It is common to see many Nigerians, including public Government officials, criticize the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) for corruption, and for not functioning as they should in ‘proactively addressing’ insecurity concerns in our society.
Even past Inspector Generals of Police (IGP) had often reiterated their stand to rid the NPF off any element of corrupt practices and to also make them more functional. But neither of these, both the criticisms and the efforts made by the authorities of NPF, have been able to address the problems with our Police Force to make them more reliable and functional. Rather, it is as if the situation is getting worse.
Let us emphasize here that there are many issues which have left us with a Police Force that is not functioning as they should, and to be bedeviled with corrupt practices. These issues are the ‘root’ behind the ineffectiveness and unreliability of the Police, and for every corrupt practice we see in the NPF. And if these issues are not addressed holistically, no matter the crusade against corruption in the Police Force, and no matter the criticisms, it will amount to nothing and just be another mere talk that will yield no tangible results.
We need to ask ourselves some pertinent questions like: Why are most Nigerian Police Officers ‘easily bribable’ by the public? Why is the ‘public’s image’ about Nigerian Police Officers not a pleasant one? What could be responsible for this deplorable image of the Nigerian Police Force in the eyes of the public? What is responsible for us not having a Police Force that is functional, reliable, dependable, effective and efficient like the ones in UK and the US?
These, and many more are the questions the Nigerian Government and relevant Stakeholders/Authorities should be asking and finding answers to, if we are to holistically address the problem of corruption and inefficiency in the Nigerian Police Force.
For a start, it will be foolhardy for us to think that the issue of corruption will be addressed in the Nigerian Police Force when the welfare and wellbeing of the average Nigerian Police Officer, especially the ‘daily’ operational logistics/costs for the investigation of crimes; of Police officers and its maintenance are nothing to write home about. Whether we believe it or not, the fact is, many criminal cases under the Nigerian Police are often ‘compromised’ as a result of these issues.
This has made the average Nigerian Police Officer to be susceptible to being bribed because the public (particularly individuals concerned in cases being investigated by the Police), are often the ones who are made to provide the operational logistics that would enable the Police officers concerned to carry out their investigations on cases.
So, we should stop wondering why the issues of bribery and corruption cannot be stopped in the Nigerian Police Force if these stated issues are not first addressed and given priority by Nigerian Politicians in the corridors of power. It is appalling to note how many Nigerian Police Officers and Police Stations depend on ‘bribe money’ to keep and maintain their Police Stations, fuel their patrol vehicles and maintain them, etc. A very good example is what we find in Delta State.
In fact, as we speak, there are no radio/walkie-talkies and other communication gadgets in the Divisional and Area Command Stations in Delta State. Majority of the Police Officers are the ones who buy their own uniforms, boot shoes, belt, caps, etc., that is the reason why our Police Officers do not look the same in their uniform/kit attires because it is every-man-for-himself when it comes to what they wear.
Apart from the complete uniforms provided to every Nigerian Police Officer when they are recruited into the Force, they are left to fend for their physical outlook in the years ahead. Therefore, what is meant to be a “uniform” is no longer a uniform for all police officers to ‘look alike’, because every officer is expected to provide their own uniforms and shoes as the years roll by. To address this, we have advised that every Nigerian Police Officer should be provided with two sets of complete uniforms and kits in a year.
The Police Stations are not even given stationery materials for obtaining statements from suspects and complainants, so they demand for money from the same suspects or complainants to do this. This pathetic situation is simply caused as a result of inadequate funding and poor management structures spearheaded by the political class and relevant authorities. Not that the funds are not there, but the problem here is that of inadequate budgets, and mismanagement of budget allocations which never gets to the Police Stations for instance, to run their operations.
This has contributed to the high level of corruption amongst and within the NPF. So, rather than effectively ensure law and order, they sometimes engage in all sorts of unwholesome acts just to make ends meet and carry out the demands of their office. But ‘who would blame them’, it is irrational to expect a Police officer with a family of five, for example, to effectively carry out his duties in the midst of stupendous wealth controlled and enjoyed by political leaders in government, when his own welfare/well-being in relation to the demands of his job (plus that of the welfare of his family) are not adequately catered for because of the poor state of his job as a police officer.
