“Unknown to us, this hotelier was engaging in commercial sexual exploitation of juveniles in the hotel. We were shocked to learn about this and initially it was very hard for us to take a decision due to the support he had been rendering to the police station," said a DPO.
By the way, how much should a police station, which ought to be always battle-ready in all ramifications, since security problems can arise any time, have in its coffer at every point in time? Well, investigations by our correspondent shows that some of the police stations in Nigeria get as low as N35,000 as allocation from the force headquarters per quarter.
This is the reason why in all the states of the federation, many police stations rely on philanthropic gestures from members of their host communities and proceeds of bribery to function effectively. And that is why inscriptions such as ‘Donated by Welders Association’, ‘Community Development Association’ are constant features on many items and facilities found in many police stations in the country.
From rehabilitation of buildings, to fuelling of patrol vans and generators that serve the stations, many Divisional Police Officers appear to have been turned into beggars of some sort.
Besides, Nigerians who have at one time or the other had a reason to report an incident at a police station are no longer new to the demands from the policeman on duty, asking them to part with sums between N500 and N1, 000 before their statement can be taken.
Even after taking such statements and there is a need to make an arrest of those reported, the policeman on duty asks the complainant to drop another N2, 000 to fuel the police patrol vehicle.
A cross section of DPOs who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity say the development poses a dilemma and, indeed, a threat to the operations of the security agents.
Besides, despite the Inspector-General of Police’s order outlawing police check-points on highways, policemen are still occasionally sighted at some strategic highways across the country, mounting roadblocks and extorting money from the motoring public.
The reasons why this development has continued to be a regular feature of policing in the country, according to men and senior officers of the police, is as a result of the paltry sum of money being allocated to run police stations.
They declare that many of them run the affairs of police stations from the proceeds of bribes collected by men who go on regular patrols as well as philanthropic gestures of members of the public.
But a new twist to this development is that criminals are joining other law abiding citizens to contribute to the running of police stations in the country.
A DPO serving in the Ogun State Police Command explains that depending on members of the public for effective policing is not only risky but also against the principles of policing. Describing the majority of such philanthropic gestures as a Greek gift, the senior police officer says experience has shown that many of these donors usually have skeletons in their cupboards.
Buttressing his argument with what transpired in his area of jurisdiction, he explains that an hotelier who had taken up the responsibility of paying for the monthly subscription of the DSTV in the police station was, initially unknown to him, doing so as a cover for his child abuse activities in his hotel.
He says, “My men didn’t have the gut to take actions because they were unsure if they had the moral right to arrest a staunch supporter of the station. My men had to await my arrival at the station before a decision to raid the hotel had to be taken.
“Expectedly, the subscription for the DSTV stopped and, ever since, I foot the bill from my purse whenever I have enough money to spare."
Investigations by Punch reveal that police stations receive quarterly allocations from state commands, after the latter would have got reimbursements from the Force Headquarters, Abuja.
A senior police source at the Ogun State Police Command headquarters in Abeokuta also confided in our correspondent that the quarterly allocation the command receives from the Force Headquarters fluctuates between N450, 000 and N650, 000.
This amount, it was gathered, is meant for catering for the needs of the 46 police stations and the five area commands in the state for three months. The amount, it was learnt, is not distributed equally among the police stations as criteria such as the size of the police station and the crime wave in the station’s area of jurisdiction were being used to determine how much each station receives.
A Divisional Police Officer in the Command, who claims to be receiving one of the highest quarterly allocations, says his division receives between N35, 000 and N40, 000 every three months.
This amount, according to him, is meant to cover fuelling of patrol vehicles, generators, stationeries, communication, and other expenses incurred by the police station during the three-month period.
The DPO, who also pleads anonymity because he is not in a position to speak to the press, explains that the allocation for a typical quarter is not even enough to fuel the patrol vehicles in the station for three days, let alone covering the whole expenses for three months.
He says, “It is very difficult to run a police station as a DPO without your men engaging in corrupt practices. How do you run a police station without funds? To describe the allocations we get quarterly as inadequate is to say the least.
