Following the killing of two policemen in a robbery at a Zenith Bank branch in Owerri, Imo State, some men and officers of the Nigeria Police Force have decried the alleged abandonment of their family members by the police authorities.
The operatives, who spoke with our correspondents on condition of anonymity, lamented that meager welfare package, poor equipment and absence of a good insurance policy discouraged them from giving their best to the Force.
Many of them said they would never lay their lives on the line.
PUNCH Metro had reported that a four-man gang attacked the bank on February 22, 2017, and shot the three cops on duty.
While two of the policemen, Sergeant Chukwudi Iboko and Sergeant Sunday Agbo, died from gunshot injuries sustained during the incident, the third policeman, Sergeant Otu Attang, lost one of his eyes.
The incident, however, gained public attention early June when footage of the bank’s Closed Circuit Television camera, which captured the moment of the robbery, was released to the public.
The 2.58 minutes video, which immediately went viral on the social media, showed a courageous Chukwudi engaging the robbers in a gun duel from a security post at the bank’s entrance.
One of the robbers, later identified as Ikechukwu Opara, was shot dead while advancing to the security post.
Soon after, Chukwudi could be seen running out of the security post as one of the robbers shot in his direction.
He was said to have died the next day, following gunshot injuries he sustained during the attack.
In an interview with The PUNCH Newspapers, Chukwudi’s widow, Rose, lamented that one of their eight children, Chukwuebuka, died from shock during the burial of the father.
The Imo State Commissioner of Police, Chris Ezike, however, announced on Tuesday that Zenith Bank had decided to compensate the families of the affected cops with scholarships, allowances, among others.
He promised on behalf of the police that the entitlements of the cops would be paid on time.
Some Nigerian policemen said the attitude of the police to the plight of the cops and their families had discouraged them from giving their all to the job.
A police inspector in Lagos said he saluted Chukwudi’s bravery after seeing a clip of the robbery.
He said, “Honestly, some of us are ready to do the work, but once you die on duty, nobody cares for your family. Even in the barracks you live, your family will be thrown out. Many policemen run away when they see robbers because they know that if they die, their family will suffer. It is not as if we are not trained to confront robbers.
“The police authorities need to do something that will encourage officers to serve the country well. The policemen died in the course of duty and deserved special rewards.
“The police don’t have working life insurance scheme. It is only the Lagos State Government that considers such for policemen that die in the course of duty. The police only have N300,000 to give to your family members and it may take years before it gets to them. Our salaries are nothing to write home about. A police constable earns between N40,000 to N45,000. As an inspector, I don’t earn up to N70,000 and I’m almost two decades old in service.”
A divisional police officer serving in the Kwara State Police Command said unlike some other security agencies, remuneration and welfare packages for policemen were poor.
He said, “It takes the fear of God to be a good policeman. When policemen and officials of the Department of State Services were killed in Nasarawa State, the DSS gave the family of each of its slain officials N10m, while the police paid N500,000 to each policeman’s family. When the public cried out, the then Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, increased it to N1m. The DSS also built houses for the families of those officers; nothing like that from the police.
“A lot of policemen have died with nothing to show for their gallantry. There is no review of our welfare package. If you are a policeman, always pray that you are not harmed on duty. And in the Nigeria Police, it is zero feedback; you dare not complain.
“When I read in The PUNCH that the hero policeman, Chukwudi, had seven children, I pitied his family. He died as a hero, but without the media, he would have died in vain. There is nothing bad if the children are absorbed into police schools. The Zenith Bank should come to the rescue of the family by empowering the widow and securing the future of those children.
“The morale is low already; but you dare not talk. An Assistant Commissioner of Police gets about N250,000 per month. A CP collects about N300,000, despite his rank. As a CSP, my salary is around N160,000. Meanwhile, a lot of people look up to you as a big man and depend on you.”
A sergeant attached to a police division in Oyo State, also lamented that it was customary of the police to abandon operatives killed in active service, adding that he wept when he read about the plight of Chukwudi’s family.