These are the sort of ‘operational structure’ that breeds corruption in any System. Hence, many Police Officers are exposed and susceptible to being corrupted by the public. In fact, we have reasons to believe that Police Officers amongst the rank and file of the NPF, go out of their way to see that they are posted/drafted to places where they believe there are more ‘opportunities for them’ to make money from the people they are meant to serve. Can they really perform well with this sort of prevailing situation?
We are not talking about their salaries here, that is another topic of its own. But we are talking about the upkeep/running costs/logistics of Nigerian Police Stations and Offices. Can any corporate office perform without some running costs? These Police Stations/Officers are now forced to take/depend on money from the public to buy generators and fuel/maintain them.
They collect money from both suspects and complainants to fuel their patrol vehicles before an investigation can be carried out. In fact, the public is seen as the ones who daily fuel their patrol vehicles. Is that how the Police should operate? Is that how the Police in the developed countries depend on the public to run their Stations and Offices? Is that how the Police operates in the UK, US, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, etc.?
In advanced countries, they even go as far as providing Police Officers with Lunch and dinner whenever they are on duty. But here in Nigeria, every Police Officer to himself when it comes to feeding. Do they expect Nigerian Police Officers to go to Bukas/Mama-put (restaurants) in their uniforms and guns to eat? We would agree that, that is inappropriate. Nigerian Police Officers need to be provided with Food Packs. Like we said, we are not talking about their salaries here, but we are looking at their ‘poor working conditions and environment.’
It is also appalling to note that Nigerian Police Officers, whenever they are being transferred from one station to another, or posted to their new stations, they do not have where to sleep, take their baths and rest their tired heads. Most Nigerian Police Barracks are an embarrassment of living quarters, that is another topic for another day. But we believe that Nigerian Police Officers on transfers should be able to stay in a hotel at least, pending when their accommodations are sorted out.
Some Nigerian Police Stations do not even have one functional Patrol vehicle to carry out their daily operations. And where there is one, such Patrol vehicles are bedeviled with one fault or the other. So often times when one calls such Police Station to address a criminal issue, the usual excuse is that there is no vehicle, or that they need to fuel the vehicle to move – leaving the complainant with no other option but to offer them money or provide the vehicle to transport them.
We believe that every Nigerian Police Station should at least have ten functional Patrol vehicles, and the cost for fueling and maintaining such vehicles should also be provided for. It is also not enough to provide Police Stations with Patrol Vehicles without any provisions for such vehicles to be daily fueled and maintained. If these issues are not addressed, the Police Officers would likely depend on the public (complainants/suspects/motorists) for bribe/tip money to address them.
It is also not appropriate that Nigerian Police Officers are made to work-all-around-the-clock. They have no ‘off-duty’ periods to care for their family issues and for themselves. How would somebody be made to work all throughout the year, without any periods of rest or off-duty/leave, even on Sundays. Those Officers in Operations – Mobile Police Officers, deserve to get off-duty days to recuperate. It is said that from 3 to 5 years back, the NPF allegedly did not receive up to 40% of their required budgets?
That means, the closest police station to everyone of us, which we usually run to with our complaints, are being run without the needed government support/financial backing? How many of us can run an office for two months without running costs? Now we can understand the dilemma and deplorable situation our Nigerian Police Force are in. If anyone should investigate, you will find out that right from the Federal Government, State and Local Government level, there are some ‘special allocations’ said to be allocated to our community Police Station to take care of their daily activities. But often times, these allocations go missing along the line, and the money never gets to reach the Police Stations.
To make matters worse, the Nigerian Police Officers are said to stay sometimes for some months without receiving their salaries. We do not even want to talk about how much is their meager salaries. How we wish the Police Officers are allowed to have a union and maybe they decide to go on a five days strike to register their complaints, which we are certain will make some people to hide under their bed and stay there till the end of that period. But perhaps it will make our Nigerian political leaders to wake up and realize that this issue is a serious matter that urgently needs to be addressed.
