Officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force recently got a well-deserved, much publicized salary increase. Spokesman of the president Garba Shehu said President Muhammadu Buhari approved the pay hike, which he said was intended to boost the performance of police officers and men and restore the force’s ‘lost primacy’ in the country’s internal security framework.
The President was quoted to have said so when members of the Nigeria Police Service Commission and NPF’s leadership paid him a ‘thank you’ visit. During the visit, the President expressed regret that the police force’s inability to carry out its constitutional role led to the military’s involvement in maintenance of law and order throughout the country. According to him, the police should be able to cope well with challenges of armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom and such other crimes while the military should be reserved for higher tasks.
Given all the myriad of operational and welfare challenges facing the Nigeria Police Force, a rise in salary for its officers and men is welcome, highly delayed though it was. Nigerian Police officers are known to operate under trying conditions of service, with serious handicaps of under-funding, inadequate equipment and outdated operational procedures, to name a few. These handicaps compromise their efficacy in adequately policing a rapidly transforming Nigerian society. It was in order to address these handicaps that the police leadership launched a Nigeria Police Development Fund, in respect of which a bill is undergoing formal legislative process in the National Assembly. As at the last count, the bill has undergone Second Reading in the Senate.
Still, the manner of delivery of this increase in police salaries has nevertheless been questioned by some, including the benefitting police officers themselves. Coming rather surreptitiously at a time the country’s labour movement is locked in a protracted negotiation with government over a new minimum wage for workers including the police, the gesture attracted suspicion as it is viewed in many circles as a selective gesture by the government to isolate and favour the police to the exclusion of other equally deprived public servants. And with the forthcoming 2019 polls in sight some Nigerians are reading, rightly or otherwise, a connection between the polls and the salary increase. Nigerians easily recollect the questionable roles which some police officers play to distort the conduct and results of elections for their favoured candidates, hence the suspicion.
An increase in police salaries is certain to generate clamour for similar increase in the pay of other security agencies, of which this country has many. In line with the extant provisions of the country’s public service conditions, related services enjoy some measure of parity in emoluments and associated perks of office. The increase in police salaries would therefore require comparable adjustments in the salary structures of the other security agencies, including the military. This will also have an effect on the ongoing minimum wage negotiations between government and organized labour, over which government is accused of dragging its feet.
It is important to remember at this time that vital though salary is, it is but the beginning of the factors that will make for improved police performance. There are many other welfare issues such as barracks accommodation, supply of uniforms and kits, payment of allowances for special duties, retirement benefits, death benefits and taking good care of the families of officers and men who die in service. Then also, police officers are not magicians; they need modern policing tools and equipment to guarantee improved performance.
Government should fast track the passing and take off of the Nigeria Police Development Fund, which is moving at a snail’s speed in the National Assembly. Then also, we urge the police top command to work harder and purge the force of corrupt tendencies. Without success in that direction, money poured into the police force looks like money down the drain.