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Time to avert police protests

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Time to avert police protests

The July 2, 2018 protest on the streets of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, by personnel of the Police Mobile Force (PMF), deployed to the state on special duty is one issue which deserves serious attention from government because of its inherent dangers.
Armed with their rifles and tree branches, the officers and men in their hundreds, barricaded major roads around the Borno State Police headquarters, shot sporadically into the air as they sang war songs, to send unequivocal signals to the police leadership, about non-payment of five-month allowances.
Typical of such deployments in the force, reports had it that they were also not provided with accommodation and other basic needs, and in most cases, they found shelters in car parks and makeshift kiosks around the police headquarters.
A helpless Borno State Police Commissioner, Damian Chukwu, watched as the three-hour protest lasted, as he confirmed the cause of the demonstration: “We woke up this morning to experience a protest at state headquarters gate by visiting Police Mobile Force men in Borno State over unpaid special duty allowances for five months running. We are making efforts to pacify them and to assure them of the payments of their entitlements soonest.”
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had held an emergency meeting with the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, on the matter. It stands to reason, however, that the public deserve the rights to know the justification for such non-payment of allowances for policemen who were expected to be dedicated to duties in the troubled area.
Equally unacceptable and indeed condemnable was the denial by the Police spokesman, Jimoh Moshood, despite photographic and audio visual evidence of the protest, besides the confirmation by the resident Commissioner of Police, Chukwu, who personally pacified the irate operatives.
If there was no such demonstration, we found it illogical even contradictory that the IGP, in the same breadth had to dispatch the Commissioner of Police in Charge of PMF (Compol Mopol) to inform and persuade the officers and men that the delay was informed by late passage of the budget.
We found the allusion to late passage of budget also incongruous with extant fiscal policy which allows ministries and department to spend a percentage of their budget in anticipation of approval. And since finance management is an essential component of entire administration, it beats our imagination that the Police Management Team waited for six months to make funds available for contingencies of this nature.
It is on record that police officers in Nigeria are often transferred from their locations without transfer allowance, and worse still is failure to pay allowances to officers and men on special duties, who are deployed at short notices – even without enabling them to make adequate arrangement for their families.
Besides, bearing in mind the fact that a hungry man is an angry man, and it is even worse when such an infuriated and unpaid man is armed with rifle and ammunition. The dangers are legion – he would never be motivated and dedicated to his duties.
He could also lose confidence in the system and regret his enlistment in the force. Equally unimaginable is the temptation to resort to extortion or/and outright sabotage of his mission, especially one as crucial as fighting insurgents and terrorists. It is on record in the country that some security men have rented out their arms to criminals or even trade them off altogether.
Little wonder that our major roads in the country are littered with various armed security agents who abandon their primary duties to mount illegal checkpoints, extorting money in reckless abandon, to keep body and soul together, following non-payment of or delay in payment of their allowances.
Regrettably, these men regularly throw caution to the wind in the extortion spree, unmindful of implications on their personal security and their careers as they demand, accept bribes and sometime even give change to motorists from whom such monies are extorted. Recent occurrences where policemen were shot dead at checkpoint are strong evidence in this regard.
We want to commend the quick intervention of Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, who ordered the release of N27.7 million, 200 bags of 50kg rice and assorted jerricans of vegetable oil to about 2,640 PMF officers and men on this vital national assignment in his state. We also recommend such gesture to other state governors particularly in the North-East as a way of boosting the morale of the gallant officers and men across the armed forces who are putting their lives on the line to decimate or end the Boko Haram insurgency.
Police Management Team owes the nation a great duty to be pro-active in planning and execution of operations, taking cognizance of budgetary implication, and working on mechanism for releasing it. Of great significance is the imperative of ensuring the disbursements get to the operatives as and when due, to avoid a re-occurrence, elicit required commitment to duties and stave corrupt officers who might want to exploit the operatives.

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