“I get less than N40,000 to cater for my running costs quarterly, and, as a matter of fact, to run a truly motorised patrol, for instance, you will need about 40 litres of petrol in 24 hours for a patrol van and this amounts to N3, 840 daily. In this division, we have four patrol vehicles and this makes it N15,360 daily.
“If we decide to spend the allocation only on petrol, the money wouldn’t last more than three days. So, where do we get the money to make up for the huge shortfalls? Am I in the position to tell policemen who incessantly complain of poor salaries to donate money to run the affairs of the station?”
In Lagos, the Lagos State Security Trust Fund, a public-private partnership established by law in 2007, has been useful in this regard. The LSSTF intervention ranges from acquisition of police equipment, purchasing of patrol vehicles and their maintenance.
However, a senior police officer in the state, explains that patrol vehicles whose maintenance bill is footed by the LSSTF are those attached to the Rapid Response Squad, noting that other vehicles in police divisions are left in care of DPOs to maintain from the quarterly allocation.
The police officer explains that the quarterly allocation given to police stations in the state is between N45, 000 and N80, 000, depending on the size of the police station and the crime wave in the area the station is situated.
He adds, “Police funding is a problematic issue and there is no way the police will perform magic with the way we are being funded. For my division, I get an allocation of N45, 000 quarterly. Just tell me what that money can cover out of the needs of the station for a total of 90 days?.
“Apart from fuelling of patrol vehicles and generators to power the police station, we incur expenses on stationeries. This is especially because the police are not ICT-compliant. As a result, we often beg for assistance from members of the public.’’
According to investigations, DPOs are usually in the habit of holding save-our-souls meeting with the members of the community in their jurisdiction to solicit for help to run the affairs of the station.
In such meetings, it was gathered, community development associations, owners of small businesses, among others, usually take up one or two responsibilities of catering for the needs of such police stations.
One of the DPOs in Lagos State Police Command told our correspondent that when he assumed office, in one of such meetings, he begged the stakeholders in the community who raised money to buy blocks, pay for the labour costs as well as foot the bill for fixing a gate around the station’s fence.
He says, “For you to succeed as a DPO there is no way you won’t live your life as if you are a beggar because money won’t be forthcoming from the top to make ends meet. And who are you to ask questions? When you are invited to a meeting with your boss, maybe at the Area Commander or Commissioner of Police, and issues bordering on finance come up, the best you can do is to say ‘yes sir, I’ll manage, sir.
“When I resumed at my duty post I specifically made the areas of needs of the station known to the various stakeholders in the community. At the end of the day, some private citizens and managers of firms were the ones who erected the fence of the station.”
He adds that after much persuasion, two managers of the petrol stations in the area had been providing the station with 50 litres of petrol per week. The Officer in Charge of Patrol and Guard goes around taking delivery of the fuel every Monday.
“And when the fuel finishes, the boys know how to go about getting the patrol vehicle refuelled because the work has to be done,” he adds.
A source in Akwa Ibom State Police Command explains that the situation is not different from other state commands. He however notes that the local government chairmen provide some monthly allowances to support police stations in their domains.
Also, a police source adds that the case of many states in the northern part of the country is usually worsened by the presence of many police posts under police divisions.
Another source at the Police Force Headquarters says the Police Public Relations Officers in the various state commands are worse off as their offices are not entitled to any allocations from the Force Headquarters.
The source adds that the PPROs in the various commands live at the mercy of the commissioners of police in their respective states.
The source notes, “The IG is just trying to work around something and find a way of including that office in the scheme of things to function appropriately. What about officers who get transferred to new police commands? The allowance they are entitled to in lieu of accommodation at that new desk for 30 days is not often even paid.
“Nigerian police officers and men are suffering in silence and yet we are expected to perform some magic. There are no two ways to it: The Federal Government and the National Assembly should commit more funds to the police for effective policing of the country."
When contacted, the acting Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Frank Mba, a Chief Superintendent of Police, confirmed the plight of the DPOs across the country.
According to him, the challenges are not peculiar to one particular state stressing that the state of police stations across the country are pathetic.
He adds that the Force Headquarters is constrained and cannot fund the various police divisions, area commands and state commands appropriately because, “we cannot give what we don’t have."
Mba advises officers and men of the Nigeria Police to do everything “humanly possible,” to do the job well despite the “challenges and constraints”.