Borno police protest – The Nation

  • Not paying police in such hot spot reflects a grave lack of official responsibility

For the second time since this dispensation began in 1999, policemen in the country poured to the streets last week Monday, to protest six months unpaid allowances. The fully armed policemen marched through the streets in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, in their hundreds, shooting sporadically into the air. Scared passersby, including students and workers, returned to their homes as they could not pass through their barricade.

Some of the policemen told newsmen that they had not been paid their allowances since January when they were posted to the state on a special mission. They added that they have had to be sleeping on the corridor of their office after returning from duty.

It is disgusting that people who were drafted to the hot spot of Boko Haram for security duties could be so shabbily treated. We have always known that our policemen are not well remunerated; they are ill-kitted and generally not well trained. Their offices and barracks look more like pigs’ sties. Indeed, we can testify that not much has changed with regard to police welfare since February 1, 2002, when policemen in the country took the nation by surprise by embarking on strike. At issue was what they termed poor conditions of service, including prolonged arrears and stagnation in ranks. The then Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Musiliu Smith, as well as some of his officers, lost their job as a result of the nationwide protest.

The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) has attributed the delay in paying the allowances of the policemen in Borno State to budget delay. If this is actually so, then it is food for thought for our political leaders. They should know that their actions and inactions impact on the people positively or negatively, and should therefore be guided by the nation’s interest in all they do. The executive and legislative arms of government must realise that while they play politics with the budget and other state matters, Nigerians are the proverbial grass that suffers when two elephants fight.

We do not know how many other agencies are having the same issue because, if the policemen had not protested, we would not have known that they were having issues with their allowances due to budget delay.

However, it would appear that the force spokesman, acting DCP Jimoh Moshood, who said in a statement in Abuja that the policemen were not protesting but that they only went to the state police command to inquire about their allowances, did not want the fate that befell Mr Smith in 2002 to befall his boss, the incumbent inspector-general of police. But what he did not realise is that a lot has happened between 2002 and now, which makes it impossible to deny a protest as obvious as the one in question.

In these days of social media, such denials do not make sense because members of the public saw the policemen live during the protest and captured their activities on cameras and posted same online. When public officials deny something that is as obvious as this, it compounds their credibility problem because people would find it difficult to believe them even when they are telling the truth. If the issue was with the delayed budget as claimed by the police authorities, this was a national problem. So, why would anyone in the police force want to deny that the policemen protested when it was obvious they did?

It is true that it is an aberration for policemen and other security agents to stage such protests. But then, these are also human beings with blood flowing in their veins and with responsibilities to shoulder. Six months’ unpaid allowances mean a lot to many Nigerians, not in the least policemen on a special national assignment in the hotbed of Boko Haram.

We can only hope that the necessary lessons have been learnt such that we will never witness a situation where our policemen would take to the streets again over a basic thing as salaries and allowances.

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