Police Staffing: The Red Flag

Well over a million Nigerians have applied to work in the Nigeria Police. The applications have followed an advertisement of vacancies for 10, 000 slots as approved by President Buhari. This means that only one out of every 100 applicants stands a chance to be hired. What is more, many of the applicants, likely, are university and polytechnic graduates who studied engineering, education and the liberal arts. If the recruitment had been restricted to courses related to policing like law and sociology, perhaps there would have been a manageable number of applicants.

I overheard a senator saying it is an opportunity for him to “fix” at least some people from his constituency that he couldn’t help to “fix” into the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) recently. In my mind’s ear, I could hear him saying that such lowly jobs were not for his own children; they could work only in the NNPC, CBN or The Presidency!

When a relation who graduated seven years ago asked me whether he should send in his application also, I asked him to decide for himself. He said he hated police work, but this time he had no choice. Then, I remembered Steve Jobs’ famous speech to graduating students of Stanford University in 2005: “You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

The response to the police advertisement raises a red flag: the number and desperation of Nigeria’s jobseekers. Even if the advert had clearly stated that successful applicants would be sent to Sambisa Forest or the creeks of the Niger Delta, so many would have still applied. Most of the 10, 000 people to be recruited will not be joining the police because of love or interest. They simply want to earn an income. Some want to have a licence to stand on the roads and extort motorists or be in a position to receive gratifications from criminals. For their salary won’t be able to take them home: my relation said he was informed that, as a cadet ASP (assistant superintendent of police), he would earn as “much” as N120, 000 per month. And I wondered how one with a family would lead a decent life on N120, 000 per month in today’s Nigeria. Cadet inspectors will not earn up to N70, 000 per month, and constables will not get more than N45, 000 a month. Many of the graduates to be recruited will start from the rank of inspector or sergeant.

There is little doubt, therefore, that the police authorities won’t pick the best applicants for the job. The sheer number of those who applied makes fairness impossible. Where 50 people are qualified for one position, for instance, there is no special trait that only one person would have. In any case, the 10, 000 slots are not enough to satisfy the desires of politicians who have submitted lists of their favourites. Those without godfathers and godmothers (up to a million of them) have just wasted their money and their time.

I wonder what our corruption fighters would do to eradicate this act of corruption that will definitely affect the state of policing in the country. Who would intercept and seize the list submitted by senators, House members, party stalwarts and godfathers? Serving police officers will surely want their relations and friends to be hired too. Similar irregularities were witnessed during the recent recruitment into the NIS. There was a directive to hire the relations of those who died during the recruitment test of March 15, 2014, but there were many others who came through the back door. The most qualified didn’t get the job.

It’s becoming dangerous to live in Nigeria. No matter how lucky one could be, they won’t be happy to live in the midst of so many unemployed people. How can the crime rate reduce in a country where almost 80 per cent of young people are looking for work? Where people join the police with the intention of living on criminal activities?

Ours is a society where police work – and any other work – is not taken seriously. That’s why police stations have turned cashpoints – whether you are a complainant, a witness or a suspect, you are required to donate money. Crime victims are required to sponsor police investigations because there is no money for running police stations.

Poor attitude to work was once limited to government establishments; now, it is getting worse even in private establishments. Yet, I won’t pretend that I don’t know what has been happening to our people. When, 30 years ago, one of my lecturers spoke of “a revolution of rising expectations”, he meant to say that every Nigerian had been conditioned to aim at the top. We have grown to believe that everybody must go to university, everybody must drive a car, and everybody must be a millionaire. Whichever way one achieves these, one is applauded and worshipped. Failure is an orphan; the Nigerian society has no sympathy for failures. Young Nigerians have grown to hate work because there is no dignity of labour in their country.  Each year, plaques of honour are awarded to thieves and charlatans while hardworking, honest but poor workers are not noticed. Nigeria will not recover until moral values are re-instilled in Nigerians.

The police staffing has shown that there are many young Nigerians willing to do any work for a meagre pay. Those preaching about agriculture on television and reeling out false statistics have an opportunity to put these Nigerians back to work. The agriculture ministry would do well to cash in on the desperation of jobseekers.  Now that it’s planting season, it should advertise vacancies for “farming assistants”, “planting supervisors”, “executive farmers” and “tractor drivers”. I guess the ministry would receive over 3million applications, even if it made it clear that a successful candidate would earn N30, 000 per month. If the government acquired large expanses of land in several states, and moved tractors and the new employees to the farms, Nigeria could achieve self-sufficiency in food production this year. Even if many of the employees were asked to work with hoes and cutlasses throughout this season, they would achieve much.


One Year of Buhari

Next Sunday is May 29, the first anniversary of the Muhammadu Buhari civilian administration. I won’t be writing a speech for the president, as I did last year in this space. It will be time to put the regime under the klieg lights. Our people say that a chick that will grow into a hen can be spotted on the day it’s hatched. Indeed, one year in the life of a creature with a four-year lifespan is a very long time. Trends in the social media indicate that the honeymoon is over. But, as always, this column will be as objective as possible.  Keep a date.



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