It will make them find the solutions now. It is sad that Nigerian Politicians do not spare public funds in furnishing their Offices at the resumption of their tenures in Office. Yet, they find it very hard to give the same attention to Nigerian Police Stations meant to provide security to the Nigerian people. The outlook of most Police Stations is not encouraging. With no decent chairs and tables, no electronic appliances and communication gadgets and computers, it becomes difficult and uncomfortable for the average police officer to find the job interesting. Even when they get computers for instance from the public, they are not provided with ink to print.
There are often no ceiling/standing fans in their Offices unless they use bribe/bail monies to purchase them. So, why won’t they become susceptible to accept bribes, which they use to maintain their Stations and operational costs. Our Nigerian Police Stations should even have their own “tracking systems” to track criminals who mostly use GSM phone lines to perpetrate crimes like kidnapping and terrorism. The Police should not depend on Telecom providers before they can track down criminals.
Police Barracks are bedeviled with so much dilapidated structures that are signs of years of neglect and lack of maintenance. Whether we are aware of this or not, these ‘unhealthy and unattractive working conditions’ that are faced by the average Nigerian Police Officer on a daily basis, affects his psychic and emotional state of mind to remain committed towards fighting crime.
These issues are also the foundation that breeds corruption to thrive. How can the Nigerian Government be able to stop bribery and tips in the nation’s Police Force if these issues are not addressed by the Government so that the Police Officers will not have any excuse for collecting money from the public? If the Nigerian Government wants an effective and functional Police Force then they should address all these issues.
When we look at all the countries in the world where the Police seems to be functional, effective and reliable in the prevention and fight against all kinds of crime, it is the Government of these countries that provide all needed tools, required structure and mechanism to address insecurity issues appropriately. So, it is not enough for the Nigerian Government across all levels to provide the Nigerian Police with guns and few Patrol vehicles (without any system in place for their maintenance, like they usually do) and then expects them to perform.
Most Nigerian Police Stations do not even have enough and conducive Police Cells for the detention of suspects while investigations are ongoing. In some advanced countries, when suspects are detained by the Police, it is the responsibility of the Police to provide them with food while in Police Cells. And when such suspects are released on bail, they are also given transport fare to return to their abode. All of these are supposed to form part of the budgets for the Police by the Government.
We can see that for Nigeria to have an effective, efficient and reliable Police Force, it requires a lot of things, especially operational logistics, which are best provided by the Government of any country that are the custodians of State resources. The Nigerian Government seriously needs to look at how the Police Stations and the Police Force in other advanced countries are run and funded by the Government, which have made them effective and reliable.
There is no way we can eliminate bribes/tips from Nigerian Police Stations/Offices when these provisions are not made and the issues raised are not addressed. All of this makes one to wonder what has been happening to the budgets of the Nigerian Police Force? What are the yearly Security Votes money used for by the different State Governments across the country? It is evident that the Security Votes, which the State Governors are not required to account for, usually end up in the private pockets of these politicians in power. But the question is, do we expect Nigerian Police Officers to crack down crimes and address insecurity concerns with their bare hands? There are a lot of gaps to be bridged. It is no news that criminals today have gone sophisticated and dynamic in perpetrating their crimes.
The question is, what has the NPF (regarded as the nation’s security outfit saddled with the responsibility of keeping public order/preventing and solving crimes of diverse nature), done or is doing to meet-up with this sophistication of crime? What has the Nigerian Federal and State Governments, as custodians of the country’s resources; done or is doing in this regard, especially in taking good care of the ‘running cost/logistics’ and ‘basic requirements’ of the NPF to effectively carry out their functions? For us to have a ‘crime-free’ society, there is need to appropriately fund the institution that is responsible for providing the security service in the first place.
It is only when this is holistically sorted out, that we can now hold the men and officers of the NPF responsible for not doing their job efficiently or said to be corrupt.