New Salary For The Police? Ok. What Next?

President Muhammadu Buhari has approved a new salary structure for the Nigeria Police, about 80 days to the 2019 elections.

“I am pleased to make the increase in salary and allowances in the hope that it will increase the performance index of the police and strengthen Nigeria’s internal security system” the president said in a statement. It is not clear what the details of the Rank Salary Structure Adjustment are. The president hopes it will provide motivation for the men and women of the Force to “be able to cope well with the challenges of armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom and such crimes” across the country. With the improved pay, the Police should be in a better position to receive “first-class intelligence on which to act”.

How will that be?

To hazard a guess, the Rank Salary Structure Adjustment tops the current salaries by a couple of percentage points. In the coming months, Police officers will do their 30-day work and can expect some extra thousand naira in their accounts. Their may be performance-based benefits too.

The average Policeman with whom Nigerians come in contact appears to need more than they get. A recruit in the Force receives a monthly pay of N9,019.40, not enough for a bag of rice in 2018. N55,101.5 is the mean pay for officers in the next four ranks – Constable, Corporal, Sergeant and Sergeant Major. These are the officers regularly on patrol duties and, one may say,  who give the Police its notorious reputation for bribery. Their mean annual salary of N661,217 is about N50,000 less than the Inspector General’s monthly pay.

It would seem right to improve on what they earn to increase their productivity. But it is only a first step in a list of necessities required to achieve the desired goal of a professional and performing Nigeria Police.

The Police is tasked with maintaining law and order. While financial security is necessary to keep them motivated, the personality of the men and women in the Force is just as important. Building the mindset of Police personnel to conduct him or herself as a dignified actor on behalf of the state is crucial. This dignity will be expressed in their dress, speech and mannerisms in everyday situations. Whatever the rank, a Nigerian Police officer in contact with citizens on the streets should appear smart and intelligent; they should be the first role models we know after parents and teachers.

For long, they have been the exact opposite and their lack of capacity is globally renowned. Nigeria’s Police is ranked the worst in the world in terms of capacity, process, legitimacy and outcomes. It may have something to do with the disproportionate burden that comes with 219 police officers for every 100,000 Nigerians. This ratio is below both the World Internal Security and Police Index (WISPI) median of 300, and the sub-Saharan Africa region average of 268. In other words, more officers are needed in the force and recent recruitment drives, if fair and based on quality, are commendable.

However, the biggest change for Policing in Nigeria will be the presence of accountability mechanisms. How can citizens hold officers accountable for their actions? What plans are in place for ensuring that sufficient disciplinary action will be taken against any officer whose interaction with the public is less than optimal (harassment, corruption)? This is the crucial question. It will need to be answered by measures beyond salary increments.

As one may expect, some have taken a skeptical view of President Buhari’s motivation for approving the salary adjustment so close to an election season. How will this affect the Police in the 2019 elections? IGP Ibrahim Kpotum has shown himself an absolute ally of the President, enthusiastically engaging in wars of words with anyone at odds with the will of the president and his party (add the Akwa Ibom state Governor to the list). There are reform bills under consideration in the National Assembly but by the current law, the Inspector General of Police is appointed and accountable to the President who has overall operational control of the force. This undermines the political accountability and independence of the Police.

And is this salary package one more effort by Buhari to stave off the growing State Police movement?

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