Molly Kilete, Abuja
The central role of the police in maintaining the security of lives and property demands that the welfare of the personnel is given prime consideration. This necessitated the move to create the Police Trust Fund, which is meant to cater for the welfare of police personnel. In the face of the deprecate state of police barracks, Sunday Sun spoke with the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, who debunked the rumour that the Police Trust Fund has been set up just as he shed light on what the force is doing to deal with the challenge of non-availability of barracks accommodation. He also spoke on the new strategy of constructive engagement deployed by IGP Mohammed Adamu in managing the relationship between the National Assembly and the police force leadership.
What is the position regarding the Police Trust Fund, which was meant to cater for the welfare of police personnel?
First of all, I need to correct the erroneous impression that the Police Trust Fund has already come on stream. No, it has not. It is actually a work in progress and it is one key thing that the new Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, is pursuing. The enabling legislation that will appropriately establish the fund has not been passed into law, but of course a lot of ground has been covered, a lot of work has been done on it at the National Assembly. We do hope that when that fund comes on stream it will provide alternate and additional sources of funding for policing and police operations in Nigeria.
Many people feel disturbed about the state of the police barracks. How do you feel about it?
Generally, accommodation has been a major challenge for the force and the reason is obvious. In spite of the fact that the population of the police in Nigeria is grossly inadequate in comparison with the population of the citizens, one fundamental thing that we have noticed also is the fact that the police or the government have not been able to maintain a sense of equilibrium between its recruitment and the provision of accommodation for the officers being recruited. So, you find out that while the number of police officers being recruited are increasing in geometrical progression, the number of barracks and accommodation being provided are increasing in arithmetic progression and sometimes they are not even increasing at all.
The implication of this is that you have more personnel or too many personnel chasing too few accommodation and that has created major problems. So you find out that today, as against the ideal operational desire of the force, a lot of our personnel are living outside the barracks.
Primarily this has to do with challenges of funding. Provision of barracks is a capital intensive initiative and often times allocations for capital projects are usually very slim. We all have problems that have to do with budget performance. Even when budgets are approved, you have challenges that have to do with releases of the money.
A lot of the barracks you see today were built years ago. We are finding it difficult building new barracks because of dearth of funding. But the force is not sitting back idly. Successive IGPs have looked inward and came up with very creative, out-of-box formulas for tackling the accommodation problem. Most of the IGPs have used the veritable tool of the police cooperative society to actually try to bridge the gap in accommodation. So, if you go to Lagos, for an example, you will see the Goodluck Ebele Jonathan Housing Estate. It is an ultra-modern housing estate that was funded through a public-private partnership and essentially by the Nigerian Police Cooperative Society. If you go to Badagry right now there is another big project going on and in so many other parts of the country; so, we have to look inwards and find very creative ways to deal with these issues because we also understand that the Federal Government is the father of many babies. And it’s not always easy for the resources to go round everybody. But we also believe that a lot of state governments could help in this regard. I must pay kudos to some of them who have helped us in the area of giving us land. Beyond land, we would want them to help in providing barracks accommodation in their states for police officers resident and working in those states.
So, what are the plans of the new IGP on barracks accommodation?
The current IGP was at the National Assembly recently and that was his first meeting with the leadership and lawmakers since he assumed office. And he intends to build a functional, robust relationship with the NASS which will help three main ways. One, facilitate the passage of the Police Trust Fund; two, achieve quick passage of budget proposals that have to do with the funding of the police and three, promote a seamless working relationship with the legislature. We believe that under such atmosphere, it will be easier for us to canvass and get support from the National Assembly in terms of supporting some of the key dreams of the current IGP.
Why has the leadership of the force never sought the support of state governments in renovating the barracks, but gladly accepts huge funds for other purposes?
Policing constitutionally falls under the exclusive legislative list. The implication of this is that the Nigerian Police Force is a national or federal agency. Because security is the business of everybody, we expect governments at the state and local government levels and even private individuals, corporate bodies to continue to support what we do and help us implement our constitutional mandate. But at the end of the day, the police is first and foremost the baby of the Federal Government. The state governments, in providing support for the police state commands under their areas of jurisdiction are not usually compelled to render such support. And so they usually come up with what they consider the most immediate tool for containing the security challenges in their states.
Does it mean that the police cannot solicit such projects?
The state governments are at liberty to choose the way they can give support to the police in the implementation of its constitutional mandate. Remember that the Nigerian police is not like any other agency of the government or other bodies that have trade unions. We don’t have trade unions, we are not allowed to embark on strike; we don’t have that liberty. Remember they are the chief security officers of their respective states and they look at their sense of discretion and the security threat analysis they might have probably conducted and decide on the kind of support they provide for the police.
So, how does the force feel about its men living outside the barracks?
Remember that accommodation is a major welfare issue. Every leader understands that one of the best ways of motivating your personnel is to cater for their welfare adequately and we are aware of that and that is why every successive IGP, including the current one, has consistently prioritized the issue of the accommodation of his men. But you must remember that they can only provide within available resources. So, there is nothing wrong in state governments building barracks, there is nothing wrong in corporate organizations building and donating barracks, there is nothing wrong in rich credible Nigerians building barracks, there is nothing absolutely wrong about that.