Under-funding the Police Force emboldens criminals

Inspector-general of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris has expectedly complained, with figures to back his complaint, to the House of Representatives Committee on Police Affairs that ‘[budget] allocations to the Force is grossly inadequate despite the increasing security challenges it has to contend with.’ His organisation was granted N9.2 billion to cover overhead costs but received N6.3 billion. That was about 68.5%. Out of the N283 billion appropriated for personnel, N273 billion or about 96.5% was released with the consequence that the Force could not pay promoted officers their due entitlements, and could not meet its commitments to the Police Cooperative Society, the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the National Housing Fund. Capital project allocations have suffered underfunding too. In 2015, for instance, the Force received only N8.9 billion or 50% of the N17.8 billion appropriated. This, certainly, is unacceptable.

No one will dispute that an inadequately resourced police force cannot reasonably be expected to perform its expected role and duties to safeguard lives and property. It certainly cannot afford the tools, equipment, competent and well-motivated personnel that will assure its operational effectiveness.

It may be argued that, given the less-than-trustworthy handling of funds by the Force as revealed by a number of incidents in the last few years, there may be justifiable reason to neither give everything asked for, nor everything approved, to the Police. However, on further consideration, failure to give sufficient resources to the law enforcement agencies may provide an excuse for underperformance and even acts of corruption.

Against the backdrop of the all-important provision of Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), government cannot afford to deny the Police whatever it requires to secure society. The constitution states that ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.’ It is worth noting that this provision mentions ‘security’ first, and welfare second for the apparent reason that, nothing worthwhile can be achieved in an unsafe polity.

The Police is the nation’s first line of security and defense against criminality. Indeed, the wide ranging duties imposed upon this agency by the Police Act are ‘the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property, and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and [they] shall perform such military duties within and outside Nigeria as may be required of them by, or under the authority of this or any other Act.’ This is a tall order and it is only reasonable and proper that the parent body of the Nigeria Police Force, which is the Federal Government, must without any excuse give it the wherewithal to discharge its duties. It is with much regret and dismay that the underfunded police has not only become a victim at the hands of better equipped criminals, but are also on the receiving end of public disdain, distrust, and occasional hostility. Besides, the inadequacies of the police have directly exposed the citizenry to brazen acts of criminality.

To underfund the police force is to embolden criminals and foster insecurity in the land. It cannot be stated too strongly that the Federal Government must live up to its responsibility to the police, and in turn to Nigerians.

However, the past few years have revealed that government is unable, or unwilling to fully support its police force. The states, and even private businesses and individuals have taken it upon themselves to provide equipment and funds to the federal police. This is a dangerous trend that exposes the force to exploitation by its benefactors. Its impartiality cannot but be compromised at one point or other.

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has happily expressed the need for community police ‘that is homegrown and understands the language (of its locality).’ ‘The police cannot afford to be a federal police, there must be a community force,’ he said. This is the truth. In the overriding interest of the safety of Nigerians, and in faithful fulfillment of its constitutional obligation to the people, the All Progressives Congress party-led Federal Government should study related recommendations of the 2014 National Conference, borrow and begin to implement the ideas from there.

In this article:
Ibrahim IdrisYemi Osinbajo
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