President Jonathan, Execute a Survival Benefit and Support System for Police Families
Mr. President, as you and your administration face a Nigeria submerged in the Boko Haram uproar in the North, kidnapping upheaval in the South, militancy hullabaloo in the Niger Delta, and rampant violence, vicious schemes, and institutional exploitation all over the country, the receiving hands from all of these disasters is that lone security agent or law enforcement officer.
Mr. President, as you deliberate what type of policy or order to give in regard to the security crisis, think about the mounting corpses of slain officers being recovered after falling victim to the primitively arranged police operations in Nasarawa State and think about the murdered and burnt bodies of officers in Borno State and elsewhere. These are husbands, fathers, and sons, as well as breadwinners to wives, children and to parents. Notwithstanding the reality that they are part of a highly troubled, messy, and higgledy-piggledy police establishment, they made the ultimate sacrifice in their efforts to keep us safe. Now they are gone! As a consequence, their families, especially their wives and children, are left to grieve and to fend for themselves with no well-defined, legislative, survival benefit system.
While there is nothing wrong with a state governor making it known that each of the families of the dead security agents involved in the Nasarawa operation would get N1 million, it is essential to note that these victims are federal officers as there is yet to be an established State police system. Mr. President, the nation lacks a federal based system of life insurance policies for close family members and survivors. There is no Police Health Plan with a package for trauma therapy for families of deceased officers. The traumatically injured officer lacks a system-based insurance or long-term financial plan to cover their hospital bills and other basic needs in their respective place of abode. While from time to time we hear of how a set of monies is presented to survivors, it is usually a one-time deal that is paid out, and at best such collected benefit generally comes late and only brings brief aid to the grieving family.
Mr. President, it will interest you to know that the nation currently has a Police Force with no specialized training in professional psychological services nor does it have a system for trauma therapy and grief counseling/psychological assistance for grieving families. In many cases these families might be encountering emotional reactions such as flashbacks or nightmares and undergoing experiences of painful emotions marked with physical sensations of fear and body pain which could be long term. The police force also lacks a system of death and grief studies and a “Family Orientation to Police Life” that could help make the experience of premature death less shocking to families. Given the fact that premature police deaths are statistically higher overall compared to many professions, the federal ministry of police affairs should institute a therapeutic system for grieving families seeking comfort and closure.
Certainly, there will be police officers killed in the line of duty and as such the use of psychological resources to attain stability and a support system to help the family cope becomes vital. A line-of-duty psychological treatment for grieving families, peers, and colleagues is more meaningful when the kind of benefits collected by a spouse or family is highly sustaining as these post-duty death benefits affect the length and intensity of the whole grieving period.
It is time that the Nigeria Police have individual and group counseling and other related services, which should be provided at various commands or locations by trained grief response teams across homes and schools. There is a need to begin a telephone program where families and peers of the dead leave information in regard to counseling assistance or other needs.
Mr. President, hopefully, as you set out to issue an executive order to help families of police officers as well as other security agents killed in the line of duty, you will exert pressure on the National Assembly to enact legislation that will provide lifetime worker compensation benefits to survivor families that should also include counseling and other technical supports for the families to help them rebuild their lives.
John Egbeazien Oshodi, Ph.D.
Dr. John Egbeazien Oshodi Foundation Center for the Study and Advancement of Nigerian Psychological Health