Police problem – The Nation

  • It is becoming clear daily that the Federal Govt alone cannot fund the force

IRONICALLY, the long arm of the law caught four policemen who were dismissed for extortion.  According to a report, “the affected officials were attached to the Ijebu-Ode Division of the Ogun State Command.” The police reportedly said the dismissal was “in line with the fight against corruption.” The dismissed policemen are: Mufutau Olaosun, an inspector; Adebayo Temitope, a sergeant; Bakare Taiwo, a corporal; and Adesoye Ayokunlehin, a corporal.

Following a complaint by a member of the public, said a police bulletin, “The policemen were identified and it was discovered that they apprehended the complainant on 7th June, 2017 without any reasonable cause and extorted the sum of Fifty Thousand Naira (N50, 000) ‘Bail Money.” The bulletin continued:  ”The extorted N50, 000 was subsequently recovered from these unethical policemen who were armed in plain clothes on the day of the incident.”

It is reassuring that the police followed due process in arriving at punishment for the offenders. The bulletin gave details of the process: “Necessary disciplinary measures were initiated against the erring policemen, they were found guilty as charged in an Orderly Room trial after the presentation of witnesses and exhibits. Punishment of dismissal from service was recommended by the Adjudicating officer and proceedings reviewed by the relevant Nigeria Police Force (NPF) authorities.”

Also reassuring is the information that the complainant was handed back his N50, 000 with an apology a day after he lodged the complaint.  The promptness of the official response to the complaint is laudable. It is the kind of effective response expected of the police when a crime is reported.

It is also commendable that the offenders were promptly punished. The deterrent value of such punishment cannot be overemphasised, considering that extortion is a crime commonly associated with policemen across the country. It is noteworthy that two police traffic wardens were similarly dismissed in June for extorting N15, 000 from a motorist.

Police extortion is particularly unjustifiable and inexcusable because the police are supposed to enforce the law and not to break it. It amounts to tragic role subversion when policemen become extortionists.

But, could the alleged delay in payment of salaries of policemen in the last few months have been responsible for these criminal tendencies? One of the affected policemen painted a picture of what they are going through:  ”As I am talking to you today, July 10, we have not received bank alerts for June salaries. How can the Inspector-General of Police expect the best from us if we are not getting our entitlement as and when due? The senior officers have alternative sources of income, but the rank and file only have their poor salaries to depend on and yet, we are expected to keep the society safe on empty bellies.”

It is true that policemen cannot function effectively on “empty bellies.” But we doubt if it is the reason some policemen engage in crime. While we do not support salary delays for any worker, not the least policemen, it cannot be sufficient justification to engage in crime. The truth is; even when salaries were paid promptly, some criminally minded policemen still extorted innocent citizens.

However, there is no question that the Nigeria Police Force urgently needs a shot in the arm. It is a positive sign of this awareness that Inspector-General Ibrahim Idris on July 11 made an insightful presentation at a public hearing on a “Bill for an Act to establish the Nigeria Police Reform Trust Fund and for other related matters.” Idris argued that “the regular budgetary allocation to run the police is sharply inadequate and requires urgent measure to address, if the force must be effective and responsive to the security needs of Nigerians in a complex and dynamic policing space…The Police Trust Fund is the answer because it would provide alternative and regular funding for the police.”

We cannot afford to neglect the police force. So, the authorities should address the police problems without delay. And, as we have always argued, we should begin to look in the direction of state police as a way out of the problem.

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