Nigeria has become a country of oddities, a country where every odd thing happens every now and then. But the Nigerian government will not admit that there is anything wrong, that it is anything very serious. They will try to rationalise it, to dismiss it as the handiwork of the “opposition”, or “corruption fighting back”. They will not do anything about it, to address the issue involved, and the problem will fester. 

All over the world, policemen do not go on strike. It is something unheard of. It is something very odd. Policemen going on strike is like mutiny, a coup d’etat, a rise against the governmental authority. 

The police is the epitome of discipline, law and order, whose members are imbued with unquestioned obedience to their superiors as well as to constituted authorities. 

But in Nigeria, the police has become an institution where its members go on strike as they consider necessary. Nigeria is a place where policemen publicly disparage or openly accuse their superiors of corruption and selfishness.

Take the recent incident in Maidugiri, Borno State, where some policemen had taken  to the streets over nonpayment of their entitlements. Rather than view this as very serious and map out strategies aimed at dealing with the situation, the government in its usual manner, began to deny that any such thing ever happened, even when the photographs and the video clips of the incident had already gone viral.

A Nigeria Police Force spokesman, Jimoh Moshood, claimed that what actually happened was that some special police mobile force personnel in Maidugiri had gone to the Borno State Police Command Headquarters to “make enquiry” over the delay in the payment of their special duty allowance, and that they were not on protest as reported by some sections of the media.

Based on that, according to him, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, thereafter, ordered the Commissioner of Police, in Borno State to address the officers and inform them why there was delay in the payment of their special duty allowance, claiming that after the briefing the policemen returned to their duty posts. 

For us, this is a very weak and lame defence. Why should the over 100 police personnel, as seen in the video clips, who chanting songs and calling the Inspector General of Police unprintable names, be only going to the police headquarters to “enquire” about the nonpayment of their entitlements? Why didn’t they send one or two representatives to make the enquiry on their behalf, than all of them abandoning their duty posts, and trooping to the police headquarters?

 If those policemen only went to the police headquarters to make “enquiry” about their allowances, why did the Inspector General of Police order the Commissioner of Police in Borno State to address the police officers and explain to them reasons for the delay in payment of their entitlements? 

Again, why did the Presidency hurriedly summon the IGP to Aso Rock soon after the incident was carried by the media to brief the government on what had happened? 

In any case, this was not the first time that policemen in Nigeria were going on strike. A few months ago, policemen in Aso Rock, Nigeria’s seat of power, went on strike over unpaid Risk Caution Allowances from May 2015 to 2017.

This is an indication of a government that has lost focus, a government that does not know what to do, or where it is going. May be, we would be expecting members of the Nigeria Police Force to join labour unions, just like other workers and to always go on strike before they could get their entitlements paid? 

In any case, why must we ever owe the police or other members of the armed forces, those who risk their lives for the security of the people, and the nation at large? It’s never heard of anywhere in the world. 

What convincing explanation will the Commissioner of Police in Borno State (as ordered by the Inspector General of Police), ever provide to the policemen in Maiduguri, those who had risked their lives fighting Boko Haram insurgency, as to why they had not been paid their entitlements running up to six months, when these policemen were well aware that the IGP himself had some skeletons in his cupboard? 

Before those policemen in Maiduguri ever thought of taking to the streets, we believe that they might have for long subtly pressed for the payments of those entitlements, but the authorities ignored them until it burst to the open and became an embarrassment to all. That’s the only language our government really understands.

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