By Michael Jegede, a journalist and public affairs commentator from Abuja
Members of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) have continued to express total resentment and displeasure over what most of them described as the indiscriminate deductions from their salaries. The policemen could not fathom why anything for whatever reason should be deducted from their paltry pay package, which to them, is obviously nothing to make a song or dance about when compared to the great risk involved in their job.
The Mechanized Salary Section (MSS) of the police was said to have made deductions of N5,500 from the salaries of the officers in July 2013. They are to deduct the same amount in August, making a total of N11,000, which the police authorities said is meant for the procurement of Fokas Savings and Loans Limited shares for the officers.
Some of the policemen are much more enraged because they were not duly informed before the deductions were made. It was only after the first deductions had been made that they were told about the scheme by their “ogas at the top”. Also, another reason why members of the NPF are so exasperated is that the shares procurement deductions came after N2000 was said to have been deducted from the salaries of senior police officers, while the junior officers were made to sacrifice N1000 as compulsory contribution towards the World Police and Fire Games (WPFG) in which Nigerian policemen reportedly participated.
This, to the officers, does not make any sense as they believe that the government should have been able to take up the responsibility of footing the bill for their involvement in the games. Nigeria featured for the first time in the biennial athletic event open to active and retired law enforcement and fire service personnel throughout the world, which took place between August 1 and 10, 2013 in Northern Ireland. Some policemen are doubtful of the judicious utilization of the money deducted for the WPFG, as they are of the view that those in charge should be probed to know whether some people ended up feeding fat from their collective contributions.
After the deductions from their July salaries for the shares, a police inspector was quoted by a national newspaper as saying, “Last week I received a text message from my bank notifying me that my salary had been paid. However, I found out that N5, 000 had been deducted. It was a few days later that we were given forms and we were then told that we had to buy shares compulsorily. How could the deductions have been made before I even filled the form? The police authorities are leveraging on the fact that policemen cannot openly protest. The Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, must look into this.”
One of the policemen who spoke with this writer was visibly angry at the decision of the police authorities to arbitrarily deduct their salaries without their consent. You could see the anger clearly written all over him. Hear him: “Please tell them to return our money and stop any further deduction from our salaries. We are not interested in buying any share. How can they forcefully deduct our money to buy shares for us when we are not interested? Why should they continue to cut our pay that is not even enough to take us home? The IG should forget this share thing and work towards ensuring an improved salary package for us. Of all the security agencies in the country, policemen are the least paid, even the Civil Defence men are bettered paid than us. This is not fair. This is the fight we want them to fight for us please.”
However, some of the police officers see the move as a welcome development. Those in this category feel that the police authorities should rather be commended for coming up with a scheme that will encourage policemen to save, as according to them, many of their colleagues are found of spending frivolously without keeping aside anything from their salaries for the rainy days.
In response to the outcry among the NPF members over the said salary deductions, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Abubakar, came out to make clarifications on why the decision was taken. Abubakar speaking through the Deputy Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), Frank Mba, said the N5, 500 deductions from the July salaries of all police personnel was to the advantage of every member of the force.
The IGP maintained that the money was for nothing else other than to ease the floating of a mortgage bank, in order to meet the housing needs of policemen. He further explained that the establishment of the bank became essential after policemen had recurrently faced disappointment and frustration by National Housing Fund (NHF) in their efforts to acquire loans to rent, buy or build a house for themselves. Noting that by the deductions every policeman would become a shareholder in the bank and will be entitled to a share certificate, loans and dividends, Mba said: “The Nigeria Police Force remains the highest contributor to the Federal Mortgage Bank. As at date, contributions by police officers to the NHF and remittances to the FMBN total approximately N8billion. Unfortunately, the Nigeria Police Force has not benefited from the facilities available at the FMBN under the NHF Act while other agencies and corporate groups benefit from huge contributions of policemen. Why? Because the Nigeria Police Force could not float a Mortgage Bank to easily access the required loans for its officers and men.
Efforts of the Nigeria Police Force over the years, to establish a mortgage bank had been stalled by administrative instabilities generally occasioned by frequent leadership changes. Apart from other technicalities and statutory requirements by the Central Bank of Nigeria and other regulatory agencies, the capitalisation sum of N2.5 billion for one state branch or N5billion for a national branch is required before a mortgage bank can be licensed. Considering the interests of the police in accessing its huge contributions to the NHF, an entirely owned mortgage bank is needed to maximally protect the long-term housing initiative for generations of officers/men and even retirees.”
On why the officers were not properly briefed before the deductions were effected, the police spokesman disclosed that when the IG came up with the scheme, he had invited Commissioners of Police from all over the country to keep them abreast of his plan, with the expectation that they will pass the message across to their underlings. He, however, observed that from the acrimonious reactions generated by the deductions, it was apparent that none of them deemed it fit to have informed the officers beforehand.
Much as I would want to agree that this scheme is laudable and every police officer should embrace it, I do not think it is appropriate to make it mandatory. You cannot compel somebody to accept an offer you are making to him if he is not interested in it. Therefore, the police authorities should make the scheme optional for only those who are fully interested in being part of it. Period!