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Police are not our friends – Nigerians in poll

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•Identify poor salary, welfare package as hindrance to officers’ performance
•How to fix the challenges – Stakeholders

By Kingsley Omonobi-Abuja

Most Nigerians in a poll conducted by NOIPolls attributed the poor performance of the Nigeria Police and the reason corruption  is rampant in the rank and file to  poor salary and welfare package.

These Nigerians were asked specific questions such as, ‘ Would you say the police officer is your friend?’ Majority of those who participated in the poll (52%) responded “No” to the question, implying that they do not consider the average Nigeria Police officer as a friend.

This is followed by 38% who answered “Yes”, and 10% who were not sure how to respond to the question, stating “Not really”.

What this means is that while it may seem that more than half of Nigerians do not consider the police as friends, four in 10 Nigerians (38%) do consider them as friends.

The third question sought to establish the opinion of Nigerians regarding the general well-being of the Nigerian police officer.

Respondents were asked in the poll: ‘How do you perceive the general well-being of the police officer (In terms of work motivation, salary & benefits, accommodation, pension)?’

Majority (40%) of the respondents are of the opinion that the general well-being of Nigerian police officers is “Average”; followed by 24% who think it is “Poor”.

16% think their well-being is “Good”, while 6% think it is “Very poor”.

2% think it is “Very good”, 12% simply replied “Don’t know” to the question.

Despite the average perception of the well-being of police officers, the poll clearly shows that  respondents who perceive their well-being as poor (30%) outweighs those who perceive their well-being as good (18%).

Next, respondents were asked:  ‘What would you consider the most significant issue affecting the performance of the Nigeria Police?’  Majority (29%) of the respondents are of the opinion that the most significant issue affecting the performance of the police is “Corruption in the rank and file”.

This is followed by 22% who think “Poor salary and welfare package” is the most significant issue affecting the performance of the Nigeria Police.

Other significant issues mentioned by respondents are “Inadequate training & work equipment” and “Poor orientation & work ethics” with 20% each.

The participants in the poll  were also asked:  ‘Which of the following do you consider the top three issues that need to be addressed immediately in order to promote a more credible and efficient Nigerian Police.’

According to the respondents, the top three issues that require immediate attention for enhancing a more credible and efficient police include: Better training facilities (22%); Improved working equipment (21%); and Improved welfare package (21%).

Also mentioned are: Education of police officers (16%); Integrity of the officers (8%) and Police uniform (8%). A further 3% of the respondents were of the opinion that the police should address other issues such as the orientation of officers, corruption, motivation and moral values.

Against this backdrop, concerned stakeholders and retired police personnel are of the opinion that there may never be end to corruption in the Nigeria Police if government fails to take urgent measures to address the poor take-home pay and living conditions of the personnel.

Aside the poor welfare environment under which police personnel operate, it has emerged that, since 2015, after the current administration took over, hundreds of police officers, who retired from the force, have not been paid their pension benefits because government has reneged in paying its part of the contributory pension scheme to the Pension Commission.

All these put together, it is believed, are responsible for the  alarming rate of corruption in the force that leads to extortion of civilians by personnel and sometimes accidental discharge on highways.

However, successive Inspectors General of Police, starting from Mohammed Dahiru Abubakar, Solomon Arase and the current IGP, Ibrahim Idris, have taken the bull by the horn to curtail this dsturbing trend by banning police check-points and road blocks across the country.

A cursory look at the vexed salary question shows that a police constable earns between N22, 000 and N27, 000, monthly depending on his length of service; sergeant’s pay is N30, 000, after deductions; police inspector gets N50, 000.

For the SPOs cadre, an ASP takes home 80,000 after deductions and in almost all the cases these officers have spent more than 20 years in service;

Recalling the Consolidated Police Salary Structure, which came into effect in 2011, a source said an ASP on grade level 08 (10) earns N144, 152.07.

An ASP1 on grade level 09 (1) earns N136, 616.06, an ASP on grade level 09 (10) earns N156, 318.39, a DSP on grade level 10 (1) earns a total monthly salary of N148, 733.29, a DSP on grade level 10 (10) earns N170, 399.69.

A Superintendent of Police (SP) on grade level 11 (1) earns N161, 478.29, an SP on grade level 11 (8) earns N187, 616.69.

