How Police funding challenge can be tackled — Lawyers

Ogun Police boss orders arrest of three Policemen for extortion

By Onozure Dania

Last week, the acting Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Baba Usman raised the alarm over the incapability of the police force to tackle rising insecurity in the country due to lack of funds. At a meeting with the Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, Usman lamented that Nigerians expect his officers to perform ‘miracle’ of securing the country without adequate funding.

He said: “We have no account to go and dip our hands and do the quick deployment in terms of mitigation or even proactively stopping what is to come. Sincerely speaking, year-in, year-out, besides what we have as allocations, we have problems meeting emergencies.

“Normally, operations should have a fund that you can quickly deploy to areas whether it is a natural or man-made crisis. The police do not have that at all. We always rely on our budgetary allocations which are not enough.”

Provision for Police Fund

Usman’s outcry is not new. The previous IGPs before him had also pointed to the perennial problem of funding for the police. The problem, however, received much-needed attention on June 24, 2019, when President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law, The Nigeria Police Trust Act. The Act establishes a Fund which will be used to train police personnel, procure security machinery and equipment.

It imposes a levy of 0.005% of the “net profit” of companies ‘operating business’ in Nigeria. The Fund will also consist of 0.5% total revenue accruing to the Federation Account, in addition to proceeds from grants, intervention funds, aids, donations, investment income, and so on. For effective management of the fund, the Act established a board responsible for administering the Fund, making investment decisions, and fulfilling other objectives of the Act.

Allegations of corruption

Despite the huge fund supposedly domiciled in the Police Trust Fund, the issue of inadequate funds for training and other operational exigencies remains a major challenge for the police raising question of corruption in the administration of the fund. Last month, right activist and lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, called for a probe of the funds deducted from the federation account and remitted to the Police Trust Fund which he said had not been utilised to equip and train the police.

Backlash on citizens

On the excuse of lack of funds, citizens are extorted by police officers to carry out their basic duties. Countless ordinary Nigerians attempting to make ends meet as drivers, traders, and shopkeepers, are accosted on a daily basis by armed police officers, who demand bribes and commit human rights abuses against them as a means of extorting them. Those who fail to pay are frequently threatened with arrest and physical harm. Far too often, these threats are carried out.

Victims of crime are obliged to pay the police from the moment they enter a police station to file a complaint until the day their case is brought before a court. In the shadows, high-level police officials embezzle staggering sums of public funds meant to cover basic police operations. Senior police officers also enforce a perverse system of “returns” in which rank-and-file officers are compelled to pay up the chain of command, a share of the money they extort from the public.

Those charged with police oversight, discipline, and reform have for years failed to take effective action, thereby reinforcing impunity for police officers of all ranks who regularly perpetrate crimes against the citizens they are mandated to protect. Till date, members of the force are viewed more as predators than protectors, and the Nigeria Police Force has become a symbol in Nigeria of unfettered corruption, mismanagement, and abuse.

Lawyers react

Some lawyers, who spoke to Law and Human Rights, believe that the major problem of the Nigerian police is corruption and not funding.

Corruption must be tackled first — Asia

According to Elvis Asia, the problem with the police is not necessarily lack funds, but corruption. He said: “The Nigeria Police Force is perhaps the most corrupt organization in Nigeria. If we are serious about addressing the challenges facing the police, we must address the issue of corruption. The leadership of the organisation has not been running it transparently to the point that the rank and file depend on extortion from members of the public to buy uniforms and other supplies.

“We need to set up a department in Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC or Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to handle the problem of police funding. After that, we should tie some of the needs of the organisation such as barracks and other capital projects to direct spending that would not pass through the leadership of the police. If we don’t do these, more funding will achieve nothing.”

Police authority should be probed — Awe

Babatunde Awe is of the opinion that for the problem of funding to be adequately handled, the police hierarchy should be probed.

He said: “Ostensibly, monumental corruption and a disgusting absence of transparency in the management of police funds have brought this about.

“Information reaching us from the grapevine through police officers as well as through personal observation over the last two or more decades is that the police rank and file actually provide just about everything for themselves. From kitting – uniforms, boots, belts, berets and all, to materials like shelves, chairs, lockers, tables, and so on; even to bullets in certain cases are paid for by the rank and file.

“What happened to the budget for these things? But for the intervention of state governments and a host of other public-spirited corporations and entities that regularly support the police with vehicles, equipment, and hardware, one can only begin to imagine the nature of even worse rot that would have been exposed.

“Policemen are perhaps the worst cared for force by their own management and they are working under the harshest conditions you could ever imagine. Like I said, when the thieving consumers of the common police patrimony are exposed and punished, the police will begin to experience a breath of fresh air.

