By Kayode Komolafe
The mood became sombre on a television programme recently when two retired police officers said it would be embarrassing for them to state the values of their monthly pensions.
The two, who retired as assistant inspector-general and commissioner of police respectively, were in a panel discussing the proposed reform of the Nigeria Police in the aftermath of the #ENDSARS protests.
Among other elements considered for the sorely needed reform, the panellists agreed that the present wage structure of the police could not boost the morale of the officers and men of the force. Neither are the conditions of service generally attractive enough to many smart young men and women seeking professional careers.
While the statements of the two retired officers actually animated the discussions because they were directly affected by the poor wage structure, the sordid state of service in the police is widely known to the public. A police officer said that given their ranks at retirement neither of the two former officers could earn a pension of N150, 000 a month. The salaries earned by the police are relatively poor especially the remuneration at the lowerranks.
Given the rising cost of living, it doesn’t make any socio-economic sense that those entrusted with the protection of lives and property within the political economy are so miserably rewarded.
Take a sample!
A constable on Grade Level 3 receives a monthly salary of N41, 000 while a corporal on Grade Level 4 Step 1 earns N44,000 and a cadet inspector on Level 7 Step 1 earns N73,000 a month.
Now, these are the representatives of the police with whom members of the public interact mostly on the roads and other theatres of operations. A retired police officer puts it this way: “if you don’t feed your dog well, it would one day bite you instead of keeping watch.”
A superintendent of police on Grade Level 12Step 1, who could be posted as a Divisional Police Officer (DPO), earns on the averageN161, 000 a month while a commissioner of police, who could be given the task of being in charge of state command, could earn as low as N302,000 a month as salary.
Even the inspector-general doesn’t earn a million in a month.
In fact , the patently inadequate wage structure of the police is reminiscent of the famous admonition of James Goldsmith: “if you pay peanuts, you have monkeys.”
It is, of course, inevitable that policemen who earned poor salaries would correspondingly retire on miserable pensions.
This is simply the logic behind the post-service material vulnerabilities of even very senior officers of the Nigeria Police. For most members of the Nigeria police the wage structure remains inadequate despite efforts to mitigate the effects such as the formation of police cooperatives and other interventions.
To be sure, salary is only a factor of the unacceptable working conditions of the police. The other factors include underdevelopment of the manpower, outdated tools of work, sordid housing, non-conducive conditions of the stations, improper kitting, lack of social protection, diminished job satisfaction and vanishing career fulfilment. For the purpose of quality service, all these challenges of the police must be overcome.
Policemen are expected to go on transfers without the organisation making provisions for their requisite allowances. So a poor sergeant is given the order to proceed from Yola to Lagos on duty. And that’s all. No arrangement is made for his accommodation. It doesn’t matter to the dysfunctional system that the poor man sleeps in an uncompleted building or inside a van. Yet he is expected to perform to the optimum on the field. The system that dehumanises him also expects a humanised conduct on his part. What a contradiction!
The conditions of the barracks are appalling.Some of the barracks built decades ago have not been repainted. Neither are the taps running. The buildings lie derelict in various parts of the country. They are monuments of the neglect of the police. New barracks are not built to ensure decent accommodation for the police.
A suggestion has cropped up in the conversations about community policing: perhaps policemen should be paid adequate housing allowances to secure comfortable accommodation in their respective communities so as to be more familiar with the terrain. Housing is one area in which the humanity of the police is grossly assaulted.
It was a pathetic scene recently when tearful widows of policemen killed in the operations against Boko Haram protested against their eviction from the barracks shortly after they lost their husbands.
It was from this poor housing condition that a police man leaves to report at the station which is also not conducive for work because it is ill-equipped for productivity purpose.From proper kitting to fuelling the operational vehicles, the police are expected to be “creative” in making things happen for the job to be done. According to a senior police officer, there should be no puzzle about why men and women posted by the Nigeria Police for assignments outside the country often excel and are readily recognised for their brilliant performances.
He attributed the feats abroad to the enabling environment of work. According to a police officer, a member of his unit, who was recognised for distinguished performance in Namibia, came back to tell sweet stories of his experience. While in that country, which is less endowed than Nigeria, the police officer lived in a decent house with all the basic facilities and had a vehicle apart from being exposed to weapons and modern technology of policing. The police not only lack sophisticated gadgets and weapons for modern policing, they also lack routine items such as teargas, water cannons and rubber bullets.
During the mayhem that tragically followed the hijacking of the #ENDSARS, the police were largely helpless because they lack these basic tools to deal with rioters.
Police sources have confirmed that the basic tools are not available for those operating in the field.