A Chief of Superintendent of Police, CSP, on grade level 12 (1) earns N172, 089.06, a CSP on the same level on step 8 earns N199, 723.96, an Assistant Commissioner of Police on grade level 13 (1) earns N183, 185.73, an ACP on grade level 13 (8) earns N212, 938.16 while a Deputy Commissioner of Police, DCP, on grade level 14 (1) earns N242, 715.65, a DCP on grade level 14 (7) earns N278, 852.79.

A Commissioner of Police, on grade level 15 (1) earns N266, 777.79; a CP on step 6 earns N302, 970.47.

An Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) on grade level 16 (1) gets N499, 751.87, an AIG on step 5 earns N546, 572.73.

Stakeholders believe these remunerations when compared to their counterparts elsewhere, especially neighbouring countries, paint a picture of neglect, hence  Nigeria gets the kind of police it deserves.

For instance, in USA, Britain, Ghana and South Africa, investigation revealed that what is earned by Nigeria Police officers is not salary but what in popular parlance is called ‘at all at all is bad’ or ‘movable stipend’.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics in US, the average starting salaries of new police officers range from $26,600 to $49,500.

“In the US, the city or state where police officers work affects their wages. As of 2012, the starting salary for officers in the Miami Police Department was $45,929”, the Bureau stated.

“New police officers working for the Los Angeles Police Department start out earning $46,583 with a high school diploma.

“In Los Angeles, those who had a bachelor’s degree or more advanced degree earned $50,342.”

Even in the West African sub-region, Nigerian Police officers receive the poorest salaries.

In Ghana, the government  announced increase in minimum wage of an average police officer by 16.7%, from 6 GH¢ per day to 7 GH¢ per day, with effect from January 1.

Consequently, Ghanaian police officers now earn more money than their Nigerian counterparts; and receive better training and welfare packages.

According to the National Salary Data of South Africa, an average police officer in that country earns R142, 900 per year.

In Great Britain, police officers receive very competitive pay and benefits packages.

Rates of pay vary by force, generally starting at an annual rate of around £23,000, and rising with each year of experience.

Officers in some forces receive additional allowances to complement their salary.”

To worsen matters, across Nigeria, officers live in squalor within and outside the barracks.

They go to work in battered vehicles, live in uncompleted buildings and garages; hence in Lagos, for instance, police personnel introduced the system of not paying fares when they enter commuter vehicles claiming to be ‘staff’.

While successive IGPs have tried to address these issues of welfare and salary shortcoming by ensuring promotions of a backlog of officers in the recent past, issues of dilapidated housing in the barracks, lack of vehicles for operational and welfare needs still abound.

A retired police officer, while noting that several efforts have been made in the past to address these anomalies, through setting up of committees, cited the example of a former Chairman of the Police Service Commission, Parry Osayande, who was in the forefront of pushing for better remunerations for police personnel.

Speaking during the submission of a report on how to improve the welfare of the  police during the Jonathan administration, Osayande painted a picture of how police in Nigeria were the worst paid in the West African sub-region.

He said his (Osayande) report only drew from several past documents from government panels identifying poor remunerations and conditions of service as factors affecting performance in the force.

“The poverty of the ordinary police officer, coupled with weak institutional governance pre-disposes him to engaging in all sorts of schemes for self-help and survival”, the ex-PSC Chairman said.

He regretted that parallel organizations carved out of the Nigeria Police only perform part of its functions while their staff are better remunerated and motivated than the police which is the mother institution.

Osayande therefore called for urgent review of working terms to boost performance, instill discipline and restore the dignity of the police officer.

But like all other reports including the ‘Dan Madami Panel’ report that was hailed for proffering practical steps and suggestions of solving the challenges, the report has been dumped in the cooler with promises of a white paper that is yet to see the light of day, years after.

So if the Nigeria Police that was established by Section 194 of  the Constitution, as the National Police of Nigeria, that started with thirty-member consular guards formed in Lagos Colony in 1861, to ensure internal security, to protect lives and properties of the citizens is to regain its glory, drastic steps should be taken now to correct all anomalies.

The Nigeria Police of today should rekindle the confidence of decades ago where it was known for nobility, service to humanity and sacrifice.

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