The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris recently commended President Buhari for approving increments to the salaries of Nigerian police officers. According to Buhari, the increase occurred in the hopes of increasing the performance index of the police and strengthening Nigeria’s internal security system.
The increase has attracted a lot of praise from high-profile politicians and of course, high-ranking police officers. In addition to that, the increase includes an increase to the allowances and pensions of the Nigerian Police Force as well.
Responses to the new policy also feature an expectation for the police officers impacted to reciprocate it with better service. As Kaduna Central Senator Shehu Sani particularly put it, the gesture is expected to inspire improved service delivery, more discipline and professionalism.
However, the increase in the police force’s salary suggests that a few things were amiss prior to the raise. First of all, commendations for the increase suggest that it should improve the welfare and living standards of police officers. This raises the question as to what welfare standards police officers were forced to live under prior to the increase.
Based on the prevalence of bribery collecting and extortion, perhaps employees of the police force were underpaid to start with. If the government was previously able to improve the life standards of police officers, then why wait until now?
Secondly, the salary increase raises the question as to whether or not law enforcement bodies are underappreciated in Nigeria. After all, these men and women are risking their lives on a daily basis to protect the people of our country.
The increase in police salaries should provide an incentive for potential new recruits looking to get involved in law enforcement. In addition to that, a knock-on effect of the increase in police salaries should be an increase in police presence in dangerous towns, cities and neighbourhoods where there are most needed. This could even go as far as providing a deterrent for crime.
On a similar pattern, the federal government would do well to introduce hardship pay for Nigerian police officers who are stationed in areas with high levels of violent crime or poor living conditions. This would address the issue of high crime rates in under-policed parts of the country.
If harnessed, the momentum from this increase in police salaries may prove to be the answer to several core challenges faced by Nigerian law enforcement. It is time for a greater appreciation for those who protect and serve all of us.
Funmilayo Adetokunbo A-A, a political and International Affairs Analyst, writes from Somerset, England, United Kingdom.