PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan’s promise to commit N1.5 trillion over six years to reform the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) sounds, on the face of it, a good idea that should not wait a moment longer. But that is to take at face value, that statement made recently at the 2014 Police Service Commission Retreat in Makurdi. On the other hand, if the history of outlandish promises by high officials of government is anything to go by, Nigerians cannot but, at the best, adopt a wait-and-see attitude, and, at the worst, sneer in cynical distrust. Pertinent questions include: will the money be released as and when due by the relevant levels of government? Will it be judiciously and transparently spent by the recipients? And, will the nation get value for that money in terms of better policing of the society?
N1.5 trillion is a lot of money but in truth, the Police desperately need to be very well funded – and accountable – if it is to “meet the challenges of the time,” as President Goodluck Jonathan put it. There are just not enough trained and well-equipped men to do a policing job that gets increasingly risky and complex. The pay is poor vis-a-vis the duty and expectations, and the conditions of service generally are less than attractive. So much reform is urgently needed. But government is so wont to throw money at problems. This is why pronouncements on just about every issue are in terms of naira and kobo. Money by itself does not solve problems that require – nay demand – good governance, the ingredients of which include clear headed thinking, well thought-out policies, open and credible governance, accountability, judicious application of resources, and patriotic commitment to genuine public service. It is the lack of these and more that necessitate government spending – actual or on paper – of the mind-boggling sums but with little to show for them.
President Jonathan said that government would provide only 60 per cent of the money and he expects the balance of 40 per cent to come from private sources and other stakeholders. That should be done with caution. The extant Constitution puts the Nigeria Police Force firmly under the authority and control of the Federal Government. Nigeria Police Force is classified under the exclusive legislative list. The Force, therefore, is first and wholly the responsibility of the national government – control, funding, and all. The ceding of the burden of funding the police to other interests has exposed what should be an apolitical, neutral security agency to the suspect generosity of donors with good and not-so-good motives. Already, state and local governments buy vehicles, bullet-proof vests and arms for the police; private companies and even rich persons do the same or make large financial donations to the Force. The consequence of this could be the inability of the Police to do its job in a professional and principled manner.
This newspaper believes that the ideal police system is a decentralised one and the proposed national conference should push this idea into effect.
In the interim, it may be assumed that this money is to implement the recommendations of the Parry Osayande-headed Panel on Police Reform. But the point must be emphasised that a reform, in its true meaning, is to make better in every aspect. Therefore, Nigerians expect that, with each passing year, if government honours its promise on the one hand, and the Police spend the money wisely and transparently, the reform will bear far reaching results. The most important reform must occur in the officers and men of the Nigeria Police. It is regrettable that the right attitude to duty, integrity, competence, confidence, trustworthiness, respectability, and professionalism are not uniformly evident in the Force. And this explains the collapse of public confidence in the Police. The President has promised that “government will continue to reform the police and ensure that the Force is properly equipped...”
It is well known that as the Police is part of its problems, it behoves the Police to justify that it deserves not only more funding but public trust and support.
There is no better way to sum things up than that by the Police Service Commission Chairman and former Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro who noted the other day that despite many reforms of the system, “the nation is yet to witness a significant turnaround in the service delivery...” The Police Force must, therefore, search its soul, discipline itself and fall in line with the on-going reform. Thus it will deserve to be entrusted not only with more money but also with public trust, cooperation, and respect.