It is very unusual indeed to see Nigerian policemen protesting publicly, which is why what happened in the Borno State capital, Maiduguri last Monday made a deep impact on all Nigerians. That morning, Mobile Policemen on Special Duty in the state blocked the vital Maiduguri-Kano highway, turned back all motorists and fired their weapons into the air. Their grouse was that since they were posted to the state in January, they have not been paid a kobo of their special duty allowances.
There are 2,700 Mopol men on special duty in Borno State. They are owed an allowance of N1,000 a day or N30,000 a month each, a total monthly bill of N87million. Police Force spokesman DCP Moshood Jimoh insisted that what happened in Maiduguri was not a protest but a complaint; who fires AK-47s into the air merely to complain? Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima, who already spends hundreds of millions of naira to support various military and security operations in the state, had to rush back home and shop for N87m to pay the cops a month’s arrears as a “goodwill gesture.” BOSG however said it cannot shoulder the responsibility for this allowance, since it is footing many other security bills already.
A special report published by Daily Trust on Saturday yesterday showed that this problem of unpaid allowances is not only widespread and applies to policemen on special duty in Benue, Abuja-Kaduna highway and many other places, but it is only the tip of the police mis-welfare iceberg. N30,000 a month for a dangerous duty such as guarding highways from bandits or securing towns liberated by the military from Boko Haram sounds like chicken feed to many people, but policemen on special duty highly depend on it to feed and maintain themselves. Their regular salaries are devoted to maintaining their families at their permanent stations. Even these are not always paid regularly.
As some of the cops told Daily Trust on Saturday, all promises made before their deployment on weapons, kits and welfare were not delivered. They hardly have operational vehicles, good radios and phones, housing, raincoats, enough ammo or even food. Even though police authorities claimed that the delayed Federal budget was to blame, we suspect this was not the case because government still spent money on recurrent expenditure. We urge the Presidency to immediately launch a high-powered probe into this problem. If it turns out that the money was actually released but was withheld or misappropriated at any level of government or the Police Force, the culprits should be charged for sabotage, terrorism and endangering the nation’s safety.
How can men and women who place their lives on the line to secure the nation be treated so shabbily? Any wonder that the country is about to be overrun by criminals, or that policemen are begging motorists on the streets? The last time policemen in this country went on strike in 2002, President Obasanjo sacked Inspector General Musiliu Smith. We are not calling for anyone’s sack unless he or she is implicated in a probe. But the shabby treatment of policemen must surely change, and change very fast if we are not to lose our last wall against criminals, killers and terrorists.