality that has left our hospitals perpetually grounded; it is the same mentality that has crippled our educational system (that is if whatever is left of it can be called system). Our rich have abandoned the rest of us to our fate in the decrepit hospitals while they seek medical help abroad, oftentimes at our collective expense. It is the same spirit that makes the political elite care less about overcrowding in our universities: their own children are studying abroad, perhaps with money stolen from our national till because the take-home pay of many of them as we know it cannot pay for such service.( Much of the corruption in the country is facilitated by the inadequate provision to virtually all sectors of the economy. There is no sector where Nigeria meets internationally prescribed standards; from health to education, security, to what have you. While the government pinches the purse when allocating resources to the sectors, it leaves a lot of money that it cannot keep track of in the hands of unscrupulous public officials who use all manner of subterfuge to siphon the ‘excess’ funds for their personal interest. It is also the reason some elected politicians are able to get salaries that are out of this world in a very poor country, or the reason some of them think they should be better rewarded after political service which was supposed to be about selfless service, than civil servants who served meritoriously for decades.
The Federal Government must be able to adequately fund the NPF, especially since it has not been bold to face the reality that the federal police is not financed by it alone. Indeed, some state governments may be spending more than the Federal Government on the policemen in their states. Take Lagos for example, the state did not deserve what it got when the #EndSARS protests were hijacked by hoodlums, given the massive support it has been giving the Nigeria Police Force, be it in terms of motivation, logistics, and what have you. The state government deliberately set up a security trust fund which the private sector and even individuals bought into. This explains the relative calm the state has been experiencing in the past. Yet, the state could not derive the benefit of this huge investment when it mattered most, resulting in the senseless destruction of public and private properties, as well as loss of valuable lives. Now, the state government has estimated that about N1 trn would be required to fix what has been destroyed in the state.
We should stop deceiving ourselves. If we want a new, improved Nigeria Police Force, we must be ready to fund it. A situation where policemen will ask you to send a functional vehicle to fetch them to the scene of crime because their own operational vehicle is down will continue if we keep approving insulting votes for them. Many Nigerians have been asked to buy papers with which the police record their statements at police stations across the country. Many have had to fuel police vehicles just to ensure police presence at the scenes of their travails on time. All of these and worse would still come if we continue to relegate the force which basic responsibility is internal security.
We cannot afford another #EndSARS protest, as President Muhammadu Buhari himself observed. But it is beyond political rhetoric. Part of where to begin is in the budgetary allocation to the police force. As a matter of fact, that is the appropriate starting point for an authentic police reform.
The force needs to train and retrain their officers and men. They need to be ahead of the criminals, especially these days that criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated. This would require world-class policing tools, motivation etc. All these things, as Shina Peters sang, ‘na ego dey talk’!