The crime rate in Nigeria – which has always been a problem, though — is not only worrisome but shows how ineffective policing is in the country.
A few days ago, commuters on the Benin-Lagos expressway were stranded as luxury drivers barricaded the road, protesting the alleged killing of a pregnant woman and some drivers by armed robbers. Similar protests were staged on the same road a few weeks ago when some passengers were killed along the expressway.
While these protests were going on, a ransom of N1.4 million was being demanded for the release of passengers of a 14-seater commercial bus, which was hijacked between the Uwhwru and Patani axis of the East-West Road of Delta State. The kidnappers are now asking for a ransom of N100,000 per passenger. This is after it became obvious that the families of these passengers couldn’t pay the initial N1 million demanded.
The rich and middle class aren’t exempted: Former President Jonathan’s in-law was reportedly shot in his residence last night and the decomposed body of Magdalene Umoetuk, a retired magistrate from the Akwa Ibom judiciary service, has just been discovered after residents noticed that flies were hovering around the boot of her car.
Stories like these are countless and are becoming more frequent. Perhaps, this prompted Governor Sani Bello of Niger State to publicly declare that he has lost confidence in Nigeria’s security forces.
But the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, argues that the major problem with the police is funding. He argues that Nigeria, a country of about 182 million people, has only 300,000 police officers. This, he says, is far below the UN recommendation of one police officer to 400 people.
Sadly, of this 300,000 police officers, there are reports that about a third of them are posted to politicians, privileged citizens and organisations. In real terms, one could argue that the country has only 200,000 officers policing it.
But IGP says that the Police Trust Fund Bill, which has been cooling off in the national assembly since 2008, will solve the security issues in Nigeria.
The bill, if passed, will make funds available to the police through first line charge. States, local governments and private organisations are expected to make contributions to the trust fund, in the same way VAT is deducted from source.
Truly, the funding issues in the police force are evident. The crude manner investigations and security activities are carried out show how underfunded the force is. Finger print recognition and security cameras are alien to Nigeria’s police.
With more money more people could be recruited into the police force. The force would be able to employ technology in its activities and motivate its men.
But it is difficult to convince the public that more money would solve the problems of an organisation that is perceived as a cesspool of corruption. Stories of how past inspector generals of police carted away funds belonging to the police are still fresh in memories.
Not to talk of the public display of shame by the rank and file who collect money from motorists on our streets. These officers are not collecting these monies because they aren’t paid salaries. In fact, it has become a habit.
With the public perception of Nigeria’s police, it would be extremely difficult for the police to get the support it needs for this important bill to sail.
There is no guarantee that the more money the police is asking for won’t go to private pockets. After all, it is common knowledge that state governments also support the police with their huge security votes. How is the police maximizing the use of the little they have?
The IGP should note that his organisation would have to do more to earn the money it is asking for, especially now that government is experiencing a significant dip in revenue. To earn this money, the police should reform itself and show it can manage it.
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