“It is the custom of the police. Once you die, your family will be abandoned. That is why many policemen are not courageous enough to confront criminals, especially armed robbers. There is no life insurance. Apart from the N500,000 for burial, the police won’t give your family anything. And it is hellish for your family to get your pension from the police,” he added.
A divisional police officer in Lagos State said there was no motivation for policemen to work.
He said, “There is no motivation to do police work. No policeman is ready to die because once you die, there is no hope. It is not true that policemen are not insured. They are, but the compensation differs. The least, however, is N500,000. The payment differs based on rank. We are not equipped to fight crime. To resolve the problem of motivation, the government should be ready to spend more on the police.”
A police corporal in Lagos told PUNCH Metro that most of the rank and file preferred to be posted to offices where they would not face any risk.
He called for a review of the salaries of policemen.
He said, “What can a police sergeant do with N50,000 as salary? A police corporal collects N44,000. A constable collects about N39,000. Did you know that the last time police salaries were increased was in 2007 during the administration of former President Musa Yar’adua? Almost 10 years after, nothing has been done to review the salaries despite the situation of the economy. Besides, policemen do not have any mortgage scheme to acquire at least, a small portion of land.
“To be truthful, for the past 15 to 20 years, policemen are working on the logic that nothing is worth dying for. Most policemen restrict themselves to administrative and office duties, where they can work with ease and return home in peace.
“Are you aware that a rank-and-file policeman who loses his life in active service gets at most N1m? Is that what someone will die for? And before his family can even collect that money, some of the people in charge must have slept with their widows. It is like going through the eye of a needle to receive that money. The families of some policemen, who died as far back as 2005, have not received that money till today.
“Go to the barracks across the country and you will have a true picture of the living condition of Nigerian policemen.”
He also lamented that most times, policemen used their money to buy pens, statement forms and files for cases, saying it was the reason the responsibilities were usually passed down to complainants.
The Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Mashood Jimoh, said it was not true that families of policemen who died in active duty were neglected, adding that every cop was insured.
He said, “There is life insurance for policemen and officers by the Federal Government and it is working. The Force equally has a policy of paying death benefits, burial expenses, among others. Life insurance covers policemen that die in active service. Even those that die natural death have something to benefit. It is not correct for anybody to say we neglect our men.
“There is no delay in the payment of entitlements. Everybody gets the entitlement as and when due. There is also the contributory pension scheme, which is outside the Force. The insurance is equally outside the police. It is only the death benefits and burial expenses that are within the police.
“Recently, the Inspector-General of Police distributed cheques to hundreds of beneficiaries and periodically, when the cheques come up, AIGs, commands and DPOs are directed to give them to relatives of deceased officers. There is no delay on the side of the police.”
Meanwhile, the GoFundMe account opened for the family of Chukwudi rose to over $20,000 on Wednesday.
Police, CBN partner to curb bank robberies
The Imo State Commissioner of Police, Ezike, and some officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria and 50 regional and branch bank mangers on Wednesday held a meeting in Owerri, the state capital, on how to fortify banks against robberies.
The meeting was held at the CBN office in Owerri.
Ezike, at the end of the deliberation, said the meeting was about securing and safeguarding bank assets and customers in the state.
He said, “The meeting was to get security feedback from stakeholders on how to render quality services in terms of securing banks, bank users, and the security of Imo State, among others.
“We equally deliberated and raised awareness on the integrity of bank workers, security personnel in banks and the duties of the banks to the people.”
The police boss noted that there was a need to ensure that equipment with high grade integrity were used for banking services.
Asked if the meeting took note of bank robberies that had occured in the recent past, Ezike said such cases were also reviewed.
The Manager, Banking Operations, CBN, Owerri, Mr. G.C. Okeke, who described the meeting as the first of its kind in the state, said the ideas and mutual intelligence shared among the parties would help to bring professionalism to bear in banks and secure their assets.