The police should be well-provided for

The revelation last week by the Inspector General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Idris, that relatives of police officers who died and those who sustained injuries since 2016 have not been paid any form of insurance compensation, goes to the root of the security challenge in the country. “Insurance payment has been stopped to the police since 2016; since we keyed into the accident insurance cover, no kobo has been paid to any policeman,” said Idris, raising questions as to how Nigerians expect people treated in such a shabby manner can give their best to the nation.

The reason given for the lack of insurance cover is the refusal or inability by the federal government to pay the insurance companies the requisite premiums on the policies. Yet, given the risks associated with police work, insurance policies are important component of their welfare package. These benefits are designed to protect their families in the event of any unfortunate incident while in the line of duty. To the extent that these police officers have spouses, children and other dependents who rely on them and their income, life insurance is expected to create some piece of mind, knowing that their families are well-protected should anything happen to them.

As we have admonished several times on this page, we must recognise that there is a strategic relationship between the well-being of the rank and file in the police and the security and safety of the nation and the citizens. The two cannot be separated. It is only when we take due care of these men and women that we can legitimately demand that they perform their duties with optimum zeal. And to the extent that a demoralised police force cannot fulfil that duty, we hope the authorities will not only sort out whatever may be the problem with their insurance coverage but also use the current situation to look into the issue of police welfare.

Since at the epicentre of the criminal justice system is the police, it is a shame that policemen are treated almost with contempt. Four years ago, a police officer’s wife at the Obalende barracks in Lagos made a public statement which revealed the indignities to which their families had been exposed: “We have been suffering in silence. These barracks are like a refugee camp. We have no toilet facilities, no pipe-borne water and no electricity, and we are now being threatened by flood and reptiles. We live a little above animals. This is a place of death….”

While the misconduct of a few bad eggs has turned some Nigerians against the police, majority of our people still appreciate that what they do is a dangerous job as they confront the brutalities that the rest of society only imagine or watch on television within the comfort of our homes. That much was demonstrated with the GoFundMe for the distraught widow of a police sergeant who was killed by armed robbers last year. Beyond the financial support given the family of the deceased, the idea was to assuage the neglect and dejection which many of them feel as well as their low self-esteem and their suspicion that their worth and work are not appreciated.

We understand that there are many allegations that can be leveled at the police -from indiscipline to criminality. But, as we have also stated, that is just one side of a coin. For we also have to ponder whether we are facing the consequences of our own neglect of this vital organisation. We hope the authorities will treat the issue of insurance cover for the police as an urgent matter.