Inspector Abudu (not full name) was yawning intermittently behind the wheel of a yellow commercial mini bus popularly called danfo on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway on Wednesday morning. From the expression on his face and the unfriendly disposition to his passengers, one could conclude that he was tired and needed rest.
But instead of heading home to rest after he had closed for the legitimate night duty in one of the police divisions in Lagos State that morning to enable him to freshen up and be mentally and physically alert for the next day’s work, Abudu carried on with his driving business as if his whole existence depended on it.
He said he needed more money to augment his pay at all cost to meet pressing challenges. He appeared as someone that was no longer bothered about what happens to the law enforcement oath of honour, badge, integrity, character and accountability he swore to while passing out from the police college many years back.
“Nobody is left out in the search for multiple sources of income these days. So, as one of the sure ways to make ends meet, I decided to buy this bus to hustle for more money because of the pressure from my family members.
“My salary is not enough to meet my needs; I have two wives and nine children to feed and clothe, apart from my aged parents and a few in-laws who occasionally request for financial assistance from me. So, I have no option but to combine driving commercial bus with my police work,” the Niger State born policeman, who asked our correspondent not to take his photograph, said, amid taking a deep yawn.
Asked why he preferred driving commercial bus to other multiple sources of income like gardening and selling of lubricants in front of his house so that he could rest after the close of work, Abudu said he chose driving because he could not think of any other way to raise additional money.
“It never occurred to me that I could combine selling of lubricants with my police work because many of my colleagues were already driving danfo before I joined them. I am not sure any policeman will want to sell lubricants when he can buy a bus or motorcycle to do transport business,” he said, as he dismissed our correspondent’s question on how his boss usually reacted anytime he came to the office late due to the official hours he shared between his police work and commercial transport business.
“Who tells you that many of the Divisional Police Officers in Lagos State don’t have one or two commercial buses that are making money for them every day?” he asked, adding, “The DPOs give the buses to drivers who in turn remit money to them.”
On whether he paid the compulsory levies charged at motor parks part of which goes to the government’s coffers, he simply said not always. The inspector also kept silent when asked how much he made per day as a danfo driver.
The Police Inspector also said he was aware that he was not permitted by the law to engage in other activities as a policeman, but the need to meet his daily financial challenges forced him to become a danfo driver.
He, however, flared up when asked if driving commercial bus was not affecting his performance at work as a policeman.
“Oga, wetin be your own self. Who you be self? You better commot here and let me continue with my work,” Abudu said.
While pressure from family members and in-laws forced Abudu to become a commercial bus driver, Sergeant Abiodun Falalu (not real name) said poor welfare package made him to buy a used mini bus on hire purchase basis to raise additional income.
He too said he was aware that the law did not permit him to engage in any other work apart from his police job, but said the economic reality in the country had continued to put pressure on him.
Falalu, who claimed that he had been on the same rank for the past seven years without promotion or hope of being promoted, said his current monthly welfare package is poor when compared with his colleagues in South Africa or Ghana.
He said, “I put my vehicle on the road to make money anytime I am not on duty. It is not always easy to combine driving commercial bus with police work, but I have no option but to do it.”
Falalu also confirmed Abudu’s claim that many of his colleagues, including senior police officers owned commercial buses with which they make extra money.
“Everybody wants to live a better life. My children attend private schools and they must also feed well. So, the monthly salary is not enough to meet my immediate family needs,” he said.
When asked how much he made on the average per day, he said, “I make N8, 000 if I drive for 10 hours, especially when I am not on duty, but I make more than that during weekends because many people usually attend social activities and danfo drivers tend to increase transport fare during this period.”
Constable Benson’s reason for engaging in commercial activities is similar to that of Sergeant Falalu. Wiping up the sweat that had settled on his face as a result of a strenuous driving activity with a small dirty white towel, Benson told our correspondent that his monthly salary could hardly feed his immediate family of four children and one wife let alone pay their tuition and the family’s accommodation. As a result, he had to engage in two other jobs to meet his needs.
Benson said, “I have yet to buy my own bus, but I drive my colleague’s own when I am not on duty. I have been doing this for the past 18 months and I hope to buy my own bus anytime from now.
“I also have a barber’s shop where I employ a stylist to manage. The stylist remits the proceeds realised from the business to me every Saturday.”
