Commotion as Police Officers Protest Unpaid Allowance in Maiduguri

0

•Police: It’s not correct, they were making enquiries

•Presidency summons IG

•An unfortunate and ugly epitaph of APC govt, says PDP

Senator Iroegbu, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri

There was commotion in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, Monday as riot police officers took to the street to protest the non-payment of their six-month allowance.

It was learnt that the officers were posted to the state in January to strengthen security of the troubled state, which has been battling Boko Haram insurgency for about a decade.

The officers, who were fully armed, marched in their hundreds on the Borno State Police Headquarters located on the major highway in the town, where they were, however, prevented from taking control of the complex.

The police officers subsequently barricaded the highway, shooting sporadically into the air and scaring away motorists.

But the police authorities in Abuja denied the incidence Monday, saying its personnel only went to the Borno State Command Headquarters to make enquiries about their allowance.

“It is not correct that police personnel protested in Maiduguri today (Monday),’’ said Jimoh Moshood, the Force Public Relations Officer, in a statement, adding: “Some of the Police Mobile Force personnel on special duty in Maiduguri went to the Borno State Police Command Headquarters on enquiry over the delay in the payment of their special duty allowance in the early hours of today and not on protest as reported in some media.’’

Apparently embarrassed by the development, the presidency Monday reportedly summoned the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Ibrahim Idris, over the protest.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the IG was seen heading towards the office of the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

A source at the Presidential Villa, who preferred to remain anonymous said that the IG was in the villa to brief the presidency on the protest.

The protesting police officers’ action had caused panic in the Maiduguri metropolis as some of the students and workers who had left home for school and office had to make a U-turn to their various homes.

Some of the officers, who spoke with THISDAY, lamented that since January when they were deployed in the state on special operation, they had not been paid their allowance.

They complained that many of them had to go through inhuman treatment as they had to sleep on the corridor of the command’s offices after returning from duty at night.

When contacted, the state Command Commissioner, Damian Chukwu, said he was aware of the protest.

He further said the delay in payment of the allowance might not be unconnected with the delay in the signing the 2018 budget.

In Abuja, Moshood said Idris had directed the Commissioner of Police, Borno State to address and inform them why there was delay in the payment of their special duty allowance.

He also promised them that since the budget had been approved, their allowance would be expeditiously processed and paid without any further delay.

Moshood added that the IG also ordered the Commissioner of Police, Police Mobile Force (PMF) to proceed to Maiduguri, Borno State and other states in the North-east, where PMF personnel were deployed in special duty to explain to them, the efforts being made by the Force to ensure timely payment of special duty and other allowances to police personnel in the region.

He said the Police Mobile Force personnel that went on the enquiry were not those attached to Operation Lafiya Dole in the fight against insurgency in the North-east, but those on the category of visiting Police Mobile Force units deployed in Maiduguri on Crime Prevention and other police duties in the state.

The Force spokesman urged members of the public in Maiduguri not to panic but to go about their lawful duties and other responsibilities without fear or apprehension.

He said the police was a disciplined organisation and would not allow any situation to degenerate into disturbance of public peace anywhere in the country.

The police, with 378,300 personnel, including the recently recruited 6,500, are notorious for their poor pay cheque and welfare package in the hierarchy of security forces in the country.

The salary structure ranges from the Police Recruit’s salary of N108,233 per annum (N9,019.42 monthly) to the Inspector General of Police (IG), the highest ranked officer, N8,537,976 per annum (N711,498, monthly).

Despite this low wage, the history of Nigerian police is replete with delay in payment of salaries, leading to periodic protests. In 2017, about eight police commands including Kaduna, Kebbi, Gombe, Nasarawa, Ekiti, Bayelsa, Imo and Ogun had over 2,000 protesting non-payment of their salaries and allowances.

Also, early 2018, some policemen staged a protest at the Mechanised Salary Section (MSS) of the Lagos State Police Command in Ikeja over what they described as “outrageous and unexpected” deductions from their salaries.

According to the aggrieved personnel, between N5,000 and N35,000 were deducted from their February salaries with others lamenting that they had not been paid for the month.

They then accused the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, of shielding President Muhammadu Buhari from knowing the “exact situation regarding the non-payment of the police salaries”.

Similar to the same statement issued by the police, explaining their official position, Jimoh maintained that there was no protest by its unpaid officials but that only “a few policemen went to the command to complain”.

He said: “Few policemen who went on inquiry to the Mechanised Salary Section (MSS) in Kaduna State Police Command over complaint of under-payment, omission of their names on the Salary Payroll as a result of the implementation of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS)…No Policeman protested and none went on a rampage as reported in the media in Kaduna State or anywhere else in the country.”

Reacting to the development, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) described the protest as unfortunate and an ugly epitaph of the Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration.

The party said the development had confirmed that the Buhari presidency had not been committed to providing security for the troubled states, despite the huge resources at its disposal, but has only been paying lip service and giving false assurances to the people.

In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP said it was disconcerting that policemen, who daily risked their lives at the fronts, were denied their allowances for months; left unaccommodated, without basic needs and kept forlorn in the face of battle, while their commander-in-chief and top officers enjoy the comfort of their huge offices in Abuja.

“Nigerians can now see that this administration is overtly deceitful, thrives on propaganda, lies, false claims and is never committed to the good of the people even as it blames everyone else for its failures,” it said, adding: “We demand an urgent investigation to get to the root of this pathetic situation and stress that findings of such investigations must be made public.”