It was quite in order for President Goodluck Jonathan to have caught everybody by surprise when he visited Police Training College, Ikeja, Lagos, for a first hand knowledge of the deplorable situation in that institution – environment, facilities, equipment, etc.
The most respected television station in Nigeria, Channels Television, Lagos, had earlier run a revealing hour-long documentary, which obviously shocked even those in government, to warrant Jonathan’s unannounced inspection. If Jonathan had allowed an announcement in advance of his visit, the certainty was that he might not have discovered a quarter of his findings, most of which would have been covered up.
Only those who lived in colonial Nigeria can adequately appreciate the total collapse of what and where ordinarily should be the foundation for anybody seeking career in Nigeria Police. Whether that documentary on Nigeria Police College, Ikeja, Lagos broadcast by Channels Television was a social service to Nigerians or was financed, the impact vividly shows why the station (Channels Television, Lagos) is variously and mostly judged the station of the year at annual media awards. Despite the effort, a greater shock was the speculations in the media that the sole purpose of the documentary was to get the private sector involved in rehabilitating the Police training college, Ikeja.
Why should this be so? Is the government so broke that it cannot effectively maintain a working police force? How could the private sector be involved in refurbishing the training college without compromising the impartiality of the police force? In the process, financial criminals and drug barons will be approached or even volunteer to contribute to the police relief effort. Inevitably, such donations will have to be rewarded in kind by the police in ensuring that such criminals are not brought to trial. The urgent need to rehabilitate the police force should be comprehensive.
It is not enough to do a rushed job or limit such rehabilitation to only the four training colleges which, by the way, must be restored to their erstwhile standard in line with those in United States and Europe, especially Britain.
The sight of unkempt policemen on Nigerian streets makes them worse than area boys and motor-park touts. In those days, policemen including recruits were neat in their uniforms while their training college, at least, the one at Ikeja, Lagos was well maintained to demarcate the very green grass on parade/sports ground from the training precinct. To sustain that standard, it was part of the physical training of cadets and recruits to be up early and wet the grass. Discipline was the watchword. Their barracks were tasteful if not luxurious.
In contrast, living conditions at the Ikeja training college might be unsuitable for human beings but the barracks at Ijeh, Obalende, Lagos might be suitable for only pigs. This goes to show the magnitude of total rehabilitation required in our police force. With that situation in Lagos, barracks in other parts of the country are better imagined. Accordingly, the rescue effort will cost money. But why aim at private sector’s intervention? Already, virtually all parts of government responsibility to society have been shifted to private sector.
Meanwhile, all-round revenue accruable to federal government is now in trillions of naira annually, an incredible rise on billions of naira only a few years ago and quite unprecedented in Nigeria’s economic history. In return, the more the trillions of naira revenue pour in, the more unable is the government to finance the economy.
Leaving aside the recent television focus on the demeaning conditions of facilities at Ikeja Police Training College, which other sector of our Police Force is not in doldrums? The Pension Scheme? The Police Equipment Fund handled wholly by the private sector in which billions of naira and hundreds of millions of American dollars disappeared and Nigeria’s notorious judiciary let off culprits, capitalizing on technical points of law? A few years ago, police personnel had to go on strike over unpaid salary arrears.
The boys defied threats of dismissal and trial for mutiny. Before then, there was never such revolt in the history of Nigeria Police. And if government could not pay the salary of policemen as at and when due, how could the poor chaps be expected to maintain law and order in society? Anarchy beckons.
A national police force should be mobile at all times (not as in kill and go). Federal Government is unable to provide police vehicles. Again, private sector, mostly financial houses, on regular occasions donate such vehicles, including armoured personnel carrier to the police especially under the blackmail of using the vehicle to assists in transporting money from branch to branch or from the Central Bank to the donor bank.
For the Nigeria Police presumed to be maintained and equipped by the Federal Government, that responsibility has been assured by state governments like Lagos, Ogun, Bendel, Anambra, Delta, Imo which have been donating transport vans to the police. Philanthropic and voluntary bodies like the Rotary or Lions also regularly donate equipment to Nigeria Police.
