President Muhammadu Buhari recently disclosed that he has directed the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) to carry out an upward review of salaries of police officers. The President also stated that 10,000 new personnel are being recruited into the force, declaring that no administration since 1999 was as committed as his administration in reforming and repositioning the Nigeria Police Force and national policing architecture.
He disclosed this at the recent launch of newly procured security equipment, including hundreds of patrol vans for Lagos State security agencies by the State Government at the Parade Ground, Police College, Ikeja, Lagos.
He said: ‘‘In 2019, I signed into law the Act establishing the Nigeria Police Trust Fund, the first in the history of the Force, to provide guaranteed funding to support Police welfare, logistics, and equipment. In September 2020, I assented to the Bill amending the Nigeria Police Act, which was originally enacted in 1943. We are currently recruiting 10,000 new Police officers to reinforce our personnel capacity across the country. In addition to this, I have directed the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission to carry out an upward review of Police salaries and benefits.’’
This is part of the present administration’s efforts at addressing the country’s daunting security challenges. It can also be recalled that President Buhari re-introduced the Ministry of Police Affairs in his second term, separating it from the Ministry of Interior, where it was subsumed in his first term. He emphasised the need to have an independent police affairs coordinator to drive the new policy initiatives and ensure a proper provision of security for lives and property.
The President is equally instituting a proactive intelligence gathering culture to nip crimes in the bud, which was a key factor behind the re-creation of the Police Affairs Ministry.
The latest disclosure by the President is good news for advocates of better funding of the Nigeria Police Force and better welfare for police officers. This was also part of the agitation of Nigerians during the #EndSARS protest across the country in October 2020.
The issue now is whether or not these pronouncements would be implemented to the letter. In November 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari had promised to increase the salary, allowances, and pensions of the Nigerian Police Force. This is also as he tasked the police to do more in the protection of human lives. He spoke with members of the Nigeria Police Service Commission and the leadership of the Nigeria Police Force who was on a “Thank You” visit to the State House following his approval of Rank Salary Structure Adjustment, by which salary, allowances, and pension of police officers would be increased. Not much was heard after that pronouncement.
Similarly, in October 2020, following the nationwide protests and renewed demands for holistic police reforms, President Muhammadu Buhari, in his address to the nation over the violence, appealed to the #EndSARS protesters to pause their agitations. He added that his administration has come up with a new salary structure for police and teachers. He said, “Concerning the welfare of the police personnel, the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission has been directed to expedite actions on the new salary structure for the Police Force. The enrolment of other paramilitary services are also being reviewed upwards.”
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It is unclear if the review he is talking about here is an upgrade on the one he declared in 2018 or a call to speed up the implementation of that same 2018 review.
More lucidly, a month after the October 2020 promise, the Inspector General of Police revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved salary increments for men and officers of the Nigeria Police Force. He stated this during his visit to the Ogun State Police Command as part of his efforts to boost the morale of police officers after the attacks during the End SARS protest. According to him, “The government has approved an extension of health scheme to retired police personnel. The police salary structure has been reviewed upward, affecting all ranks.” He added further that plans have been concluded for the renovation of police barracks across the nation. It was likely that the IGP was talking about the President’s review promised just a month before that visit.
The role of a Police Force in the society is significant in many ways. They are responsible for the protection of peoples’ lives and property; while also preventing, detecting, and investigating crime. More specifically, The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is the principal law enforcement and the lead security agency in Nigeria, with a manpower strength of about 371,800 personnel. There are currently plans to increase the Force to 650,000, adding 280,000 recruits to the existing 370,000; paperwork that is yet to be matched with a strategic framework or a guiding timeline.
The Nigeria Police Force is one of the biggest police forces in Africa; a large organisation consisting of 36 State commands grouped into 12 zones and 7 administrative organs.
There are challenges plaguing the Nigeria Police Force for a long time, which have impeded its efficiency in tackling criminal activities in the country. Some of these challenges include poor welfare and remuneration of the officers, unconducive working conditions, deplorable infrastructure, bribery and corruption, obsolete crime-combat techniques, insufficient personnel, lack of regular training, amongst others.
