Investigation mounted by this medium has shown that Sierra Leone Police (SLP) officers have gone for close to five months without rice supply. No assurance has come from any senior police officer about when the rice supply would be made available to the junior ranks.
The lack of supply has caused junior police officers to point accusing fingers at senior police officers saying they are responsible for their plight. Allegations of senior officers depositing in commercial banks money meant for the purchase of rice are not infrequent.
But, SLP senior management has always denied such allegations saying rice supply comes when money is allocated for that purpose.
However, most junior police officers have not been pacified by such promises of probity. A credible source has intimated this press that every police officer is entitled to a bag of rice regardless of rank.
But for the past five months, he went on, no bag of rice has been given to a police officer, an act that adds to an already worsening domestic situation in most households in police barracks.
The police officer went on to state that the rice supply went a long way to supplement their monthly salary when it comes. “Whenever we get the rice supply, I just manage to put aside a Le100, 000 to purchase condiments,” he says.
But now that the rice supply has been put on hold, he says, he has gone back to “square zero.”
Another police officer (name withheld) also confirms the situation as he said he had gone for months without the usual rice supply. She could not identify the exact months the rice supply stopped, but by her looks, the problem weighs her down.
What frustrates a number of police officers over the absence of rice is the regular supply of rice to members of other sister forces. “If the Correctional Service officers, the National Fire Force and the Army get their rice supply monthly, why not the police,” he wonders.
As the absence of rice continues in the police, many officers have come to see it as an unfulfilled promise made to the police few years back. In the campaign period, Chairman of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), Dr Prince Harding did assure Police officers that if voted in power they would not only supply rice to the police but also provide them with condiments.
The promise generated hope among police officers that they would surely regain their lost glory in the police service through the supply of rice and condiments.
Now, they have been voted in, but the rice is not forthcoming let alone condiments. The promise once a cherished one for the police has turned into a nightmare for them.
The respect and cosy relationship police officers enjoy with their families has been lost since the rice disappeared.
However some police officers did not apportion blame to the police high command, but to government. Most Police officers are of the view that police management will supply rice if the money allocation comes from government.
Some police officers who spoke to this medium referred to the actions of government as the ‘New Politics of Rice’ in the Sierra Leone Police. To them, rice is fastly becoming a political commodity used to unseat sitting IGP’s and legitimise and favour the tenure of incoming ones.
Their explanations looked back at the time Francis Munu appeared on the stage as Inspector-General of Police in 2010. At the initial stage, everything went well in terms of supplying rice to police ranks.
Late 2017, when it became clear that time was up for Mr Munu, rice supply stopped coming regularly as usual. Police officers went without rice supply for eight months forcing many police officers to believe that rice period was over in the SLP.
A sustained supply of rice resumed immediately Dr Richard Moigbe took over as Inspector-General of Police. The period marking the transition from Munu to Moigbe in the face of uninterrupted rice supply generated mixed feelings. Some police officers saw the former IGP as an enemy whiles the new one was hailed as a friend.
Dr Moigbe’s tenure was not destined to last long in the IGP’s seat. He rode into the sunset within two years after the current government came to power.
The IGP also left behind huge backlogs of police rice which considerably accounted for his unpopularity prior to his departure. Mr Ambrose Michael Sovula came to the noble, but hot seat, and cleared the outstanding rice supply which has lingered for months.
Again, Sovula was hailed as the man for the moment and for all seasons for a prompt and reasonable action that turned sad faces into merry-looking ones.
Mr Sovula is almost a year old in the seat, and the sustained rice supply for which he was widely acclaimed has proved to be unsustainable. Most likely, a source says, the way is being paved for his exit, and will be honourably hauled.
Rice supply resumed in 2011 after it was stopped in 2004 owing to what the Tejan Kabbah Government referred to as an economic meltdown in the post conflict period. The order to stop the supply did not go down well with police officers.
Resentment against the then government was rife, and ineffective police service rendered by a disgruntled lot of police officers became the order of the day. Put in plain terms, security during that period was considerably undermined owing to low police morale owing to ill-motivation.
One of the most popular questions among police officers at that time was: who would risk his safety to quell riots with just Le105, 000 a month for the constabulary group.
However, current salary scale now stands between Le800, 000 and Le900, 000, but without a regular supply of rice.
The resumption of rice by former President Koroma after it was stopped for a long time sent many police officers to great joy and elation. Police officers were ecstatic saying had got back the respect they once lost within their family circles, but trends show that the ecstasy is fading away.
The Euphoria generated when rice supply started in the police force is now virtually absent.