Asked to name three things that should be sine qua non to the proposed police reform, a retired deputy inspector-general of police pointed to three areas : training , welfare and funding. The three factors are really intertwined.
The quality of the manpower of the police would be enhanced by “training and retraining,” according to retired police officer.The police must be exposed to modern technology and methods that would make operations smarter and more efficient.
The doctrine of the training institutions should be reviewed. Even the concept of training institutions themselves should be critically re-examined. Officers are posted to the training institutions more or less as “punitive” measures as such assignments are considered “non-juicy,” compared to postings to the portsand taskforces. Those in the training hardly receive salary increments. Those who have the privilege to go abroad for courses are again posted to the “juicy “ posts instead of sendingthem to the training schools so that they could spread the knowledge. In effect, the output of the investment in overseas training isunderutilised.
The conditions of the training institutions are in turn less than human. The trainees are accommodated in squalid conditions and poorly fed. Imagine a budget of N50 for a meal in a police college. Incredible!
The nucleus of any efficacious police reform must be the whole gamut of the welfare of the police including remuneration and the broader conditions of service.
Incidentally, the #ENDSARS campaigners commendably listed increase in police salaries as one of their demands.
Sustainable internal security is a condition for socio-economic, civic and even cultural activities of citizens. Perhaps, many members of the #EBDSARS movement would not have the memory of the Nigeria of even 40 yearsago in which a lawyer resident in Lagos would jump into his car at 8 p.m. to drive to Beninfor a case in court the following morning. It was a Nigeria in which a lecturer would drive all night his Volkswagen Beetle from Calabarto attend a conference in Kano. Such adventures would be considered suicidal today given the virtual collapse of internal security with terrorists, bandits, armed robbers and kidnappers on the prowl.
Security, as experts would say, is not cheap. To improve the working conditions of the police, the organisation should be well funded.The usual retort to that irrefutable proposition is that government’s funding is limited in the face of competing priorities.
By the way, this factor of adequate funding of the police is not thoroughly considered in the debate over the constitutional creation of state police. It’s unimaginable that a state government that cannot pay primary school teachers and basic healthcare workers would be able to pay adequate and regular salaries to the police.
The funding outlook for the police is not as hopeless as it is often presented. The important thing is for the Nigerian state to get its priority right in respect of policing and internal security in general.
If security is made a primary purpose of government as defined by the 1999 Constitution, then the government, private sector and the society in general ought to approach the question of funding the police more productively so that policemen are decently remunerated.
First, the police should be better treated in the budgetary process. The police cannot respond sufficiently to welfare demands of policemen when barely 20% of the yearly allocation to the police is eventually made available. If the IG doesn’t receive allocation in Abuja, the DPO in Yenagoa will have to improvise so as to fund the fuelling of patrol vehicles. Well, the implication of the improvisation may be organisationally injurious in the long run.
Secondly, the Police Trust Fund should be firmly institutionalised so as to operationally serve the defined purpose. President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (Establishment) Bill into law on June 24, 2019. The Act provides that the Fund would be derived from the 0.5% of the total revenues accruing to the Federation Account, a levy of 0.005% of the net profits of companies doing business in the country, aids from international agencies, assistance by non-governmental organisations, donations, grants and other sources. According to the law, the Fund would provide resources for the welfare and training of the police.
The Fund is certainly an idea whose time should have come decades before now.
According to sources, the Board of Trustees of the Fund chaired by former Inspector-General Suleiman Abba enjoys the confidence of the police across the ranks. Having been in the saddle before, Abba is believed to know the areas of financial wounds to heal in the police.
If policing is made a budgetary priority and the Police Trust Fund is competently operated while other interventions are honestly managed, it should be possible to evolve a special wage structure for the police. It should be a wage structure that would enable members of the police organisation to have job satisfaction while in service as well as social security in retirement.
In the proposed reform, the wage structure of the police should be such that young men and women would elect to make careers in the police even when they have options in other fields.
Fourthly, to sustain decent wages and the broad conditions of service, the police need a union especially for the lower ranks.
It is time the police embraced the principles of modern industrial relations. The poor conditions of the lower ranks are such that they require a legal organisation to negotiate on their behalf.
The welfare issues are matters for collective bargaining. As isolated individuals, there is little or nothing they could do by merely mobilising pockets of discontents in the underground.
For clarity, the formation of a police union is not synonymous with organising strikes as many commentators fear. With civilised approaches on the part of the authorities and the union alike, issues could be resolved on the bargaining table without any strike whatsoever. Countries having different forms of police unions include the United States, Canada, Norway, Finland, Australia, Netherland, Sweden, Britain etc.
The police certainly need a union to defend the welfare of the members especially those inthe weaker positions.