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With insecurity surging astronomically nationwide; the role of the Police as the frontline response apparatus in combating civil disturbances of any form, has increased quite exponentially. These lingering challenges, however are debilitating and mitigating the effectiveness of the Police in achieving their core mandate and basic objectives. In the past, we have seen rankings and verdicts from international bodies such as the World Internal Security and Police Index (WISPI) delivering damning reports on the deteriorating and sorry state of the country’s policing.
Nigeria is under-policed. The United Nations (UN) standard for the police to population is one police officer for every four hundred (400) citizens. Our Force currently has 371,800 officers, serving a population of an estimated 200 million people. We are not in line with the minimum UN requirements. However, it can be better if the plans articulated by the Police Force to increase the personnel in its kitty can translate to reality.
While the number of police officers compared to the country’s population is below the UN’s recommended benchmark, the existing police force lacks adequate equipment and training, leaving it with a very large number of under-trained, ill-equipped, and poorly motivated personnel. The act of assigning some of the existing police officers as security personnel to VIPs and their families further depletes the capacity of the Force to provide security for all. There are some areas in Nigeria, especially at the grassroots level of government, where there is little or no police presence at all. These citizens are disconnected from state protection and are easy prey for criminal predators and bandits. Increasing police personnel and reach will effectively address this.
There is also the need to cultivate the culture of local intelligence gathering and efficient networking with regional security outfits, where obtainable.
In August 2015, at the outset of his first term in office, the President has revealed plans to organise the recruitment of 10,000 constables annually to bolster the personnel efficiency of the Force; and after a protracted and rigorous recruitment process that even met some legal obstacles, the first batch was finally cleared for take-off by the Police Service Commission in December 2020. It is vital that this recruitment initiative is efficiently modified for swifter results and strategic success. It is also important that the Nigeria Police Force adopt modern training techniques and methodologies that are faster and result-driven in tackling crime; while also imbibing best practices of conducting extensive background checks and cognitive functionalities for prospective recruits. The global practice of conducting mental evaluations and drug tests for police officers at random intervals should also be normalised, to ensure that they are in the proper state of mind to effectively execute the job.
The new intakes should be mandated with the task of pioneering fresh ideas and technology-based policing; while training should be conducted on the existing personnel too to bring them up to terms with modern policing techniques. The government must support this initiative with the necessary infrastructure, equipment, funding, and facilities.
The government needs to also undertake a comprehensive rehabilitation of police barracks and police training facilities, as most of them are in dire need of massive revamp or reconstruction; while new ones can also be built to accommodate the increasing personnel and cater for the itinerant nature of the police work.
The promise to improve the remuneration and other welfare benefits of personnel are also very crucial to getting the best out of these officers. The risks and hazards associated with the job are extreme; and commensurate compensation, with other perquisites like hazard pay, bonuses, life assurance, and other performance-boosting mechanisms are not effectively in place in our Force. We have seen cases of families of policemen utterly abandoned and left struggling to afford essential needs in the wake of the unfortunate demise of their breadwinner in the line of duty.
Many are of the view that the widespread corruption and bribery that have permeated the Nigeria Police Force and almost irredeemably tainted the integrity of its personnel, was birthed by the paltry pay pattern that has been established in the Force for long; a wage structure that is not in tune with obtainable economic realities. Some officers vent this economic frustration by extorting and harassing innocent citizens; while some unscrupulous ones collude with criminal elements in exchange for monetary settlements.
Decisive actions need to be taken to fish out such culprits and examples should be made of them to serve as a deterrent to others. They critically undermine the country’s collective security, especially in these perilous times. The Police Force must be systematically cleansed and expunged of all such ravenous wolves hiding under sheep clothing. However, it further underpins the need to constantly review and implement standardised remuneration and reward pattern. The police officers need to be focused and properly motivated, with no lapses for compromise or distractions.
The President has demonstrated a remarkable commitment to these policy strategies, and they must be pursued to full and speedy implementation. It is vital that the country maximises the efficacy of our Police, and restore its rightful place as the catalyst of our internal security architecture in stemming the raging tides of insecurity.