‘The labour of our living and social heroes must be fully appreciated and compensated”
Our independent, explorative investigations around various service stations, barracks and discussions with individual cadets and officers of the Nigerian Army as well as Police Force has revealed an abysmal state of living, poor work conditions and pervasive hopelessness swallowing up the dignity of work for these crucial security agencies and their families. The Nigerian government and relevant authorities need to take urgent step even if possible declare an emergency intervention program to re-invent these institutions and tackle the question of ameliorating their sordid welfare and working conditions.
The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL has identified the patent requirement to call public attention to the plights of Nigerian Police and Army personnel through a coordinated and intense campaign in order to sensitise and ensure that government and other well-meaning Nigerians, corporate and individuals take concrete, affirmative action. We urge the mass media organisations to beam their investigative tool kits to unearth the gory situations prevailing in these vital sectors. We observe that in close to two decades or more specifically since the return of democratic governance in 1999, the police and army have been gradually but consistently sliding into serious state of comatose. You will recall the Nigerian Police had to embark on a national-wide strike action to press home demand for better remuneration and improved welfare package. Curiously rather than address the ailments, the Government merely sacked the Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun. In recent time, the some army officers and rank and file had to desert their duty posts in Sambissa because of lack of provision and inadequacy of logistics necessary to prosecute their official mission. Again, rather than address the message, the State decided to court-marshal officers involved.
All these however, are just symptoms of a more devastating cancerous tumour eating deep into the fabrics of the Nigerian Police Force and Army security force. The Nigerian State seems to be treating ringworm while abandoning leprosy to fester when it comes to these security issues. CACOL’s tentative investigations reveal that it is now norm for non-regular payment of monthly remuneration of the officers and men of the army and police force while other allowances are perpetually owed. It is an established fact that when any worker is not paid his labour due as at when due, his concentration and performance on duties would be grossly affected negatively. More importantly, it gives wide rooms for devious temptations to creep in. Those who are primarily saddled with the duties to maintain our internal and external securities may inadvertently become tools in the hands of those intent on subverting our national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Today, the nation is awashed with news various transgression in our borders, the custom’s daily displayed arbitrary intransigence in combating smugglers, Cameroonian gendarmes constantly invade and raid communities; belligerent foreigners have takenover our communities from Chad, Niger and Sudan. As a matter of fact, mercenary elements from the camp of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are touted to be the brain box of both the Boko Haram sect and armed herdsmen hordes;discovery of arms and ammunitions smuggled into the country are now regular occurrences.
It is not only that the Police and Army were owed months of salaries and allowances but security agencies are also starved of standard conditions that motivate security forces to work enthusiastically and patriotically. The glory of the barracks of the police and armies are tucked in past while they now live in broad-day nightmare in dilapidated, dirty, rat infested quarters. Many officers cadet are squatters in a room rat-holes shared by between two and four families. Social amenities in quarters of these security bodies like markets, schools, clinics and pipe-borne water have not only collapsed but in some instances. The truth is that it is logically impossible to force any set of people to live and work under conditions that are not befitting to human beings yet expect such group of people not to demonstrate zoological species’conducts. It is the collective responsibilities of all well-meaning Nigerians to rally round the Army and Police to rehabilitate the collapsing edifice of these institutions. Some of the sore areas seeking drastic interventions include:
· Administration: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for any individual to be recruited into these security forces on pure merit alone. Then, the majority of them kit themselves up, purchase promotion, transfers etc. Army and Police men volunteered to CACOL they pay huge amounts of money running into millions before they can get promotions that has been due for years.At retirement, pension and gratuities for the personnel of these security bodies is always a mirage paid with dud cheques, and in case of death on active duties, families of the deceased are left a-sorrowing.
· Inadequate Logistics: The Army and Police Force would perform more efficiently when they are well provisioned with necessary equipment to carry out their duties and constitutional responsibilities. In fast developing technological society, Nigeria cannot keep attempting to arrest crimes and maintaining internal and external securities with analogue technology while the world around us have moved into the digital age.
· Internal Security and Food Security: The elementary need of every human being revolves round three core issues, food, shelter and housing. Any society that cannot provide food and security of lives and properties of citizens would be permanently enslaved or be in servitude to its neighbours. The deplorable living and working condition of the Police and Army can be better appreciated with the un-abating and escalated insurgencies, armed violent clashes and social dislocations across the nooks and crannies of the country. Even as the government draft the army, police and other security forces into special squads and launches special operations. The Army between 2015 to date has launched several operations such as the Harbin Kunama I and II, Crocodile Smile I and II and Python Dance I and II. The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai while appearing before the Senate Committee to defend the 2018 budget proposed by the Nigerian Army lamented that poor funding, security operation across troubled spots in the country is crippling the Army.
It is scary to imagine what the current insecurities ravaging several regions of the country imply. The middle belt region is the food basket of the country. States like Plateau, Taraba, Benue and Nasarawa have huge contributions to the country food security. If the Army and the Police Force are unable stop armed insurgence due to ill-equipment, lack of psychological motivation because of arrears of salaries and allowances, crop farmers and even those of livestock would be continue to be in great jeopardy and flee their farm settlements and villages which would inevitably lead to shortages of farm products and slow down the pace of Agriculture’s contribution in the diversification of the nation’s economic mainstay from over-reliance on crude oil.
We are at a moment of history when we must all rise to address these decadent living and working conditions of the Nigerian Army and Police Force before our internal and external security situations are gravely compromised which can provoke monumental devastations of the country. The Government should declare an emergency intervention schemes to fundamentally address the welfare and working conditions of the officers and men of the Army and Police Force. The welfare of these security organisations cannot be left for government alone especially with the meager resources at the government’s disposal but every segment of the society must make some forms of contribution because they provide social functions. We call for the establishment of a pool of funds to assist in alleviating terrible conditions of the quarters of these officers like the Lagos State Security Trust Funds. We call for the launching of Armed Security Forces Welfare Trust Funds which corporate bodies and other organisations can buy in and partner with the Federal Government.