Monday, May 26, 2008

New Law To Fund Police

THE latest concerns about the poor capacities of the Nigeria Police to meet the security needs of Nigerians must be at the centre of the proposed law to raise money, through taxes, for the police.Under the bill, which is before the Senate, two per cent of companies’ profit would go into a fund reserved for the police.
The promoters of this bill estimate that it would cost about N4 trillion to raise the standards of the police, if they are to tackle the country’s growing security concerns.
The needs of the police include better welfare package to attract and keep better personnel, training to meet the sophistication of crimes, and equipment to match the technological advances criminals employ.
Earlier efforts to tackle these have been ad hoc. At best, they ended in the sort of controversy trailing the police equipment fund, a matter that is currently in court. Individuals and businesses, especially banks and oil companies, donate equipment and cash to the police. State governments also make donations to aid the police in their areas.
None of these has resulted in any visible improvement on the operations of the police, a major indication that the major problem of the police is not funding.
Few would oppose the setting up of a special fund to cater for the police, considering the importance of security. However, we think promoters of this bill are sustaining a consistent Federal Government policy of dumping its responsibilities on others, while clutching to a bigger chunk of the federation account with the excuse that it has more responsibilities.
Similar laws that created the Education Tax Fund, ETF, for example, have not been effective. The ETF has become arbitrary and allocations to various institutions do not follow any established pattern. Instructively, private educational institutions do not benefit from the ETF, which is sourced from taxing companies, which are mainly private concerns.
In the case of the Universal Basic Education, UBE, direct deductions are made on the federation account to fund it, yet States have to provide counterpart funding to access the fund. The scandals swirling round the multi-billion Naira UBE scheme are confirmations of rooms for abuses in the proposed police fund.
More funds for the police cannot be a panacea for its effectiveness. There are no assurances that the funds would be used to improve the lot of the police. Allocations for specific security operations during elections do not get to the ordinary policeman. A former police chief is about to be prosecuted for allegedly attempting to convert the funds to personal use, months after the elections.
This bill, without intending to, admits the failure of central policing for Nigeria . It is a matter the Senate should consider reversing instead of making a law to fund a failed enterprise. Whether N4 billion or N4 trillion is allocated to the police, the funds would travel the long bureaucratic routes from Abuja to zonal headquarters to the state commands down to thousands of police stations Abuja does not know, yet it determines their fate.
Our police high command is too distant from operational bases and cannot improve their capability to combat crimes. These demands vary from one police station to the other, even within the same division in a State.
Structural and administrative encumbrances for the police are issues funding cannot solve. They deserve urgent attention.

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