I have very serious reservation about state police but since the Federal Government is unable to effectively maintain the police and state governments have come to the rescue, why should Federal Government continue to have some kind of stranglehold on the police instead of ceding such power to the states meeting the logistic needs of Nigeria Police? Every year, adequate allocation from Federal budget is supposedly to be made to Police to cover its full operations including maintenance of its training colleges and necessary equipment.
After the large scale criminal fraud in police pension, in which so far no culprit has been tried, it was left to Inspector-General Muhammed Abubakar to establish what seems at last to be promising pension arrangement for his men, at the announcement of which the (the IGP) was carried by tens of his men joyfully throwing him into the air, collecting him and repeating the exercise, several times in appreciation of their boss’ efforts on their new pension arrangements. Whatever the disturbing situation at the Police College, Ikeja, should be seen as even a minor aspect. Inspector-General Abubakar listed the frightening conditions under which our policemen strain and risk their lives. He was reported on various television stations asking, obviously in frustration, where in the world do police function “without arms, ammunition, phones in this age of mobile communication?”
Inspector-General Muhammed Abubakar further asked where in the world do police function as in Nigeria “without light, water, bullet-proof jackets or are under-equipped than criminals?” All these revelations were mind-boggling. Little wonder our policemen are cheaply gunned down by criminals on regular basis. What should be Federal Government’s priority? Responsibility to larger society especially in equipping our police for combat-readiness or largesse to government’s friends in aviation and financial sectors?
What was the sense in the intervention fund in aviation sector with up to over thirty billion naira not spent for the stated purpose nor was it repaid? How many airlines collected such intervention fund without accounting for such? Couldn’t a minor fraction of such intervention fund in aviation sector be better spent on keeping police training colleges (four of them in the country) at the required standard?
Then the same federal government in a second thought after much public criticisms, decided to help private airline operators facilitate access to loan to buy over thirty commercial aircraft. How many Nigerians travel by air compared to millions of Nigerians to be guaranteed their personal security by Nigeria Police as obtains all over the world?
Initial government announcement of buying over thirty aircraft for private airline operators or the face-saving assistance for the private commercial airline operators was against the expert advice of professional stakeholders in the aviation industry. Yet, the Federal Government, which could not sustain an effective police force, was comfortable enough to write off the twenty billion naira stolen by stakeholders in the stock shares market. Some reasons could account for the poor state of Nigeria Police.
First, budget allocation over successive years might have been diverted. Otherwise, why was there no provision made in the budget allocation for keeping the Training College at its standard state of the art status of a security personnel training institution? Or what happened to the allocation? Bureaucracy is another possible major factor indenting funds to maintain the police training colleges. Annually, budget estimates are submitted by federal ministries and other government agencies like the Police Force, to the Federal Ministry of Finance/Treasury. Each budget estimate is normally defended by the ministry/agency concerned before a panel.
Depending on the fancy of the panel before which the budget estimate is being defended, somebody or a group on that panel would simply unilaterally slash whatever the compelling financial needs of even the Police, which in that situation, will have to abandon or drastically reduce the size of compelling projects. Actually, the major factor is the overbearing influence on both World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) indicating how Nigeria must spend its money.
And with agents of the two international finance authorities planted in strategic areas of Nigerian governments, these agents (who are Nigerians) even throughout the civil war always have their way as the law. Government concessions highways to the private sector to build, operate for so many years and then turn to the government. Even power, water, etc are all concessioned to private sector. For almost all its social, economic and constitutional responsibilities, government goes cap in hand begging for support and/or participation of the private sector.
Should such abdication of responsibility be extended to a security outfit like the Police? What then is the purpose of government? Even its latest plan for celebrating the century of the grounding of Nigeria has been completely surrendered to be wholly financed by the private sector.
Every time a new challenge emerges, government’s “save our soul” resort is instantly to the private sector. That obsession is so unlimited that it is better for government to close shop and allow the private sector to try their hands. •Next Week: A non-Nigerian war in Mali.