“Of all the probes that have happened, the Nigeria Police Force and its management have never had the benefit of being probed and exposed. The military, the oil sector, finance sector, and others, including the civil service are regularly subject to careful interrogation. As for the police, apart from individual officers and units here and there, no such interrogation of their inflows and procurement patterns has ever happened.

“The time for this much-needed spring-cleaning is now and then the Pandora’s Box is going to open for all to see the mess in it. It is then and only then that true reform will come for the Police Force and the dying, corrupt behemoth eventually saved from itself and its long-term thieving administrators and their collaborators.”

Transfers to Police fund must be enforced —Onwukeme

Maduka Onwukeme advised that there should be a provision that the NPTF levy be directly transferred to the police from the consolidated revenue fund and such transfers should not be at the whims of the executive.

He said: “This is a clear case of having a good legal provision for the funding of the police but without adequate enforcement mechanisms. While we may admit that government revenues from taxes have plummeted due to the bad economic situation, however, the question is, how much of the 0.005% NPTF levy collected gets to the Police?

“The Police budget is funded by the executive arm of government and as such, the executive arm may refuse to remit the NPTF levy to the police. The same way state governors receive the security votes of their various states without accounting to anyone, instead of the same being given to the police commissioners.

“So, the solution will be that in each appropriation law, there should be a provision that the NPTF levy be directly transferred to the Police from the consolidated revenue fund and such transfers should not be at the whims of the executive. An executive order can also take care of this. Security is everyone’s business and we should all demand that the Police is adequately funded through budgetary allocations and other lawful sources of funding.”

Senior Police officers cause of problem — Ezeala

Amaka Ezeala puts the blame on senior police officers. She said: “Two words resonate with me anytime I remember the Nigeria Police, and the words are Trigger- Happy. The daily extortion, misappropriation of funds, and insidious practices by the Nigeria Police threaten the fundamental human rights of Nigerians on a regular basis.

In simple terms, the Nigeria Police Force has utterly failed to fulfill its basic objectives and obligations of providing public security to Nigerians. The foundation to many of these abuses are corrupt practices perpetrated by senior police officers, who siphon police funds at the top and mandate a plan of action of collecting illicit “returns” from the money extorted by junior officers.

“Though several police initiatives have been launched by the Nigerian government to increase police funds, it continuously fails because the structural decay within the Nigeria Police Force has not been treated yet!

“This problem can be effectively tackled when the Nigerian government finally starts addressing the corruption and decay within the Police Force. Police officers who squander and steal police funds should be held accountable and brought to book with stiff penalties. Transparency and accountability within the Police Force can also be encouraged by creating a Public Complaints Unit available to both civilians and the police.

“The Nigeria Police should be allowed to start living among civilians to humanise the relationship between both. If a police officer lives in a community with civilians, his duty of care will be heightened to protect his vicinity and neighbours.

Effectively implementation of PTF Act needed — Osho

Identifying some loopholes in the Police Trust Fund Act, Onize Osho said: “The Act is silent on the penalty for noncompliance and does not provide for a timeline within which to remit the contribution. It is silent on which agency of government is responsible for the collection of the levy.

Normally, the Federal Inland Revenue Service would be responsible for the collection and enforcement of the levy as it is computed based on the profit of a company. This would also save collection costs. Though the Act sets up a Board, it is not charged with the collection of the levy or enforcement of the Act.

“The Act also does not define the “net profit” (upon which the levy is to be imposed). This means that businesses are unsure about how to compute their taxes under the Act. It also seems to be exacerbating the lingering problem of multiple taxations (or over-taxation) currently suffered by Nigerian companies. It would seem that once a funding need is identified by the government, a new law is passed to place an additional tax burden on Nigerian companies.

“There is no provision for the tax-deductibility of the mandatory levy payable under the NPTF Act by companies operating in Nigeria. This is a departure from the arrangement under similar legislation, namely, the NITDA Act and the Nigerian Content Development Act, where the mandatory contributions are tax-deductible.”

On how the challenge can be tackled, Osho said: “The provisions of the Act hold so many potentials in resolving most of the security challenges in Nigeria if strictly implemented. A timeline on payment and other implications for defaulters should be established in the Act.

“Companies doing business in Nigeria need to be educated by the NPTF 2019 Board, to give them more incentive and cognizance of the additional tax liability now imposed by the Act and factor same in their annual budget for the stipulated six years period.

“Companies contributing to the Trust Fund would be more vested in remitting taxes where there is clear/transparent and judicious use of the funds, the resulting impact on the strengthening of the capacity of the NPF evident in the improvement of the security situation in the country, and full accountability by those charged with oversight of the funds.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

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