Benson said though policemen were not allowed to engage in any extra activity that could divert their attention from their primary responsibility of protection of lives and properties, he claimed that but for the additional income he generated from his barber’s shop and the little money he raised anytime he was fortunate to drive his colleague’s vehicle, his children would have dropped out of school.
“I pay about N180, 000 tuition every term and I doubt that I could raise such an amount every term if I depend on my salary alone. Policemen too want the best form of education for their children. My children attend private schools; that is why I drive danfo.”
Some other policemen prefer operating commercial motorcycles to driving buses.
Augustine Daniel (not real name) is one of such policemen. He usually operates between 7.0am and 5.0pm anytime he is not on duty. He also carries two passengers from his Alakuko area to Oshodi Bus Stop anytime he is on morning duty at Obalende.
Daniel said, “I make N1, 000 anytime I carry two passengers from Sango Ota to Oshodi, but I don’t carry any passenger from Oshodi to Obalende because I don’t like it. I prefer to move alone on the Third Mainland Bridge.”
He said he combined riding commercial motorcycle with his police duty because it is less stressful than combining with driving danfo.
Daniel, however, declined answer when asked if his performance was not being affected at work. He simply said, “Let the government do something about our welfare packages.”
A business consultant, Mrs. Oluyemi Akinsunlola, said the rush to earn more income, especially following the rise in the cost of living has become a bug that has caught everybody, including those whose work involves provision of essential services to the public. According to her, that decision might have compelled the policemen to be competing with professional bus drivers on the ever-busy Lagos roads daily.
A 2014 report by the Lagos State Ministry of Transportation, stated that the state government registered about 19,372 vehicles through the accreditation of commercial vehicles in the state in continuation of the implementation of the second phase of its Road Traffic Law 2012. Of the number, 10,373 are commercial mini buses (danfo).
So, from the popular Sango bus stop in Ogun State to Obalende bus station in Lagos State and from the popular Ojota motor park to Mowe-Ibafo axis on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, among others, substantial number of the commercial buses that ply Lagos roads daily are believed to be owned by policemen because police insignia such as caps, berets, stickers, belts and horsewhips are easily seen on their dashboards.
The addiction by the policemen to commercial driving activities in a bid to enhance the living conditions of their families seems to have confirmed the fact that the police welfare package is a “survival stipend.”
Statistics has shown that personnel of the Nigeria Police receive the poorest pay even in the West African sub-region. Those mostly affected are said to be the rank and files who spend many years in the line of duty but are also hardly promoted.
For example, a police constable in Nigeria earns between N22, 000 and N27, 000 monthly salary, depending on his length of service; a sergeant earns about N30, 000, after deductions of tax and a police inspector takes home N50, 000 monthly.
But available reports indicate that Ghanaian police officers earn better welfare package and receive effective training than their Nigerian counterparts. According to Ghana Labour Act, the Government of Ghana not long ago increased the minimum wage of an average police officer by 16.7 per cent, a gesture Nigeria police personnel said they had not enjoyed for years.
In Ghana, a Constable earns GHC750 per month,which is equivalent to N48,549 in Nigeria, while a Sergeant takes home GHC 1200 (N77,6788).
Also, policemen in South Africa earn handsome pay. According to the National Salary Data of South Africa, a Constable in South Africa earns R145, 751 per annum, which is equivalent to N2, 915,020 in Nigeria.
Implication on security and other social services,
A security expert, Mr. Olurotimi Ogunlusi, believes that the involvement of policemen in transport business while still in service might have been responsible for the alleged poor service delivery culminating in delay in responding to emergency, corruption, forceful extortion of civilians and avoidable human rights abuses, including extra judicial killings by the police.
He said a policeman, whose duty is to protect lives and property, would naturally perform abysmally when he shares his time, including official working hours between two or more compelling and rigorous physical activities.
Ogunlusi said, “The practice in which members of the Police Force see any reason to act contrary to their oath of honour has serious security implications. It is a sign that law enforcement agents are fast losing faith in the security profession.
“It means they have lost confidence in the ability of the nation’s security services to guarantee their future and that of their families. It is also a sign that the welfare package of the police is still poor.
“Statutorily, policemen are not supposed to engage in any other activity apart from the one they are employed while they are still in active service.
“Policemen belong to the category of people who provide essential service to the people, but when they have any reason to lose faith in their primary duty or they are distracted, the society will bear the brunt. Security of lives and property will be slackened and criminals will be at liberty to unleash mayhem on the people.
