By Tosin Osasona
Lagos State intervention lead of the Nigeria Policing Program.
The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is the most visible symbol of the Nigerian state, and without doubt the most important and accessible institution of social control in Nigeria. With around 370,000 officers (plus or minus ghost officers), it is the biggest agency in terms of number.
NPF’s national spread is starkly unrivalled by any other policing actor- with a combined number of more than 6,000 police stations, police posts and village police posts, NPF is represented across all communities in Nigeria, from the inhabited creeks at the tip of the lagoon to settlements in the Savanah, there is a police station.
Like them-hate them, the police are the backbone of Nigeria’s security and public safety architecture and the natural first point of contact for many Nigerians in distress. Understanding that an effective and efficient policing system is central to building a stable and prosperous state, and that like in most things- what you pay for is what you get- it then behoves countries to invest appropriately in their respective police services.
Across the world, policing is a very expensive enterprise, and every component of the society pay for that essential service.
But here, we the good and exceptional people of the great country Nigeria have made conscious political and fiscal decisions to grossly underfund the police, while we expect our police officers to be super patriotic by personally fuelling their operational vehicles, paying for uniforms and other operational exigencies, print bail bonds, individually handles work-related trauma and yet bear the burden of providing security-a public good that every Nigerian supposedly enjoys.
And yet we all complain about how travelling on our roads have now become a game of odds with death? Why do we impose a different standard on our police officers from the one we impose on our doctors, teachers and other essential service providers? It does not require Einstein level of to draw a link between Nigeria’s worsening state of insecurity and the poor state of our national police force, and this raises fundamental questions with grave implications on public safety and security in Nigeria.
Some of the most important question we must ask ourselves as citizens all whom will be impacted by insecurity is how best can we fund the police?
Can we really get out of this security mess without proper, well-structured and all-inclusive template for funding of the police?
One of the awkward realities of policing in Nigeria is that the federal government bears the major responsibility of financing the force despite the fact that the responsibility of the police is more consequential at state and local government levels, as indicated by successive crime data in Nigeria.
The very tiers of government who mostly need very efficient police services contribute little or nothing for the services.
But come to think of it, how can states and local governments be expected to pay for a police force that they neither control nor have any input into its operations?
Can it be said that states don’t adequately fund the police because they do not own it, and it is in turn incapable of addressing local security challenges because of being poorly resourced?
The Lagos State Security Trust Fund established in 2007 is a public-private intervention planned to provide equipment and logistics supports to security agencies operating in Lagos State.
This is the first and the most innovative and structured attempt at funding the police in Nigeria, although alongside other security apparatus.
Even at that, it falls short of the intended mark for sustainability of joint financing of the police institution.
A funding model based on the voluntary and generous willingness of a few is not sustainable in a permanently growing megacity, and what happens when there is an economic dip and the cohort of current funders cannot afford to contribute?
Why is it difficult in a city of more than 20 million residents to raise funds annually through taxation to provide security?
As deficient as the Lagos State Security Trust Fund is, it is still far better than the parodies that we have in other states- Kano, Ekiti, Enugu- and the Nigeria Police Trust Fund Act that the President recently assented to.
Apart from being a poor imitation of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund, these laws fail to put in proper context the economic realities of each state.
How can an Ekiti or Enugu State designs a security trust fund in the mould of Lagos, when there are better local alternatives?
Why are states and also local governments shying away from levying security/police taxes?
While it must be stated that almost every police service across the world derive a percentage of their operational costs from grants, and donations from businesses and foundations, it is however impracticable for states in the face of acute underfunding of the Nigeria Police Force from the federal government to hinge the functioning of the police services that is solely responsible for local security on donations.
Why can’t states be innovative?
Aside direct government funding, countries across the world finance their various policing actors through council/county tax, tax on gambling and sports betting, fines from traffic infractions, taxes on open air events among others, why can’t we innovate along these lines to fund the police’s broad functional lines- logistics, capacity building, remuneration, and infrastructure?
The argument that states cannot do much for the police because it is not owned by them is insincere, when factually the security of the governors and chairmen to that of a new born baby in all of our 36 states and local governments, depends primarily on the police. The bigger question is why should a city like Kano with its bustling informal economic life not creatively legislate a sustainable funding source for the police?
Imagine what a daily-hundred-naira-tax on the hundreds of thousands of tricycles in Kano metropolis would raise to provide the required security? Or a security trust fund that is based on nominal rate of two hundred naira daily or even weekly that is imposed on danfos, okada riders and other operators in the informal sector?
Across the world, security is an expensive public good that is funded by governments through taxation and other means backed by a state authority.
However, in Nigeria, less than 12% of eligible citizens pay tax, and oil that accounts for 80% of government revenue has been inconsistently volatile to determine maintenance of regular financing scheme of a very critical sector of an economy like a security institution, thus reducing the government’s ability to finance its obligations. When you put in perspective the issue of Nigeria’s population growth, estimated to reach 200 million by 2020, and the pressure this creates as one of the drivers of insecurity in Nigeria and by extension on the police then states must create other sustainable avenues to fund the police.
Perhaps, the key to proper funding of the police is how innovatively states can tax Nigeria’s very large and growing informal sector, however that imposes a task on states and the police to be accountable and responsible- two rare animals that are seldom seen in our democratic forest.