The least paid Nigerian police officer earns a paltry N19,685.35k (that is $127 at an exchange rate of N155 to $1) per month, while his counterpart in the United States earns nothing less than N516,666.66 ($3,333) per month. In the UK and Ghana, the police also get a better deal in remuneration.
But the disparity does not end with salaries.
Many Nigerians don’t know that the only thing the Nigerian police officers don’t buy themselves is perhaps their guns and bullets. Most times they have to commandeer a commercial bus to convey them to their destination. Most times even the guns are fastened around their shoulders with whatever ropes they can lay their hands upon. In most cases these officers buy the cloth material for their uniforms and sew them with their personal money, buy their shoes, buy recharge cards to make calls on cases, buy petrol for their vehicles, buy torches, candles and torches to use in their offices, buy the biros and writing materials they need for their work. As if that is not enough, if they are lucky to be provided with living quarters in barracks, the environment is so deplorable that only pigs can live in such places without being demoralized or even contracting diseases. They have no meaningful insurance cover that will make them rest assured that their family will not suffer in case they die in service. When a colleague is killed in service, his living colleagues are the ones who contribute money to bury their dead colleague and support his family.
Given this sickening state of the police, it is therefore illusionary, if not downright idiotic, to expect that the Nigerian Police will not be corrupt or to expect that they will be fire-breathing commandoes, ready to die in defence of the public. Now picture this angry, hungry, unmotivated, disillusioned guy – who could be mowed down any time by well-equipped, dare-devil armed robbers, kidnappers and ethnic or religious militants – standing by the roadside in the hot sun with a gun and watching people (whom he feels are only better than him simply because they have stolen public/private funds) drive past in beautiful cars. Not only that: these fellow Nigerians in flashy cars wear their disdain for this same police officer on their faces as he flags them down. It only requires a miracle for such a police officer to be nice to the man/woman in the car. If the occupant of the car has a human head in the boot but hands over a mere N1,000 note to the police man, the officer will wave him past and ask God to bless him forever. As far as he is concerned, that man who gave him that N1,000 note cares for him more than those who sent him out to track down criminals.
People say you are addressed the way you dress. The current police all-black uniform is mournful and drab. Compare that to the mobile police uniform and see the difference. When a police officer is posted to the mobile police unit, he automatically is respected more by the public. The new senior police officers’ uniform of sky blue shirt is lovely. People have said that it is not suitable for everyday use by the junior officers, given our hot and dusty environment, but we forget that the Nigerian Navy wears all-white, even though it is only the commissioned officers. The Nigerian Police may not need to wear white, but black uniforms make it possible for them to be dirty.
If you get close to some police officers, you can even perceive the odour from them, signifying either that they have not washed their uniforms for a while or that they have not had a bath for days. An officer wearing a light-coloured uniform cannot indulge in such a dirty habit. As school children in public schools, many of us wore white shirts (and even white shorts or trousers) all through primary and secondary school levels. That helped the teachers to fish out the dirty pupils/students. Note that a person in a dark-coloured T-shirt will get into a fight faster than when the same person is wearing a white shirt and tie. It is just natural. The police must wear uniforms that will help them to be more civil and courteous and less aggressive.
For the police to type letters, they have to use the services of owners of ancient manual typewriters, operated by people who have an office within the police station and who probably pay rent or a part of the returns to the station. The person who has reported a case to the police is meant to bear the cost of typing the letter. It is surprising that reports are still manually made at police stations in this age. If government offices can have computers and printers and internet access, why not the police stations?
It may sound outlandish to many, but I think the least paid police man in Nigeria should earn a minimum of N100,000.00. Nigeria can afford it if it sees it as a priority. If that scenario is possible, the least-ranked police officers will be graduates. The best of Nigerians who are zealous to fight crime and work for this nation will join the police to make a difference. The Nigeria Police Force is more important than the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the National Assembly, and other better-paid arms or agencies of government. The reason is simple: dead men don’t regulate the economy, money or the oil industry, neither do they make laws. Without these other agencies for one year, we will not live in anarchy, but without the police, it will be every man for himself (and God for us all).