“So, it won’t be out of place to say that policemen who engage in driving commercial buses contribute to the poor traffic situation in the Lagos metropolis because nobody will check or arrest them if they break traffic laws.
“But what do you expect when the people entrusted with the security of lives and property lose faith in their profession? Ultimately, kidnappings, secret cult clashes leading to killing and maiming of innocent citizens and other violent crimes will be on the rise.”
A survey conducted not long ago by CLEEN Foundation, a reputed and non-partisan public policy think tank, claimed that Lagos State still ranked high as one of the states with the highest crime rates in Nigeria.
Key findings in the report show that about 67 per cent of Lagos residents have fear of becoming victims of crimes while 23 per cent claim to have experienced crime a year before the survey was carried out.
A labour consultant and lawyer, Mr. Femi Aborisade, said the living and working conditions of the rank and file of police, which compel them to engage in private businesses, demand pity and understanding rather than condemnation. He also described the policemen as victims of objective life-threatening economic situations.
He said despite their poor and pitiable living conditions, they were not allowed by the constitution to engage in any private business to earn additional income, whether during duty or when they are off duty or on leave.
He said by virtue of Section 318(1) of the Constitution, a police officer is bound by Paragraph 2(b) of Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, which is the Code of Conduct for Public Officers.
He said, “The said Paragraph 2(b) of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers provides that all public officers who are engaged on full time basis shall not engage or participate in the management or running of any private business, profession or trade but nothing in this sub-paragraph shall prevent a public officer from engaging in farming.”
According to him, the constitution permits public officers to only engage in farming in addition to their work as public officers. “Any other form of private business or trade is unconstitutional,” Aborisade said, adding that Section 36 of the Police Act also prohibits police officers from engaging in any form of private business without written permission.
He, however, said the policemen’s claim that they engaged in private business as a result of poor package was not valid.
He said, “There is no valid defence for a police officer to claim that he or she engages in private business, including driving for private gain, during off duty hours or when on leave.
“Regulation 368 of the Nigeria Police Regulations provides that the Regulations (as well as provisions of the Act) bind police officers on vacation, or on leave, or on leave prior to retirement, and that no police officer shall engage in private employment for reward without having previously obtained government permission.”
But from the sociological point of view, the labour consultant asked the following questions: “In a situation of massive collapse of the purchasing power of wages and salaries, non-payment of wages, skyrocketing inflation, commercialised education, commercialised health care system, lack of social security schemes to provide succour to the marginalised and vulnerable groups, can we in all fairness blame public officers who seek additional income to ensure physical and/or material survival as human beings?
“Both the constitution and the Police Act were made within the framework of the understanding that decent wages and salaries would be paid, as and when due. The legal framework is also predicated upon systematic and regular upward reviews of wages, salaries and pension, as the National Minimum Wage is reviewed. In the circumstances of Nigeria’s economic collapse, can we fairly criticise or crucify police officers who engage in private businesses to augment their legitimate earnings?”
However, to get effective service delivery from the police, Aborisade canvassed the need to pay police personnel and other public officers across the country decent wages as and when due as the only way by the government to earn their loyalty and obedience.
He said, “Any rational human being would want to rest rather than using his or her off duty periods to engage in other forms of private businesses. It is the harsh and the increasingly stressful economic conditions that compel police officers to engage in private businesses as a survival method.”
Police authorities’ reaction
The Police Public Relations Officer, Lagos State Command, Dolapo Badmos, said she did not believe that some police personnel in the state combining driving commercial bus with their police duty.
Badmos said if at all they do, it is better than becoming armed robbers or stealing other people’s properties.
She said, “If their reason for driving commercial buses is because they want to survive, we need to remind them that it should not jeopardise their duty as policemen. I think police duty takes pre-eminence over driving of commercial buses.
“I am not against it if they do so at their leisure time or when they are off duty and they see it as another way they can fend for themselves; the practice is not criminal. But driving commercial buses during their off duty should not take pre-eminence over their official police duty.”
The PPRO, however, warned that any policeman who allowed other commercial activities to take pre-eminence over their official duty would be dealt with.
Badmos said, “If you are using your official hours to drive danfo, that is a discreditable thing; it is not permitted and that is why I said the issue of danfo driving should not take pre-eminence over their duty of protection of lives and property. If they are doing so during official hours, then it is against the ethics of their profession and the police authorities will not look at that lightly. It is not criminal and it is not permitted during official hours.”
Culled from: www.punchng.com