- A welcome idea, but …
President Muhammadu Buhari last week assented to the Nigeria Police Trust Fund Bill, about three months after the Senate of the 8th National Assembly passed it, sequel to a concurrence report by the then Leader of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, at plenary.
A key objective of the bill is to improve on funding for the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). The bill was one of the nine bills President Buhari assented to last week; he rejected 17 others. Then Senate President Bukola Saraki said in April when the bill was being passed by the Senate that “by passing this bill, we will be creating big strides towards providing and improving security and policing in our country.
“One of the major concerns has always been the issue of funding. We believe that this bill will provide the funding needed for training and recruitment. I am confident that by the time we lay the report on the Police Reform Bill, we would have gone a long way in moving the police in the right direction”, Saraki said.
It is an understatement that the Nigeria Police Force is underfunded. This inadequacy of funds explains so many other shortcomings of the police, which manifest in various forms: inadequate officers and men, corruption, lack of motivation, poor remuneration, frustration, extra-judicial killings, public perception of the force as predatory rather than protectors of the citizens, incompetence and inefficiency, all of which combine to give the police a negative image in the eyes of the average Nigerian.
The inefficiency of the police has led to a situation where soldiers have taken over their role in many states of the federation. Saraki made the observation when the Senate passed the bill in April: “It is our view that once we have these police bills as laws, we will relieve the burden on the military, so that it can focus on its constitutional responsibility.”
It is because the Federal Government alone cannot bear the cost of funding the police force that some states have devised ways of assisting the police with money, equipment and logistics. Lagos State, for instance, established a police trust fund into which the government, the private sector and others have keyed, and through it, the police force has been heavily supported and this has in turn led to a reduction in violent crimes in the state.
While we support the idea of the police trust fund, at least for the police structure we have now, we can only hope that it would be run by trustworthy people so that the kind of experience we had with the former police equipment fund would not repeat itself. Since the police force is part of the Nigerian society, every effort must be made to ensure that its funds are well managed. Even when allocations are made, it must be ensured that the police authorities use the money judiciously.
All said, however, while it is good to ensure better funding for the federal police such as we have on ground, the best way out of our security challenges is the establishment of state police. This is the practice all over the developed world, even where money is not so much an issue. The truth is that they have come to realise that the best policing can be done by people who understand the environment. This is not possible under a federal police arrangement where the men and officers can be transferred at will to far-flung places where they do not understand the terrain, not to talk of the language and culture of the people they are supposed to be policing.